Wedtgrube Georg (Giorgio)

Georg Wedtgrube was born in Vienna on July 6, 1938. He had been interested in airplanes since childhood. After the compulsory school he continued his studies for a short time at college. He then decided to leave school and to start an apprenticeship as decorator. At the same time, in May 1956, he obtained his glider pilot licence.
In 1957 he went to London to learn English because he had finally decided to become an airplane pilot. He returned to Austria in the autumn of 1958 for the compulsory military service. After the ground school he continued his military career and became at first a light airplane pilot and then a helicopter pilot. Initially he was trained on the Agusta-Bell 47G2 and then he did the transition courses on the Agusta-Bell 204B, the Sikorsky S-55 and the SE 3130 Alouette 2. He stayed with the Austrian Army until the end of 1963. Bored of military life he decided to quit and looked for a job in the civil aviation.
In January 1964 he was employed by Heliswiss. At that moment he had logged altogether about 560 hours of flight on helicopters. He made his first flight in Switzerland on January 15, 1964 with the new chief-pilot Walter Demuth.
The Austrian pilot received the Swiss commercial pilot licence n° 72 and immediately started his activity flying mostly on the Bell 47G/J series.

With this company he then flew temporarily abroad in the United States, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Rhodesia and Suriname.
In 1972, after several years with Heliswiss, he accepted Eliticino offer and in February 1974 he became its chief-pilot. In May of the same year he obtained the licence as a helicopter instructor. 
On June 30, 1976 during the transportation of building materials in Val d'Agro (a lateral valley of the well known Valle Verzasca famous for its huge dam visible in one of the James Bond movies) with the Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama HB-XEY he hit a cable of a cableway. In the accident he was seriously injured and was forced to stay in hospital for three months.

After this terrible accident he continued to fly and in 1978 he was designated flight examiner by the Federal office for civil aviation (FOCA). He worked as a commercial helicopter pilot until 1980. In that year he accepted Rega proposal to become head of the new "REGA Ticino" headquarters. He did a lot of rescue missions using the SA 319B Alouette III HB-XHP nicknamed "Cristallina".
He continued his activity as a Rega's pilot until July 31, 1993 when he retired. Under his belt he had logged more than 3'000 SAR missions.
He left the active service and his function as base director and became responsible of REGA Ticino public relations. During his free time he continued to fly as a freelance instructor on behalf of Eliticino. He did is last flight as a pilot on February 18, 1997. 
During his long flying career Wedtgrube logged altogether 9'200 hours of flight piloting different helicopters such as the Bell 47G/J, Bell 206 JetRanger, Hughes 500, Helitech-Sikorsky S-55T, SA 315B Lama, Agusta-Bell 204B, Alouette III, Alouette II, Hughes 269 and AS 350 Ecureuil.
In 1997 he published the book "Rescuers descended from the sky" where he narrates some of his rescue missions.
Unfortunately Giorgio (during the years his original name Georg was changed into its Italian translation) Wedtgrube died prematurely victim of a severe illness on June 29, 1999 shortly before his 61 birthday. 

HAB 07/2009