Pilot killed attempting to emulate Lindbergh

Firefighters work to extinguish building fires after the crash in Basel Keystone

A former Swissair pilot was killed on Monday when his "experimental" plane crashed into an apartment block in the city of Basel, injuring six people on the ground.

This content was published on July 23, 2007 - 18:03

Hans Georg Schmid was attempting a solo non-stop aviation speed record flight across the Atlantic to commemorate the 1927 flight from New York to Paris by Charles Lindbergh.

The plane, which Schmid built himself over several years, contained 1,700 litres of kerosene and had taken off from the EuroAirport, north of Basel just inside French territory.

The crash happened just before midday west of the city near the French border. The top floor of the apartment block went up in flames and residents were evacuated.

One elderly woman was treated for shock and another inhabitant was also slightly injured. The other four victims, who were also slightly injured, were from the emergency services.

The pilot's body was found in a children's playground nearby, along with wreckage of the plane - a custom-built Express 2000 ER.

Nineteen children and a woman looking after them were in the playground at the time of the accident but managed to reach safety.

Problems after take-off

Sabrina Walter from the communications department at EuroAirport said the pilot was attempting a world record to fly solo in 30 hours to Oshkosh in the US state of Wisconsin for an aviation show.

The experienced pilot, whose project was called "St Louis memory flight", had wanted to travel 8,000km in memory of the non-stop Atlantic crossing by Lindbergh 80 years ago.

According to the deputy director of EuroAirport, Vincent Devauchelle, the aircraft had problems shortly after take-off at 11.20am, with the crash happening a few minutes later.

Switzerland's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has opened an inquiry into the accident.

Special permit

The Federal Civil Aviation Office said the aircraft had been given a special permit last week, allowing the pilot to fly with extra weight in view of the amount of fuel needed for the flight.

Spokesman Daniel Göring said the permit was valid until October. He added that it was temporary because the pilot was also planning polar flights, which required adjustments.

Göring described the adjustments as "minor things" that had nothing to do with the basic flight capabilities of the plane.

He said the aircraft had been put through several test flights in which the aviation office had also taken part.

The plane first took to the air on June 12, according to the internet site Experimental Aviation of Switzerland (EAS). The EAS carried out the technical tests on the aircraft on behalf of the Federal Civil Aviation Office.

swissinfo with agencies

Hans Georg Schmid

Schmid, aged 59, had 16,000 hours of flight experience and had more than 160 flight records.

He flew for 30 years for the former national carrier, Swissair, in DC-9s, DC-10s, Fokker F-100s and MD-11s.

Schmid was planning to use his plane later this year to fly around the world twice, according to Lycoming Engines of Pennsylvania, which provided the engine.

He had previously set world records circumnavigating the globe in both eastbound and westbound directions, using an earlier homemade plane.

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Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974)

Lindbergh made his mark in aviation history for the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic from Long Island, New York, to Paris in 1927 in the "Spirit of St Louis".

After his flight, Lindbergh wrote a letter to the director of Swiss watch manufacturer Longines, describing in detail a watch which would make navigation easier for pilots. The watch was manufactured to his design and is still produced today.

In 1932 Lindbergh's young son was abducted and later found killed, which caused a nationwide storm.

In the years before the Second World War, Lindbergh – a noted isolationist – was a leader in the America First Committee to keep the US out of the coming war.

Nevertheless, he flew combat missions in the Pacific as a consultant.

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