The development of aviation sport in Austria

Even though hang gliding and paragliding were not directly invented in Austria, Kössen in the Tyrolean Kaiserwinkl must still be characterized as the cradle of these airsports, starting from here their most successful global journey.

In 1973 brave young men in the Tirol mountains aroused great interest with their spectacular flights on "kites". Sepp Himberger, Hans Schroll, Jürgen Siedesbeck und Schorsch Steffl since then were listed with the Australian guy Bill Moyes, the Americans Bill Bennet und Mike Harker, and the German Harti Huber as pioneers of hang gliding. In the same year the daring pioneers founded the "1st Austrian Hang Gliding Club" in Kössen.

In 1975 over 300 hang gliding pioneers from all over the world for the first time competed in Kössen in an event called "1st World Championship in Alpine Hang Gliding". This pioneer event was a fabulous start for the worldwide popularization of hang gliding and the reason for the world air sport organization FAI to officially include hang gliding as a special section within their organisation. Consequently many Aero Clubs officially opened the doors for this young sport - so also did the Austrian Aero-Club.

Already one year later in 1976, the 1st official FAI World Championship in Hang Gliding took place - again in KÖSSEN, Austria. Numerous national and international HG competitions were then successfully organized in Tyrol: Another HG-World Championship in 1985, two European championships and the Women's World Championship in 1991, have again and again underlined Kössen's well-meant reputation as the paradise of hang gliding.

1986 a new movement has but sparkles into the new air sport scene - PARAGLIDING. And it was again in Kössen where 1989 the 1st World Championships in Paragliding where organized and the global popularization for this new sport started. Many further international PG comps had to come to Kössen, e.g. the 1st European Union Championships in 1995, the GERMAN Open, NORDIC Open or RUSSIAN Open and all again underlined Kössen as the Mecca of Air Sports.

These days it is the "Super Paragliding Testival" which is organized by the Flugschule Kössen GmbH in cooperation with the Paragliding Manufacturer Association PMA , which should, as planed to become one of the most important global air sports event. As a purely economic event it has already a great reputation in the international air sport scene and was named a regional impulse for the Tyrolean and Austrian economy. The SPT 2009 was already a full success with lot of applause from the paragliding industry as well as from the regional tourism.

Already in the early pioneer years the incorporation of the young dynamic air sports within aviation regulations guaranteed hang gliders and paragliders in Austria right from the beginning a good future and a safe existence on the air and on the ground.

Proper training guidelines were acquired and laws, orders, and execution enactment were quickly adapted corresponding to new demands. Already in 1976, the "1. Austrian Flying School for Hang Gliding" was officially licensed in Kössen. Training sites then were continuously arranged in all parts of the country. Today there are about 40 flying schools servicing Hang Gliding and Paragliding all over the Alps. Combined with the excellent AXA Insurance Service they all offer individual training opportunities, and provide an important infrastructural component of the local tourism.

When the boom of paragliding took hold in 1987, we quickly reacted in Austria. Not only did we know to cherish the ideal infrastructure of our Alps, with all its roads and lifts up the mountains, we also recognized the necessity to quickly incorporate paragliding in the existing regulations for hang gliding. Paragliding was officially recognised since its first hour. These legal regulations were also the basis for a speedy development of paragliding within Europe, and once again Austria could so be characterized as the cradle of "new" aviation sports.

The economic significance of hang gliding and paragliding flying schools and para-taxi tandem companies was emphasized from 1995 onwards by the national Chamber of Commerce's elections. The voting results of our lists "Air Sport in the Economy" confirmed our strength and respect within this organisation.

In the Austrian Aero-Club (OeAeC) our commercial interest in air sports was always recognised as trend setting for the professional development within the organization and the entire Austrian air sport scene. Nearly 30 years the section hang gliding and paragliding was officially organized in Kössen. In 1995 the transfer of aviation responsibilities to the OeAeC was officially started. Not without reasons hang gliding and paragliding was first let into a long planned and lobbied self administration. Once again it was proved, that visions, competency and professionalism helped successfully into the future.

The possibility to professionally transport passengers in "Parataxi" companies was a sure enrichment of the Austrian paragliding scene. Today there are already 40 companies - scattered throughout the Austrian Alps and all tourist regions, who offer their flight services, officially licensed and following tough safety regulations. Most of them are safely covered by AXA Insurance Service out of Kössen.

Many flight schools combine their offers with tandem flights, flying shops trading with hang gliders, paragliders and accessories. In 1998 there was an "Insurance Agency for Air Sports" in Kössen established, today offering special AXA insurance products to all aircraft holders and pilots throughout the EU and in Switzerland.

Austria's hang glider and paraglider manufacturers are counted among the most successful companies in the air sport industry. Worldwide hang gliders and paragliders "Made in Austria" dominate the market.

Austrian made gliders in hands of top Austrian pilots also guarantee the success of the Austrian national teams since 1976. No other nation in the history of this young air sport has listed more World and European Champions as Austria. Our top pilots so are highly respected as good ambassadors for Austria, representing Austria as the Mecca of hang gliding and paragliding in the European Alps.

"Take off in Austria!" As a flying student, pilot or passenger in a tandem flight, but even only as a visitor and friend of air sports, you are always welcome in Austria and especially at the "Fliegerbar"in the famous Kössen Air Sport Scene.

And don't forget: "Who ever lands at AXA is safe to take off!"

With best regards,
Sepp Himberger, Flugschule Kössen GmbH