Assignment No23: Meiringen, Switzerland
Peter Cooper heads out to Switzerland with COAP to experience the mountain flying, stunning beauty and magical weather of Meiringen
Nestled in a deep valley between two Alpine mountain ranges is the Swiss Air Force treasure of Meiringen. It sits at an altitude of 1,900ft AMSL and is situated amongst the lush green farmlands in the Canton regin of Bern in West central Switzerland.
Arriving here after a three hour train journey from Geneva, the railway which in its own right was quite spectacular, it was off to our hotel in the typical Swiss town of Meiringen which would be our ‘home’ for the next three nights. The town also provided some excellent eating places, with great beers, albeit a bit more expensive than what we were used to in the UK!
The next day the weather was no too kind but we still ventured to the Air Base where we would visit over the next couple of days. Upon arrival after a few minutes drive from the town the first thing that struck me was that there was a public road across the single runway, controlled by lights and barriers. But there was nothing to stop you getting out of the car whilst at the barriers to photograph the aircraft. Furthermore public roads ran through the base to various farms and domestic houses that were scattered along the South side in an area called Unterbach. Consequently this meant that we could stop by the fences close to the taxiway and runway to give some great photographic vantage points. The fences here are only waist high.
Surprisingly, at least to me, there was a viewing area on the roof of an administration block on base, which incidentally also housed an excellent canteen, open to civilians and of course the base military personnel. That was indeed a useful commodity. This area afforded a good view over the taxiway and runway, again giving some good photographic opportunities, once it had stopped raining.
Once flying had stopped for the day, we returned to the hotel for an in-depth yet very relaxed COAP Workshop on aviation photography.
The following day the base really became alive under good sunny skies and we travelled around the base to use the various vantage points some giving very close-up action especially at the end of the runway 27. What’s more all the aircraft here are based within the caverns hewn into the side of the mountain. The aircraft are towed out from the caverns to the flight line, and can really only be seen when they are taxiing from the flightline, for take-off. There were two taxiways from the caverns but only one was operational whilst we were there, so all the operational aircraft (F-5E/Fs and F/A-18C/Ds) had to taxi out, and back in, over another light controlled public road, which again allowed some close up action here. Awesome!!! Certain places are of course ‘No Go’ areas and these should be respected, and when at the crossing points common sense should prevail.
Aircraft usually depart in waves of four, although some are less and others more, so whilst all this is going on it usually results in some hectic moments particularly if there are inbounds thrown into the scenario.
All in all this was a superb trip to a superb, and truly delightful, base to witness the Swiss Air Force at work amongst some stunning scenery. Simply a MUST!!!