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06 September 2011

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Hi Denman

This seems to be an unlicenced airfield with no 'official' source of information.

Most pilots seem to rely on Air Taffic Control services to determine if restricted areas are active but there must be a better way.

Have you tried the 'route' flight briefing on the OLIVIA system? (I can't immediately test this as my login details are out-of-date).

You normally get an OLIVIA username through membership of the FFA (administered through French flying clubs) but I understand that you can apply directly as several English pilots I know use OLIVIA.

http://olivia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr

Thanks, Les. Yes, OLIVIA does provide the NOTAMs for restricted areas on a flight from, say Le2K to Cazeres, and the restricted low-level corridor over Cazeres is not mentioned. As my flight-planning software (Pocket FMS) says its operation is intermittent I would guess that means that when it's not metioned it's not operational. But, as you say, I'll probably only find out for sure on the radio when I get there!

All restricted/prohibited/danger areas details are listed here : https://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/aip/enligne/PDF_AIPparSSection/AIP%20FRANCE/ENR/5/1110_ENR-5.1.pdf

The restricted area LF-R46 F3 is a very low altitude very high speed training corridor segregated for fighter use and part of the RTBA. The RTBA (which stands for Réseau Défense très Basse Altitude – very low altitude defense network) links the major airbases and is activated during certain hours and days from Monday to Friday.

It is highly unlikely that you will get a clearance from ATC to pass through during activation hours of the R46-F3 which are as follows (excepted on bank holidays) :

MONDAY : 0800--1000 and 1200--1400

TUESDAY : 0800--1000, 1200—1400 and between SS+30--2300

WEDNESDAY,THURSDAY : 0800--1000 and SS+30--2300

FRIDAY : 0800--1000.

HIV: +1HR.

The aformentionned hours are possible activation hours, it doesn’t mean that they are active all time.

After several zone busts and because pilots complained for years that the active/not active area list translation on a map was a tedious job, a very useful tool was put online two years ago on the aeronautical information service website.

Every day, updated maps are available here : https://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/asp/frameset_fr.asp?m=39
Messing with the RTBA boundaries is obviously not a good idea for pilot safety and is regarded as an very grave offense to air rules (like infriging Red arrows reserved training zones in the UK). I recommend keeping vertical and horizontal large margins and ATC contact while crossing under/over active corridors.

Small airplanes rarely wins over an encounter with a Rafale or Mirage flying at 450 KT in terrain following mode (which means the military pilot only looks at his radar and doesn’t do anticollision watch)…

The hours of operation of all Restricted areas are published in the VFR Guide which accompanies the official French 1000000 maps.
This is available from the official SIA website at: http://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/asp/frameset_fr.asp?m=9
If you want to check the activity of the zone for today go to the AZBA maps at http://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/asp/frameset_fr.asp?m=39
These allow you to select the time period and show the activity or not of all low level zones. For example today zone 46F3 is active between 0446-1000 UTC

Hope that helps

A partial Answer to Denman Rookes query would be this:

The DGAC is the French equivalent of the CAA. They publish everything you might want to know about the rules for private flying in France, all can be ordered over the internet at http://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr

The "Pochette VFR Toulouse , Midi Pyrenees" would be a good starting point. That will include the "Carte de reseau Tres basse Altitude Defense (RTBA)" which maps all the Low altitude High speed areas the french military use, with a table showing which parts of which areas are liable to be active at a particular time of day and day of week. This is updated daily by www.dircam.air.defense.gouv.fr/dia The RTBA route network is used by all three services, who allegedly don't speak to each other but presumably the website is the most reliable source of current triservice activity information.

Cazeres is certainly the closest to airfield to Aurignac, but is restricted (see Delage) to aircraft based there, or authorised to use it. There is an aeroclub at Cazeres but I think you would want to be fluent in aviation french before exploring joining.

Roughly twice as far from Aurignac is St Girons/Antichan airfield which I can personally recommend - and is clear of controlled airspace and restricted areas. I flew a motorglider from Exeter to St Girons and stayed there for ten days last July, to begin to learn about flying among the mountains, or at least the foothills.

I found the people there very friendly and welcoming. I had made a particular effort to become competent at aviation french and I'm sure that was time well spent. Google Aeroclub de Lariege for details of the club there, or for interest Google G109 St Girons for opportunities to fly in a motorglider with an enthusiastic frenchman.

I hope that is of some use.

John Chapman Plymouth UK

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