Flying to Paris

What GA airfield to Paris?

Below some information which might be useful to help you to choose your destination. I don’t guarantee their accuracy, and as always, you should check by yourself before making any decision.

-Le Bourget, open H24, with Customs & Immigration. Mandatory Handling. I believe the cost for a one night stop with a small plane would be around 600 euros. VFR is forbidden as a rule, only SAR, police, etc. flights are allowed under VFR. From time to time fly ins are scheduled there, so I believe a  special authorisation to fly in under VFR might be obtained. No Avgas.

-Chelles Les Pins: a permanent notam forbids it for non based aircrafts.

-Lognes: a full Customs & Immigration service is possible if requested in advance. VFR Day only. A small hard surface parking is available with lines to tie down your aircraft. A larger grass parking is also available. If you need a hard surface parking, call in advance. Y FPL is possible only if your last fix is BRY, then you can make an approach at Melun, and fly under special VFR, then VFR, to Lognes. Air Total card self service for Avgas. If you don’t have an Air Total card, check the VAC for the procedure, and call in advance to double check.

Very important: Uber works from Lognes! It’s almost impossible to get a taxi on a short notice in France out of Paris. As Lognes is close to Paris, there are almost always Uber drivers available in the vicinity of Lognes.It’s the only GA airfield I know of with an easy access to Uber.

The train (RER A direct to Paris and Disneyland) is at a 20-30mn walking distance.

-Melun: quite far from Paris, IFR/VFR day and  night (late on request). I’ve no experience of that airfield. I believe that commuting to Paris must be difficult. Immigration & Customs don’t seem available

-Toussus Le Noble: Customs only, no Immigration, which means you can only fly from/to within the Schengen area. At the beginning of each month a notam is issued which tells you on what days ATC will be available. In May 2016, ATC was available every other day on the average. When ATC is not available, the airfield is forbidden to non based aircrafts! You may obtain a special authorisation yet, if you ask in advance. Although the Uber app works, you must be very lucky to get a car, don’t count on it. Hard surface parking is available. You can call Farman to check if they have hangarage available should you require it. No easy public transportation. Open day and night (but not very late), IFR/VFR, hard surface runway. Easy Avgas with a truck, you may pay cash (although the guy has no change to give you back), with a Total card, and probably with a credit card.

-Saint Cyr l’Ecole: the easiest airfield to commute to Paris. Short walking distance to the station,  (RER C/N/U, direct to Montparnasse, La Défense, Tour Eiffel, Saint Michel, Gare d’Austerlitz). VFR Day, grass runways only. I don’t know about the Fuel, I think that a BP card might work, or you have to ask an Aeroclub. View of the Château de Versailles from the Circuit. Check the notams and do prepare your navigation, the arrival is not easy because of the many built-up areas you must avoid, and the proximity to Chavenay airfield. The VAC describes a recommended route.


France and ILS approaches

People seem surprised by the fact that ILS in France are decommissioned at a rapid pace.
Almost ten years ago, in 2007, the ICAO passed  resolution 36-23
The Assembly Resolves that:(…)
a) States complete a PBN implementation plan by 2009 to achieve: (..)
2)implementation of approach procedures with vertical guidance (APV) (Baro VNAV and/or augmented GNSS) for all instrument runway ends, either as the primary approach or as a back-up for precision approaches by 2016
In 2010 or 2011 (I could not find the actual date) the DGAC issued a document in French and English
You could read in that document that the objectives targeted by the DGAC are the publication, by the end of 2016, of an RNAV (GNSS) approach over all controlled IFR aerodrome runway ends, including a certain number with vertical guidance (APV SBAS or APV Baro-VNA)
So the plan was in line with ICAO recommendations. But you had to read further on: Navaids Rationalisation
The gradual deployment of RNAV (GNSS) procedures will allow the appropriateness of maintaining certain navigation means used for NDB, VOR or ILS Cat I approaches to be evaluated. Thus, when an RNAV (GNSS) procedure is published at an aerodrome where a conventional approach procedure based on a NDB or VOR beacon exists, an analysis will be conducted to measure the advantages of maintaining that beacon and the related approach procedure. Similarly, some ILS Cat I procedures may be replaced by an APV procedure. Such analyses will be conducted on a case by case basis. The following elements must be taken into account: the environment (obstacles); equipment of users flying to and from the aerodrome; economic viability (traffic justifying the installation being maintained); existence of a Delegation or a Public Service Obligation; existence of a special activity (school); significance within a national operating network, especially public transport.
If you translate that in plain English, it meant most ILS will be decommissioned unless political pressure is strong enough. So you had some time to get prepared.
The official list of decommissioned ILS was published in March 2015. The most recent list of available GNSS procedure is here. 2015 and 2016 charts are provided so that you can see how fast it goes.
What puzzles me is that countries such as Belgium had their first GNSS approach only last month, and that most flight schools in Europe keep on teaching NDB approaches to IR student, and on not teaching GNSS approaches, just as if the GPS would not exist.

Landing out of hours VFR or IFR (1)

In Belgium the Commandant d’aérodrome (You don’t call him Commandant nor Mon Commandant, although it would be fun to do so) or one of his deputies must open and close  the airfield, and stay there in between (Circulaire 3 novembre 2009 6.1.9).
It has nothing to do with ATC. Even if there is no ATC, there must be someone in charge on the ground. If you want to land out of official hours, you must arrange that with the operator of the airfield, to make sure that a deputy commandant will be there on your arrival.
In France it’s just not mandatory for anyone to be on the ground when you land. So as a rule it’s allowed to land any time, as there is no formal requirement for an aerodrome to be open. There are exceptions though, you would find them in the VAC, IAC, or in the Notams. The main exception is security: if the airport is locked, even if you land you can’t get out.
At night the airfield must be approved for night usage. Many airfields restrict the usage at night to locals, medical flights, etc. It is sometimes possible to get a special permission. Sometimes the night restriction is only when there is no ATC, in that case you can usually at an extra fee request extended ATC hours.
Usually there is a PCL.
Using lights is almost always billed as an extra fee. Unfortunately dishonest pilots often use the PCL without paying, so the operators tend to switch the PCL off unless you call in advance and give satisfactory credentials. cf Notams/VAC/IAC.
As always, beware of permanent Notams, so always check the Notams, even months before flying.
Communications with air traffic services units can be held in French or English language unless the mention « FR only » is specified
on the relevant aeronautical charts* in which case communications shall be held in French language
*standard instrument departure charts, standard instrument arrival charts, instrument approach charts, visual approach charts, ATC
surveillance minimum altitude charts, aerodrome/heliport charts, regional charts, en route charts, world aeronautical
charts 1:1 000 000, aeronautical charts 1:500 000.

Out of ATC hours, see the relevant IAC/VAC/Notam to check whether English is allowed. Usually (in fact I think it’s a rule), when there is a published IFR approach, French is mandatory for blind calls.

Even if radio is not mandatory, you must make blind calls if you have a radio. Radio is always mandatory under IFR in France, and under IFR you must always be in contact with ATC, unless for the final part of the approach when you make blind calls at a no ATC airfields.

So how about flying an IFR approach and land without ATC?
(to be continued)