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Body recovered of army plane crash pilot

The site of the PC-7 crash on the Schreckhorn mountain in the Bernese Alps. (c) VBS / Schweizer Luftwaffe

The body of the Swiss army pilot killed in an accident has been secured. The PC-7 aircraft crashed into the Schreckhorn mountain in the Bernese Alps on Tuesday. 

This content was published on September 14, 2017 - 11:27
swissinfo.ch and agencies, swissinfo.ch and agencies;cl/ts/db

The military pilot’s body was discovered and identified at the crash site late on Tuesday, but poor weather conditions prevented recovery until Wednesday evening, an army spokeswoman said on Thursday. Further details were not given. 

An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway. The army will try to recover the plane wreckage from the remote crash site at the 4,080m (13,386ft) mountain peak near the resort of Grindelwald. The area around the crash has been closed off to hikers and a no-fly zone with a radius of five kilometres has been imposed.

The small Pilatus propeller plane and pilot took off from the Payerne air base in northwestern Switzerland on Tuesday morning, but did not land in the southern Swiss town of Locarno at the expected time.

 The flight did not involve active combat training but was intended to transport the aircraft to Locarno, according to the army.

A search had been underway for the plane and pilot led by four helicopter rescue teams, but poor weather had made the task harder.

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In general, the small PC-7 planes are not permanently monitored by radar; pilots simply announce their departure and arrival at air bases. They are also not equipped with ejector seats.

The Pilatus PC-7 is a low-wing tandem-seat training aircraft, manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft in Switzerland. The popular trainer aircraft was introduced in 1978. Over 500 have been sold around the world and are still used by around 20 air forces.

Spate of accidents

Switzerland’s air force has suffered a spate of accidents over the past four years, involving five fighter jets and a military transport helicopter. 

An F/A-18 military jet crashed into the mountains in central Switzerland in August 2016, while two F-5 fighter jets from the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team collided in the Netherlands in June.

In October, 2015, an F/A-18 jet with one pilot on board was flying in airspace shared by the Swiss and French for training exercises when it crashed east of the French city of Besançon.  Another F/A-18 was written off after crashing near Lake Lucerne in 2013.

Historically, the Swiss army has seen some 70 jet crashes since 1980, not all of them fatal.

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