Flims

Coordinates
46°50’10″ N    9°16’52″ E    1102m ASL (Official landing field)
46°50’22″ N    9°17’05″ E    1130m ASL (Alternative landing field)

Although Flims is just over 100km from the Heimat takeoff on the way to Chur, you may well appreciate its value as a landing option.  The easterly breeze down in the valley is likely to have been strengthening as you progress along the Surselva, but as Flims lies 500m above the valley floor, you can expect to find much gentler aerology here, though the terrain is slightly tricky.   Also, if föhn breaks through into the Surselva, Flims is less affected than the lower options.   The village is easy to identify from the air, as it sits on a sunny plateau above the spectacular geological feature of the Rhine Gorge 5km to the south and below the massive rocky face of the Flimserstein to the north (as shown in the header image above, the view as you approach from the west).  Be aware that the Flimserstein is a wildlife protection zone, which should not be overflown at less than 300m AGL.

Flims landing fields, approaching from the east

Flims landing fields, approaching from the east

Landing near Chur itself is inadvisable due to the likely presence of a vigorous north-easterly breeze at ground level there, which is to be expected even when there is a substantial meteo flow from the opposite direction.  In my opinion, the best option (unless you want to keep going to the east!) is to turn around once you’ve reached the Calanda (the mountain overlooking the town from the north-west), and fly back to Flims; the picture above shows the view from this direction.  The extra 15km will not usually present a significant challenge unless there is a strong enough meteo flow (from between south and west) to overcome the usual valley breeze, as a glide of 10:1 would be sufficient to reach the village, and you would be unlucky not to pick up enough lift on the way to arrive with plenty of height to spare.

Flims landing fields, approaching from the west

Flims landing fields, approaching from the west

There are two landing options, both on the north side of the village.  The official landing zone, shown with an “O” has the benefit of a windsock, but can be a little awkward, in that it is surrounded by buildings or trees on three sides and slopes gently downwards to the east, away from the open side.  I have only ever experienced light winds when landing here, and have sometimes been a bit concerned about the risk of overshooting, but the area is large enough to allow paragliders to S turn to lose excess height if encountering unexpected lift on their final approach.  The alternative landing zone, shown with an “A”, is unofficial and further away from the village, but is favoured by hang gliders, tandems and those prioritising safety over convenience, as it is a large open expanse, and much less susceptible to sudden changes in airflow close to the ground.  However, I have been told by one pilot (although I have seen plenty of locals landing here) that I should not recommend it, and you should bear in mind that you may have to deal with an angry farmer if you land in long grass; you can see that on the day when I took the picture below, there was an area which had obviously been cut recently……….

Flims landing fields, approaching from the north-east

Flims landing fields, approaching from the north-east

The main disadvantage of landing at Flims is that it’s not on the rail network!  The most direct route back to Fiesch involves getting two buses (or hitching) down to Ilanz, from where trains run every hour along the valley floor via Andermatt, the last one to arrive the same day departing at 17:33 and getting in at 20.53.  However, the bus to connect with this train leaves Flims at 16:40; after that you will need to head in the opposite direction, towards Chur, and then get a train departing there at 19:09 via Zürich and Brig, which doesn’t arrive back in Fiesch until 23:22!

Therefore, unless you want to land at Flims due to safety concerns, e.g. föhn or overdevelopment, I recommend considering if you can fly down to the Castrisch landing field, 7.3km to the south-west and 400m lower.  Some quick mental arithmetic suggests that with a glide of 10:1, you can make it if you have 330m of altitude in hand or can top up to achieve that amount on the way there.  Initially, the terrain is rather flat, but the valley breeze from Chur is likely to provide some assistance in the form of a tailwind, and there are plenty of landing options if you can’t find the lift that you need.