This year’s Eurocopter Golden Hour Award went to a rescue crew formed by captain Daniel Aufdenblatten and rescue specialist Richard Lehner of Air Zermatt, Switzerland, and captain Sabin Basnyat, chief pilot of Fishtail Air, Nepal. On April 29, 2010, the team successfully rescued a party of three Spanish mountain climbers stuck aton a steep slope of Mount Annapurna, the world’s second highest mountain, at an altitude of 22,800 ft.
Captain Basnyat was charged with organizing helpthe rescue. His company, founded in 1997 and today operating four helicopters in Nepal, has a training agreement with Air Zermatt. That Swiss company was set up 1968 and is today probably one of the operators with the widest experience in mountain air rescue. Captain Basnyat was well aware that a long line rescue requiring a helicopter to hover at more than 22,000 ft. with possibly gushty winds and turbulence near the mountain slope required exceptional skill and experience. He preferred to call in captain Aufdenblatten for the mission. At Air Zermatt, the Swiss pilot isAufdenblattenflies flying the same hoist-equipped Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Squirrel as operated by the Nepalese company.
Reacting quickly, Aufdenblatten and rescue specialist Lehner traveled to Nepal and were able to successfully carry out the rescue mission as a well trained team within 36 hours, using a Fishtail AS 350. Lehner set down near the mountain climbers, who were suffering from snow blindness and freezing wounds, and prepared them to be hoisted one by one aboard the helicopter. They were then flown to a base camp at 13,000 ft.eet to receive first aid.
The Eurocopter Golden Hour Award recognizes the efforts of those who, through a particular activity or contributions over time to the air medical industry, advance the use of helicopters in the vital mission of air medical transport.