Air Grischa

During the Summer of 1976 a new helicopter appeared in the south Swiss Alps sky. The helicopter concerned was the SA 341G Gazelle registered HB-XFW belonging to Air Grischa, a new helicopter company that had just been founded in Thusis/GR. At the controls there was the Austrian pilot Erwin Schafrath who had previously flown for Eliticino.

In the beginning the Gazelle was based at the airport of Lugano-Agno/TI. The young company wanted to extend its activities in the north of the Canton Graubünden and decided to use the small airfield of Bad Ragaz as an operational base. There it based the SA 315B Lama HB-XFX the company's second helicopter which had a greater lift capacity (800 kg) than the Gazelle (550 kg).

Almost at the same time the Swiss Air Rescue Guard (SARG) signed a contract with Air Grischa and the latter received the SE 3160 Alouette III HB-XDF (now displayed in the Swiss museum of transport in Lucerne) for SAR operations. In the meantime the Gazelle was transferred to San Vittore/GR where the army gave its permission to use the military airfield for commercial helicopter operations. On this airfield, the company built then a new hangar with offices. Among the various missions the Gazelle was also used by the police to patrol the A13 motorway.
This helicopter was unfortunately involved in a serious accident (the first which involved the young company) on the 18th of August 1979 in St. Bernardino/GR. In that period the company purchased the AS 350B Squirrel (Ecureuil) HB-XFY, one of the very first registered in Switzerland.

In the following years Air Grischa expanded continuously and, in response to the increasing request of aerial transport, in 1981 it acquired the Bell 205A-1 HB-XFZ. Around the same time, the operational base in the north of the Alps was transferred for various reasons from Bad Ragaz to Untervaz where a new hangar with offices was built.
In 1990 the company helicopter fleet was again expanded with the acquisition of the Bell 214B-1 HB-XVZ a large helicopter capable to lift up to 3 tons that entered in service on the 21st of August 1990.

In recent times the company relocated its base in San Vittore to the facility previously occupied by Heli-Rezia in Tavanasa. This last company then moved into the company's original San Vittore base. In the alpine airport of Samedan Air Grischa possesses a third base. In over 30 years the Graubünden company has accumulated a considerable experience using various helicopters. In addition to those already mentioned, the company operated other models types such as the Hughes 269C and (Agusta-)Bell 206 Jet Ranger. Presently the helicopter fleet is mainly composed by AS 350B3 Squirrel.

By the 1st of July 2012 Air Grischa (along with Bohag, Eliticino, Heli Gotthard, Heliswiss and Rhein Heli) has joined Swiss Helicopter Ltd., a new company with headquarters in Chur (Switzerland). Swiss Helicopter has now at disposal 40 helicopters and 14 bases decentralized in Switzerland and has become the largest commercial helicopter operator in Switzerland.

HAB 01/2013