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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tony Ruch

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Tony Ruch

My friend Ida Ruch lost her best friend and the love of her life after 44 years of marriage, on February 17, 2017. She misses him every day. She also misses the discussions they had about the industry. Ida was a Flight Attendant with Swissair when she met Tony. He was a Flight Instructor/Check airman/Simulator Instructor and Test pilot for Swissair 1965-1984. Tony retired on the DC-10ER flying international. Below is Ida's story in loving memory of her husband, Tony Ruch.

"I believe we are all born with a passion, that will be unique and different for every individual. Tony was born with a passion for flying. Growing up in a small town in Switzerland, that had a small grass strip as a runway, where wealthy people took their planes for a flight, it was also home to a gliding club. As an 8 year old boy he would be there whenever he could get away from home, making himself useful to the owners of the planes and the gliding club by cleaning shop and doing menial work. In return they would take him along for a their short flight adventures and he was a happy little boy. As a teenager he became a glider and at 17 yr old to become proficient to be on his own. 

He was moving into competition gliding nationally and participated with the Swiss team in the World Championship 1973 in Vrasac, at that time Yugoslavia. However, he realized in order to compete on an international level he would need much more time for training.

He asked at that time his employer Swissair if they would give him a leave of absence, unpaid, for him to have more time of training, but they declined. Also this particular World Champion ship was so competitive, that three pilots lost their lives crashing into each other in the clouds and that made him re-evaluate the competitiveness of competition gliding world. Since he was not given the time he needed, he left the the gliding competition and focused on his career with Swissair. He flew a glider whenever he had a chance.

His initial training was to become a civil engineer and after he completed this to become a pilot. He wanted to become a pilot in the military. In Switzerland every young man has to complete 17 weeks military boot camp when he turns 20. He passed all the test with flying colors to become a military pilot until his physical, when they found out that he had a color vision deviation from the norm that was required. And that put an end to his dream at age 20. That was a big one, but that’s when he put all his efforts into gliding and became very good at it.

He had a pilot friend that didn’t let things sit, and he kept on nudging him to try again with Swissair because his friend kept telling Tony I see the same color like you do, I don’t know where you a have a problem. Long story short, Tony applied with Swissair, same thing he passed all the tests with flying color until it came to the physical part about his vision. 

Now they knew about Tony’s previous experience with the military so they, the Swissair doctor had an expert with him when they did the tests. Now comes the funny part, the two the expert and the doctor started to have an argument about what color they saw, the color that was in question.

Well those two now had a problem to be solved. And it was no small matter, if the color chart needed to be adjusted, that meant it had be integrated internationally. Obviously there was a reason that Tony had to become an airline pilot. The expert and the doctor agreed that Tony’s vision was as perfect as theirs and they initiated the process to have the chart changed which included that it had to go through all the channels internationally to have it changed . And it had to be approved by the FAA.

Tony was informed about their decision in his favor September 11, 1964. And he was scheduled for flight training class with Swissair April, 1965. Flying and ground school took from April through October1965 and then the flight training on line.

Now finally at age 29 he was in his element. He quickly progressed into flight instructor, simulator check pilot, check airman, test pilot, and flew new aircrafts from MacDonald Douglas base in Long Beach to ZRH. He was also a member of a committee of the “Eidgenoessiches Luftamt” sort of similar to FAA, participating in recovery evidence of aircraft crashes. 

The management wanted him to go into the administration. But he declined. His character was, what I would call seeing with an eagle’s eye. He saw through the things and he had a keen perception what was going on behind the scene. And he dared to tell his superiors about it and didn’t shy away from difficult topics. That made him kind of a maverick.

He was very much liked but also fought by his very colleagues because he dared to shine the light on the things which were not good. Duty time regulations, safety procedures that were compromised, training issues…and much more….

Now he was captain on the DC-10 doing long range flying. Far East, South America, Africa, rotations were quite long up to 21 days, much away from home and health wise it took a real toll on him. Something started brewing within him. At that time Swissair retired pilots at age 55. He always said that he will call when he retires and not the company. He saw that many of his colleagues didn’t survive retirement much beyond 55 maybe 2 to 4 years dying mostly of cancer. That concerned him greatly. Swissair at that time vaccinated their flying personnel almost every six months for something. especially when they were flying into these continents.

He asked to company for a reduced flying schedule which sounded very reasonable, but they declined. A year later at age 48 he was the first pilot at Swissair that gave them notice of his early retirement. They were all stunned to say the least. How can a top pilot on the top of his career do something like this. His chief pilot said to him with this words … you are telling me a bad joke aren’t you??? when Tony told him about his intentions. Well Tony did survive his retirement until the age of 80 and six months. Which most of colleagues didn’t.

How did I meet Tony. Well that was simple. We had a 5 day rotation on the DC-9, mostly doing short legs 3 or 4 a day all over Europe. We had an overnight in Rome. As it was the usual procedure that the crews on overnights would get to together and go out for dinner in a nearby Restaurant. Thats’ what we did in Ostia/Rome.

After dinner we went to a Disco “Tibbi Tabo” a dancing place overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Tony loved to dance and so did I. We danced the night away until the band closed down. All the other crew members had gone home to the hotel. But we were hopelessly falling in love, walking home on the sandy beach of Ostia by full moon and the rest is history, that was July 5th, 1973. What can one do when “Amore” strikes you? You have to submit…..

I am very grateful that the Lord brought Tony into my life and we weathered quite a few storms…some were hurricane intense… but we made it through them all with His help. And every second of my life brings me one second closer to see him again.

Among the pictures is one that shows me on my first transatlantic flight back in August 1966. I was eighteen visiting my oldest sister who lived in Forest Hills, Queens, NYC. After my mother passed away 4 years earlier in a freak accident at the age of 53. My brother in law took the picture, at that time you could still be on a terrace in JFK and wave to the passengers.

And I couldn’t believe when I saw this picture about 2 years ago when my sister sent it to me. The DC-8 had the SR ID - HB-IDA how cool is this having your name on the plane that brings you over the Atlantic ocean." Ida Ruch

Life passes in a moment
but our memories will forever stay
for those were loved deeply
and God has taken away
We will always remember!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

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