Swiss aerial sightseeing operator Ju-Air will resume flying its vintage Junkers Ju-52 aircraft fleet this Friday, despite questions being raised about elderly “flying museum pieces”, following the death of 17 passengers and three crew when one of the planes fell from the sky nine days ago.
The plane that crashed in Piz Segnas, eastern Switzerland, was 79 years old. It was built in Germany in the year World War II started, 1939. The design entered service in 1932, the year Sydney Harbour Bridge opened.
“The aircraft came down nearly vertically at high speed, the reason for this scenario needs to be determined”, the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board stated. Investigators say it will take several weeks or months before they can work out what caused the tragedy, one of Switzerland’s worst air traffic accidents.
There was no collision with another aircraft or with wires and no suggestion of foul play. There also appears to have been no distress call from the pilot.
Adolf Hitler emerges from a Ju-52 at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in 1939. He was Chancellor of Germany when the plane was built
The bodies of the 20 victims were released last week for burial, having been formally identified.
In a statement on its website, Ju-Air said:
JU-AIR will resume its flights on 17 August
17 passengers and three crew members have died after a JU-52 owned by JU-AIR crashed on 4 August. The team at JU-AIR is deeply saddened by this accident and is remembering the deceased passengers and crew and their families and friends.
JU-AIR immediately and voluntarily suspended its flight operations as a sign of respect for the dead and their families and friends, and to give the team at JU-AIR time to begin the process of overcoming the accident.
The Federal Office of Civil Aviation has declared that there is no reason why the JU-52 of JU-AIR should not be allowed to fly. Moreover, the findings thus far of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board STSB give no cause to doubt the operational safety of our aeroplanes. That is why JU-AIR has decided to resume its flight operations on Friday, 17 August. Should the investigations bring forth any findings that put in question the safety of our flight operations, we would immediately suspend them once again.
Tickets and flight vouchers purchased to date remain valid. However, given that we are short of one of our aeroplanes, flights may be postponed or cancelled. JU-AIR will contact the passengers should it not be able to carry out one of its flights.
Round-the-clock, up-to-date information on our flight operations is available on this website or by calling 044 824 55 00.
An article in Forbes magazine in the US last week said the disaster raised “questions about why a 79-year old aircraft built by the Germans during World War II was still in service”. The writer called the fleet “true flying museum pieces”.
The Forbes article quoted Kurt Waldmeier, co-founder of Ju-Air, saying that age was not a factor in the crash.
Waldmeier said the planes underwent maintenance after every 35 hours of flight and “are flown exclusively by very experienced professional pilots, and strictly checked and maintained by our own technicians”. It had only flown five hours since its last maintenance, he said.
Written by Peter Needham