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.
AIC FRANCE A 21/15
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)