Hero of the Gauli Glacier
After spending half a century in a museum, Fieseler Storch A-97 is airworthy and about to recreate a famous humanitarian mission. Jürgen Schelling reports
It is an extraordinary old-timer, a Fieseler Fi 156 C-3/trop Storch painted in the former colours of the Swiss Air Force. Getting airborne in June, in the livery it wore 70 years ago, the Storch flew from Dübendorf near Zürich, to Meiringen airport in the Swiss Alps.
It was from the alpine aerodrome this aircraft – coded A-97 – set off on a rescue mission to the Gauli Glacier in Switzerland in November 1946. It later spent 50 years as an exhibit at the Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus) in Luzern. By 2016 it had been restored to airworthiness in Poland.
At the controls for 2018’s historic flight back to its former base at Meiringen was pilot Cedric Gitchenko, with me, Jürgen Schelling, as co-pilot. The flight was organised by the Friends of the Fieseler Storch Society, located in Oetwil am See, near Zürich. It’s the first stage towards a bigger operation next year, a bid to recreate that life-saving flight to the glacier.
The group collects, restores and operates these distinctive and durable high-winged monoplanes; it currently participates at air shows, fly-ins and other events with three airworthy Fieseler and Morane-Saulnier-built machines. For now, though, one of its main aims is to commemorate the spectacular Gauli rescue in 2019.
On the morning of November 18, 1946, USAAF Douglas C-53D Skytrooper 42-68846 took off from Tulln an der Donau near Vienna, Austria. The flight was bound for Pisa in Italy, but never reached its destination. Due to bad weather the crew decided to avoid the most direct route over the Alps, instead heading around the mountain range via Munich in Germany; Dijon, Marseille and Strasbourg in France, and then on to Pisa.
Unfortunately, the crew became disoriented while flying in cloud. Unsure of their position they suddenly struck the Gauli Glacier at an altitude of nearly 11,000ft (3,350m). Thankfully the impact wasn’t severe – it was a classic ‘controlled flight into terrain’ accident, with deep snow slowing the C-53 as it struck the ground…
The rest of this article is in the November issue of FlyPast. It’s available in UK shops now or can be purchased via the website – www.flypast.com. Alternatively, you can download a digital edition from www.pocketmags.com – simply search ‘FlyPast’.