03/04/2011

Niki Lauda at the Motor Show?

On the first day of the Salon des Automobiles one unusual visitor was an Airbus A320 belonging to the Austrian airline Niki. We could well imagine that the passengers included Niki Lauda, whose airline it is.


We may all remember Niki Lauda as the former Formula one racing driver who came close to death when, on August 1st 1976 (Swiss National day!), during the German Grand Prix at the famous Nürburgring, his Ferrari crashed and he was in a flaming inferno for about a minute. When he was dragged out he had extensive burns on his face and head, plus a badly damaged ear. Since then he always wears a cap to hide the scars, but is instantly recognisable.

Nearly three years later, he acquired an airline and called it Lauda Air. This airline seems to have been quite successful, even graduating to intercontinental flights to the USA, Asia and Australia. However, in 2000 it became a subsidiary of Austrian Airlines: at this time he ceased to be a member of the Board of Administration.

Three years later, he acquired another airline company, naming it FlyNiki (later shortened to Niki) and entered into a collaboration with Air Berlin, who own 49.9% of Niki. The joint enterprise seems to have been very successful, currently owning a fleet of about 20 aircraft. Most of these are Airbus A319/320/321, the rest being Embraer 190.

I have not been able to find any of his airline's coming to Geneva until January of this year, when one of his Embraer 109 aircraft (OE-IHC) came in the afternoon of Tuesday 11 January, leaving again the following evening. However, on the first open day of the Geneva Motor Show, one of his Airbus A320 aircraft (OE-LEC) arrived here from Graz at about 9h30am and left again at around 8pm. This timing really appears to correspond to a flight specifically to allow the passengers to visit the Motor Show.

Did anybody see him there that Wednesday? Near the Ferrari stand?

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