The F-5E Tigers of the aerobatic display team missed their target by about 6 km.
A rather unusual as well as bit embarrassing “incident” occurred to the the Swiss Air Force’s “Patrouille Suisse” Display Team on Saturday Jul. 6, 2019: the team’s jets were scheduled to fly over Langenbruck, in northwestern Switzerland, south of Basel, where the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Swiss aviation pioneer Oskar Bider was held, but they flew over Mümliswil, missing the target by about 6 km.
“Unfortunate circumstances” were the root cause of the mistake according to a spokesman of the Swiss Air Force. In fact, as reported by Le Matin media outlet, during the approach to the target, the leader of the team spotted a large festival area with a tent, with a tent in Mümliswil, which prompted him to fly over it. The 31st yodel festival in northwestern Switzerland was being held there: people attending this festival enjoyed the unplanned flyover.
The flyover had to take place at Langenbruck but the Patrouille flew over the festival held at Mümliswil. Image created using Google Maps.
Such flyovers are usually flown under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) using maps, clock and visual references on the ground. Moreover, the six obsolete F-5E Tiger jets flown by the team are not equipped with GPS or other modern technologies that would help getting over the right target at the right time.
Some display teams (such as the Frecce Tricolori display team of the Italian Air Force) have their Commander or other team members on the ground talking to the team on the radio to give advice as well as updates on wheather conditions or other events occurring at the location of the flyover (for instance, the presence of a team member on the ground is crucial when the passage must take place at very same time a VIP arrives or when a Head of State lays a wreath of flowers at a monument etc). The lack of visual contact with the formation during the approach to the festival would have helped a team member on the ground recognizing the mistake.