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Exhibition bids farewell to Swissair

Douglas DC7 flying over Zurich (picture: Luftbild Schweiz)

(Picture: Luftbild Schweiz)

Just weeks after its official demise in March at the age of 71, Swissair is being finally laid to rest in an exhibition at the Swiss national museum in Zurich.

"Remember Swissair" takes a nostalgic look at the life of a national carrier regarded by many of its customers - and not only Swiss travellers - as one of the world's best airlines.

"It's true that it's a very short time since the grounding of Swissair," concedes communications consultant Urs Baumann, who conceived the exhibition. "But since the airline was grounded last October there hasn't been the possibility of saying goodbye. The exhibition is just in time to do this."

Memories have literally been packed into large wooden crates, to allow the public - including former Swissair employees - to glimpse various aspects of the airline's life before the lids are nailed down when the exhibition closes on July 31.

Specific themes

Each crate deals with a specific theme, some of which include flight and cabin crew uniforms over the past 70 years, photographs and film, documentation, historic publicity posters and scale models - some made by the pilots who flew them - of Swissair planes over the past seven decades.

While helping organise the exhibition, Baumann was impressed by the wealth of quality film material shot by pilots during scheduled passenger flights. "Perhaps I should have expected it," he told swissinfo, "because Swissair founder Walter Mittelholzer was a film enthusiast and many pilots later took up filmmaking as a hobby."

Mittelholzer, who died in 1937 at the age of 43, was a pioneer of both aviation and aerial photography.

Baumann had all the films transferred to DVD, and they are now projected onto the wooden back surface inside each crate. They include footage taken before World War II by pilots of Swissair's early fleet.

Revelling in nostalgia

One aim of the exhibition is to offer visitors many different kinds of memories and - as the museum says - "to revel in a little nostalgia, and say goodbye as if it were a beloved friend who has passed away."

No attempt is made to gloss over the shock felt by many Swiss during the period leading up to the grounding of the Swissair fleet. Baumann said a number of former employees were still angry at the way the airline was unable to sustain what they saw as unrealistic expansion plans.

But the exhibition is also a link between the old Swissair and its successor, the new carrier "swiss", which officially took over as national flag carrier on April 1.

"Remember Swissair"? Never to be forgotten, the exhibition seems to say. But after it closes next month, the unspoken message is that swiss will be the proverbial phoenix, rising from the ashes.

by Richard Dawson


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