The crossing of the Alps: The Last Interview
Luigi Barzini, journalist of the Corriere della Sera Milan newspaper made what we could call “the last interview” to Jorge Chavez, which was published on the pages of this paper.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
Press the button on the right to listen to the dialog of the interview in the San Biaggio Hospital (in Spanish)
...The hospital room where Jorge Chavez received his friends was silent.
Jorge Chavez: And the others?
Barzini: The others? Who?
Jorge Chavez: The other pilots. Weymann...
Barzini: They all left. This morning Weymann and Farman left to Milan.
Jorge Chavez: ¡Oh! I believed ... it is such a nice day...
Barzini: Calm down. You won, just you.
Jorge Chavez: It has been hard. I did not cross the Monscera, you know? Do you know?
Barzini: I think you were flying too low to cross over the Monscera.
Jorge Chavez: Absolutely not. I could have climbed higher. But I did not dare to. Do you remember the strong winds we had on Monday, when I was so battered in the Saltin valley? Well, that same wind, sudden and treacherous…
Barzini: Did it hit you from the side?
Jorge Chavez: No, it blew in all directions. It came in gusts, rising and descending, forming wind whirls...
Barzini: At what point of the flight did they hit you?
Jorge Chavez: When I started to climb, there was perfect calm. I reached the Simplon pass perfectly well. The day was so clear I was able to see the hospice perfectly well. So I went on, very confident, towards Krammback valley. Remember? The valley we went down this morning with Paulhan...
Barzini: Perfectly well.
Jorge Chavez: I descended a little to protect myself from the eastern wind...
Barzini: We saw you.
Jorge Chavez: Oh, was it you? I saw a car, running.
Barzini: Did you hear us yelling?
Jorge Chavez: No. But then, I descended a little. I felt some gusts of wind. I was afraid of stronger winds after what I had seen in the morning. It was very calm up to the Furgenn pass, the high valley you can see from the Simplon village.
Barzini: This is the start of the Monscera pass.
Jorge Chavez: I had made up my mind to cross. I knew the route perfectly well. I had climbed the peak of the Pioltone twice, and I remembered all the steps. When I arrived to Furgenn, I thought the hardest part of the flight was over. But a gust of wind hit me while I crossed the road where I made the last turns over the valley, before I headed towards Gondo... Do you follow me?
Barzini: I see the place. Were you flying very high over this point?
Jorge Chavez: Over one thousand meters. It looked as a small white entangled ribbon. Until then, I had flown south. From there on, I headed southeast, but as soon as I found myself in the Furgenn pass, between Seehorn to the left and Tschaggmatorn to the right, I was captured by the wind. They were real hammer strokes, sudden, coming from every direction … a real hell. I felt I was bouncing like a ball. The plane jumped fifty and sixty meters. Oh! If the barometer had been able to capture all of that, you would have seen the zigzags it recorded. The wind threw me against the land, and one second later, it grabbed me again and threw me up into the sky. That has worn out the plane. I felt the wind was carrying me away. I felt I was going to fall off. I moved the pedals, I tried to turn round, to get away from these wind whirls … it was such a fight, so stubborn...
Barzini: Were you afraid?
Jorge Chavez: No.
Barzini: Did you have any feelings of fear when you saw the mountains and the abyss?
Jorge Chavez: No. I did not think about it.... I did not look down... I only had eyes for what lied ahead of, thinking that the Monscera pass was just some five kilometers away, high, steep, and I felt I could not cross it. The winds blocked it, flooded it. To my left, the Zwischberger valley opened, towards Gondo. It is a narrow gully between peak-cut mountains, surrounded by the Seehorn and the Pioltone, uglier and narrower than the gorge of Gondo. You can see it on your way. And I flew into it... I could not choose. I had to make up my mind, to continue or to land between the rocks...
Barzini: What altitude were you flying at?
Jorge Chavez: Over two thousand meters, maybe two thousand and one hundred. I flew around Seehorn and then into the narrow gully. Three minutes later, three long and endless minutes, I must say, I was behind Pioltone and followed the valley, some meters below the peak. The wind was blowing very strongly behind me. I was flying very fast, maybe over one hundred kilometers per hour. I felt some shakes, and the wind gusts played with me, just like a log in a tempest sea, but the leaps were smaller than the former ones. So I flew some seven or eight kilometers up to where the valley broadens. Then, down, to my left, on the other side of the valley, I recognized the village of Varzo. I estimate that I was some one thousand five hundred meters above it. The river bank seemed easy to overfly, and I headed towards Varzo, descending to approximately five hundred meters, alternating gliding flight with some engine start ups. And I did it well, because I found a calmer area. From Varzo, I flew over the left margin. Far ahead I could see the Ossola valley. It was the end. I was there in the blink of an eye. I flew over Domodossola, descending more and more. I saw the landing field, many people, a large white cross, the landing signal. Then … then … you know the rest.
Barzini: No. Tell me about it, until the end.
Jorge Chavez: I don’t know. I was descending well, regularly, sometimes gliding, and sometimes using the engine to avoid being dragged away by the strong wind... I was performing a normal landing … I was just about to touch the ground, I felt so happy … then I can remember no more. I don’t know what happened. I try to think about it but I can’t remember. I see myself some meters above the ground, in my plane... and that is it.
Barzini: Didn’t you see the wings fold?
Jorge Chavez: No. They said they folded like the wings of a pigeon... Is this true, Duray?
Duray Let us not speak about it. Stop!
Jorge Chavez keeps quiet. The hospital room is silent
Video: Tribute to Jorge Chávez
Multimedia Archive: The crossing of the Alps