Actually, Gunther Pitterka is a “full-blooded railroader” because he is the owner and managing director of the Salzburger Eisenbahn Transport Logistik GmbH. The private railway company is not active in passenger transport, but transports goods back and forth across Europe. The company now owns numerous diesel and electric locomotives and employs well over 200 people.
Pitterka, who originally suffered from a fear of flying, also has “kerosene in his blood”. In his spare time he “collects” airports. At some point he set himself the goal of becoming the man who took off or landed at most airports. The statistics on Flugstatistic.de serve as a reference. The frequent flyer logs his trips on this portal and has been number two up to now. This spurred on the man from Salzburg, who in his “flying career” has flown 743 different airlines and 566 types of aircraft to 188 countries on six continents. He wanted to break the record of 1581 airports and did so on Saturday.
Pitterka also chartered a Let 410 from Czech Silver Air on the route from Portoroz in Slovenia to Venice-Lido airport in Italy. Thus, the man from Salzburg "collected" two more airports he hadn't been to before, and is now the new record holder at Flugstatistic.de. Over the years he has used a total of 1.582 different airports.
Remarkable flight statistics
Gunther Pitterka's statistics show a few remarkable details: With 502 flights, he flew particularly frequently with Austrian Airlines. In second place is Lufthansa with 335 flights and the man from Salzburg made 257 trips with Air Berlin. But the airline doesn't matter to him, because it's about getting from A to B and, if possible, "collecting" another airport that he hasn't been to before. That's why it often happens that he "chunks" long-distance trips in order to be able to take off and land at additional airports.
The "top 3" of the machine types that the Salzburger has flown: 260 flights with Airbus A320, 239 with de Havilland Dash 8-400 and 189 legs with Embraer 195LR. There are also a few exotics in his statistics. For example, he has flown de Havilland DHC-41 “Twin Otter” 6 times. He also flew 36 times in de Havilland Dash 8-100s – a now rare short-haul aircraft. The Let 410, with which he completed the record journey on Saturday, was definitely not new territory for him either.
Since Salzburg is Gunther Pitterka's "home base", he seems to regard this airport as a kind of "second living room". He has used this airport a whopping 1995 times since 1.072. He has flown 654 times from Frankfurt am Main and Vienna ranks third with 477 take-offs or landings. Incidentally, his first recorded flight was in 1995 with a Boeing 747-230B from Lufthansa to San Francisco. At that time, the machine had the registration D-ABZH and was given the baptismal name "Bonn".
Fear of flying turned into “passion for collecting”
After this long-distance flight, Pitterka had apparently overcome his former fear of flying and was now a frequent flyer. Between 1995 and November 19, 2022, the railway manager was to be found at 1.582 different airports. If you look at his route map, it is difficult to read due to the large number of different airports. There is a good reason for this, because you have to be able to take off or land at so many airports. Even professional pilots can't do that, because numerous airports that Pitterka has visited can only be approached with special aircraft. For example, if you see documentation on YouTube about spectacular airports in remote regions or in the mountains, the probability that the man from Salzburg has already been there is almost 100 percent.
Pitterka's passion for collecting will by no means end, because now it's a matter of maintaining and expanding the record position on Flugstatisk.de. There are still a few airports he hasn't been to yet. For example, the man from Salzburg said that he was "missing" seven airports in Turkey. He also considers the fact that he was in "only" 188 states to be "expandable". It is therefore to be expected that Pitterka will take many more flights and possibly set a value that nobody will be able to crack any time soon.
Let 410 chartered from Portoroz to Venice Lido
In order to become number one on Flugstatistic.de, the frequent flyer got creative. He chartered the Let 410 with the registration OK-SLD from the Czech regional airline Silver Air. This was transferred from Elba to Portoroz in Slovenia. Pitterka then flew to Venice with friends and invited guests. However, they did not land at Marco Polo Airport or in Treviso. That would have been "boring" because he was there a long time ago. The Let 410 landed on the grass runway at Venice Lido Airport. Pitterka hadn't been there yet, so he "collected" airport number 1.582 and took over the top position on Flugstatistic.de on Saturday.
The special flight, which was carried out as SLD102, was also a special event for the Silver Air crew. Needless to say, the landing and subsequent take-off at the Lido airfield were also a premiere for the crew members. In the meantime, even with Silver Air, it doesn't happen very often that you take off or land on a grass runway. The machine type can and may do this, and for the experienced pilots, the undertaking was also a "Klax". But landing at this special airfield, which was once Venice's aeronautical gateway to the world, is an emotional event for "full-blooded pilots".
Island Aerodrome was once the gateway to the world for Venice
Lido used to be Venice's international airport. However, after the Second World War it turned out that there was no possibility that this could be extended to the new requirements of civil aviation. You couldn't really extend the slope and the location on the island also proved to be a disadvantage. The airport was therefore closed to commercial traffic in 1953 and has been used by general aviation ever since. The grass runway is officially 994 meters long, so the number of aircraft types that are allowed to take off and land here is restricted. Successors in passenger traffic are the airports Treviso and Marco Polo, which are located on the mainland.
Unless you happen to be a pilot yourself, you can get from Marco Polo Airport to the island of Lido as a “normal passenger” on a quite interesting route. Scheduled boats run from the largest airport to the island according to a fixed timetable. At 15 euros per direction, the ferry connections are not exactly cheap. But it is even more expensive: You can take a water taxi, which runs according to the taximeter. In return, you get a private transfer that can take you almost anywhere you want. If you have a pilot's license and a suitable aircraft, you can of course also land at the Lido airfield. There is fuel at a somewhat historic-looking gas station. This fits perfectly into the environment of the original building, where passengers used to take off regularly. These were painstakingly maintained by the site operator and are quite impressive on the inside. In the era in which these were built, it was all about being monumental and not making a mess. The former main hall, which is enormously high but otherwise not particularly large, is a reminder of this.
Lido management personally welcomed the man from Salzburg
Gunther Pitterka's record landing at Venice-Lido airfield was also a special occasion for the management of the Venice Aeroclub. It rarely happens that an airliner lands on the small airport's grass runway. The Let 410 isn't very big, but it's still a commercial airliner—a small one, after all. Two board members, who are of course pilots themselves, were already waiting for the man from Salzburg on the apron and welcomed him personally. Typical pilot: This was followed by a little chat with the pilots from Silver Air, because the exchange of experiences is important and the Silver Air crew was also very proud that they were allowed to carry out Gunther Pitterka's record flight.
Since new airports are constantly coming online and just waiting to be included in the Salzburger's collection, it can be expected that sooner or later Pitterka will also make an entry in the Guinness World Records book. Any review by the board should not be particularly complicated, because it documents every trip in detail and keeps boarding cards, for example, which can be used as proof. Who knows, maybe the planned electrification of aviation will mean that many small regional landing sites will have regular traffic. Pitterka would like to include them in his "collection", because the record should not only be kept, but also significantly expanded.