Duebendorf Aviation Museum
Leica T-Scan Case Study Duebendorf Aviation Museum

History-Making Cold-War Era Swiss Jet Fully Digitized With Leica T-Scan

More often than not, industrial metrology involves performing measurements on no-thrills, mundane, dull-as-dish-water measurement objects. Inspecting them is usually as exciting as watching grass grow. But every now and then one comes across a task that is as different as chalk and cheese. Like digitizing an entire fighter bomber jet, for example. Enter the P-16.

Its story starts in 1948. Anxiously following the then-emerging Cold War world order and diligently guarding the country’s armed neutrality – a policy forged while being surrounded by war-torn countries during WWII while itself escaping armed conflict entirely – the High Command of the Swiss Air Force was interested in developing a fight bomber whose flight and payload characteristics were specially tailored to suit the particulars of the complex Swiss topography. The demanding requirements included a near-supersonic top speed, excellent maneuverability and the ability to land and take off on extremely short runways typical of the alpine regions.

The first prototype had its maiden flight in 1955. The plane featured the then revolutionary wing design with a thin profile and a unique combination of trailing edge flaps, droopable, ailerons and Krüger-type leading edge flaps, which increase the lift significantly. As a result, the P-16 could start on runways under 500 meters in length, and landings required a mere 300 meters. The Swiss Air Force ordered 100 P-16s. However, the entire project was doomed when two catastrophic accidents related to minor mechanical problems lead the Swiss government to halt the project and cancel the entire order. Luckily, the plane’s revolutionary wing design was reincarnated in the first-ever business jets made by Lear Jet. These pioneering business jets incorporated many of the P-16 design features, which were at the time considered too risky. Truth be told, the plane was simply 10 to 15 years ahead of its time. Sadly, none of the design drawings have survived to the present, and only one actual P-16 plane remains, exhibitted at the Duebendorf Aviation Museum near Zurich. . . . .

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