France has asked its pilots to stop flying to reduce any potential burden on emergency services, and competitions and events have been cancelled around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday the organisers of the FAI World Hang Gliding Championships (Class 1, Women, Class 2, Class 5) suspended their competition. It was due to take place in Florida from 19 April to 1 May but has now been postponed – probably until April next year.
The FAI Asian Paragliding Accuracy Championships set in Kazakhstan and due to start on 30 May has also been suspended.
CIVL has agreed to return the sanction fees to the organisers of both events, and cover any travel expenses its officials may have already incurred. In a statement the FAI and CIVL said that “suspension” is a “practical term” that allows organisers to think about “the next step”.
The FAI is the World Air Sports Federation; CIVL is the FAI’s free flight commission and is the body that sanctions paragliding and hang gliding competitions around the world
The FAI issued a statement that said they were following the coronavirus situation closely, but said they “trust the air sport commissions” to “make the right choice.”
They said: “It is impossible to come up with definite statements and solutions. The FAI president, executive board and secretariat are following the situation closely and regret the disruptions, but feel like they are not in the best position to take comprehensive decision. They trust the air sport commissions (ASC), that are much closer to the realty of their disciplines, to make the right choice. And, of course, they offer their help and support when needed.”
CIVL said: “In the same way, CIVL feels that the [local competition] organisers are in the best position to take the right decisions according to the situation in their country and their federation or government’s recommendations. CIVL will help and support as much as we can.”
In first category events, organisers are still to make a decision about these competitions:
- FAI European Hang Gliding Championships, Italy, starting 4 July
- FAI European Paragliding Championships, Serbia, 18 July
- FAI Pan-American Hang-Gliding Championships, USA, 2 August
- FAI World Paragliding Aerobatic Championships, Italy, 5 August
- FAI European Paragliding Accuracy Championships, Romania, 28 August
- FAI Asian-Oceanic Paragliding XC Championships, Australia, 5 December
The FAI said: “We should neither overreact nor be lax. The trick is: how long before the event is the proper time to take a decision?”
In second category events, CIVL has seen competitions postponed or cancelled in Brazil, Czech Republic, Italy, Korea and Japan and are expecting more.
CIVL said: “Postponements are allowed even without reserve date or outside the time frame defined by our rules. In case of cancellation, sanction fees are returned fully (without administrative fee), but we encourage organisers not to claim them and use them instead for their next event (to avoid bank transfer charges). We trust the organisers to anticipate and not wait until the last minute to postpone or cancel, so pilots have time to take proper measures.”
Separately, in France, the French free-flight federation (FFVL) has asked all its clubs and schools to cease their activities, and requests all competitions be postponed or canceled. The FFVL XC online league has been suspended and no reports of flights will be accepted after 15 March. (Full statement in French).
The FFVL has also requested pilots avoid all travel.
Outside of competitions and XC leagues the FFVL also called for all pilots to stop flying.
They said it was “with great sadness” that they asked pilots to stop flying in France for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, but that any flying accidents would simply add to already over-stretched emergency and health services.
“Hospitals and emergency services are under extreme stress, and we should do everything we can not to add to that stress,” they said in a statement emailed to their members on 16 March.
Cross country leagues have also been suspended in Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Austria and the UK, with more countries likely to be added to that list. XContest has suspended flights from automatically entering the Italian and Austrian national contests on XContest.
The PWCA Super Final and the FAI Paramotor World Championships were already cancelled/postponed last week.