Two probes look into Patrouille crash

Dutch military guard at the crash site on Friday Keystone

There are to be two investigations – one Swiss and one Dutch - into the Patrouille Suisse display team crash that happened in the Netherlands on Thursday.

swissinfo.ch and agencies, swissinfo.ch and agencies

In the incident, two Swiss F-5 fighter jets team collided near a northern Dutch air base, with one crashing in a pond and the other landing safely with a damaged tail.

The pilot of the plane that crashed ejected before impact and landed in a greenhouse. He was not badly hurt.

Swiss military justice officials will carry out one of the probes into the accident, with the Dutch authorities leading a flight safety investigation.

The Swiss team arrived at the accident site on Friday morning, Tobias Kühne, a military justice spokesman, told the Swiss news agency. The Dutch had already begun collecting evidence. The two teams are currently working together and cooperation is good, Kühne said.

The wreck of the jet has already been salvaged and is being processed. The second jet will also be investigated.

A Swiss Air Force spokeswoman said that the Swiss team was made up of 13 people, including two investigating magistrates and a two-person care team for the pilots.

Kühne said the pilots were doing well, under the circumstances.

The Patrouille Suisse aerobatic team has been grounded till the results of the investigation are released.

In an interview in the French language paper Le Matin on Saturday, spokesperson for the Swiss Air Force Bernhard Müller, said that all acrobatic flights of Patrouille Suisse have been temporarily suspended.

He added that a decision regarding participation in the upcoming Meiringen air show in canton Bern will be taken on Wednesday. The Meiringen air base will be celeberating its 75th anniversary and air shows including Patrouille Suisse participation have been scheduled on June 17 and 18.

“First of all the incident is damaging to our image. It will raise questions about Patrouille Suisse in future events,” said Müller.  

Interviews

The two pilots involved in the accident have already been interviewed by the Dutch and a Swiss official questioned them on Friday afternoon. They were due to return to Switzerland on Friday evening, Kühne said.

Officials have already warned that it might take several months to ascertain the cause of the crash.

National Dutch broadcaster NOS showed footage of the plane, still burning, after it crashed in near a house. There were no reports of injuries on the ground. 

The crash was near the northern city of Leeuwarden, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of the capital Amsterdam. 

First serious incident

According to the Swiss air force, it is first serious incident in Patrouille Suisse’s 52-year history.

Last October an F/A-18 fighter belonging to the Swiss air force crashed in France. The pilot was able to eject to safety. 

The most recent fatality involving the Swiss air force was in October 2013, when a fighter plane crashed into a cliff wall in Alpnachstad, canton Obwalden. The pilot and an air force doctor both died. It was later concluded that the accident had been caused by pilot error.

Patrouille Suisse

Founded in 1964, the Patrouille Suisse is one of the four display teams of the Swiss Air Force. With its shows, both at home and abroad, it has become a trademark for Switzerland, showing the capability, precision and readiness of the Swiss Air Force. Its goal is to inspire the public and spark young people’s interest in all the aviation professions.

All members of the Patrouille Suisse are professional military pilots or air traffic controllers. There are no Swiss Air Force pilots performing exclusively for air shows, therefore being part of the Patrouille Suisse is an extra task in addition to their everyday jobs. 

(Source: Swiss Air Force)

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