The Überlingen accident: learning from the past

Commemorative sculpture of Überlingen at skyguide in Dübendorf: The 72 golden wing symbols melted in the glass plate represent the 71 victims of the accident of 1 July 2002 and the air traffic controller killed on 24 February 2004. Both these dates are engraved in the metal plate. (Artist: Daniela Einsdorf)


On 1 July 2002 two flights collided in mid-air in the Southern German airspace delegated to skyguide’s control. One was a passenger aircraft of Bashkirian Airlines; the other was a cargo aircraft of logistics company DHL. The collision occurred above the Lake Constance region near the town of Überlingen. 71 people died.


On 24 February 2004 the air traffic controller who had been on duty that night was killed by a relative of some of the victims.

On 19 May 2004 the German Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (BFU) published its final report on the accident giving details of its cause and background. The report also made clear criticisms of air traffic control. All the report’s safety recommendations were subsequently acted upon. Skyguide also conducted a series of further studies with internal and external specialists, and additionally developed and refined its safety management system in the light of their findings.

1 July 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the Überlingen disaster. This tragic accident and subsequent events radically changed the approach to safety in Swiss and international aviation. Skyguide’s safety management and safety culture have been substantially enhanced in the intervening years, and continue to be further refined. And the company’s 1,400 personnel ensure every day that even what appears to be the most insignificant problem is examined and rectified so that such an accident cannot reoccur.




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