Aviation in Iceland
This was originally a Reddit post
A great post the other day from u/ErmakDimon on the state of GA in Russia led me to thinking that it would be fun to see similar updates from other countries. r/Flying often seems quite US-dominated, and while GA in the US is clearly in way better shape than in most of the world, each country has its own charms and challenges that are fun to hear about. I’ve been quasi-lurking here for quite a while, and came to the conclusion that my first post might as well be an update about Iceland, from my (somewhat limited) perspective. Here’s hoping others do similar writeups.
For context, I’m a student pilot getting close to finishing my PPL (SEP), but I also paraglide and more recently been spending a fair bit of time in sailplanes. I’ve only been involved in the community for about a year and a half, but I’m starting to get a sense of what’s up (no pun intended).
Iceland’s AIP lists 14 aerodromes and 39 other landing strips, but additionally there are at least a few dozen other airfields not in the AIP, not including private runways at summer houses and farms. At first, the idea of having roughly one airfield, landing strip or aerodrome for every 4000 people may seem nuts, but when you factor in that Iceland has 350,000 people living in 103,000 square kilometers (so, on average just over 3 people per square kilometer, with two thirds of them in the southwest corner of the country), it starts to make some sense.
Most GA operates out of BIRK, but because of congestion, NIMBYist opposition to the airport, and a number of other factors, there are pretty strict limits to what can be done around BIRK directly (e.g. never more than three planes doing touch and goes at once, and that only during certain hours), so a lot of the training flights operate out of the various training zones in and around the FAXI TMZ, perhaps most notably “Austursvæði”, which is also home to BISS airfield. Unfortunately, BIRK is also plagued with staff shortages, suspiciously often coinciding with good weather for some reason, leading to days when BIRK was effectively closed to GA for half the day without warning. Additionally, BIRK has a strict closing time at 23:00, despite historical data suggesting that this actually increases the congestion around the airport just before closing. A long, ranty post could be written about BIRK and its various problems, but it is a rather nice airport nonetheless.
Iceland has a fairly large aviation community, consisting of a number of clubs and associations of various sizes. There’s an AOPA chapter and several other organizations that represent the community. Some example clubs include Geirfugl (fleet: 3x DA20s, 2x C172s, a 7ECA Citabria and a Technam P2010), Flugklúbbur Alþýðunnar (fleet: a Yakovlev 52 and a Yakovlev 18T), and Fisfélag Reykjavíkur (ultralight club; no fleet, but a lot of members with their own planes and shared hangars). I think it would be easy to count the number of clubs up to the low 20’s. The aircraft registry ( https://www.samgongustofa.is/flug/loftfor/loftfaraskra/ ) shows a bit of the diversity in makes and models, although it doesn’t currently list ultralights or LSAs that fly on “numbers” (e.g. TF-151) instead of “letters” (e.g. TF-FGA). There are quite a few experimental aircraft around, and as far as I know at least three different kit builds are going on at the moment. I’ve counted only two amphibious planes here, and two gyrocopters.
Flight schools are plentiful. Keilir is clearly the largest, providing integrated ATPL track, but various others (such as the aforementioned Geirfugl) offer PPL and other ratings and endorsements. A PPL-A will set the typical student back on the order of 1,700,000 kronas (~$14000 USD). We’re under EASA rules. One problem that’s come up recently is that the student loan organization (LÍN) has been telling students that they can only get student loans for integrated courses; however, I’ve been assured by the minister of education directly that this is not supposed to be the case ─ you can’t get a loan for PPL, but CPL and onwards should be loanworthy.
There are two glider clubs in Iceland, one in Akureyri and one in Reykjavík (operating out of BISS). Both have Super Dimona HK36’s, but Svifflugfélag Íslands also has some more conventional gliders, such as an ASK21 and a Duo Discus.
The community operates a lot of coffee-and-pancake fly-ins as well as larger events over the summer, such as fly-in camps, ad-hoc barbecues, competitions of various kinds, and of course the Reykjavík Airshow. All good fun.
Even though this subreddit doesn’t seem to overlap much with r/freeflight, I thought I should mention that there’s a very active paraglider community in Iceland, and a growing number of paramotorists. There are also some hang gliders and trikes around. There are a lot of launches all around, from Hafrafell, which is considered excellent for training, to the more challenging places like Herdísarvík. There are also some duning options and so many canyons.
I won’t spend a lot of words on commercial flight, except to mention that Iceland has a surprising number of airlines, even despite its recent bankruptcies of Wow Air and Primera. Internationally we have Icelandair and Atlanta, and domestically there are Air Iceland Connect and Ernir doing scheduled flights, as well as a number of companies offering charter flights on planes and helicopters.
Because of the (relative) vastness and remoteness of the country, flying is both a fun sport and a practical way of getting around. Iceland is a ridiculously beautiful place to fly when you get good weather, and it’s a challenging country to fly in when you don’t get good weather. Weather is, of course, quite a huge factor.
Either way, I’m having a lot of fun in all types of flying around here, and I think you’ll agree from this fairly simple overview that our community is quite healthy and generally GA and aviation in general is doing good here ─ even though there’s always room for improvement.
If you want to know more about what’s going on in Iceland, my pal Andrei runs an English-language aviation blog in Iceland at http://flugblogg.is/
Feel free to AMA ─ I don’t know if I can answer everything, but I’m almost certain there’s a few more Icelanders lurking here who probably know a great deal more than me.