Plan to cut aerobatic team raises hackles
Published: 13 Feb 2013 18:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Feb 2013 18:38 GMT+01:00
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"We will no longer have planes simply for folklore," President Ueli Maurer told a parliamentary security policy commission meeting on Tuesday, according to the Basler Zeitung daily.
The commission had been discussing Switzerland's pending purchase of 22 JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden when a member reportedly asked about the future of the Patrouille Suisse, which has been a fixture in Swiss skies since 1964.
The Swiss president, who is also the country's defence minister and a member of the populist right Swiss People's Party, told the gathering that as of 2016 the cherished aerobatic team would cease to exist.
The revelation sparked outrage in Switzerland, with politicians leading the way.
"Maurer is underestimating the symbolic importance of the Patrouille Suisse," Martin Landolt, the head of the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland told the 20Minuten.ch website.
The head of the Christian Democratic Party, Christoph Darbellay agreed, describing the decision as "a provocation."
A former pilot with the aerobatic team, also quoted by 20Minuten.ch, denounced the move, stressing that the Patrouille Suisse had never had an accident since its creation in 1964.
"The Patrouille is the best business card Switzerland has," pilot John Huessy said.
"It is unacceptable to say that what they do is about folklore."