Flying in France with a foreign licence



Of course, whatever the aircraft you fly and the license you use, you must follow French air regulations in French airspace.

We have in France a special rating, the "Mountain rating". You need it to land on altiports. (Click here for details). This rating is not valid outside France.


Flying in France with an aircraft from your country


If you come in France with your national licence and a plane from your country, there is no problem, provided that you follow the French air regulations. (For exemple, you have a FAA license and rent in France a N-reg plane, then you may enjoy all the privileges of your licence with no further paperwork to do. Your ratings are valid in France as long as similar ratings exist here. Beware, english IMC ratings may not be used here, even on a G-reg plane. Moreover the new CAA recreational pilot licence is not valid outside England. You must have a full JAR PPL licence to be allowed to use it in France.)

New and more restrictive regulations apply for EU residents flying non JAR aircraft. Several countries, including France and the UK have requested a derogation for these regulations, meaning that they won't enforce them before April 2014. Henceforward, you may still fly a N reg aircraft in France with your FAA license even if you live in the EU. This will change after 2014. Beware, some european countries have not requested the derogation. If you live in one of them, you may no longer fly a N reg aircraft with your FAA license in Europe. Contact your local aviation authority to know what regulation apply to you, since for this matter, the regulation depends on your country of residency.


Flying a F-reg plane


What about flying in France with a F-reg plane you would rent here?

First, I must tell you that I will only discuss here the case of private licences. Flying in France with a foreign licence for commercial purpose is out of topic here. You should contact the DGAC (Direction générale de l'Aviation Civile) to get more information. But you're likely to get bad news.

For private pilots wanting to fly a F-reg plane, two cases to consider :


You're lucky. Your license is valid in France. Nothing to do but let the "District aeronautique" (local subsidiairy of the DGAC, our CAA or FAA) know you will use your license on a French plane. To find the nearest "district", use the "qui sommes nous" (who are we) DGAC Private pilots web page (direct link).

Your JAR-FCL ratings (Night VFR, MEP,IR) are valid in France, as they would be in an aircraft of your country. Again, IMC rating is not a JAR one. You must be Instrument rated to fly IMC in France.

Thanks to Steve Cockshott, I can tell you that there is now one thing that an IMC rating allows a pilot to do out of the UK: fly on top. The General Aviation Safety Information Leaflet published in June 2004 states:

"[IMC] rating does confer one advantage in foreign airspace. [...] In the airspace of a state which does not require PPL holders to remain in sight of the surface (for exemple France), the holder of a UK issued PPL which contains a valid IMC rating may fly out of sight of the surface."

So, no need any longer to get the DGAC agreement to be allowed to fly on top in France if you have an IMC rating.

Special VFR is an other problem. In France, you can get special VFR clearance down to 1.5 km visibility in some places. Much less than the 5km requested for VMC in controlled airspace. However, according to Irv Lee from Flyers, using such a clearance might be illegal for an English pilot who is not allowed by the CAA to fly SVFR under 10km visibility. Actually, according to him, simply requesting such a clearance might be considered a break of regulation by the CAA in case of a problem. As an English pilot, you should fly SVFR with at least 10km visibility, or VFR with 5 km visibility in French controlled airspace. Stupid, huh?

I got a message from Mike Grierson, FI, FE, ex CAA Standards Inspector about this topic (many thanks):

Irv Lee is correct because the 10k limitation for SVFR is contained in the Licence Privileges Schedule 8. However it states:
(c) unless his licence includes an instrument rating (aeroplane) or an instrument meteorological conditions rating (aeroplanes), fly as pilot in command of such an aeroplane:
Then if the pilot holds a valid IMC rating then privileges of his licence are amended so he can operate to the French SVFR minima and indeed to a min vis of 1.5k but of course cannot fly IFR.


Others PPL, for exemple : FAA PPL

News are not as good as for JAR PPL holders.

First, you have to validate your licence. You will get a temporary French licence enabling you to fly a F-reg plane. This opportunity is limited to people who are NOT citizen of a EU country, or who are permanent residents of a country which is not a member of the EU. If you're German, living in Germany, flying with a FAA license in your country, you won't be able to get the temporary french licence, and you will have to rent a N-reg plane to fly here. If you're german, living in the USA, then no problem.
This temporary, VFR licence will be usable for private and leisure purposes only. It won't in any case exceed the privileges attached to the original licence.
To get it, you must go to a local office of the DGAC with :

If only paperwork is to be done, it should last a week. It might be carefull, however, to expect much more. The bad news is that you may have to be checked out by a FE, or even undergo a bit of extra training if your experience is considered to be insufficient. Unfortunately, it seems that there is no rule there, and that you will depend on the good will of the guy in charge of issuing the licence. Having no feedback yet about this problem, I can't tell you what to expect in reality.

The next bad news is that the issuing of a temporary french license, which used to be free, is now (from 2007 on) charged 70€ (2007).

Other bad news : your non-JAR instrument rating is not valid in France. If you want it reported on your French license, you will have to pass the complete theoretical Instruments exam and be flight tested by a FE. It's not something you can consider doing in a few days. If you really want to fly IMC in France, you'd better rent a N-reg aircraft.

For other ratings, such as Multi, check with the local DGAC office.

More information

In any case, you can mail the DGAC office in charge of private pilots if you want more information, or if your case is a special one. No questions concerning professional matters will be answered.

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