Oops! Swiss Aerial Acrobatics Team Performs for the Wrong Town

The right town and the wrong one were four miles apart.

SKI-ALPINE-WORLD-MEN-SUI-DOWNHILL
LIONEL BONAVENTUREGetty Images

The Swiss Air Force was left red-faced after its world famous flight demonstration team—the Patrouille Suisse—accidentally performed their routine over the wrong Swiss town. The team blamed the incident on outdated aircraft navigation systems, tiny maps, and a lack of anyone in the Swiss Air Force with a radio to tell them they were in the wrong place.

The team was scheduled to fly Saturday, July 6th between 11 and 11:15am over the town of Langenbruck. There, according to CNN, the team was scheduled to fly a brief aerial display to honor Oscar Bieder, a Swiss aviation pioneer.

Tomorrow Saturday, from 6:35 p.m. to 7:05 p.m.: the @patrsuisse at Stars of Sounds in Murten.

Additionally we fly from 11:00 to 11:15 a.m. in honour of Oskar Bieder in Langenbruck. | @vbs_ddps#patrouillesuisse #swissness #schweizerarmee #starsofsounds
© WL Swiss Photography pic..com/w87el7vb6D

— Patrouille Suisse (@patrsuisse) July 5, 2019

Instead, the team ended up performing over the town of Mümliswil, where the 31st Northwest Yodeling festival was in progress. There is no word on whether or not yodelers at the festival appreciated the sudden and unexpected appearance of noisy jet fighters.

Patrouille Suisse’s explanation for the mix-up was...not good. Langenbruck and Mümliswil are just 6.5 kilometers apart, or about four miles. According to Swiss military spokesman Daniel Reist, "Preparations were carried out by looking at a map, the measurement of 1cm on the map equates to 1km—and this equates to five seconds flight time.”

That’s not a great excuse considering that at 6.5 kilometers, the pilots overshot the location by more than 30 seconds. That’s a relatively long time in a jet. Then again, the two towns do look fairly similar to one another.

The Swiss Air Force also blamed the incident on a lack of GPS and the lack of air force personnel on the ground to tell the pilots, in the gentlest way possible, they were over the wrong town.

Incredibly, the lead pilot for the flight was actually from Langenbruck himself. The pilot claimed his attention was diverted by a helicopter flying over the town’s airspace—a big red flag right there—and focused on maintaining a safe distance. In doing so, he failed to realize that he was leading his team to perform over the wrong town.

The Patrouille Suisse flies the Northrop F-5 Tiger II, a single-seat, single engine 1970s-era jet fighter that was the F-16 of its time. The Tiger II is more than forty years old and lacks modern navigation systems, such as GPS, that would have avoided such an embarrassing incident.

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