The story of the P.16 jet aircraft is the story of an expensive failure for the small Swiss nation.
The story of the P.16 jet aircraft is the story of an expensive failure for the small Swiss nation. It goes back to the immediate postwar period, when the Swiss Aircraft Production Board gave a contract to the former Dornier works to produce a special jet, the P. 16.
Its maiden flight came in 1955, during which production costs were estimated at two million Swiss francs. In further tests it crashed from 35,000 feet and by this time the bill had risen to 40 million Swiss francs. Despite considerable public protest, work was ordered to proceed by the Swiss parliament.
In 1956, the second prototype exceeded the speed of sound but now there were difficulties in delivery dates. As a result, a series of 100 British Hawker Hunter jet aircraft was ordered in 1957. At the end of March that year, a contract for a production series of P.16s was about to be signed when the only remaining prototype crashed into Lake Constance. After an inquiry had been held, the contract was not signed and the Swiss government buried their plans for the P.16, which was being built in Switzerland itself. Trouble, stated Military Department Chief, M. Paul Chaudet, recently, lay in faults in the hydraulic controls. Switzerland would have to renounce any hopes, he said, of producing her own aircraft and an alternative was urgently needed.
He said that the Swiss parliament would be asked in its autumn session to agree to the purchase of another 100 jet fighter aircraft from outside -- probably Hawker Hunters once more.