50 years ago, on February 21, 1970, a Swissair plane crashed on the flight to Tel Aviv in Würenlingen AG. 47 people died. A bomb had exploded in the machine. The background of the attack was never fully known to the public.
Now new details of the tragedy come to light that could explain the passivity of the judicial authorities. A communication problem between the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad and the State Office for the Protection of the State in Hesse is said to have arisen, as the NZZ reports.
The bomb had been prepared by a Palestinian terrorist cell. This was in the sights of the investigators, who had planned an attack on an Austrian Airlines plane from Frankfurt am Main to Vienna. However, this went off lightly because the machine could still make an emergency landing after the explosion.
But why didn’t the secret services involved warn Swissair? Why was there generally no warning to other airlines? Political scientist Wolfgang Kraushaar is asking himself these questions at the NZZ. There would have been two hours left before the explosion in the Swissair aircraft. “The fatal start of Swissair-Coronado in Zurich might have been prevented at the last minute.”
It’s a Saturday 50 years ago. Swissair flight SR330 takes off from Zurich-Kloten airport at 1:14 p.m. The goal is Tel Aviv. Nine minutes after the take-off of the Convair CV-990 (Coronado) aircraft named “Nidwalden”, a bomb explodes at an altitude of 4500 meters above sea level in the rear hold.
At this time, the machine was located above the Sattel-Hochstuckli region in central Switzerland. The crew notices the drop in pressure. There is smoke and fire. Captain Karl Berlinger reports the pressure drop and wants to go back to Kloten. The navigation devices and the electricity in the plane gradually fail. At 13.33 p.m. Berlinger reports the emergency to the tower.
You have smoke on board and can no longer see anything. The last radio message comes half a minute later: «330 is crashing. Goodbye everybody. Goodbye everybody, »says co-pilot Armand Etienne on the radio.
The machine crashes in Würenlingen AG in a forest, tears a 100-meter path. The crash site is located near the two nuclear reactors in Beznau and what is now the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).
The sad result: 38 passengers and 9 crew members were killed. There were also 15 Israeli citizens on board. The bomb had been delivered to Jerusalem in an air parcel. Before its last flight, the Swissair plane had arrived in Zurich-Kloten from Munich at 11 a.m. The bomb in the package had been detonated at a certain height using an altimeter.
Commemoration in the forest
A memorial stone in the forest in Würenlingen commemorates the dead of the bombing. A commemorative event will take place there on Friday of the coming week, exactly 50 years after the plane crash.
The private organizers note that the man-made tragedy and the sad chapter in the history of Swiss aviation should not be forgotten. Arthur Schneider, former municipal councilor and president of Würenlingen, and Ruedi Berlinger, son of the plane’s pilot, are behind the memorial event. The two men are concerned not to let the great tragedy be forgotten.
And they also want certainty about the background of the attack. But knowing exactly what really happened will never really come to light. The two suspected Palestinian perpetrators are known – but they never went to court.
(20 min / sda)