I'm sure you will find very useful information in these stories. Those who lived them are foreign pilots like you, and faced problems you will face when you are here. As you will discover, they nonetheless haven't lost their humor.

If yourself have such an experience to share, or just an opinion to give about flying in France, send it to me, I'll include it in this section. Again, don't be shy.


Steven Luys : flight from Belgium to Rodez, in the South of France, with a C172

A VFR flight made by an FAA instruments rated pilot, despite adverse weather, in winter.
Unlike what is stated in the report, VFR flight is NOT allowed in France half an hour before sunrise. It is only an approximation. Tha actual difference between the legal time and sunrise depends on the season. (That's astronomy.) VFR day corresponds to the "civil day", defined as the period when the sun is higher than 6° below the horizon. To know the precise VFR day limits on any airfield in France, use nav3000.
The numerous airforce base referred to by the author are, for most of them, former NATO, post WWII bases. They were abandoned when France left the NATO organisation.


Peter Dodds : Avranches 2006

A flight from Liverpool to Avranches, near the Mont St Michel. Compliments for this very webpage courtesy of the author... :o)


Nigel Craig : Bonjour France

A flight from London to Caen. Cinderela effect. Minitel. And why you should not talk about "poulet" (chicken) to French policemen.


Nigel Craig : Problems near Marseille

Marseille can also be a problem. In the summer of 2002 on the coast route to Cannes flying VFR in a PA 32 at 145 kts, I had to fly at the last moment by ATC the most complex route I have ever been given. It included flight overhead Marseille airport at 1000 ft. and was eventually dumped near Aix-en-Provence in the valley surrounded by military zones and the mountain Ste.Victoire (painted so many times by Cezanne.) "to resume own navigation". On return flying along the coast I was informed just prior to Marseille that either I must file a FPL and fly 4 miles off the coast or climb to flight level Fl 055 within 5 miles of my position. Considering this is normally a low level route 700' max. it can cause some stress. Being confident on instruments helps!


Arthur Alasdair : Flying to France

A flight to le Touquet and a few tips about customs and FPL filling. Actually, the FPL form he was given in le Touquet is unconventionnal. The form we normally use in France is the same as the English one.


Steve Hopkins : French idiom

Went flying in France in '96 at a place called Chauvigney near Poitiers. All radio calls had to be in French. The "Downwind" call translated to "Wind at my back"; unfortunately what I said, apparently, translated to "Wind out of my bottom"! This was the same holiday during which I managed to tell the waitress that I hungered for her and, after the meal, that I was pregnant.


Ueli and Joan : Soggy Flying Trip in France

A several days touring trip in France. A lot of useful experiences. Two little mistakes, though : Poitiers is NOT located in the Loire Valley, and Armistice Day is celebrated on May the 8th.


Leslie : Welcomed by the Police.

In May this year I planned a trip from Yorkshire in the UK to airports in the southern half of France. I used the Jepp Notam page for France and noted that when flying into Lyon Bron, Flight Plans were mandatory.

We had a very enjoyable trip, first landing at Limoges from EGCJ (just less than 4 hours in a TRIN). We went on to Sainte Foy-la-Grande the same day. The following day we flew onto Beziers. When airborne Bergerac informed us that ATC were on strike and to keep out of controlled airspace; a similar message was obtained from Aquitaine Info. We managed to keep clear of CAS and were planning an alternate destination - perhaps a small grass airfield - but when approaching Beziers ATZ we gave them a call and a friendly voice replied from the tower; so no further problems - that day!

After staying overnight we went on to Nimes Courbessac stayed overnight and then, on to Fayence where we enjoyed a lovely stay.

On our last day in Fayence we planned to fly to Lyon Bron to clear French Customs, get the weather and depart for the UK. Fayence is just a lovely friendly grass aerodrome and we simply departed VFR to Lyon. On approaching Lyon Bron ATZ we were asked if we had filed a flight plan. Wow, I'd forgotten about the Notam after a splendid week touring France. The controller went onto ask if we had an emergency. I explained that we simply wanted to land, clear customs and depart to the UK. I was instructed to join downwind.

After landing we were directed to a large vacant apron and waiting for us was a police car! As captain, I was ushered into the car and interviewed by an officer who wrote out a very detailed statement, in French of course. I speak and understand some French and the officer spoke some English so we managed to understand each other very well. The officer read the statement to me and asked if I agreed with the content and if so I should sign. I asked him if he would be kind enough to add to the statement words to the effect that "if the Controller had explained that we could not land without having filed a flight plan, then we would have simply gone on to another airfield such as Dijon". The officer kindly added my requested note and I then signed the statement.

I have to say that the officer was extremely courteous at all times and was a credit to the French police (or would it be the Gendarmerie?).

I have been keeping my fingers crossed ever since the incident and I am hoping that I will not be called to a French court.

So a lesson learned: remember the Notams!!

I doubt very much that he will have any problem. Flight plans were eventually replaced by a mere fax to send before you take off to or from the 6 French airfields the DGAC wanted to "protect" after 9/11th, noone knows why.

Alice and Gary : across the pond

Strictly speaking, this story may seem slightly out of topic here. Out of their 5 monthes trip, Alice and Gary spent only two days flying in France, with nothing really special or interesting. But their journey is so outstanding that I decided to include it here and I'm quite sure that you will learn much reading their reports. Imagine: flying with a C182 from the US West Coast across Northern Canada (even West of Hudson Bay), Groenland, Iceland, the ocean, to Europe and back is quite an adventure. They describe a lot of interesting things and details for pilots. If you want to come to France from the US flying your own aircraft, no doubt this is a MUST read. I was proud to be told that they used this site to get information when planning their trip.


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