Swissair Flight 330
Wreckage from Swissair Flight 330 that crashed in Würenlingen woods near Zürich on 21 February 1970
Swissair Flight SR330 was a regularly scheduled flight from Zürich International Airport in Kloten, Switzerland to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tel Aviv, Israel, which crashed in Würenlingen woods near Zürich on 21 February 1970.
On 21 February 1970, HB-ICD, a Convair CV-990 Coronado jet named “Baselland”, was flying on the route with 38 passengers and nine crew members. A bomb detonated in the aft cargo compartment of the aircraft about nine minutes after take-off climb-out on southerly course approximately at 12:15 UTC in the area of Lucerne north of the St Gotthard Pass. The crew tried to turn around and attempt an emergency landing at Zürich but had difficulty seeing the instruments due to smoke in the cockpit. The aircraft deviated more and more to the west and crashed a short time later in a wooded area at Würenlingen near Zürich, Switzerland, due to the loss of electrical power. All 47 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft were killed.
A Government air inspector was flown to the scene in a helicopter. He was followed shortly afterward by a team of 50 investigators. The police said that a woman handed in a 9-mm pistol found at the scene of the crash immediately after the disaster. Some of the wreckage, including pieces of cloth, was strung out on the tops and branches of trees.
Sabotage was immediately suspected here because of the anger caused in Arab countries by the sentencing the previous December of three Palestinians to 12 years imprisonment by a Swiss court. An Arab guerrilla splinter group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, was said to have claimed in Beirut, Lebanon, that it had been responsible for the explosion. Reuters reported later, however, from Amman, Jordan, that a spokesman for the PFLP-GC had denied that it was involved.
As noted in Kibble (The Arab Israeli Conflict: No Service, Returned & Captured Mail, 2014) a small amount of mail was recovered from the crash, and is highly prized by collectors of crash mail. A black instructional marking in French was applied to any mail that survived the crash, which translated reads: "Correspondence is from “Coronado” that fell at Würenlingen. Zürich 58 Post Office". The Coronado bombing saw a change in mailing practices across the globe. In particular, mail sent or routed to Israel through the UK, Italy and the USA was required to be sent by surface mail until further notice. Airmail into Israel was no longer permitted.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency report (24 February 1970):
- No airmail from Europe arrived in Israel today despite assurances from several airlines that deliveries would continue. At least a dozen international carriers suspended mail and cargo services to Israel following last Saturday’s fatal crash of a Swissair jet. The airlines said the measure was temporary and several announced yesterday that they were rescinding the ban. But planes of the West German Lufthansa, British European Airways (BEA) and Swissair landed at Lydda Airport today minus their mail bags. The captain of the Swissair flight refused to take outgoing mail but agreed when informed by postal authorities that he was acting contrary to his company’s instructions. Israel made strong representations to the International Postal Union yesterday against any delays in foreign mail deliveries.
Within days of the crash, the main suspect was named as a Jordanian national.
The Swiss investigator, Robert Akeret, handed his report to the Federal Attorney-General.
Suspects were never taken to court, despite arrest warrants.
According to Robert Akeret: “Bern threw a ‘cloak of silence’ over the case.”
The investigation into the crash of Swissair Flight 330 in Würenligen was discontinued permanently in 2000.
- “Former cabinet member Pierre Graber, who died in 2003 at age 94, secretly struck a pact with the PLO after attacks including the killing of an Israeli airline pilot in 1969 at Zurich airport and a 1970 incident in which hundreds of hostages on three jets were forced to land in Jordan.”
According to Gyr, the Swiss government would release the PLO prisoners and would use its diplomatic offices to push for international recognition of the PLO in exchange for release of the hostages and the promise that the PLO would no longer commit any act of terrorism in Switzerland.
No evidence of a deal
A Commission investigated the allegation and found no evidence of such a deal.
It is however a fact that, while there were further Palestinian attacks in other European countries, there were none in Switzerland after 1970:
- “The government said a task force set up to review the allegations found no indication of a secret pact between former cabinet member Pierre Graber, or any other Swiss representative, and PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi.
- “The task force has come to this conclusion: There was no ‘secret agreement’ reached in September 1970 between F. Kaddoumi and representatives of Switzerland in Geneva,” the task force wrote in a 3-1/2 page summary of its conclusions. [Reuters]
Gyr found the report “fair and substantial” but stuck by his original hypothesis that a secret deal had been forged, based on interviews he conducted with anonymous sources that formed the basis of his book:
- “I have always written that there was no definitive written proof.” [Reuters]
Swiss investigative journalist Otto Hostettler believes that the PFLP-GC is indeed responsible for the attack and that the bomb was built by Marwan Khreesat who is also linked to, and wanted for, the bombing of an Israeli airliner (El Al Flight 444 from Barcelona to Tel Aviv on 16 August 1972).
- “Marwan Khreesat is still wanted in connection with the bomb on the El Al flight. There can be little doubt that Khreesat is the bomb-maker for the PFLP-GC, that he was brought to West Germany for that purpose and there is a possibility that he prepared the IED which destroyed Pan Am Flight 103. As such he should not be at liberty but should be closely questioned regarding his activities with a view to tracking his associates in the attack.” [Detective Superintendent Pat Connor Report on the PFLP-GC's activities in West Germany, June 1989]
- "Suspicious Aviation Tragedies: 1970 Swissair Flight 330"
- "Swissair Flight 330: New Light on the 1970 Crash"
- "The New York Times," February 22, 1970
- Photos: Convair 990-30A-6 Coronado Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net
- Kibble, D. 2014. "The Arab Israeli Conflict: No Service, Returned & Captured Mail." Vivid Publishing, Perth. 384 pages + index, hardback, pages 299-306.
- "Unanswered questions remain in 1970 Swissair crash"
- "Switzerland 'made secret deal with PLO' after bomb attacks"
- "Swiss panel finds no evidence of secret 1970s deal with PLO"
- "Detective Superintendent Pat Connor Report on the PFLP-GC's activities in West Germany, June 1989"
- “330 is going down. Goodbye everybody.”
- Co-pilot Armand Etienne — February 21 1970; 1:34