Typically, when an aircraft lands on a different country than its departure, it has to land on an international airport. There many services are provided like customs, passport control etc, to make the entrance to the country legal.

But what happens on an unpowered aircraft? (i.e. sailplane, paraglider, hangglider etc).

These aircraft may be forced to cross a border and not be able to return but to the country of origin. Landing at an airport (let alone international), may not be possible. As an example consider a paraglider that is blown back to the lee side of a mountain.

These aircraft usually don't file a flight plan, they are not equipped with a transponder, may not have radios to communicate with ATC, and possibly may not be detected by radars.

How can the pilot make their arrival formal, their stay legal and eventually return to the origin country with out problems? Is there any law protecting pilots in such cases, or will they be treated as illegal immigrants?

In general, if this ever happen to someone, what is the first action they have to take, and who shall they contact?

Consider crossing an "unfriendly" border. A EU citizen getting from an EU country to another obviously will not have any problems. But visiting a country that a visa is needed, or that in general you are not allowed entrance seems more troublesome.

  • $\begingroup$ I vote to close. This is about border policies, not aviation. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2019 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Disagree. This is about flight planning. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2019 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ If one is that close to a border, one better be equipped to address the situation - like having a radio on board at a minimum. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Aug 4, 2019 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I am not asking how to just enter a foreign country, this is not about border policy. I am asking how a pilot should handle the situation where they inadvertently (and are probably forced to) enter a foreign country. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2019 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @J. Hougaard – I would agree with you if the OP asked about how to avoid crossing an international border in a glider. Instead, he asked what to do AFTER you get there. The method of arrival is actually secondary in this case. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2019 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


How can the pilot make their arrival formal, their stay legal and eventually return to the origin country without problems?

Let others know your plans beforehand. If worst comes to worst you need someone on the other side to try and resolve the issue.

Is there any law protecting pilots in such cases?

Internationally agreed upon law? Not to my knowledge since laws are typically sovereign in nature. (Better ask on Law.SE; someone did ask a related but more specific question, but no answer as of yet.)

All I know is what ICAO recommends in SARPs Annex 9:

3.72 Recommended Practice.Contracting States should establish measures for authorizing temporary entry for a passenger or crew member who does not possess the required entry visa prior to arrival, due to diversion or delay of a flight for reasons of force majeure.

Also to my knowledge force majeure cases are few and far between, and handled according to the specific situation. You can't have a law that can be used as a loophole to fake a situation (ideally).

  • If such law existed, ICAO wouldn't have needed to make a recommendation to its member countries.

Or will they be treated as illegal immigrants?

Could be worse if the diplomatic relations of said two countries are not ideal. The pilot could be treated as a spy, hence, let others know of your flying plans.

I couldn't find a glider story, but balloons are similar, and 1995 saw a tragic incident:

In an incident recalling the most violent excesses of the cold war, Belarussian combat aircraft have shot down a sport balloon that flew over the border from Poland while competing in a race.

Not just balloons, even jogging can land you in trouble:

A visitor from France says she was jogging along the beach south of White Rock, B.C., when she crossed the U.S. border without realizing it. So began a two-week nightmare that landed her in a prison jumpsuit.

  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if the balloon shootdown was inspired by this incident $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 5, 2019 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ There was a case of a armed raid from Lebanon on Israeli military base using gliders. Just for your knowledge. So, sometimes it is justified to treat it by force. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2019 at 13:13

If you inadvertently cross the border, then you should call the local authorities right away. Ideally from your phone, while staying exactly at the place of landing. Less ideally, hitchhiking a trip to local police. You will be arrested for illegal crossing and spend time in jail followed by a fine, but that is nothing compared with you getting caught.

Illegal crossing is a serious offence and even if you are sure you could cross back safely and never end up in the same predicament, is still advisable to report to local authorities.


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