R. J. Heard/Focal Plane photography reports on the recent opening of the new museum hall at Dübendorf in Switzerland.
Background - The "Association of Friends of the Swiss Air Force", (Verein der Freunde der schweizerischen Luftwaffe - VFL), was established in 1997 following the amalgamation of the; "Friends of the Swiss flyer troop museum", (Verein der Freundes des Museums der schweizerischen Fliegertruppen - VFMF), with the "Association of Friends of the Air-defence troop", (Verein der Freunde der Fliegerabwehrtruppen - VFFlab).
Today, as then, the primary aim of the VFL is to actively promote public interest in the Swiss Air Force, both from an historical and a contemporary point of view. Since its inception this has been achieved largely through its collection of historic Swiss aircraft and Air Force artefacts located at its 'Flieger Museum', (Aviation Museum), which was originally opened by the VFMF at Dübendorf Air base, near Zurich, in 1972.
Originally the VFFlab had hoped to establish their own museum at Emmen AB, near Luzern, but this proved financially impractical and so the amalgamation with the VFL came about with the objective of displaying their collection of Air-Defence material alongside the existing exhibits at Dübendorf.
Planning on this expansion began almost immediately after joining with the VFMF. A feasibility study was conducted during 1979 to look at the financing and logistics of erecting a new building and by 1998 a full development plan had been completed ready for the start of the project. A year later the VFL committee had chosen a primary contractor for the construction work and by the end of 1999 submission for building permits had been made to local authorities and the project was well under way. During April 2000 a building permit was issued and demolition of some of the Flieger Museum's old display hangars began in order to make way for the new building. Work commenced on this in November 2000 and continued for almost eighteen months until April this year, when the birth of the new hall finally came to fruition.
On 27 April a grand inauguration ceremony and a small airshow were held at Dübendorf to mark the occasion of the opening of the new hall, and in the process the museum became the 'Flieger-Flab-Museum' (Aviation-Air Defence- Museum), to reflect its new holdings.
The Opening - This was both a formal and celebratory event with an 'official' ceremony for invited VFL and Air Force VIPs, plus a vintage airshow to show off some of the former Swiss Airforce 'Historich' types to the general public.
The official inauguration commenced at noon on the 27th (held inside the new hall) beginning with a nostalgic film relating to the Swiss Airforce's history. A particular emphasis on the WWII era, complete with 'big band' accompaniment provided a stirring look back at the dark days of this era, a time which is particularly poignant for the Swiss who stood virtually alone against the Third Reich after all other European countries had fallen prey to their regime of tyranny.
Speeches then followed by the senior members of the VFL, as well as from the Commander of the Swiss Air Force Lt Gen Hans-Rudolf Fehrlin, thus reflecting the importance of this new facility. These were interspersed with rousing music from the Swiss Air Force band to compliment the proceedings and the official opening which eventually saw guests allowed into the new hall prior to a break for lunch.
From early afternoon the air at Dübendorf then once again resounded to the sound of classic Swiss props as Jungmanns, Dewotines, Mustangs and many other classic types were all put through their paces during the small, but well organised airshow. Most interesting of these was arguably the Altenrhein based Morane D-3801, a unique aeroplane and a superb restoration when one considers that most of it came from just pieces stored in a barn! This put on a very spirited display much to the delight of the crowd.
Other flying highlights included a display by a very rare Dewotine D.26 and the C-3605 'Schlepp', which sounded more like a jet at times thanks to its Lycoming engine. The finalé to the show came from the modern Swiss Airforce with a faultless display by the Patrouille Suisse who rounded off the day with their spectacular 'flare' break. This was followed by the chance for everyone to walk the flight-line and inspect the older types at close quarters.
Museum concept - The Flieger-Flab-Museum is now the hub of what has become the 'Air Force Centre', a collection of various facilities aimed at promoting the enjoyment and spread of knowledge of the Swiss Air Force's history and aviation. The museum itself has, in addition to Aviation and Air Defence exhibits, a restaurant, special events facilities, a souvenir shop and very soon an Air Force information centre will be added. The museum also has a huge amount of archive material, including the whole of Swissair's photographic collection, which was recently been donated after the collapse of the airline. It is hoped that much of the archive material will eventually become available to researchers, but this is very much in future plans.
In conjunction with the museum the VFL also runs the resident JU-AIR with its unique fleet of three Ju-52 aircraft. These regularly take fare paying passengers back to the flying era of bygone days to experience what airlines use to be like. 'Auntie Ju', as it is affectionately known, also provides an important reinforcement to the historical significance of Aviation in Switzerland, again in-line with the VFL's concept.
The recent expansion of the museum, and its forthcoming 'Air Force Info Centre', assures the museum of a bright future. The museum's collection is a superb display and is a definite 'must see' on the list of aviation enthusiasts and historians everywhere.
hours/Prices (as of May 2002)
The museum is closed on Mondays and public holidays. For further information visit the museums excellent web site at: www.ju-air.ch/