In July 1983, the ÖAMTC air rescue service started operations in Innsbruck with an AS355. Since then, the HEMS* operator has expanded its service throughout the whole country, offering its life-saving services to the Austrian population from the mountainous regions in the west to the plains in the east near the borders with Slovakia and Hungary.

Today, ÖAMTC Air Rescue operates more than 22 HEMS bases throughout Austria, all named Christophorus after St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Of these, 17 are in operation all year round, while four are in seasonal operation, mainly during winter, to provide HEMS services to the country's more than 400 ski resorts. Since 1999, ÖAMTC air rescue has also been operating an H135 as an intensive care helicopter, which enables inter-hospital transfers of intensive care patients to the highest standards.

Relying on the H135 family since 1997
As one of the world’s first operators of the H135 family, ÖAMTC has relied on the helicopter as the backbone of its missions since 1997. Since then, more than 212,000 flight hours have been logged, including 1 million take-offs and landings, and more than 400,000 missions have been flown. One of the pilots who's contributed nearly 3,000 flight hours to these impressive figures is Robert Gallmayer, who also happens to be the head of the Christophorus 9 base in the Austrian capital of Vienna. He praises the H135 for its reliability, safety and ergonomicsHe also notes that Helionix, the Airbus avionics suite that's on board the latest version of the H135, plays a big role in ensuring mission success: "Helionix reduces our on board workload thanks to the high degree of automation, which relieves the crew and allows us to concentrate on our mission," says Gallmayer, who's been flying the H135 for ÖAMTC Flugrettung since 2010. "This includes IFR procedures, synthetic vision, four-axis autopilot, automatic hover and many other features that make the H135 the perfect helicopter for HEMS missions."

There is every indication that this joint success story will continue: In 2020, ÖAMTC air rescue again demonstrated its confidence in the H135 with an order for five more of these helicopters, the first four of which have already been delivered to the Austrian HEMS organisation.

From the Alps to Vienna
When asked what's special about HEMS operations in Austria, Gallmayer, who started his career as a helicopter pilot in the Austrian military, sums it up: "The variety of missions and terrain. From the high mountains to the eastern plains. From remote areas to the urban areas of big cities like Vienna. It's a unique combination.” The Christophorus 9 base in Vienna is responsible for around 1,800 of the ÖAMTC's 23,500 air rescue missions per year. "In a big city like Vienna, almost every landing is something special," explains Gallmayer. "We recently had a mission near Schönbrunn Palace, close to the famous Gloriette. This mission also sticks in my mind because the patient was successfully resuscitated and survived the incident unharmed.”

*HEMS = Helicopter Emergency Medical Services


40 years of air rescue missions:
1983 - 2023
Around 435,000 missions
1,000,000 take-offs and landings
212,000 flying hours (H135, from 1997)

Air rescue 2022 - figures:
21,934 missions
23,556 missions (incl. winter locations)
701 dew recoveries
1,047 night missions
11,000 flying hours
700 maintenance events

Air rescue 2022 - in the air & on the ground:
67 pilots
390 doctors
160 flight rescuers
66 engineers and maintenance technicians
55 back office staff
22 locations (17 year-round, 4 seasonal, 1 intensive care helicopter)
31 helicopters