25 years of W-3A Sokół helicopters in Polish TOPR Mountain Rescue

PZL-Świdnik and the Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue (TOPR) are pleased to inform about the 25th anniversary of the introduction into service in TOPR of the W-3A Sokół helicopter.

The first W-3A Sokół helicopter for TOPR left the production lines in Świdnik exactly on 12th February 1993 and its “baptism” in TOPR took place a few days later, i.e. on 18th February 1993. In March 1993 the first TOPR-operated Sokół initiated on-call rescue duties. It was a gift from the Chancellery of the President Lech Wałęsa for the benefit of mountain rescue services performed by TOPR.

The rotorcraft used by TOPR rescuers is not just a specialized emergency machine provided with medical equipment meeting top standards. The equipment of the Sokół also enables the crew to undertake direct actions from the helicopter hovering over the hardest-to-reach Tatra mountain walls. The specialized equipment is designed to guarantee provision of help and protection of life and health until the victim is transported to hospital. TOPR rescuers have learnt that they frequently manage to transport the victims from the remotest parts of the Tatra mountains to
a hospital in less than 30 minutes.

Within the recent three years the Sokół helicopter has been called for action from our Zakopane headquarters almost 600 times. Bearing in mind that within that period TOPR rescuers have carried out more than 1900 actions, one can easily calculate that they have been accompanied by the helicopter in every third intervention.

t is worthwhile adding that the Sokół also helps our southern neighbors. Within the recent three years our helicopter has performed as many as 14 interventions abroad rescuing lives of  18 people

Jan Krzysztof, the Head of the Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue

Moreover, according to the statistics run by TOPR, within the recent three years alone the Sokół has enabled rescuing more than 700 tourist victims, mainly from pedestrian trails, but also skiers, Tatra mountaineers and cave explorers as well as bikers.

We are particularly proud of the fact that this year marks the 25th anniversary since our Sokół started to safeguard the Tatra trails and supports mountain rescuers in their difficult work every day. This jubilee confirms how good, reliable and cost effective rescue helicopter the Sokół can be; it is also manufactured in maritime rescue version as Anakonda while as Głuszec it can be used in combat search and rescue missions.

Krzysztof Krystowski, Vice President in Leonardo Helicopters

The history of use of helicopter by TOPR dates back to 1960s. The archives of TOPR contain a mention that for the first time the rescuers used a helicopter back in 1963. It was also a PZL-Świdnik-made SM-1 helicopter. In later years – until as late as 1993 – TOPR rescuers (back than known as GOPR Tatra Group) used Mi-2 helicopters operating as part of the Sanitary Aviation Group from Cracow, owing to enormous commitment of a pilot, Tadeusz Augustyniak. In the second half of 1990s, after an accident of a helicopter during a rescue action, which resulted in deaths of two pilots: Janusz Rybicki and Bogusław Arendarczyk, and two TOPR rescuers: Janusz Kubica and Stanisław Mateja, TOPR was supported by helicopters of the Polish Army, Police and Border Guards.

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