Interview – Jan “Schwiiz” Schweizer – Commander of the Super Puma Display Team
Thank you for your time, please introduce us yourself and tell us your career in the Swiss Air Force (German: Schweizer Luftwaffe; French: Forces aériennes suisses)
Hello, my name is Jan Schweizer, nickname “Schwiiz”, Commander of the Super Puma Display Team. I started my flying career in the Swiss Air Force in 1999 at the age of 20. Like all of our pilots “in the old times” I learned flying with the PC-7, then started to manage the challenge of piloting a helicopter with the Alouette 3. In 2001 I received my wings. 3 years later (2004) I finished the “BMPS” (Berufsmilitärpiloten-Schule, Profssional military pilot school), including a civil ATPL, a military Flight instructor rating for PC-7 and Alouette 3, as well as a Typerating for the PC-6. Later in 2005 I became operational on the Super Puma as Copilot. The next steps were the Upgrading as PiC, Flight instructor on Puma, transition to the EC635 as pilot and instructor. In 2012 I got the chance to join the Super Puma Display Team und was flying displays until last year. Since then I’m also the Commander. When I’m not working for the Display Team, so most of the year, I act as flight instructor on our helicopters.
When was the Super Puma display team establishd? Tell us its history.
The first “demo-like” flight manoeuvres on a few manufacturer’s airshows have already been showed shortly after the helicopter’s introduction in the early 90′. In 2003 there was a first team of Instructors who flew a specific program in Switzerland and abroad. The official SUPER PUMA DISPLAY TEAM was founded in 2005.
How good is the Super Puma for the display? A perfect helicopter for the program?
In my opinion the Super Puma is quite a good model for air displays. However due to its size, technical limitations and the layout of the rotorhead, it is not capable of performing ALL manoeuvres that some other military helicopters can (e.g. loopings are not possible). It still is a “green painted civilian transport helicopter”. But most of the people don’t expect to see a Super Puma to fly like in our Display.
How many poeple are all together in the team?
Until the end of 2018, we had 6 operational demo pilots plus 1 commander. At the beginning of 2019, this number was reduced to 5 pilots plus commander.
How can someone become a Super Puma team member?
If you want to become a display pilot, you need several years of experience as a Super Puma PIC (Pilot in Command). If you get selected by the current members of the Display Team, you then prepare for the specific challenges of display flying by attending special training courses.
How do you put the program together for your program?
Our program consists of quite a bunch of different elements / figures, which we can link together more or less freely, adapted to the geographic and environmental conditions of the display site.
Do you perform with the other Swiss Display Teams together? Are you in contact with each other?
Yes, we are in continuous contact with our display colleagues. It starts from the planning of the airshows during the year and continues to the shows, where we are together at the same location.
Since a couple of years, we have been performing a common fly-by with the PC-7 TEAM as opening of our display, when we are at the same event. The jet aircraft move a little bit too fast for us to follow…
On the AIR14, there was a short show of 5 minutes together with an F/A-18, but not in the meaning of an “air display”.
I see you sometimes use flares during your programs.
Yes we do sometimes. If we do it or not depends on the availability of helicopter (it has to be a Cougar, the Super Pumas are not equipped with Flares), the location (some places are not so good to flare overhead…), the weather conditions (if it’s to dry we are not allowed to use flares), etc.
They are not an option for every display. So generally its rather rare during the season.
When you are not preparing or performing at aiwshows, what do you do in the Air Force?
As a professional pilot in the Swiss Air Force, I may be planned for all types and kinds of missions, e.g. regular transports, training flights, etc.
Additionally, I’m most of the time a flight instructors and thus engaged in teaching + training of the younger pilots.
Any airshow you whish to perform with the Super Puma, if you could have a chance?
Not a special one. Personally I like the small events best. With the Helicopter we can land nearly everywhere and so we have a direct access to the public before and after the show during the static display. And that’s how we do it normally, fly to the event, land, be there for the public and show the Super Puma on Ground as well as talk to the spectators, fly the display, again a short time for the spectators and then go back home.
The Super Puma is not a new type in the Air Force. Lets daydream, what type would you see for the change?
My personal opinion: something new in the same size would be great. Since there will be nearly 10 more years with the Super Puma for us. There might be something newer than you find today. So I’m not focused on a specific type, but think that the size of the Puma is perfect for our terrain and our missions.
Any chance that the Super Puma display will get a special color for one season?
I don’t think so. We have no specific display helicopter, we always use the one which is available since we do not have a special configuration for our display.
Any other helicopter display team from Europe you like?
At the RIAT I once saw the RAF Chinook demo and liked it a lot.
Thank you very much for taking an interest in the Swiss Air Force Super Puma Display Team – we are honoured to write for you and hope to see some of you at an airshow during this year. Thanks to all the supporters and aviation enthusiasts.