Flying to the rescue of victims

For its interventions in the field, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) uses helicopters to respond to emergency situations. Rotor Journal met up with Michel Schaffner, the organisation’s AirOps manager.

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Michel Schaffner

What types of transport do you use for your missions?
Michel Schaffner:
Above all, we use vehicles on the ground – mainly trucks. These ground vehicles are often backed up by air transport; and sometimes we use ships for big and bulky consignments. The helicopter is used as an emergency solution, when the infrastructures have been destroyed or are unfit for use. This is particularly the case during military conflicts, floods (the tsunami in 2005) or earthquakes (Pakistan in 2006).

What are helicopters specifically used for in the field?
M. S.: We use them to transport personnel, for medical evacuation, medical assistance, search and rescue (SAR), and to transport supplies such as food, clothing and equipment. The number of missions performed by the helicopter varies greatly from year to year. This is why we have a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft on an ACMI(1) wet lease, but we charter helicopters on an ad hoc basis.

What are your favourite models?
M. S.: Our choice is generally dictated by availability. In the regions where we operate, we most often fly Russian aircraft, but we have also on occasion employed Pumas and Super Pumas. We are currently looking into the possibility of making more regular use of ambulance helicopters, following the example of locally operating Red Cross teams in South Africa, who have Ecureuil/A-Star helicopters ready-equipped to provide medical assistance.

(1) Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance & Insurance, an aircraft lease where the aircraft is operated by the lessor, on behalf of the lessee



• The Red Cross maintains a permanent presence in 60 countries, and conducts operations in 80.

• The central logistics platform with its AirOps division is based in Geneva.

• Three decentralised logistics hubs are based in Kenya, Jordan and Pakistan.

• 20 helicopter missions were performed in 2007.

• Several thousand missions were performed between October 2005 and May 2006 in Pakistan (12 helicopters, 4,000 flight hours, 12,000 people evacuated, 12,000 metric tons of supplies transported).