At the end of 1994, the Hunter was withdrawn from Swiss Air Force flight service. At the same time, the Army 95 program led to the disappearance of Aviation Squadron 5. The members of this unit, wishing to extend their friendship, then decided to create an association.
It was in the early morning of November 19, 1994 that La Cinquième Escadrille was born, founded by Robert Briner, Raymond Clerc, Jean-Paul Cruchon, Claude Nicollier and Jean-Luc Schorer. This Association brings together military pilots formerly incorporated into the 5 Aviation Squadron.
Very quickly, the desire to save a Hunter from demolition became apparent. Thus, in 1995, thanks to the support of the Air Force and the Military Department of the Canton of Vaud, the Association was awarded the Hunter J-4078 in perfect flying condition. This aircraft will be exhibited for nearly seven years in a former carpentry shop in Arnex-sur-Orbe, surrounded by numerous equipment: engines, ejector seats, ground troops’ equipment and squadron memorabilia. A small Museum was therefore born, quite modest indeed, but one that was only waiting to grow. Subsequently, the DH-100 Vampire registered J-1055, installed for more than 20 years on the grounds of the Musée militaire de Morges, was presented to the Association.
After a few years spent in Arnex-sur-Orbe, the need to transfer the Museum’s activities to larger premises became apparent. The Payerne military airfield, the main base of our Air Force, was ideal for a brand new building. The discussions initiated with the Aerodrome Management and the Air Force Command immediately met with a positive response and great interest. With this precious support, the committee of La Cinquième Escadrille has, on the one hand, developed the Payerne Museum project and, on the other hand, founded a new association to support its efforts: Espace Passion, an association to support the Military Aviation Museum. Today, this association has more than 650 members. That year again, it was the Vampire J-1157, which had been on display for a long time in the industrial area of Aigle, that was offered to La Cinquième Escadrille. Its restoration was completed in 2000 thanks to the tremendous commitment of the members of the Espace Passion Association.
At the request of the Department of Defense, and in order to carry out the project to build the new Museum, Cinquième Escadrille set up the Foundation of the Musée de l’Aviation Militaire de Payerne on 10 March 1999. The Foundation Board, chaired by Claude Nicollier, composed of senior officials from our Air Force and members of the Fifth Squadron, was responsible for the construction of the Museum.
The search for funding began at the end of 1998. On December 12, 2001, the laying of the foundation stone marked an important milestone in the project.
The name “Clin d’Ailes” was chosen after a competition aimed at young people and sponsored by the Illustrated. Bastien Bornand, 12 years old and living in Arnex-sur-Orbe, proposed this name, which was immediately unanimously accepted by the Jury chaired by Claude Nicollier. The logo was created by Mr. Robert Rausis, graphic designer. The year was devoted to the construction and interior fittings, as well as to the continuation of aircraft restoration work.
On April 25, the Clin d’Ailes Museum was inaugurated on a grand day that ended with a flight presentation of historic aircraft, including the Breguet 14 from Clermont-Ferrand and the Hunter Trainer from AMPA, but also the Patrouille Suisse and the PC-7 Team. In eight years, the somewhat crazy dream of a few pilots determined to save a Hunter from breakage has become a reality: Clin d’Ailes, Musée de l’Aviation Militaire de Payerne was born. A wonderful adventure! Six aircraft occupy the superb exhibition hall: a Vampire DH-100, a Vampire Trainer DH-115, a Venom DH-112, a Hunter Mk.58, a Hunter Trainer TMk.68 and a Mirage IIIS. In October, the Museum’s collection was expanded with an Alouette 2 helicopter donated by the Air Force. On November 1st, the Air Force Memorial was inaugurated. This monument, created by Aridio Pellanda, a former Mirage pilot, consists of a block of granite from Ticino and a marble stele with a quotation from St-Exupéry on it. This memorial is dedicated to the memory of all the men and women who disappeared during their activities in the Air Force.
One year after the opening of the Museum, the restoration of the Mirage simulator (Simir) is completed and the first demonstrations can take place. The Hunter Trainer J-4203 receives its civil registration HB-RVW and makes its first flight on May 18. Clin d’Ailes is the partner of Imag’in Air, the first International Air Film Festival, which is held in Payerne as a prelude to AIR 04. And, from 3 to 5 September, 275,000 spectators are attending this superb airshow. The Museum’s aircraft are displayed on the “Static display” and the Hunter Trainer is participating in the aerial demonstration.
The Foundation receives from the Air Force a Mirage III-RS, the R-2117 and a Mirage III-DS two-seater, the J-2012. Outside, the Florida antenna, received last year, is installed on its base and the Vampire’s nose is modified, thus restoring its original shape. The Hunter Trainer makes 55 flights and participates in the Yvair 05 Airshow. The Foundation Board decides to study the feasibility of expanding the Museum. Divisional Pierre-André Winteregg, who has been the link between the Air Force and the Foundation since 1999, is appointed a member of the Board.
On June 30, more than 400 people, including the Chief of the Army, attended the official ceremony to present the two Mirage III-RS and III-DS. As part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) programme, a radio link is being established on 22 September from the Museum between German astronaut Thomas Reiter on board the International Space Station ISS and students from the Gymnasium de la Broye. On November 4, an official ceremony inaugurates the twinning between Clin d’Ailes and the European Hunting Aviation Museum of Montélimar. The Hunter Trainer makes 52 flights and participates in the Mollis 06 Airshow.
On February 8, Jean-Rodolphe Willi was appointed new Director of the Museum and replaced Alfred Ramseyer, who was appointed Honorary Director. Alfred Bohnenblust replaces Jean-Pierre Kallenbach as President of Espace Passion. The Hunter Trainer makes 45 flights.
On 23 June Alfred Bohnenblust was appointed Director of the Museum, replacing the late Jean-Rodolphe Willi. To date, the Museum has received more than 60,000 visitors since its creation. On August 2, the first Swiss Aviation Exchange is held. Great success, having attracted nearly 3,000 people. On September 16, in a world premiere, the first flight of a civilian passenger aboard our Mirage III two-seater HB-RDF. The Hunter Trainer makes 44 flights and the Mirage III 8 flights. To date, more than 200 passengers have discovered the beauty of military jet flying on board our legendary aircraft.
On April 3, Christophe Keckeis was appointed President of Espace Passion to replace Alfred Bohnenblust. In June, the Mirage III takes part in the Le Bourget Meeting. In September, the Hunter and Mirage III participate in “Geneva Classics”. The adventure continues….
On the occasion of the centenary of civil aviation, our Hunter and Mirage two-seater participated in the Emmen airshow on 24 July. The CentenAir open days at Payerne Air Force Base on 24 and 25 September were a great success, with 5,500 visitors at the Museum. The Museum was invited as a guest of honour at the Comptoir de Payerne from November 5 to 14. A Solar Impulse stand is part of the Museum and allows visitors to understand the wonderful history of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
The Foundation Board establishes a project to expand the Museum. Beginning of the search for funding.
Elaboration of a final project for the expansion of the Museum. The building permit application is submitted, the budget is checked and calls for tenders are obtained. The Museum welcomed its 100,000th visitor in May.
On April 26, the Museum celebrates its 10th anniversary with the participation of PC-7 TEAM, which is launching its new book, and a triangular flight from the Swiss Aero Club. Jürg Studer is appointed Director of the Museum, replacing the late Alfred “Boblu” Bohnenblust. On 15 October, the Museum finally received the building permit, and expansion work began.
Thanks to FOXEL SA, the Museum can be discovered in 360° on the website. On 30/31 August and 6/7 September, the Swiss Air Force celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Clin d’Ailes Museum is participating in the 100th anniversary exhibition with its Hunter and Mirage IIIS and the Hunter Trainer and Mirage IIIDS are part of AIR14’s daily flight program. For a whole week, the Museum is the host site of the RTS program “Les Dicodeurs”.
The official inauguration of the Museum’s expansion takes place on May 1. On May 18, Espace Passion begins flight service from its new maintenance workshop, which is part of the Museum’s expansion.