Out and about with the net and hook: The regional program is a hit
During the summer months, Air Zermatt offers the Regional Program every Saturday. The people of Upper Valais can fly material from A to B and benefit from a special price for the combined overflight. We accompanied the crew last Saturday and got an impression of how it goes on and off during the regioprgram and what has already flown below the heli through the Valais.
Regional Program from May to October
Air Zermatt's Regional Program begins with the transport season in May: every Saturday, helicopters transport materials, building materials and food for the people of Upper Valais to remote locations that are difficult or impossible to reach by car. Until mid-October, customers can have their goods delivered to their desired location in a cost-efficient manner, as requests are collected, planned in a time-efficient way and carried out in a staggered manner.
I recently got a chance to peak into the flight crew’s world and join the team on the Regional Program. While the crews from Heliport Zermatt carry out the transports in the Mattertal, the helicopter from Raron serves the remaining parts of the Upper Valais. Planning is done accordingly: The operations control coordinates the various orders in a staggered sequence to combine the overflights as well as possible, and lets the customers know when they need to be ready for transport.
Starting with the sun
An unwanted disruption got in our way on this Saturday morning at 7 a.m., however. I already noticed the fog approaching on my arrival at the heliport in Raron. It cut off our view of the blue, otherwise cloudless sky, which could then only be glimpsed through small gaps in the fog. The weather prevented us from conducting the first flights of the day, which forced the dispatchers to adjust their plans. This demonstrated yet again that flexibility is absolutely crucial at Air Zermatt.
In good spirits, we were able to lift off for the first delivery roughly half an hour later. After flying for ten minutes, we saw a group of around ten people waving at us in a small valley. They had already prepared their goods in trailers by the road and only had to be hooked onto the load hook.
The Task Specialist is in charge of ensuring the safe loading and unloading of the transport goods.
Duties of the Task Specialist
The Task Specialist's job is to ensure the safe loading and unloading of the transported goods. This begins with the correct preparation of the goods, for example with the correct arrangement in the transport net, with the binding of a load by means of straps, etc., and ends when the load can be unloaded at the correct place and without damage. While one of the Task Specialists is responsible for the correct loading, the second takes care of the unloading location.
This is a job that requires the utmost concentration: the Task Specialists load the material back and forth, take care of the correct securing elements and are always concerned about their own safety and that of the customers. Correct communication with the pilot is indispensable in this undertaking: He or she must be able to load and unload the material without any obstacles, while also paying attention to everyone on site. Communication takes place via radio. Once a job has been completed, it's on to the next customer. In between, there is a refueling stop, either at the Raron base, at one of the stationary refueling stations or with the mobile refueling truck.
I had an exciting day myself and also learned a great deal.
Fascination to the farthest corners of the valley
There were several exciting orders for us on this particular morning. In addition to the “big bags” that can carry individual objects, raw materials, or crates, we also transported several wooden pallets for a new roof, fencing material for a farmer, and two mobile cheese dairies in cargo containers. It was especially great to see how excited the people are about a visit from Air Zermatt. A fascination for the red helicopter with white stars seems to have spread to every nook of all the narrow, breathtakingly beautiful valleys.
I had an exciting day myself and also learned a great deal. I not only got more familiar with the helicopter and materials up close. By helping out on the flight, I gained new insights into the everyday work of my task specialists-colleagues and their multifaceted and hard work. All the fun made this sunny day a real personal highlight – even if it left a few blisters on my feet.