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Airports and airfields


GeneralAix / Chambery

France has a large number of airports and airfields. Most of them (more than 400) are open to public aviation, and most of them are state owned. If you fly an ULM, your choice is even greater, since you may land and takeoff almost everywhere provided you have the land's owner agreement and you endanger noone. Beside, a large number of ULM platforms are specific and not usable by planes. On the other hand, many plane airports are forbidden to ULM. Similar restrictions apply for Gliders, Helicopter... Check your airports guide.

Since the begining of January 2004, the SIA, in charge of publishing the official aeronautical information for France has made the whole AIP, including the airports charts available on its web page. Their page is available in English. An other way to get information about airfields is to use, a website where information is provided by pilots and therefore should be checked. airfields cards include a direct link to the corresponding SIA-AIP airfield chart, when available. Many airports cards also include real pictures of the airfield as well as maps of what is around. The site is available in English. You will get information such as taxes prices, availability of gas, of a restaurant on the airfield... An other interesting feature, especially for you foreign pilots, is that you can tell this site where you want to go (any place, not only an airfield) and it'll find out the nearest airfields where you can land.

If you fly a plane, you cannot land and takeoff outside an official and authorized airfield. (Obviously, this is not true any more in case of an emergency.) If the airfield is privately owned, you must have the owner agreement before you use it, and if it is restricted, you may have to request an authorization by the local DAC (Direction de l'aviation civile, our CAAor FAA), before you may use it. The phone number to call in this case is indicated on the airfield chart, and the need to get a prior authorisation also.

On some airports, theorically open to general aviation, light aircrafts are not welcome at all. If they're issued a clearance to land there, taxes are so high that you regret your landing as soon as you see the bill. This is true for exemple in Nice (LFMN) airport. Light aircrafts should consider landing rather at the nearby Cannes (LFMD) airport, run by the same operator. Same thing in Lyon, where we're supposed to use Lyon-Bron instead of Lyon St Exupéry. Orly and Roissy are, as far as I know out of reach even for IFR flights unless you sent a PPR several days before. If you really want to land near Paris, use le Bourget, if you fly IFR. Otherwise, the closest airport for VFR flights is Toussus le Noble, SW of Paris. But like from other general aviation APT around Paris, it is almost impossible to go to the center of Paris from Toussus using public transport. An other solution could be to choose Beauvais, where Easy Jet has its Paris destination airport, and therefore linked to Paris by bus shuttles. (1 hour trip)
Generally, unlike what happens in other countries, especially in the USA, light aircrafts and heavy iron don't mix each other. More and more "large" airports are becoming difficult to use when you fly a small plane, and you are not welcome there. Fortunately, we still have many little airfields. But this might be a problem for a non French speaking pilot, unable to use most of these little airfields.


Unless stated otherwise on the airfield chart, pattern elevation for planes is usually 1000 ft AAL. When you're heading toward an uncontrolled airfield, you are supposed to fly overhead the airfield, 500 ft ABOVE the pattern, 1500ft AAL. Then, after checking the windsock and the QFU, and being very cautious of course, you may enter the downwind leg.


This is a very important problem if you don't speak French, because it will prevent you from using many airports. Viewed from the radio point of view, we have 3 categories of airfields or strips:

  • controlled airfields: on the main airports or each time a controlled airspace (A to E) is associated (TWR, APP), English is possible on the radio. Beware of working hours, many of them are not towered H24
  • uncontrolled but towered airports (AFIS) where very often French only is spoken
  • untowered airports where pilots report their positions making blind calls; and eventually airports where no radio at all is requested

Some airports have their own frequencies (ATIS, TWR, AFIS, APP), others have no frequency. If radio is however to be used to land or take off on these platforms, you must then use 123.5, a kind of unicom frequency. Don't forget to begin your message with the name of the airport you're going to use, because others nearby airports may use the same frequency, with pilots searching where this damned pilot announcing "turning base" may be. Of course, French only is allowed on this frequency, as in many airports.It is always written on the airport chart.

Do not even try to go to such an airfield unless your french is very good. This could be lethal. To know more about radioing in French, see the R/T page.


You should be aware of the difference between TWR and AFIS frequencies. TWR means that the airport is within controlled airspace. You'll be speaking to an ATC who will issue clearances. You'll have to comply of course. Good news is that in France, all ATC speak English (they have to) and you'll be able to radio without any problem.

AFIS is a completely different matter. AFIS agents are not ATC. First of all, they don't issue clearance, nor do they give orders. They just provide traffic information as far as the AD vicinity is concerned. You don't request anything from them. You just let them know what you're doing so that they can inform other pilots. For exemple with a TWR you would call :
- Bron Tower, F-GCQN on apron Bravo with Delta information, VFR flight to Strasbourg request taxi instructions.
and then, wait for the clearance. With an AFIS, your call would rather be something like:
- Roanne info, F-GCQN on apron Bravo, going to Strasbourg VFR. Taxiing to holding point 02.

AFIS agents didn't get the same teaching as ATC. Many (most) of them don't speak English. They are usually hired by the airport manager, but not by the DGAC like real ATC. Of course, they got an agreement to be allowed to do the job, but the level is not the same as a real ATC.

Eventually, airports you can use according to regulations if you don't speak French are those where r/t in English is possible (controlled airports), and those where radio is not obligatory. Always check the charts, but there are probably more airports than you believe.

Altiports and Altisurfaces

Glacier landingIn France, we also have altiports. To land there, you must have a "mountain"rating. (click here for details)This French rating is really useful to land on such platforms and you should really not even consider landing on an altiport if you're not used to, trained to and proficient. Why?

Altiports are located at VERY high elevations (4500 ft - 8000 ft), where aircrafts don't behave as they do at altitude you're used to when you're near the ground. Moreover, Altiports have steep slopes, and are used one way to land, the other to take off. (Going up to land, going down to takeoff). These very particular techniques MUST be learnt. The pattern is not rectangular but rather like a drop of water shaped. Finally, there are no possible missed approaches in short final, because the ground climbs quicklier than your aircraft in these conditions. Altiports are lethal to unknowing pilots.

I would add that getting this "mountain rating" might precisely be THE opportunity to come and fly in France you were looking for. You will not only learn to use these platforms, overfly passes, a lot of technical stuff, but also fly among mountains topping your cruise altitude. And you will make the greatest and most beautifull flights you can imagine above snow covered mountains. In my opinion, a pilot's dream.

Apart from altiports, we also have altisurfaces, grass strips located at very high altitude like altiports. They are official and agreed for plane use, provided that the pilot has the mountain rating. The difference with an altiport is usually the runway, soft for altisurface often located in wild areas, on top of mountains, and hard for altiports, near villages or ski resorts : Megeve, Courchevel, Alpes d'Huez etc...) "Snow" mountain rating allows you to land on glaciers as well, or on snow-covered altisurfaces or altiports. I told you, a pilot's dream.
To know more about this kind of flying, and where to learn it, contact the Association Française des pilotes de Montagne. (Association of French Mountains pilots)

If you want to see what an altiport looks like in summer, (l'Alpe d'Huez, elev 6100ft) try this.


Gas is not available everywhere. 100LL is much more common than Jet A1 on small airfields. Beware the opening hours and days. This kind of information is written on the APT chart. Usually, you won't have to order or book your gas prior to your coming, provided that you come when the station is open. We have very few (too few) automatic stations open H24. But if you're careful enough, filling your tanks should not be a problem in France. Beware, though : in many places where gas is sold by aeroclubs, you won't be able to use your credit card. Checks in foreign currencies won't do either. The only way to pay then might be to pay cash. Prepare yourself to that.

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