We would like to introduce you to the "Wings for Japan" Project. 25 people whose lives were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 have just arrived in Switzerland, where they will spend some days in the mountains and in the region of Zurich. The goal of the project is for them to have an unforgettable, carefree week, during which they can share their experiences and make the most of this opportunity for some respite from their daily life, which has changed so dramatically since last March.Welcome to Switzerland!
Markus Guler, Business Analyst & Project Leader Expert
Is it the venerable sound of an old Tupolev or the distinctive shape of the wings of the new Boeing 747-8i that fascinate so deeply. Or is the insatiable sense of wanderlust? It is probably the range of aspects of aviation that attracts more and more people to airport and aboard airplanes.
Whether hunter or gatherer, as a plane spotter I am always seeking attractive new subjects to photograph. I can usually be found on the approach path, at the airport perimeter fence or the observation terrace, always equipped with radio, binoculars and camera. Not every plane spotter shares the same interest. Some are focused on military or cargo aircraft, while others prefer passenger or business jets. Some simply note the registration number of the aircraft they spot and update the list in their logbook or data base at home. Others endeavour to take an attractive photo of their airliner of choice. I belong primarily to the guild of those who photograph passenger and cargo airplanes.
I am interested in both older and newer aircraft. One of the highlights of my collection is the still airworthy, Basel-based Super Constellation, also known as "Super Connie", which is close to unique anywhere in the world.
How quickly time passes – in fact, it simply flies by. This statement sums up my life over the past six months, during which I have been taking off and flying away several times per week.
Since August of last year my life has adapted to a whole new rhythm and style. I no longer live from one weekend to the next but from one monthly work schedule to the next instead. I have been a SWISS flight attendant since last summer and my new place of work is up in the sky. Time no longer hurries by – it flies past me at high speed. And I enjoy every second.
If someone had said to me three years ago that I would one day be a flight attendant, I would have simply smiled at them and shook my head. Sure, sliding down the emergency evacuation chute in training sounded exciting back then. But I didn’t want people to regard me as little more than a "trolley dolly". However, such prejudicial attitudes can be found anywhere. The disparaging term “pen pusher” which is often used in reference to office workers and secretaries isn’t any better. And I was a "pen pusher" myself in my previous professional life, when I was kept on the go by the SMI (Swiss Market Index), my bosses and anxious customers. Today, they have been replaced by flight schedules, airplanes and, of course, passengers from all over the world. My time as an assistant in the field of private banking was good and interesting in its own way. But after nine years in the banking sector the time had come for me to seek a new challenge away from the world of finance.
As this is my first contribution to the SWISS blog I would like to tell in a nutshell what brought me here.
I still remember my first flight, which was in the dark ages of the last millennium, when smoking was still permitted in the cabin. It was an Interflug flight from East Berlin to Sofia, Bulgaria, to visit relatives. I was six years old and the passenger in front of me smoked a cigar, which caused me to become sick. Aside from that, I was awestruck by the flying experience.
After high school, I started studying English literature at university in Zurich but I felt unhappy. So I tried veterinary medicine but was still not happy. When I commuted to classes by train, I sometimes skipped Zurich main station and remained on board till the train stopped at the airport. I would spend a lot of time at the airport, where I actually felt happy. So in the summer of 1998 I applied at Swissair and in a matter of 10 days I was employed and moved to Zurich full-time.
Ever since, I’ve been happy. I’ve been doing exactly what I have always wanted to do which is…. everything! I love flying, love travelling, love people, love that no day is like any other. I like working night shifts and sleeping in during the day and when I can’t sleep I paint.
Philipp Spoerli (Airbus A330/340 First Officer) was part of the cockpit crew piloting our inaugural flight from Zurich to Beijing. We asked him some questions about inaugural flights, the flight to Beijing and more.
Interview by Christian Lüdi (Social Media Marketing)
Christian: You and your cockpit crew transported us on the first SWISS flight to Beijing? How was this flight for you?
Philipp: The flight to Beijing was impressive indeed, especially when one considers how much history is associated with this city and also because this was the first SWISS flight to Beijing since 2003. Even though SWISS was in financial difficulty at the time, it is difficult from today’s perspective to comprehend the decision to cease flying to such a booming destination in China. So it’s all that much nicer that we have returned.
C: What was the flight like in terms of vision, and did you learn anything new during the flight?
P: The route to Beijing is pretty familiar to us because it takes us over much of the same territory as the route to Shanghai. The approach into Beijing was special, simply because of the heavy traffic and huge airport. After landing, we had to taxi for a good 20 minutes before we reached our designated parking position.
Vision was basically satisfactory, about 4 kilometres, which by Beijing standards is all right. It was very cold, minus 9 degrees, when we landed. The air was very dry and there was not much smog. We were informed by the locals that this was an exception. But it was still dark because we arrived early in the morning, which meant that we could not see much aside from an impressive sea of lights.
"Live your dream and don’t dream your life" has always been my favourite expression and I have taken the necessary action to give these words real meaning.
After graduating from school I was ready to explore my new-found freedom and opportunities for self-development. At last I could go wherever I wanted. Motivated by this wish I undertook training as an "international tourism assistant“, and even worked for a few months in Spain. My strongest desire, however, was to fly. Not just fly to places on holiday as a tourist though – I wanted to be right in the thick of the action – I wanted to live the flying life. Consequently, I joined SWISS in 2009 and have been attending ever since to our passengers in both Business and Economy Class on short and long-haul flights.
I’m not only living my own dream but am also beginning to live my life with a certain spirit of Swissness. As a German citizen who relocated to Switzerland I have had to cope with various things that weren’t always easy to deal with. I have had to contend with a new environment, new points of view and a different mentality, all of which are still sometimes a challenge. But then again, wasn’t that what I always wanted?
Travel is my passion: I love getting to know other countries and cultures in their many different aspects. Doing so has become something of a sport for me – becoming a so-called “Baedecker tourist* (after the travel guides published by Baedeker). I have visited every country for which there is a travel guide on my bookcase. Which brings me to my second hobby: reading. If I’m not rambling through the streets of the world’s towns and cities I’m busy reading a book either in a park, on the beach or on the balcony. And because reading and writing go hand in hand, I’m looking forward to telling our SWISS Blog readers more about my life beyond the clouds.
I passed the second checkpoint after 24 kilometres, with a good feeling and still feeling quite energetic. But that was before I hit the hills before the next checkpoint, Risberg, at 35 kilometres.
Suddenly the surrounding terrain was no longer upright. The trees seemed to be growing at a slight angle, making me wonder what had happened. The answer is easy: I had reached the Risberg hills! It is an almost 5-kilometer-long uphill battle and whatever energy level I had before starting the climb, it had slowly but surely been depleted, making sure there is nothing left when I finally reached the checkpoint. It didn’t make me feel better knowing that Jörgen Brink, the one I was staying 1 kilometre behind, had already finished the race in a new record time and I still had 55 kilometres to go. But what could I do? There was only the rest of the race to go and I headed out for Evertsberg, just past the half-way mark and the start of the downhill part where I could finally ski and rest at the same time.
Miles & More isn’t only the name of the SWISS frequent flyer program. The same words describe perfectly the Vasaloppet ski race. Miles, miles and even more miles….
I’m lined up at the starting area for the Sweden’s Vasaloppet ski race. It’s me and some 15,000 - yes you read right, fifteen thousand - other skiers. Hopes are high, and I decided before the race that I would stay about 1 kilometre behind Jörgen Brink, the winner of the past two races. My tactic turns out to be perfect, at least up until 8 a.m. when the starter fires a single shot in the air and the race is on. Since the starting area is about 1 kilometre long this was the closest I was going to get to the world’s elite in long cross-country ski races. Three hours and 38 minutes later they were crossing the finish line in Mora, 90 kilometres away, while I had not even finished a third of the race.
Since this was my first start in the Vasaloppet I was unseeded and belonged in the last starting group together with all of the other first-timers, some fairly seasoned skiers and others that had hardly ever seen a pair of cross-country skis before. I was well prepared, had been doing quite a lot of roller skiing lately and I was relying on my earlier experience from cross-country skiing for my technique. I was ready for the challenge.