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If there’s one airline that knows the Alps — it’s Swiss. The carrier is known as the ‘Official ski airline’ for winter sports, and as such, is an important partner of alpine championship ski events such as the FIS Alpinen Ski Weltmeisterschaften St. Moritz 2017.
With this in mind, Swiss organized an exclusive air display performance for the skiers of St. Moritz that took place during a lunchtime break between the championship races — and would be flown by the latest addition to the Swiss fleet, the Canadian-manufactured Bombardier C-Series CS100. I had a unique opportunity to be the only passenger aboard this high-risk Aerobatic display flight that would see our aircraft make high-speed, low-altitude maneuvers between the mountain peaks of the Swiss Alps.
At Zurich Airport (ZRH), I made my way out to the aircraft with the three senior flight crew who would be flying and navigating the C-Series during all phases of the flight, including the performance in the Alps. All three were former military pilots, a fact which was both reassuring and exciting, as they would know how to best fly this passenger plane as a military jet.
With no cabin crew on this flight, I had to have a discussion directly with the flight crew about my safety and the various safety procedures on board the aircraft — on normal flights, there would have been cabin crew to initiate the evacuation process or address emergency situations. As I would be the only passenger in the cabin, I had to demonstrate to the flight crew that I knew how to operate all six emergency exits, and that in the event of an actual emergency, I would check the situation outside before opening one of the doors and deploying the evacuation slides. I was also instructed to ‘shout’ to the flight crew if I could not handle the ‘G-Forces’ I would be experiencing during some of the maneuvers — with the cockpit door remaining open during flight, they would hear me and stop the performance.
As you can see, no Swiss flight leaves Switzerland without the novelty ‘Thank you for flying SWISS’ chocolates!
Once we were airborne and en route to the Alps, the views became incredible, as you can see in the video, below.
Since this was a ‘private flight,’ the cockpit door was kept open, providing some nice cockpit views as we headed toward the St. Moritz Ski Resort. Soon it was time for me to choose a seat in the empty cabin, and buckle up. The performance was about to begin, and the maneuvers would be too extreme for me to be standing — or even sitting — without a seatbelt.
In the video below, you’ll hear the Captain announce the beginning of the display, followed by the first high-speed, low-altitude turns over the ski resort grounds.
These were then followed by a number of 70-degree turns — to help put this into context, a normal commercial plane will usually make turns at a maximum of 25 degrees. The aircraft began to shake dramatically, mainly due to the high speed we maintained while at such a low altitude within the mountain peaks, which interrupted the air flow and caused the air to be bumpier.
Nervous flyers should look away now. The intensity of these turns can be seen in the following video. It’s also worth noting that the G-Forces at this point were so extreme, I dropped my iPhone once the recording was finished, then watched as it fell very, very slowly to the ground — at this point, I realized how fast we were approaching Zero-G. This was certainly the most dramatic angle I have ever experienced in a passenger plane, and just goes to show how much these jets are built to withstand!
After multiple circuits of these types of maneuvers, we were joined by the ‘Patrouille Suisse’ (the Swiss Military) for the final portion of our display. Their jets positioned themselves at either side of the aircraft, and the proximity was close enough to appreciate just how ‘in sync’ they were flying.
Once the performance had come to an end, the Swiss Military returned to their base, and we headed back to Zurich Airport.
It’s safe to say this was one of the most incredible flying experiences one could ever imagine! Combined with the beautiful views of the Swiss Alps and a special escort from the Swiss Military, it was certainly a special moment I’ll never forget.
All images and videos by the author.
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