The Swiss banned the “flying lawn mowers”, as the local press call the aircraft, in 1984 — not for safety reasons but for environmental ones because of the noise made by their engines.
In November 2013, Switzerland’s top court ruled that the federal government did not have a proper legal basis to ban the aircraft.
However, the court threw the issue back to the government by saying it should either provide a better legal basis for the ban or examine authorizing such aircraft on the basis of foreign standards.
Now, the federal environment department has proposed relaxing the law against ultralight planes by allowing those with electric engines, the ATS news agency reported on Thursday.
In 2005, the department made an exception to its ban for Ecolight aircraft, a lightweight single-propellor aircraft that looks more like a conventional small plane that the motorized hang gliders that emerged in the 1980s.
A total of 32 Ecolight aircraft have subsequently been registered in Switzerland, subject to standards set in Germany.
“Since the disappearance of East Germany in 1989, Switzerland is the only country that bans ultralight aircraft,” Christian Boppart, director of the Swiss Hanggliding and Paragliding Association is quoted as saying by ATS.
This shows the ban is “anachronistic,” he said.
The association backs the planned change to allow ultralight planes with electric motors but it said that it did not expect a large number of such aircraft in Switzerland if it gets the go-ahead.
In Germany, there are only 100 such planes in operation, because of the difficulty in getting training to operate them.
The Swiss Microflight Flyers association wants the government to go further in lifting the ban completely.
But the environment department said the Swiss public remains sceptical about accepting the same laws for ultralight aircraft as in other countries.
It backs those with electric engines because of the promise of developing environmentally friendly technology.
Environmental groups such as Pro Natura and Birdlife, a bird protection group, fear the impact on wildlife of any increase in flights by aircraft for pleasure, ATS reported.
The Mountain Wilderness group, also opposed to the micro planes, wants to ensure that the Alps remain as free from the impact of human activity as possible, the agency said.