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article imageHimalaya Expedition To Recover Wreckage Of Legendary Plane

By Anne-Beatrice Clasmann, dpa     Sep 11, 2000 in Lifestyle
GENEVA (dpa) - Ten fearless men and women are planning to go to the Himalayas at the end of September in order to recover a legend, one which makes the hearts of all mountain climbers and recreational pilots beat faster.
The wreckage of the famous "Yeti" plane has been lying around for more than 40 years now up in Nepal's snowy heights of 5,200 metres.
The tiny airplane is the prototype for the Swiss aircraft "Pilatus Porter PC-6" and in 1960 it had a major role in helping a team of climbers from Switzerland to succeed in scaling the Dhaulagiri, till then the only 8,000-plus metres mountain in the Himalayas which had not been conquered.
Altogether, the "Yeti" made 16 flights to carry equipment and supplies of the expedition led by Max Eiselin. The plane's fans claim that its landings at an altitude of 5,700 metres are to this day a world record.
But on the 17th flight on May 5, 1960, the plane crashed on takeoff. The two pilots survived, but they had to leave the Porter PC 6 behind.
"The Porter PC-6 is a great airplane and for this reason till this day is constructed almost without any changes by the Pilatus works," says Bruno Assuelli, president of the Porter Vintage Association.
"The only difference now is that the plane has a turbine engine, instead of a piston motor," he notes.
Assuelli's club has now set itself an ambitious goal. The remains of the "Yeti", which has lost some of its parts to souvenir hunters and locals over the decades, are now to be recovered in a 16-day expedition. Via Kathmandu, the plane is to be brought back to Switzerland.
The expedition is to leave from Munich on September 28. If "Yeti" fans have their way, then the multi-purpose plane which now enjoys a cult following will then be fully restored and made fit for flying excursions again.
Since the entire project is a costly one - the initiators calculate total expenses of 400,000 francs (240,000 dollars) - they are hoping for support from the Pilatus company.
In addition, expedition leader Leo Caminada, 55, hopes to gain support from the German Alpine Association on grounds of supporting the mountain environment.
"We are going by the principle that the rubbish left behind by earlier expeditions should vanish from the Himalaya mountains," he said.
Caminada is mountain climber, engineer and pilot in one person and knows his way in the region. For years he served as advisor to the King of Bhutan in the construction of mountain railways. His main hope now is that his nine fellow expedition members will not get worn out up on the Dhaulagiri mountain.
"Given the thin air at more than 5,000 metres altitude, cutting apart an airplane is not as easy as many people might imagine," he said.
His expedition members are between 28 and 57 years old and all are mountain climbers. "Actually, there should have been 12 of us, but unfortunately two have had to drop out due to an accident and illness," Caminada reports.
The Porter Vintage Association is therefore looking for further mountaineers to join the expedition, with Caminada saying "we would also like to have some Germans along".
The expedition is now chiefly seeking supporters and sponsors for their project, in which the "Yeti" wreckage will even have to be carried by foot back down the mountain, via their Internet site www.porter-yeti.org.
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