The Reutte Helicopter Rescue Team


Searches for lost hikers, ski accidents or broken legs—when the location is remote and challenging in and around the mountains of Reutte, RK-2 helicopter’s rescue team is called upon. On board is Florian Selb who volunteers his time and expertise in the service of people who need assistance.

They are drinking coffee, talking to each other while waiting for their first call. When I sat down with the flight crew of the Reutte operating base I soon recognized that they have been working together for years. That day, the crew has been on duty since 6:30am and their shift would last until sunset. The base at Reutte operates the state-of-the-art RK-2 helicopter, which is specifically designed to meet the requirements of challenging search and rescue (SAR) missions – it is a beautiful looking ship in red and white. The life flight rescue team is always on call, with typical missions taking place late in the afternoon.

When speed to hospital is critical or when the location is remote or challenging in and around the mountains of Reutte, ARA flight’s rescue team is called upon. The rescue helicopter serves the greater Reutte area within a radius of 50 kilometers, averaging over 1,000 missions per year. As the border to Germany is very close, they also support emergency calls outside of Austria in Germany’s Bavaria when their assistance is needed.

The brand-new “H 145” helicopter responds to a multitude of SAR mission needs.

“The biggest cause of ski accidents is people pushing themselves beyond their ability.”

In the winter, when ski season is in full swing, the majority of missions are ski accidents. “The biggest cause of ski accidents is people pushing themselves beyond their ability,” says Florian Selb. The 27-year old grew up in Lechtal Valley in the Tirolean District of Reutte and spent much of his time hiking, climbing and skiing the mountains. He is voluntarily dedicating his time and skill, assisting the Reutte flight rescue team in all kinds of search and rescue efforts. His expertise and skill as a mountain rescue team member is of great importance in the notoriously challenging conditions found in the mountainous terrain. Apart from Florian, the helicopter crew consists of full time salaried members, including a pilot, an emergency physician and a winch operator.

Florian Selb is one of 12 volunteers who man a roster at the Reutte operating base.

The RK-2 SAR helicopter also supports emergency calls outside of Austria in Germany’s Bavaria when needed.

A Massive Team Effort

“Our team is made up of highly trained, passionate and dedicated people. The service that we provide is a massive team effort. It takes significant training and preparation. We simulate emergency situations to improve and we constantly seek to refine our skills to the point of mastery, especially when it comes to rescue operations requiring the winch,” says pilot Jörg Strauß. The state-of-the-art RK-2 SAR helicopter is fitted with a rescue winch. This enables emergency physicians and paramedics being winched out of the helicopter during rescue missions and providing life-saving care to patients in remote places where the helicopter can’t land.

The Air Medical Rescue Team

The Austrian Air Medical Rescue Team brings the hospital to the patient when time is critical. The most common incidents they attend include road traffic collisions, emergencies and mountain incidents. In winter, they predominantly conduct mountain rescues of skiers. Seven helicopters are spread out through Tirol all year round. Their mission: provide rapid response and transportation for patients in critical condition. Rescue operations are mainly coordinated by the Austrian ÖAMTC Automobile Association and the Red Cross; on top of it there are privately owned helicopter rescue companies.

The cabin is equipped with a full line of medical equipment.

“The ability to help people in need is the best part of my job.”

The RK-2 helicopter carries a pilot, an emergency physician, an operator for winch and a member of the mountain rescue team.

It’s Very Rewarding

“Like any emergency services work, you’re often with people during their most difficult moments, which can be hard. However, the ability to help those people in need is the best part of my job. The feeling of being part of a successful team contributing to saving lives is extremely rewarding,” says Florian Selb. He especially appreciates when people write him to say thank you. “It’s good to hear that people who were originally at death’s door can walk out of hospital and go back to their lives.”

ARA Flight Rescue

The abbreviation “RK-2“ (“Rotes Kreuz-2” – Red Cross 2) stands for the SAR helicopter that is based at the district hospital of Reutte. RK-2 is operated by ARA Flight Rescue in conjunction with the Austrian ARBÖ Automobile Association.

After the mission is before the next mission.

It takes a lot to be a Member of the Life Flight Crew

When they are not on duty, the volunteer crew members are all avid outdoorsmen who love playing in the mountains. However, to be a member of the RK-2 team requires significant skill, dedication and physical fitness. “It takes a lot to be a member of the life flight crew. They must be experienced members of the mountain rescue and trained paramedics. Yet the rewards are also unlike a typical volunteer experience. Members are an integral part of a highly trained team. They are all committed to many years of service with us. They support us until they retire,” declares Jörg Strauß.

Suddenly the team receives a rescue call. The rescue coordination center at Innsbruck sends the request to the Reutte operating base for dispatch. The destination is noted, helmets are put on, the necessary equipment for the job is gathered, the helicopter is started and the crew swiftly gets on board. Two minutes after the alert, the RK-2 is in the air.

Video: Florian Selb on Duty

Photo Credits: Bert Heinzlmeier

Working in the Ski Resort

Having worked overseas for years, Klaus Brunner came back home to explore Tirol with camera and microphone in tow. Home is where your heart is.

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