Ernst Tanner was born in 1927 in Winterthur, Switzerland. As as artist, he attended the school of arts in Bern, Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Woodstock, USA. In 1948 he emigrated to the USA where he completed his military service with the air force. After attending an impressive church service, he decided to study theology and was ordained as a pastor in 1955.
Later he returned as an Evangelist to Europe. In 1957 he married his wife, Hedi. Together they looked after several churches in Switzerland and Germany and provided children's camps in Trogen. In the late 1960's, Ernst Tanner worked as a missionary deep in the jungles of Africa where he had to travel everywhere on foot. He was impressed by the technical abilities of the helicopters used in the Vietnam war, and his desire to use this aircraft to help people in need and for evangelism grew.
At the age of 43 he learned to fly and, with only 37 hours of solo flying experience, he was the first person to cross the Sahara in a piston helicopter when he flew for the first time to a missionary operation in Cameroon. In 1971 he founded the Helimission foundation and since then he has flown for lots of missionary projects as well as many relief flights during famines and disasters.