Featured image of post Blue Collar Helicopters?

Blue Collar Helicopters?

I know helicopters might be a rather common sight in the US (according to your pop media, every local TV in urban areas has at least one traffic helicopter, plus maybe one to follow police chases), but believe me… where I grew up, I only ever saw a helicopter up close once a year during the cycling race “Milan-Sanremo”, because they were doing aerial shots and the race passes right in front of my parent’s house.

Even after moving near Monza, you only ever saw several helicopters when the Formula1 was in town: VIPs coming and going from Milan Linate airport to the racetrack, once a year.

Here in Ticino… it’s odd. It seems like helicopters for “blue collar” tasks are more common.

Eliticino chopper on firefighting duty
(image courtesy of Wikimedia)

There’s a company, imaginatively named Eliticino (it’s Elicottero in Italian, vs Helicopter in English), whose choppers I see pretty often: they are used to move heavy loads up and down high hills and mountains, or to-and-fro in places with little in the way of roads, almost always flying around with some 50 meters of steel cable dangling from the aircraft. One time there was one a few meters above the building in front of where I work: it was acting as a crane to put the glass-cleaning gear on the building. I mean… a job you’d expect from a normal crane, not a flying one (the building is like 6 stories, not a skyscraper).

Oh and we often see one of their helicopters (with the black and white livery) “parked” in a grassy field enclosed by the on-ramp of the highway: they have a chain-link fence and gate, they cross the road and go eat their lunch at the mall nearby. Then they’re back to work. It’s… odd.

Bonus: Switzerland is very mountainous (duh, I know), so heli rescue is very important. Many people here (I might even say MOST people) have a Rega membership: it’s the non-profit org that comes to your rescue if you are stuck on the Alps, but also if you crash your car on a small road up the hills, or you get lost while looking for mushrooms in the woods. If you are a card-carrying member, you get a big discount on a (not small) part of the fee (that is generally not fully covered by health insurance).

Oh and they have really stylish full-red-with-white-cross liveries (the Swiss flag).

A Rega rescue helicopter (image courtesy of Wikimedia)