Anyone with an interest in the world’s most unusual airports will not fail to come across a small and very unique airfield in South Tyrol. The owner, Gebhard Locher, is a friend of short distances. Which explains why he now has his own strip right behind his home and company headquarters. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
In the Sarntal Valley, the largest municipality in South Tyrol in terms of area, the traffic sometimes comes to a standstill. Not because of congestion, but rather because astonished tourists cannot help stopping to watch Gebhard Locher taking off or landing in his PC-12. The airfield is located at an altitude of 2,600 feet (795 metres) and the sloping runway is 1,433 feet (437 metres) long.
Embedded in the heart of nature
The strip was created at the same time as Gebhard’s new company buildings were completed in 2005. With appropriate machinery and specialist available on site during this project, Gebhard decided to build a runway and a first hangar at the same time. A slope and some woodland were all that stood on the site now occupied by the runway and new company building.
The runway sits three foot (one metre) higher than the hangar, a difference which is bridged by a 16 foot (five metre) wide taxiway. The clever, recessed design of the roof of Hangar 1 means it can also be used as an additional parking area. The installation includes a mobile fuelling facility. After approval of the strip by the Italian authorities, which went ahead without difficulty, Gebhard set out to gain experience by making countless takeoffs and landings in a wide variety of small aircraft.
The best horse in the stable
With growing experience, increasing aircraft size and greater distances, there were more frequent trips with friends and Gebhard began to eye up a PC-12. From the airport in Bozen, around 10 miles (17 kilometres) away, he studied the PC-12 handbooks and flight manual and compared the theoretical and practical takeoff and landing distances. He observed that the takeoff and landing distances usually achieved in reality are much shorter those indicated by the theoretical calculations. In his PC-12, he actually managed even shorter takeoff and landing distances than in other aircraft which have already flown in and out of Locher airfield.
So, in 2016, he decided to go ahead and buy a PC-12. He started out by flying numerous arrivals and departures from various runways, followed by a first landing at his own airfield. In 2016 there were even three high voltage power lines to fly over during the approach – not an easy manoeuvre. Gebhard now refers to his PC-12 as the best horse in the stable. “There’s no competition in terms of comfort, performance and economy”, he explains.
Gebhard exercises the greatest possible caution in the planning of all his professional and aviation-related projects. The air field is very popular with the few people who live nearby. Locher Airfield is only open to pilots who are personally known to Gebhard himself – his way of ensuring that only sufficiently skilled pilots are authorised to land at his airfield.
A trained locksmith, Gebhard runs his own business. “As far as my career is concerned, I often happened to be in the right place at the right time”, he says. With his own airfield located right next to the company buildings, he is well placed to enjoy life and short trips in his PC-12 at the end of the day or at the weekend – generally within Europe and usually to destinations in Spain, Greece, Croatia or southern Italy.