Käti Schulthess

Switzerland's first ever woman parachutist

It is August 12, 1928. The whole of Lucerne is on its feet. Taking place today is the largest water sports event on Lake Lucerne. The main attraction of the day is you: Käti Schulthess, a nurse from Zurich. Taking one last long puff on your cigarette, you insert the pack under your bathing cap and don your Berlin-made Heinecke parachute.

The pilot is already in the aircraft and signals to you impatiently to climb aboard. He is wary of the sharp north wind that has whipped up. All you're aware of is the adrenalin coursing in your veins. Flying is your passion. You realised your greatest dream last year by passing your parachuting test.

The plane rises into the sky and you enjoy the stunning views of Lucerne, its lake and mountains. An indescribable feeling of joy comes over you. You'll be jumping out of the aeroplane in a few minutes and landing in the waters of the bay after deploying your parachute.

A unique event for Switzerland – even more so as it's a woman doing the jumping!

Hundreds of swimmers are strung along the edge of the bay, ready for action. The first one to reach you and bring you safely back to shore wins the lifesaving prize. The wind, however, is proving problematical. You and the pilot cannot agree on the jump location. Standing on the wing of the craft, you try to guide him using hand signals. The machine, however, makes a sudden upwards movement.

You lose your balance and plunge towards the lake. The whole of Lucerne holds its breath.

Unconscious, you land on the roof of the Hotel Schweizerhof. Coming to after a few seconds, the first thing you do is reach under your bathing cap for a cigarette. Meanwhile, the hotel director has made his way to you over the roof and helps you down into the building.

An American fan insists on drinking a glass of champagne with you, blood-stained as you are. You then dash out of the rear exit and head straight for the lake, diving into the cooling waters without a moment's thought. This is, after all, a water sports festival, and the lifesavers are waiting for their chance to perform.

At the banquet that evening you are only vaguely present. While descending the spectacular historical staircase afterwards, your legs can barely carry you. Then, during the first dance, you collapse and are hurried to hospital, where X-rays reveal a broken coccyx and a ten centimetre fracture in the pelvic bone.

Although the doctors order that you be immediately put in plaster, you prefer to drive back to Zurich.

Fifty years later on August 12, 1978, you again entered the Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern – this time, though, as a normal guest using the main entrance! Catching sight of the magnificent staircase, your memories come flooding back. You negotiate the majestic steps with confidence this time.

Your entry in the guest book reads:

"At last, after fifty years, I am visiting the Schweizerhof, the hotel on which I landed so hard by parachute. Käti Bauer-Schulthess."