Austria's well know paragliding spot, Gerlitzen has been a center of acro paragliding since the birth of the sport. Some of the best acro pilots, like Xandi Meschu, Pal Takats or Marving Ogger and many others have been training here in the safe environment what the Ossiache See offers. The site grew as our sport did in the last ten years, witnessing more and more pilots wanting to train acrobatics over water. Most of the pilots are from Austria, Germany or the neighboring countries, but foreign pilots are present from the early days, and they are coming from all over Europe and as far as North America, New Zealand or Columbia. This mixture has formed into a nice and friendly international community of acro pilots.
In the last few years the number of water landings have been increased significantly, giving a lot of work to the lakes Water Rescue team. The local authorities weren't so happy about the water landings, and were already asking the local pilots for a solution to lower the number of water landings. Unfortunatly in July a young Austrian pilot killed himself while doing acro, and crashed into the lake in front of the swimmers. This was the first fatal acro accident in Gerlitzen, and it was obvious that the authorities will have a reaction to this... and they had a very bad reaction.
About a week after the accident they caught a Korean pilot after a water landing and fined him for 320 euro. Two days later they caught a Bulgarian pilot, Veso for landing in the camp site, also 300 euro. Few days has passed, and two French pilots have been caught and fined for 300 euro again! The reason was always the absence of valid flight documents, but all these pilots had valid national licenses from their own countries, IPPI cards, third party liability insurances. The police officers were not so respectful with pilots, disrespecting their equipment, scaring them to pay by showing the handcuffs, confiscate the glider, or having very intolerant comments on them. The police have been seen since checking documents of pilots at the landing field.
Situation and facts:
Austrian law only allows paragliding flights with valid Austrian, German or Swiss licence, and a flightbook on board!
Many of us are flying in Austria for 10 years, and never heard of this rule, nor never seen any penalties payed for this reason. This was never announced, nor any warning before the police has started to penalize foreigners!
The Austrian Aeroclub (http://www.aeroclub.at/) has a website only in German language, with very limited information. No English information, and nothing about the fact that foreigners are illegal to fly in Austria.
To obtain an Austrian license, you have two options:
1. Do a course with a flight school, which means you have to do a (shortend) paragliding course with a written exam in German language and a flight test.
2. Submit your national documents, and have them converted into an Austrian licence. This has no precedence!
There is no way to get a visitor pilots license or anything similar.
Read more information from Benedikt Skok.
According to the FAI website, IPPI card is accepted in Austria. Very interestingly the page has been updated yesterday (August 8, 2013), and now it still can be understood as they accept IPPI cards, it states that new rules will come out in October 2013. For curiosity, here is the text from before the change.
Landing rules have been changed in the last days. Pilots have to land 50 meters away from the road. Who know the places, can tell that this is dangerous in strong wind, because of rotor from the trees.
It is not allowed to land in the main camping and beach (strandbad). Anyone who lands there will be handed over to the police, and probably pay a fine. The owners never liked paragliders landing there, not even in emergency situations. We need to respect their private property, so please not land there in any circumstances. See their notes (only in german).
There is no offical water rescue. There is a rescue team on the lake, who are all volunteers, and their job would not be to fish out paraglider pilots. The boat is not even on the lake all the times, or maybe on the other end, and than it takes longer time from them to arrive. To honor their job, one can buy a sticker for 20EUR, which is a donation for the rescue team, and not a payment for a service which unfortunately most pilots seem to think it is!
There is no official acro flight box.
General comment on the situation:
Pulling out a rule in the middle of the season and start penalizing the pilots is not a fair act. One reason behind the control is to lower the number of water landings, but asking for a valid local license only makes the foreign pilots to pack up and leave the site. A 300 euro fine can break a young acro pilot's summer budget, one can't fly with a nice mindset, and very frustrating to change holiday plans unexpectedly. Just an example, a group of about 10 foreign pilots showed up and bought their season card (156 euro) and water rescue donation stickers (20 euro each), but were never told about the need of Austria license to fly legally. They left after a few days and two of them got fined (2 x 300euro). This was an expensive three day vacation!
On the other hand, the pilots who have local licenses are listed by the police and they are allowed to fly. This has a bad affect on the community.
Hopefully the situation will clear up, and the new rules will be announced before the next season.
This is a list of internation pilots who been affected by this situation. Mayority of these pilots have left already, or will leave in the next couple of days or canceled their trips, because of this situation.
Alex Nelubow, France
Arnold Vandoorne, Belguim
Atanas Ovcharov, Bulgaria
Attila Pethe, Hungary
Bán Zoltán, Hungary
Caroline Lewis, United States of America
Craig Taylor, New Zealand
Csaba Virág, Hungary
Damaris Lillo, Colombia
Dénes Kovács, Hungary
Emil Tzolof, Bulgaria
Éva Bárhoff, Hungary
Fabien Curvo, France
Guillaume Simon, France
Harvith Fabian Lizcano, Columbia
Ivan Kalibatzev, Bulgaria
Ivan Vrstosek, Serbia
Jeff Chipaux, France
Marika Pechackova, Czech Republic
Maxime Neubrand, France
Maxime Poirette, France
Maxime Renger, France
Nathalie Reocreux, France
Norbert Biri, Hungary
Nova Dasalla, United States of America
Petar Loncar, Serbia
Radek Hrabkovsky, Czech Republic
Sebastien Kassubek, France
Simon Weger, Italy
Slavek Tmej, Czech Republic
Stephen Gichuki, France
Szilárd Berkei, Hungary
Szilárd Farkas, Hungary
Tamás Székely, Hungary
Veselin Ovcharov, Bulgaria
Yassine Ndoubela, France
Yohann Soo, France
Yungak Hwang, South Korea
Zoltán Molnár, Hungary
+5 more French pilots
If you are also effected by this situation and want to be presented in this list, please let us know in a comment.
There was already conversation on this in the Gerlitzen expenses topic. Read the comments there, but leave your new comments on this article.
This article was written by Szilárd Farkas (Lupus) and other international pilots. The information within the article may not be correct, and the author doesn't take any responsibility about it's correctness, but these are the facts and happenings we witnessed or heard of.