A vintage military plane, which would have been mothballed had it not been for a fundraising campaign, crashed in the Swiss Alps killing all 20 people on board, reports the Guardian.
The JU-52 HB-HOT aircraft, which was constructed at the start of the Second World War, served the Swiss military for more than 40 years before being taken out of service. A fundraising campaign in the 1980s saw the aircraft being saved and turned into a civilian airline, with the first civilian flight conducted in 1985.
However, while returning passengers after a two-day trip from Locarno to Zurich, the plane crashed “nearly vertically at high speed” into the western peak of Piz Segnas, a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) mountain above the resort of Flims, in south-east Switzerland.
Police said that they had yet to find out what made the plane crash, especially as no distress call seemed to have been made before the impact.
Kurt Waldmeier, chief executive of the JU-Air, said it was the first time that a plane had crashed in the history of the airline company.
“Yesterday was the worst day in the 36-year history of JU-Air. We have all suffered a very great loss.”
— Reuters UK (@ReutersUK) August 5, 2018
Among the dead, there were 11 men and nine women, aged between 42 and 84. Two pilots and a flight attendant were also killed in the crash. All victims, barring an Austrian couple, were Swiss.
The site of the crash, Piz Segnas, is popular among hikers and skiers and includes a glacier. Images of the wreckage showed that only the tail of the plane had more or less remained intact.
Due to the flight being a vintage make, unlike modern aircraft, the HB-HOT did not have data recorders or a crash-resistant cockpit voice, which would have made the reason behind the crash more clear. In the absence of such information being available, authorities are concerned that the investigation into the crash will be complex. However, weather conditions, foul play, or a collision with something else have been ruled out as probable reasons behind the unfortunate tragedy.
Waldmeier said that his company had inspected the airline that crashed just last week, making the tragedy all the more improbable. JU-Air has suspended all its flights till further notice.
Having been a popular flight throughout its military days, the HB-HOT continued to bask in glory even as a commercial airliner. It has been used multiple times in movies, including in Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie, which is about the 1944 plot by German officers to kill Adolf Hitler.