Night VFR and IFR Starry sky


Being just a private, day-VFR rated only pilot, it is difficult for me to give you good advices for these kind of flights. Any comment from experienced pilots would be welcome. In France, for these 2 types of flight, you have to file a flight plan, 30 minutes at least before you take off. (See the page Flight planning)


Night VFR

In France, aeronautical days begin approximately 30 mn before sunrise, and end 30 minutes after sunset. (To be accurate, the center of the sun must be above 6° under the horizon.) To calculate the precise beginning and the end of the aeronautical day in a French airport, use Nav3000.

Many airports are unusable at night. Among those you can use at night, some are open H24, but others have restrictions. (No flight after 21UTC for exemple.) Check the airports charts. A few uncontrolled airports may be used at night, with a system enabling the pilot to turn the lights on with his radio (PCL). For some little airfields, you will have to call by phone in advance to know whether someone will be there when you come, to turn the runway lights on. Several aeroclubs organize night flights for their members in summer.

Meteorological conditions to fly night VFR are more restricted than for day VFR. For exemple, you may not fly if there are clouds below 5000ft AGL on your way, or if it rains or snows even slightly. No mist nor fog allowed on the ground under your route. Visibility in any case must be greater than 8 km. Other restrictions apply, compared with day VFR. Check AIP.

In France, to fly night VFR you must either hold a rating or a license allowing you to fly at night in your own country. The aircraft you use must have supplementary equipment : lights, VOR, 2 AI, etc.... (this list here is not comprehensive!) so that it is able and allowed to fly at night. This should be written in front of you when you're seated in it : "Cet appareil est autorisé au vol de nuit". Of course, IFR aircrafts may also be used for night VFR.

Proficiency conditions are distinct from day VFR. Besides the 3 TKOFF and 3 landings during the last 90 days at least one TKOFF and one landing must have occured during the aeronautical night in the last 90 days to be allowed to carry passengers during a night flight, unless you're IR.

You may not enter airways if you fly VFR at night. In some controlled areas, night VFR flights have to follow obligatory routes. To know them, you have to buy the SIA 1:1000000 chart because they're discribed in the "Complément aux cartes aéronautiques" sold with the chart. There, you will also get information about what to do in case of a radio failure. Unfortunately, this is written in French only.

Please check the French AIP for a more detailled information.



First of all, to English pilots : we have no IMC rating here. If you're not instrument rated, you may only fly under VFR. You are not allowed then to enter ANY cloud. Your english IMC rating is NOT valid in France, even if you fly a G-reg plane.

Night VMC has a special definition. To know how day VMC are defined in France, click here. If VMC are not fulfilled, you are in IMC, and you can't fly unless you're Instrument rated in a IFR aircraft.

As for night VFR, some uncontrolled airports have an instrument procedure, and therefore, can be used even in IMC. But radio is then in French only. Most french airports, though, can't be reached flying IFR. A few, on the other hand, are open to IFR traffic only.

If you fly IFR, you will have to buy specific charts, such as Jeppesen airway Manuals, and airports charts for IFR.

You have to use FL ending with a 0 in the lower airspace : 30, 40, 50, 60
If your route heading is between 0 and 179, you must use "odd" levels : 30, 50, 70, 90, 110...
If your route heading is between 180 and 359, you must use "even" levels : 40, 60, 80...

France being a member of JAR, IFR taxes are paid to Eurocontrol. Acfts with a MTOW under 2 tons pay no enroute tax.

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