As in the UK, flight plans must be filed for any international border crossing.
Additionally, in France, flight plans are mandatory for IFR flights, Night VFR (other than local flights*) and for flight over maritime** regions where it is not possible to make a successful landing in the event of an engine failure.
* as well as flights starting and ending at the same aerodrome, flight plans would not be required for flights between two aerodromes for which the approach is provided by the same air traffic control service, within the airspace under its authority—for example, flights between any of Limoges, Brive, Angoulème, Montluçon.
** the specific rule covering maritime regions is that flight plans must be filed if the distance from land is equivalent to 15 times the aircraft's altitude.
Flight plans should be filed at least 30 minutes before take-off—exceptionally, flight plans may be filed while airborne but do expect a debate as to whether the circumstances for doing this are justified.
The so-called ‘abbreviated’ flight plan is the information given to Air Traffic Controllers when requesting entry to controlled airspace and is not directly relevant to this article.
Filing the Flight Plan
Larger airfields will usually have a facility for filing flight plans ‘over the counter’ or via a direct link using telephone, FAX or computer terminal.
In France, flight plans may be filed using the Olivia web site (English-language version) which also provides access to NOTAM and weather information.
Flight plans can also be filed by phone or FAX using the number appropriate to the departure region—if using FAX, do check receipt of the plan by phone.
|LILLE||03 20 16 19 65/66||03 20 16 19 71|
|BALE MULHOUSE||03 89 90 26 15/12||03 89 90 26 19|
|LYON||04 72 22 56 76/77/78||04 72 23 80 67|
|MARSEILLE||04 42 31 15 65|
|04 42 14 22 90||04 42 31 15 69|
|NICE||04 93 17 21 18||04 93 17 21 17|
|AJACCIO||04 95 22 61 85|
|04 95 23 59 80||04 95 23 59 69|
|TOULOUSE||05 62 74 65 31/32||05 62 74 65 33|
|BORDEAUX||05 57 92 60 84||05 57 92 83 34|
|NANTES||02 40 84 84 75|
|02 40 84 80 45||02 40 84 80 39|
|LE BOURGET||01 48 62 53 07||01 48 62 72 07|
|01 48 62 53 14||01 48 62 65 04|
In my experience, most of these offices have fluent English-speakers available—you just need to ask and they are happy to oblige.
Opening the flight plan
When departing from a ‘controlled’ airfield with an ATS (Air Traffic Service) unit, this is normally done by the controller.
If departing from an uncontrolled airfield, you can contact the nearest available ATS unit instead.
You can also use the so-called AZUR telephone number which serves the whole of France—0810 437 837 (08 10 IFR VFR)
Closing the flight plan
Flight plans must be closed on (or shortly before) completion of the flight in order to avoid unnecessary deployment of the emergency services.
In France, this may be done using any of the aforementioned methods for opening the flight.
The Flight Plan
Flight plans are set out in a standard format, even though the headings may be in different languages.
Most seasoned pilots carry a battered old flight plan to use as a crib sheet, or even several battered examples for regular routes.
Many of the entries are self-explanatory so I have written just a few notes on those which are not.
Here is a sample flight plan for a trip from Le Touquet to Biggin Hill, crossing the international border at EGTT (London FIR) on the way out—on the way back, you would cross at LFFF (Paris FIR):
NB click on picture for larger image
Flight rules, for our purposes, are either V (VFR) or I (IFR)
Type of flight, for our purposes, is G (General Aviation)
Aircraft type (C150, P28A, DA40, etc)—a complete list of ICAO codes for aircraft identification can be found here
Wake turbulence category—L (light) if under 7000 kg
Equipment—S = standard COM/NAV
/N = no transponder
/A = transponder, no altitude reporting
/C = transponder, with altitude reporting
Departure time—always in UTC (GMT)—local French time will always be one or two hours ahead of UTC, depending on the season
Cruising speed—usually expressed in Knots (N0090 = 90 knots) or Kilometres (K0150 = 150 kph)
Cruising level—A035 (Altitude=3500 feet), F050 (Flight level 50), VFR if unspecified
NB When selecting a cruising level at more than 3000’ (ASFC), be aware of the French semi-circular rule which is:
Track 0°—179° FL* 35, 55, 75, etc
Track 180°—359° FL* 45, 65, 85, etc
* below transition altitude, same principle but using feet (3500, etc)
Route—although our sample route is essentially a straight line, it is good practise to show a waypoint at or near the point of crossing the coast
For example DCT-RYE-DCT (Le Touquet is on the coast so not mentioned)
A more-complicated route, via Dover and Detling VORs, would be DCT-Cap Griz Nez-DVR-DET-DCT
Total EET is Total Estimated Elapsed Time—you should also give an EET in Item 18 (Other information) for crossing any international border
In the interests of accuracy, please check here for up-to-date information on French air traffic rules and services.
A standard English-language flight plan form, which can be filled-in on-line and printed, is available here.