Student aims to commemorate aviation history in Swiss Alps

Mechanics student Christof Richard is aiming to commemorate aviation history in the Swiss Alps: he wants to bring down an engine from a US Flying Fortress bomber which crashed in the mountains above the resort of Klosters during World War II.

This content was published on July 12, 1999 - 09:25

Mechanics student Christof Richard will be climbing high later this month as he aims to commemorate aviation history in the Swiss Alps. With a group of about 25 helpers: he wants to bring down an engine from a United States Flying Fortress bomber which crashed in the mountains above the resort of Klosters in south-east Switzerland during World War II.

The story goes back to July 12, 1944 when 1,150 bombers left an English air base to attack the BMW factories in Munich. The aircraft were met by intense flak which hit two of the engines of the Flying Fortress which came down in Switzerland.

The pilot realised that he could not return to base with two of his engines out so he tried to reach the safety of neutral Switzerland.

However, the plane flew into a snow storm. It lost height rapidly in the poor visibility and a third engine had problems, forcing the crew to take emergency action.

Four members parachuted into Nazi-occupied Austria where they were held prisoner till the end of the war. Another managed to drop into the safety of Switzerland.

For the remaining five crew, the flight ended in tragedy. The co-pilot died when his parachute opened too late. The pilot, the navigator and the bombardier were also killed when the plane crashed above Klosters, canton Graubünden, in a valley called the Schlappintal at a height of about 2,600 metres.

The Swiss Federal Archives have few details about the crash, noting that in view of the poor access to the site, the debris was left in three places. Some was buried by snow and some left under rocks.

Twenty-five year old Christof Richard wants to bring down an engine and leave a commemorative plaque at the site.

"What happened up there is full of symbols," he says as he tries to explain why he wants to go on this adventure at the end of the month.

The fact that young airmen were ready to give up their lives for the cause of freedom is another reason driving Christof to do something to honour them.

However, it will not be an easy task since an engine weighs well over 200 kilos. Every pair of hands and shoulders will be needed to carry it on a construction of aluminium bars over three kilometers and down 500 metres to a waiting jeep.

If the mission succeeds, Christof plans to exhibit the engine, possibly in a museum. The adventure begins on the weekend of July 31 and August 1, Swiss National Day.

Written by SRI staff

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