Walter Mittelholzer

The first pilot to fly over Kilimanjaro, this pioneer introduced a new perspective with his ground-breaking aerial photos. He then went on to co-found the national airline Swissair.
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Walter Mittelholzer, a young Swiss photographer, received his pilot’s licence during his military service in World War I. In 1919 he founded a passenger air company and took photographs. Later this company became the national airline Swissair. Mittelholzer introduced a new perspective, by combining his passion for flying and photography in a pioneering way: “Another world never seen before opens up before us. It is as if the earth had thereby gained a new face – and the human a new, more perfect eye.”

Mittelholzer was a talented long-distance pilot and flew from Zurich (Switzerland) to Tehran (Iran) during the winter of 1924 to 1925. Throughout this four-week period, he had a Longines chronometer on board. In 1927 he was the first pilot to fly from Zurich to South Africa, starting on 7th December 1926 and landing in Cape Town on 21st February 1927 via Egypt and Lake Victoria.
He took unique pictures of landscapes and portraits of the inhabitants of what was, at the time, a largely unknown continent. Mittelholzer’s illustrated reports were published in magazines and reached a huge audience.

On 8th January 1930, he was the first pilot to fly over Kilimanjaro, and the first to take pictures of the crater from an altitude of circa 20,340 ft (6,200 m). He died during a mountain climbing tour in Austria in 1937 at the age of 43.
Kilimanjaro, 8th January 1930.
Three-engine Fokker of Mittelholzer in Kassala (Sudan), Abyssinia flight, February 1934.
Kilimanjaro flight 1929/30. Mittelholzer stands in front of a Fokker F. VIIb-3m holding a freehand camera.