Business Aircraft Ops in France: Flight Planning, Weather and NOTAMs
This is a post by author Sandrine Jackson. Sandrine is managing director for Universal Aviation France – Paris. Sandrine is an expert on business aircraft operations in France and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in France and continues from our last article: "Airport Slot Procedures for France."
While flight planning in France is a fairly routine process, it’s important to be aware of flight plan format and lead time nuances in order to avoid delays. Your 3rd-party provider will help with procedural requirements, and your local ground handler can assist in reducing, or eliminating, potential slot and airport delay issues that may arise on day of operation.
Here is what you need to know to help you with your planning:
1. Are there ATC procedures to consider prior to operations?
All flight plans are filed through Eurocontrol, and you must file on airways, as direct routings are only acceptable for very short flights. Flight plans should be filed at least two hours prior to the estimated time of departure, so Eurocontrol can better plan for traffic and airway slots when applicable. Charter (non-scheduled commercial) permit numbers must be indicated on flight plans. Additionally, you should list your destination ground handler in remarks 18, so Air Traffic Control (ATC) can direct you to the right location. When airport slots and/or prior permission required (PPR) is needed (at Nice [LFMN] or Cannes [LFMD], for example), always indicate airport slot and permit approvals on the flight plan. Filing of flight plans in France is done via SITA. ATC prefers all communications via Very High Frequency (VHF); however, communication with ground ops is usually done via phone.
2. Is there special, or required, equipment needed to operate in this region?
When operating in France, you’ll require Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) II, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), 8.33 megahertz (MHz) radio spacing and certification for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM).
3. How do operators ensure flight plan validation and acceptance?
Contacting ATC to confirm your flight plan is not necessary or recommended, unless the flight plan has been self-filed by the operator. Your ground handler will use the Network Manager (NM) website, formally known as the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU), to confirm the flight plan is on file. Also, some ground handlers have enhanced access to make changes within the CFMU system. If there’s an airway slot delay, the local ground handler will advise crew.
4. Are there local procedures impacting engine startup and taxi?
You’ll need approval from ATC prior to engine start in France. When you ask ATC for clearance, this activates your flight plan. While you’ll be able to leave most parking areas under your own power, there are cases when you’ll be towed to startup position. Towbars are often available for common business aircraft types at major airports, including Paris Le Bourget (LFPB), but always confirm tow bar requirements and availability when operating to smaller regional airports in France.
5. Are there procedures to consider while en route to your destination?
Best practice is to call your ground handler 10-20 minutes before arrival to ensure that all arrangements and requested services have been confirmed.
6. What weather issues, or meteorological challenges, need to be considered in France?
During winter months, heavy snow may cause operational delays at some airports in northern France or close to mountainous regions. For instance, Le Bourget (LFPB) was temporarily closed to traffic two winters ago due to snow removal procedures. Lyon (LFLL) and Strasbourg (LFST) have issues from time to time during the winter months with snow accumulation and a lack of equipment to remove snow buildup quickly. Hangar space is a consideration – especially during the winter – and, if required, should be arranged in advance at locations where it’s available. Morning fog can be an issue at airports in France, including LFPB, and will shut down airport operations on occasion.
7. What is the preferred source of weather/NOTAMs in France?
NM provides comprehensive weather information and Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) for France and the European region. All business aviation-capable airports in France have a local meteorology office providing both weather and NOTAM updates. At regional airports, it’s best to ask your ground handler for weather and NOTAMs, if those aren’t provided by your 3rd-party provider. Your ground handler can provide NOTAMs for departure, en route and destination, as well as weather/NOTAM updates during tech stops.
8. Are ATC strikes in France adequately advised via NOTAM?
All airport and ATC strikes in France are advised via NOTAM, but advance notification of strike events is often very short (just a few hours in some cases.) NOTAMs typically do not provide a lot of detail (just a broad outline) regarding strike activity. Strikes in France almost always occur on weekdays, not weekends.
In general, operators can expect a trouble-free experience in France from the flight planning, weather and NOTAM perspective. Work with your ground handler to ensure flight plan confirmations and that required ground support equipment is available at your location.
If you have any questions about this article or if you would like assistance with planning your next trip to France, contact me at email@example.com.
Later, we’ll discuss local culture and hotels for France and their impact on your trip.