Its 41,285 km2 of mountainous area does not prevent Switzerland from having a large number of aerodromes. Far from undergoing its geography, the Helvetic Confederation has for several decades developed high altitude airport sites called “air places”.

Switzerland has 40 places spread throughout the territory To access it, by plane or helicopter must in addition to being equipped with adequate training, comply with the safety requirements of the Swiss civil aviation authorities. Summits are not within the reach of all pilots and a special qualification to access these sites is required. However, the Swiss authorities allow access regardless of the aircraft registration.

It should be noted that to land in the countryside, it will be necessary to file an special authorization and pay a fee.

In rotary wing …

It is important to note that in Switzerland there is a difference between a place in mountain and a place in campaign. The latter is limited to  an altitude of 1100 meters. Above, it is necessary to use the places of mountains or altiports. To access them in rotary wing, it is necessary to carry out a specific training comprising 200 landings on a minimum of twenty different places. This qualification “mountain” valid for life, however, is subject to restriction in case of private or commercial passenger transport. It is then necessary to justify 50 landings per year, alone or with an instructor. If this is not the case, there is nevertheless an alternative to validate the license. The swiss authorities accept to extend the qualification if three landings are made in the presence of a mountain instructor.

Finally, even if the mountain platforms have a central point, the landing with a rotary wing can be achieved within a radius of 400 meters around this point. This volume takes into account the slope or snow cover of the site.

… or by plane

If helicopter access seems easier, it is also possible to reach these sites by plane. Two particularities are then to be taken into account depending on whether one lands on skis or on wheels. For training on skis, it is necessary to carry at least 250 landings on glacier. Wheel training requires only 60 landings to get the precious sesame.

Both types of qualifications are required to obtain each license. It is recommended to carry out its training over a period of two winters in order to experience different snow conditions. To validate the license, the confederation obliges the pilot to use ten different places, and to land, during the test, on three different sites.

This obligation is intended to make people aware of the different geographical characteristics of each place. And it is important during this training to visualize the exit windows in case of problem. This is probably the most crucial point that the pilot, student or not, must memorize in his daily practice of landing in high mountains. To transport passengers, whether private or commercial, the EASA – European Aviation Safety Agency – regulations requires access to six different places in the last 24 months.

Although access to the high altitude places is not so easy, the fact remains that these qualifications make it possible to use all the platforms of Europe.

Places and business aviation

Of the 40 places available, only 10 are accessible to business aviation.

It should be noted that, although located at an altitude of 1737 m, Samedan Airport, considered as the highest in Europe, is not managed as a mountain place. Its access is restricted and subject to a specific qualification that can be obtained on-line and which raises crew awareness with the approach points and lift issues.