With the commissioning of the rescue helicopter ‘Christoph 1’ in Munich-Harlaching on 1 November 1970, the success story of help from the air began in Germany. In the following five decades, air rescue established itself nationwide as an important part of the public rescue service system and ADAC Luftrettung as one of the largest operators in Europe. With ADAC as the driving force and initiator, as well as other strong partners, a worldwide unique and almost comprehensive network of rescue helicopter stations has been set up throughout Germany.
The commissioning of ‘Christoph 1’ by ADAC at today's Munich Clinic Harlaching marked the birth of air rescue in Germany
"Tireless commitment to the cause, innovation and progress, and striving for the best possible patient care with maximum flight safety have made air rescue what it is today: indispensable," emphasized Frédéric Bruder, Managing Director of ADAC Air Rescue.
Dr Andrea David, Board Member of the ADAC foundation, added: “Many thousands of people owe their lives to the commitment of ADAC Air Rescue over the past 50 years. Hundreds of patients benefit from the highly professional work of the crews every day.”
A short history of ADAC Luftrettung
With the booming motorization in Germany in the 1960s, there was a dramatic increase in traffic accidents. In 1967 alone, 20,000 people died in traffic. Accident physicians found that 15 to 20 per cent of those fatally injured would have had a chance of survival with faster emergency care. Loss of time was caused, among other things, by the incomplete stationing of rescue vehicles and the high density of traffic on the streets, which made it difficult for the helpers to get through quickly. In 1968, ADAC started successful field tests with a chartered Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. The new concept turned out to be successful: the emergency doctor could now reach the patients as quickly as possible. The commissioning of ‘Christoph 1’ by ADAC at today's Munich Clinic Harlaching marked the birth of air rescue in Germany.
One of the pioneers of air rescue in Germany is Gerhard Kugler, first Managing Director of ADAC air rescue. He played a key role in setting up the air rescue system in Germany. With his commitment, he paved the way for the development and expansion of air rescue not only in the ADAC, but also in Germany and abroad. For his services he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class. Dr Erwin Stolpe, long-time Chief Helicopter Doctor of ‘Christoph 1’ and Medical Director of ADAC Air Rescue, had a lasting impact on the development of air rescue in the more than 30 years of his activity. Political support was provided by Federal Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Federal Defense Minister Georg Leber, as well as the later ADAC President Franz Stadler.
ADAC’s rescue mission statistics
Today, there are more than 80 air rescue locations in Germany. All helicopters are named ‘Christoph’, after the patron saint of travellers. Positioned at 37 stations with more than 50 rescue helicopters, the ADAC Air Rescue crews are deployed around 54,000 times a year, or around 150 times a day. The crew consists of a pilot, an emergency doctor and an emergency paramedic. The ADAC rescue helicopters are usually ready for action from 07:00 hrs to sunset and, after receiving the alarm, they are in the air within around two minutes to bring the emergency doctor to the patient at around 230 km/h.
Accident physicians found that 15 to 20 per cent of those fatally injured would have had a chance of survival with faster emergency care
Nationwide, almost 1,300 people work for non-profit ADAC Air Rescue, which is a subsidiary of the ADAC Foundation - including around 160 pilots, around 250 emergency paramedics, 150 technicians and around 600 emergency doctors. As a rule, the team of a station consists of three pilots, five paramedics and 15 emergency doctors. Around 3.45 million kilometers were covered with them in 2019. The average flight time during a mission was around 30 minutes.
The organization is not only looking into the past, but also busy planning for the future: in October, ADAC Luftrettung published a study that shows multicopter rescue is feasible and could free up the rescue helicopter for other tasks.