Former Swissair manager says 'Argo' scenes realistic

Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:51am EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - A former Swissair official said the airport scenes in Oscar-winning film "Argo" were a realistic depiction of the airline's unwitting role in the rescue of American diplomats from Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Heinz Koch, who was in charge of the now defunct air carrier's operations in Tehran at the time, said Swissair was not told about the true identities of the "very important Canadian passengers" until months after it carried the six U.S. diplomats to safety aboard one of its airplanes.

"I was informed by the Canadian embassy that they have on this particular day very important Canadian passengers on board and we should make sure that they were not off-loaded last minute. But this was purely a reservation question, we had no direct impact on immigration," he told World Radio Switzerland.

"It was a few months later when we got the first information that probably these U.S. diplomats were on board this particular Swissair flight. But we made sure that this information didn't pass around the world," Koch said.

"We still wanted to operate to and from Tehran and it would have been a big risk if the authorities would have known that we were involved in this operation," he added.

"Argo" stormed to Best Picture victory at the Oscars in Los Angeles. The honours for the Iran hostage drama marked a triumphant comeback into Hollywood's mainstream for director Ben Affleck.

The thriller, based on a true story, recounts a CIA mission to rescue six American diplomats from Iran under the cover of making a fake Hollywood film. The six escape using falsified Canadian passports and the CIA role only emerged years later.

Iran's culture minister Mohammad Hosseini said on Monday in a news agency report that the film was "anti-Iran" and lacked artistry.   Continued...

Director and producer Ben Affleck accepts the award for best motion picture for "Argo" at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni