Swissair - History - Founding Years

Founding Years

On March 26, 1931, Swissair - Schweizerische Luftverkehr AG (German: Swissair - Swiss Air Transport) was founded through the fusion of the airlines Ad Astra Aero (founded in 1919) and Balair (1925). The founding fathers were Balz Zimmermann and the Swiss aviation pioneer Walter Mittelholzer. In contrast to other airlines, it did not receive support from the government. The concise name "Swissair" was the proposal of Dr. Alphonse Ehinger, president of the directorial board of the Balair, although "Swissair" was first deemed "unswiss". In the first operational year, 64 people were employed, among them 10 pilots, 7 radio operators and eight mechanics. In total, its planes offered 85 seats and the operation was maintained only during the summer, from March to October. The route network had a length of 4,203 kilometres (2,612 mi).

On April 17, 1932 Swissair bought two Lockheed Orion airplanes and was the second European airline to use American planes, after the Czech operator CSA purchased a Ford Trimotor in 1930. The Orion was the fastest commercial airplane at its time and was put to use on the "Express line", Zurich-Munich-Vienna, which led the Lufthansa to ask Heinkel for a model which could top the Orion's speed, and produced the Heinkel He 70. In 1933, the first trans-alpin route was introduced in 1933: Zurich-Milan.

For the first time in Europe, flight attendants were employed on the Curtiss Condor airplanes, beginning in 1934. Nelly Diener, first flight attendant of Europe, attained a world-famous status – but she lost her life after just 79 flights in a crash near Wurmlingen, Germany, on July 27, 1934. The cause of the crash was material fatigue.

Just a few years later, in 1936, Douglas DC-2 airplanes were acquired and London was introduced to the route network. In 1937, the bigger Douglas DC-3 was bought. In the same year, both founding fathers died: Walter Mittelholzer during mountaineering in the Steiermark, Austria, and Balz Zimmermann succumbed to an infectious disease.

On August 27, 1939, days before World War II broke out, the airspace over Germany and France was closed. Swissair was forced to suspend service to Amsterdam, Paris and London. Two days later, Swissair's aviation was closed completely. Of 180 employees, 131 had to serve in the army, and in spite of the war, some routes were re-introduced, like those to Munich, Berlin, Rome and Barcelona. In 1940, an invasion of Switzerland was feared, and Swissair moved its operations to the Magadino plains in Ticino. The operations were suspended definitively in August 1944, when a Swissair DC-2 was destroyed in Stuttgart during an American bombing raid.

On July 30, 1945 Swissair was able to resume commercial aviation.

Read more about this topic:  Swissair, History

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