SWISS has just withdrawn the last of its Avro RJ100s, which have been in service on its European network since the company’s foundation. We talked to the cockpit crew of one of SWISS’s final Avro RJ flights.
When did you first dream of becoming a pilot?
Mick Weisser: In 1977. I was nine, and my parents took me on Swissair from Frankfurt to Zurich. I couldn’t say what it was exactly, but I knew from that day on: This was what I wanted to do.
Peter Huber: I’d been dreaming of becoming a pilot pretty much from my boyhood, too. It might have been watching all those planes take off and land; or it could have been all the model aircraft kits I built.
And what made you choose to fly the Avro RJ?
MW: It’s usually less your personal preference and more the company’s needs that determine what aircraft fleet you’re assigned to as an airline pilot. That was the case with the RJ for me. But I was very happy with that: The RJ always called for a lot of “manual” operation and technical flying skill.
PH: With me, too, it was the company who decided that I should fly the RJ. I had been on the Embraer ERJ 145. And when that fleet was phased out, the RJ was the only option available. It was quite an adjustment: Even back then, the ERJ 145 was a lot more advanced, especially in terms of its cockpit avionics. But for a pilot, the RJ did offer a unique opportunity to fly a four-engined aircraft.
Do any of your many RJ flights stick particularly in your memory?
MW: I have very strong memories of a ferry flight – that’s a flight without any passengers – from Basel to Geneva. I was still a pretty inexperienced First Officer at the time, and we had to fly our way around some seriously stormy weather. That was quite something!
PH: One of my favourite RJ memories is of a special charter flight that we operated for the Swiss Air Force. We had to transport a group of F/A-18 fighter pilots, engineers and ground personnel up to Europe’s Far North, where they were undergoing training. Just as we were heading off back to Zurich, we saw these Swiss Air Force F/A-18s landing in the Nordic twilight. Phenomenal!
What will you miss the most about the Avro RJ?
MW: I won’t really know until I’m on the new aircraft, the Bombardier C Series. But I do feel that our RJs were a very efficient piece of equipment, especially with their steep approach and quick deceleration credentials. On the new aircraft I’ll have to use other tactics here.
PH: There are quite a few things I will miss. Like the integrated air stairs. And the side cockpit windows, which can be fully opened.
What did it feel like to take your final Avro RJ flight?
MW: It’s hard to describe. I was certainly a bit sad. But I was also really pleased to be conducting this final flight together with colleagues I’ve worked so closely with for so many years.
PH: I felt really honoured to perform the last SWISS Avro RJ flight. As our RJ Deputy Fleet Chief, I put so much energy and dedication into helping ensure the type’s efficient operation over the last ten years or more. So I’m a little dewyeyed to see the SWISS RJ era end. At the same time, my new professional challenge as a Captain on the Bombardier C Series is one I’m really looking forward to.
Text: Sarah Marthaler/Photos: Jen Ries