The Society was created when ISAS (Australasia) was re-named in Sept 2010
to better reflect the nature, purpose and location of service covered by
Australia and New Zealand. ISAS (Australasia) was an antipodean branch of
ISAS - which had begun several decades earlier. That history is explained
History of the Society and AIRMED - Gerhard Kugler
The International Society of Aeromedical Services, ISAS, is very closely
connected to AIRMED Conferences. It was in 1980 under the patronage of
ADAC, the leading German Automobile Association, when I organised the
first International Air Medical Congress in Munich. More than 1,200
experts from all over world met at that occasion. It became obvious that
the services developing in many countries created a growing demand for
sharing opinions, exchanging results and discussing future perspectives.
For the first time we got an overview what´s going on in Australia.
Dr Susan Rowley from Sydney presented a paper titled "Aerial Ambulance
Service in Australia". She mentioned that in early 1928 the flying doctor
service was realised opening its headquarters in Cloncurry, Queensland.
Thus the world´s first flying doctor service was launched. In the
initial period of time an aircraft was chartered from Queensland and
Northern Territory Aerial Services, known today as Australia´s
national airline QANTAS.
In comparison: in Europe the inauguration of civil air rescue service
dates back to the fifties and sixties. Switzerland began with the flying
mountain rescue 1952 and ADAC made the first step 1969 which laid the
cornerstone for a nationwide network.
Susan Rowley stated among others in her report: "The civilian helicopter
rescue scene started in 1973 when the Surf Life Saving Association of
Australia began to operate a Bell 47 Helicopter Service in Sydney to aid
in surf rescue along its metropolitan beaches during the summer months.
During that first year, 75 missions were achieved." And as a 1980 update:
"At present, the Sydney Helicopter Rescue Service is provided at no cost
or obligation to the community it serves. The Service has now completed
over 1,200 missions and realised a potential far greater than its
original role of surf rescue only. This has been due to increasing
awareness by rescue agencies and medical personnel of Helicopter´s
At the second AIRMED 1985 which was held in Zurich, Switzerland, there
had been four papers from Australia on the program indicating the
progress of air medical services in 'Down Under'. On that event a group
of delegates proposed to establish a permanent international platform for
the entire air rescue community. This was the hour of birth of ISAS. A
Board of Directors was formed consisting of Dr. Christian Buehler
(Chair), CEO of Swiss Air Ambulance (REGA), Zurich, H.C.Cleveland, MD
Prof of Surgery University of Colorado, Denver, Dr.R.J.Fairhurst, Chief
Medical Officer Europ Assistance Ltd., Croydon UK, B.H.Harris, MD Prof of
Surgery Tufts University Boston, Mass. Prof. Dr. G.Hossli, Institute of
Anaesthesiology University Hospital Zurich, G. Kugler, General Manager
ADAC Air RescueService, Munich, Prof. Dr. P. de Temmermann, Institute of
Anaesthesiology University Hospital Brussels.
According Swiss law ISAS was appointed and registered as a non-profit
In compliance with the vision of the founder members the major activity
of ISAS was to organise further AIRMED Congresses. The first AIRMED under
the auspices of ISAS took place 1988 in Boston, Mass.,USA in cooperation
with ASHBEAMS, the US roof organisation of air medical services (now
known as AAMS). The following AIRMED 1991 was originally planned for
Brighton, UK, but organisational preparations could not be finalised
because of the Gulf War when everybody was afraid of a threatening world
conflict. The venue got a last minute cancellation.
With the resignation of Dr. Buehler from REGA organisation ISAS lost its
driving force. In lacking perspectives for AIRMED, activities of ISAS run
down and finally ISAS was dissolved. But the Australasian Chapter
Dr. Bernhard Cresswell from Royal Flying Doctor Service took the
initiative and invited AIRMED 1993 to come to Sydney. After Sydney by
leading national air ambulance services AIRMED conferences came back to a
normal turn again. ADAC organised AIRMED 1996 in Munich, the Norwegian
Luft Ambulance was the host for AIRMED 2000 and REGA celebrated AIRMED
2002 in Interlaken, Switzerland. Meanwhile the European HEMS & Air
Rescue Committee (EHAC) was founded and was assigned by the members to
represent their interests on an international level. AIRMED got a
registered trade mark of EHAC. In this context AIRMED 2005 has already
been a joint venture of EHAC and the Automobile Club of Catalunia. The
design of AIRMED 2008 in Prague is also a cooperation between EHAC and
the Czech Air rescue Society HEMS Prague.
Many things in air rescue European and worldwide have changed. New
regulations have been enacted, quality control and the definition of
standards gained priority, training and education have got another main
issue together with the improvement of flight safety and behind these
concerns the economical consolidation has come under pressure by
All these facts will give the presentations and debates of AIRMED 2008 a
significant importance. I am looking forward to a strong representation
of the members of ISAS.
Gerhard Kugler (1935-2009)
Honorary President of EHAC
and former General Manager of ADAC Luftrettung GmbH