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The french aeronautical CHARTS
To fly VFR in France, you will need three kinds of aeronautical charts.
You can find special charts for gliders and helicopters and microlights, described below in the relevant sections. Exist also a few 1/250000 charts, which you may choose to buy if you consider them useful.
In any case, you have to check the relevant Notams and SUP AIP for your route.
Beware : the charts showed here are not up to date. Don't use them for flight planning.
One more remark before you read this section : what you will find here is information, not advertising. No one had to pay nor give anything to be listed here. Several publishers provided me with extracts, other refused or didn't answer my requests. The opinions expressed here are mine. They're based on my own experience and use of French charts.
Two sets of charts cover France. None of them depict microlights airfields or strips.
In my opinion, these charts are the best choice as long as 1/500000 are concerned.
They are published by the National Geographical Institute (IGN) for the background, and the SIA (Aeronautical information service) for the aero information. Both are state agencies, and they produce official informations.
Since 2013, these charts benefit from a huge and long awaited improvement. They now depict all airspace up to FL115. Until 2012, the charts were limited to 5000ft AMSL and you had to have an other chart if you flew higher. What about the airspace above FL115? Well in France it's quite simple : it's class D almost everywhere up to FL195 (but over the Alps), then class A. If you fly VFR, you're very unlikely to get a clearance to enter this airspace, although theorically, it should be possible.
If you're concerned about the readability of the charts, no need to worry. But make your own mind. Left is an extract of the 944 OACI chart released in 2011, with the airspace up to 5000AMSL only, and right is the 2017 release. Note that now the upper parts of the Lyon TMA appear on the chart , surrounding the lower parts. (You can click on it to magnify it.)
The 2017 release includes of course a complete update of the aeronautical data. The topographical background was updated in 2016. The electrical power lines were updated in 2016. There are no other important changes this year.
The charts were improved along the years in other ways:
The advantage of these charts is their very detailled background. It is really difficult to get lost with such maps, where everything, every tiny village, every wood, every river, pond, every road, every hill, castle is depicted (see below - 941 chart, 2013). And that's what 1/500000 charts are made for. No airways though. You will find them only on million charts.
France is covered by 4 charts, NW, NE, SW and SE. Each costs around 22euros. The 944 chart includes a 1/100000 chart showing the mandatory routes to Corsica. They exist in plain paper or laminated format.
They're updated once a year, with a new release by late March or early April. Make sure that you order the last one.
You can choose to buy them in plain paper or laminated, so that you can more easily erase your route after the flight. Both are folded and meant to be used aboard.
The 1/500000 Alps special chart for gliders doesn't exist any longer.
Since 2016 there has been a chart depicting only Corsica. I don't think that there is really a point in buying this chart since Corsica is included in the South East chart.
The former CD-Rom including the 4 french ICAO digital charts as a whole doesn't exist any longer.
As a substitute, you can download from the IGN website and for a fee (15€ in
2017) a digital carbon copy of each of the IGN paper charts.
You will need a software or an ECW compatible device to use them
The digital half million chart can also be read for free from the IGN online charts page.
New in 2017 : You can access directly
the digital chart with this link or by searching "aeronautique"
- aeronautical in French - within the IGN website.
No more paper charts from Jeppesen. they have digital products for Flitestar and an ipad software. i could not test them so I can't give an opinion about them. Sorry.
The two previous competitors are here again in this category. But they're not alone. All charts but the SIA one are updated once a year.
This time, the aim of the chart is not to be able to match in flight what is under you with what is on your knees, but to have as comprehensive an aeronautical information as possible. You need to know everything about CTR, TMA and P,Z,R zones and their activity in the whole airspace you might fly in (SFC to FL195), VORs, and possibly APT, etc...
Again , this is the "official" chart with the "official"
The pack includes a navigation plotter.
In my opinion, if you want a really comprehensive information about the French lower airspace (under FL195), you have no choice but to buy this chart. Same thing if you fly night VFR, because here is information dealing with this topic which you MUST know and won't find anywhere else. Unfortunately, this info, but night VFR routes charts is in French only.
This chart is updated TWICE a year. (Spring and autumn). So make sure you get the last edition.
To see an inspection
copy of this chart, click here. (PDF file). (Beware, the
file is large, 1Mo). Reproduced with the SIA authorization E10/2003.
The SIA webpage is available in English.
VFR France jour
This is a very well designed chart. No book here either, like the jeppesen chart. Therefore, you will not know why a zone is dangerous or restricted. But you will know, as for the SIA charts, when they can be active and whom to contact to know whether they're actually active, when such an opportunity exists. Lots of informations (APT...), in the background and in the aeronautical frontground, and really easy to read and to use. It is printed on both sides of the chart, each side depicting half of France. (North and South)
In France it costs 20 euros. You can buy it in specialized shops, or on line at http://www.editerra.fr.
To see an extract from this chart, published by Editerra, click here. (2008)
A special release for microlights has been published since 2003. Compared with the plane chart :
I don't think that the microlight version has any interest, even for microlights pilots. Better, in my opinion, to buy the regular, plane one. It depicts microlights strips anyway, with more information.
The chart (since 2011) exists as a laminated wallpaper sheet, printed on one side only and showing France on a whole. You can therefore pin it to your wall. It is not meant to be folded and used in flight, the chart is too thick.
IGN Vol Libre en France
This is not an aeronautical chart. It is basically the 1/1000000 road map of France published by the IGN where are added places where paraglider are flown. At the back of the chart is a comprehensive list of all these places with precise lat long coordinates, the kind of activity in each of them (paragliding, hang gliding...) You will also find phone numbers for each platform to get in touch with someone. When available, you will also find the email adress and web page URL of the person or association in charge of each platform. If you consider doing this kind of activity while touring France, this map will certainly be useful. It is also much cheaper than aeronautical charts. To see an extract of this chart, click on this link. This chart is published with the FFVL, sport federation for hang and para gliding.
More than 600 airfields already updated in France, the UK, Belgium, Luxemburg , Switzerland, South Africa
600 UK airfields
Five competitors :
SIA - Atlas VAC
Two folders of plates for this french publication. Again "The" official data. Very good quality, easy to use, but quite expensive. (Around 110 euros without update, 150 with update subscription.)
One advantage of this Atlas is that, instead of buying the whole set of charts covering France, you may choose to buy a folder covering a quarter of France. 5 folders actually : NE, NW, SE, SW and the Paris area. Thus, if you fly only in one part of France, you may decide to buy only one or two books, saving a little money. Data update is provided for a year as far as I remember, with new sheets sent to you once a month. Two bad news : prices seem to have been much increased (40Euros instead of 25 previously for each book), and the area covered by each book has been changed. It doesn't correspond any longer to the area covered by the corresponding 1/500000 chart. There are places, I was told, where you have to buy the NE chart, and the NW VAC Atlas to have the information concerning an airfield.
Features are very similar to the Bottlang ones, with a local map and a detailled APT map for each APT, and an approach map for larger ones. Very detailled information on restrictions, particular conditions... OACI classified APT only. In English and in French.
To see an information copy of the VAC Atlas, click here. (PDF). Reproduced with the SIA authorization E10/2003. Do not use for Flight Planning.
They also publish a special release of theVAC Atlas for Helicopters. Airfields where helicopters are allowed only are covered, including specific places such as helisurfaces and helistops near hospitals or plants.... Special routes and circuits (compaired with planes or gliders for exemple) are enlightened.
To order or to get informations, see the SIA web page in English
The SIA has made the whole AIP including the airports charts available on their web page since January 2004.
Nothing to complain about as far as quality is concerned.
Again, pilots already used to Jeppesen products will find it
easier to use. Same thing if you travel in several countries.
Jeppesen will enable you to use only one kind of airport charts
in all these countries. Prices are similar to the VAC Atlas.
I asked them 2 times to send me a plate of the Bottlang for
you to see, but got no answer yet. Maybe they didn't like my
comments about their mistakes, or they just don't care?
Guide Delage, Guide VFR France...
Since the official SIA airport plates became available for free online, several airports directories have disappeared. The Delage guide is one of them. Same thing for the SEES "Guide France VFR".
The 1/250000 chart for the Paris area used to be sold with the 1/1000000 SIA chart. It is not any longer. You have to buy it seperately. There is also a special chart for helicopters covering this area. It is very useful because several routes are for Helicopters only and you won't find them on the other chart.
An other 1/250000 chart published by the SIA covers the Rhone "Delta", which is in fact the Marseille area, where a lot of military zones make it difficult to read 1/1000000 and even 1/500000 charts. Practically, I'm not sure that you will really need this chart, since if you cross this area, you will be handed over from control to control and given the corresponding frequencies. But you might find it useful.
In 2007 two quarter million charts for the French Riviera (Nice- Cannes) and the Lyon-Rhone valley area were released for the first time. Like the Marseille chart, I think you might do well without them. The airspace around Nice and Lyon being much simpler than around Marseille and Paris.
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