The Aero Club der Schweiz - Valais Section

In June 1935 Canton Valais inaugurated the airport of Sion/VS. At the same time the newly founded Section of the Swiss Aero Club (SSACV) in Valais, was charged by the Municipality of Sion to manage the various activities connected with the airport.
In 1947 Hermann Geiger, who will later become one of the most famous Swiss civil pilots, was designated as airport watchman by the Municipality.
In the '50s the aerial supply of hydroelectric power stations and alpine huts offered SSACV an excellent opportunity to increase its profits. Geiger and some other pilots of the aero club began supply flights using the Cessna 170 and the Piper Super-Cub.
The airplanes were equipped with a special container which was mechanically opened in flight. Much later the pilot landed, where it was possible, using a special flying technique perfectioned by Geiger. The airplane was in fact fitted with a combined wheel and ski undercarriage and could also land in the snow.

In February 1957 Geiger, as chief-pilot of the Swiss Air Rescue Guard (SARG), received the new Bell 47J Ranger HB-XAU, a gift from the Swiss supermarket chain "Coop". The helicopter was then based in Sion. It is in fact from this airport that Geiger performed even more frequently SAR missions. Hermann Geiger's nephew Armand was charged for the ordinary maintenance, assisted when necessary by Agusta's technicians.
Despite its lack of power the helicopter immediately showed its unique versatility. Its limited payload (200-250 kg) was almost the same as that of the Piper Super Cub. Geiger asked SARG the permission to commercially use the helicopter. Despite the high operational costs the requests for helicopter transportations increased constantly.

In fact the transport required less time with the helicopter than with the airplane, because the latter was obliged to land at the airport. Obviously the lack of power and the fact that the engine was not turbocharged, forced Geiger (and then Martignoni, SSACV's second helicopter pilot) to greatly refine his mountain flying technique.
For this reason on the July 12, 1964 Geiger went to Costruzioni aeronautiche G. Agusta in Cascina Costa/Italy where he received the brand new Agusta-Bell 47J3B-1 HB-XBR. This model was more powerful and offered brilliant performances especially at high altitudes.

Unfortunately the use of this helicopter was relatively short because on March 18, 1965 it was destroyed in an accident during the transportation of building material. Martignoni who was at the controls was seriously injured and was forced to interrupt his flying activity for almost 6 months.

The helicopter was replaced with another one of the same type registered HB-XCA.
By the end of July 1965 the commercial activities of the SSACV ceased for good. Geiger and Martignoni continued their activity as pilots but under a "new flag". In fact, on August 1, 1965, Air Glaciers, the newly founded aerial company created in Sion by Bruno Bagnoud, took over the mountain flying operations of SSACV.
After a long period of service as "mules of the air" its aeroplanes were used again for the flight instruction and other activities more appropriate to an aero club.

HAB 07/2014