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Bohag (Berner Oberländer Helikopter AG) was officially founded in 1972 in Interlaken (Canton of Bern) with an initial share capital of SFr. 400,000.-. A significant contributor to the establishment of the new company was Beat Perren, the historical founder of another helicopter company, Air Zermatt. The group of founders also included some local mayors, heads of rescue agencies and mountain guides. Together with Air Zermatt, the Cantonal Bank of Bern played an important role at this stage securing a large part of the necessary financing.
In the statute, the founders specified that the company would, as a priority, execute relief flights, air support in case of disasters, transport of sick or needing people, and of course the transport of persons and goods.
Also in the Bernese Oberland (Bernese Highlands, or the higher part of the Canton of Berne), region with a strong touristic vocation, there was an increased demand for air transport. The few existing helicopter companies, like Air Glaciers, Air Zermatt or Heliswiss, would take 20 minutes to reach the region, resulting in considerable transfer costs.

The first craft in service with Bohag was the SA 315B Lama HB-XDL, entrusted to the skilled pilot Günther Amman (who remained as chief-pilot with the company until his retirement in 2004) previously flying for Air Zermatt.
At the beginning, the fact that the helicopter (officially owned by GASS) made commercial flights, created – as it often happens in such cases – some disagreements. Consequently in November 1973 HB-XDL was officially registered in the name of Bohag.
Like all beginnings, Bohag’s was not one of the easiest. The company had to face some noise problems created by the helicopter then based at the military airport of Interlaken, where offices were housed in a wooden hut, while the helicopter was stored in a bunker.

Historical rescues

Some particular circumstances helped significantly the growth of the company. Among these must certainly be included the historical direct rescues (the direct recovery of the injured from the accident site by means of the winch or the barycentric hook) made on the famous Eiger North face, or in the Mönch and Jungfrau region.
These rescues were flown mainly by Günther Amman and Markus Burkhard, the second pilot employed full time by Bohag from October 1, 1974. For those early spectacular rescues the United States awarded both pilots with the prestigious "Salute to Excellence" Robert E. Trimble Memorial award, which is presented every year at Heli-Expo, and honors a pilot distinguished in mountain flying.
On August 6, 1976, a few years only after the beginning of its activity, the company celebrated its 1'000th rescue flight. The cooperation with GASS (today Rega) has always been very intense and for this reason the company in November 1974 received the loan of SE 3160 Alouette III HB-XDF, then replaced by the SA 319B Alouette III HB-XFF. The Alouette III were in fact better suited for helicopter rescues than the Lama.
From the same year the company could count on the help of a doctor employed on a full-time basis who completed the small work team.

Rescue flights were but a (small) part of the daily work of Bohag. Most of the time, in fact, men and means were used to perform aerial work: transport of material of any kind, aerial assembly, supply flights, fighting forest fires, logging, heli-skiing, scenic and photographic flights.
In 1981 the activity was moved to Gsteigwiler where the new base was opened. Increased  workload led to the opening of two new bases, one at Zweisimmen, opened in 1984, and the other at Schattenhalb (2002).
Thanks to its three bases, Bohag’s helicopters can easily reach every place of the vast territory of the Bernese Oberland.

Meanwhile by 1991 REGA too had reorganized as an independent operator, although even today, as in the past, Bohag's helicopters are often used on behalf of REGA, especially to carry out transports on behalf of the mountain agriculture, such as livestock transport.
That same year the group HERI bought the majority of the share package until then held by Air Zermatt.
With effect from July 1, 2012, Bohag and other partner companies (Heliswiss, Air Grischa, Heli-Gotthard, Eliticino and Rhein-Heli) operate in a more intensive way under the umbrella of the new company "Swiss Helicopter AG".
Operationally however crews and helicopters continue to operate as previously. Overall the company currently employs about 25-30 people.
Nowadays the fleet is composed primarily of AS 350 Ecureuil of the B3 series, while in the past a fleet of diverse models was operated, among them: SA 315B Lama, Alouette 3, Ecureuil AS 350 B1 and B2, Bell 407 and Bell 412.

Among the first employees of this historical company there were, in addition to the aforementioned pilots, Adolf Rüfenacht (chief mechanic for over thirty years), Kurt Schwendener, Emil Schmocker, Urs Menet, Alfred Schori and Maya Egger.

HAB 02/2013