Gliding In France

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Why Bother?

This page is intended to encourage pilots who are put off by the bureaucracy involved in taking a glider to France. These are just some of the advantages of flying there:

Its proximity, lying just across the channel. 
Excellent soaring conditions, especially south of the Alps.
Few limitations on cross-country flying. 
Spectacular mountain scenery.
Wonderful food and wine, to suit all tastes and pockets.
Plenty of activities and attractions for non-flying partners. 

The guidance notes given below are believed to be valid as of July 14th 2015 and are offered in good faith. 

Some History

Over the past few years the French have imposed what at first sight appear to be obstacles designed specifically to keep the Brits away. In order to understand why they have done this, it must be understood that most, if not all, EU countries have a system of state-issued licences for glider pilots - the relevant national aviation authority has a close interest in keeping control of all its aviators. The UK, on the other hand, is an exception: historically, the BGA was set up to operate outside the scope and control of the CAA and, to the great benefit of all UK glider pilots, this situation continues today. 

It was expected that transition to Part-FCL would ease this situation, as all European countries would be legally bound to accept pilots having the new LAPL and SPL licences and appropriate medicals. However, French bureaucracy continued to work its magic, resulting in some clubs stating that they would accept the new rules immediately, and others saying that they would not.

Pilot/Glider Approval Options - Latest  

As of April 2014, and after several months of being asked the same question, the French DGAC have finally confirmed the following options for all French clubs:

A combination of LAPL(S) and LAPL medical, or SPL and EU Class 2 medical, is accepted.
A French glider pilot's licence (BPP) with a French or EU Class 2 medical, or (if still valid) a JAR class 2 medical, is accepted.
Pilots who do not have any of the above combination of options would need to follow the "equivalence" route, described in more detail here.
EASA gliders may be flown in France provided they have a current ARC and insurance. Annex II UK-registered gliders must be provided with a French Permit to Fly. See here for more details.


Pilot Equivalence
Pilots who already meet the LAPL, SPL or BPP requirements described above do not require a Pilot Equivalence and this section may be ignored. 

This is a means of pilot validation that results in a document referred to as a Pilot Equivalence, which confirms to the club your identity and flying experience. 

The period of validity of the Pilot Equivalence is two years. 

Collect the following items:

Two passport-type identity photos
Photocopies of:
The last 12 months from your logbook, to demonstrate the sort of flying you have been doing. 
Your BGA Gliding Certificate.  
Written confirmation from the BGA that your BGA Gliding Certificate is valid. 
Your passport.
Your medical certificate (see below).
A copy of your flight test certificate (see below).
A fee of 80 (?) euros, payable as follows:
Some clubs, Sisteron included, will manage the entire process provided that you send these documents to the club in advance. They will make the payment on your behalf and debit your club account accordingly.

Please note: Although it is said that a minimum of 10 days is required for the DGAC to process your application, pilots who present their documents at Sisteron are often permitted to fly on the same day or, at the latest, the following day. Please contact the Sisteron office well in advance of your visit to confirm their current position.  

I understand that payments by credit card are now accepted - please make enquiries to Mme Sophie Nercessian, contact details below.
Alternatively, payment can be made by cheque or electronic transfer to:
Code banque 10071
Code guichet 13000
N? de compte 00001012450
Cl? RIB 39
IBAN FR76 1007 1130 0000 0010 1245 039

If your club is unable to process the documentation for you, the documents referred to above should be sent to the DGAC at the following address, accompanied by a letter indicating the gliding site from which you intend to fly and the proposed date and duration of your visit.

Mme Sophie Nercessian
Minister de l'Equipement des Transports et du Tourisme
Direction G?n?ral de L'Aviation Civile
D?l?gation R?gionale Provence
2 Aeroport


0033 4
Fax: 0033 4

The validation papers will be sent to you after your application has been approved and payment received.

Two of these items require further explanation.

Equivalence Medical Certificate

Pilots who already meet the LAPL, SPL or BPP requirements described above do not require an equivalence medical certificate and this section may be ignored. 

The medical regulations now require all pilots to undergo an ECG examination in addition to a formal medical examination. 

The medical certificate must be issued by the national aviation authority and, in the absence of a CAA Glider Pilot's Medical, the least costly route within the UK is to obtain a JAR or EU Class 2 medical. There are several tame CAA Authorised Medical Examiners in the country whose charges vary considerably, so if this is your preferred route, make enquiries first.

An alternative method, and one which we have used successfully over many years, is to obtain a French Class 2 Medical Certificate during a visit to France. The first step of the new process is to contact the doctor responsible for providing the ECG and arrange an examination. Having successfully overcome that hurdle, you will be provided with the electrocardiogram which you must take to the doctor responsible for conducting the remainder of the medical examination (the two processes are not necessarily conducted by the same person).

Assuming that you are successful, you will be provided with a yellow Glider Pilot's medical certificate; in addition, you may also be provided with a French Class 2 medical certificate. The costs at Sisteron during December 2008 were ?35 for the ECG and ?60 for the remainder of the medical. The certificate is valid for 2 years. 

Most French gliding clubs have details of local doctors who are able to provide these services. Note that it may no longer be as straightforward as it used to be to just turn up, do the medical and go and fly - some care is needed to coordinate the appointments. That said, we are assured that once the medical certificate is presented to the club, it will be faxed to the DGAC and then, provided they have your other details on file, a pilot equivalence will be faxed back to the club within 24 hours. 

For Pilots intending to fly from Sisteron, the following contact information may be useful:
ECG Examiner
Name: Dr Franck Sammani
Address: 22 avenue de la Lib?ration (next to Toyota garage on main road south of town centre) 
Tel: 0033 4 92 61 13 80
Fax: 0033 4 92 61 18 91
Please click here, entering 04 or 05 in the postcode section, for a list of local doctors. 
Flight Test

The Flight Test is mandatory for pilots new to the area. The test lasts a minimum of one hour and is intended to help pilots to orientate themselves with respect to the local mountains, to illustrate field landing options and to check general glider handling skills. The test is no more demanding than that one would expect in the UK but be warned that for pilots who clearly do not handle the glider safely or do not keep an adequate lookout (particularly important with the number of gliders to be expected in the Alps), the check flight will be far from a formality and further two-seater training will be offered and should be accepted.

The Flight Test would normally need to be repeated every year unless the pilot can prove (by means of a logbook) that he or she has flown more than 5 hours (yes, five) in the previous 12 months. This should not be a problem - any pilot unable to meet this requirement is likely to benefit considerably from a further check flight.

Bear in mind that the club needs our business and will do everything it can to enable us to fly. A visitor's glider sitting in its trailer is of no use to the club. We have always found the local authorities to be nothing less than helpful and understanding in dealing with and, on occasion, re-interpreting the rules. They are on our side.

2) Pilot Approval - French Glider Pilot's Licence (BPP)

It is expected that with the recent acceptance by the French DGAC of LAPL and SPL qualifications, it is unlikely that anyone will now choose the BPP route in order to fly in France, so this section has now been removed. 

Glider Validation

EASA gliders that have undergone the transition process are permitted to fly on presentation of its C of A, ARC and details of its insurance.
Annex II gliders are required to undergo a validation procedure, which requires a copy of the glider's BGA C of A. a fee of 50 euros and a note indicating where the glider is to be based and the relevant dates. Please click here for an application form and further information.

Safety Equipment


All French Alpine clubs require Flarm devices to be fitted to all gliders that fly from their airfields, including those of visitors. Flarm is an electronic device that warns of potential collisions and it works by interrogating Flarm units of nearby gliders and other aircraft. Any glider that does not carry Flarm will be 'invisible' to other Flarm units. Be aware that on a good soaring day, many gliders will be using the same ridge routes at high speed and, however good the visibility and however rigorous the pilot's lookout, they will not all be seen

See here for more details on Flarm.

Conspicuity Markings

It is mandatory for all gliders flying from French Alpine clubs to carry high-visibility anti-collision markings. An on-site shop offers self-adhesive marking strips for purchase by visiting pilots whose gliders are not adequately marked. Personal experience indicates 30 minutes should be allowed for fixing the marking strips. Pilots may also consider bringing with them an adequate stock of tape in advance of their holiday, in case local supplies run out.

Distress Radio Beacons

It is strongly recommended that pilots intending to fly in the Alps bring some form of Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), or similar, whether fixed or portable. It is very difficult to see a glider against mountain snow, even in the areas most visited by other gliders, and the use of a distress beacon will reduce considerably the search time for a downed pilot. To be injured and benighted at altitude on a mountainside is a life-threatening situation.  

More advice

John McCullagh has kindly prepared this invaluable and comprehensive guide to the nuts and bolts of flying from Sisteron and offers more general advice on what to look out for when flying in the mountains:

  Sisteron Briefing 2015 (pdf 15 kb)

Please take a look at this excellent document, prepared by Pierre Lemaire from the CNVV at St Auban, based on 70 years' worth of experience accumulated by St Auban instructors. If you have never flown in the mountains, or you have but wonder why you are still alive, it is essential reading.

 Safety In Mountain Flying (pdf 6.25Mb)

French Driving Regulations

From July 1st 2012 all vehicles driven in France must carry a breathalyser kit that meets French NF (French Laboratory) approval. It is recommended that a minimum of two kits should be carried: one to allow self-testing and the other unused one to comply with the regulations. Failure to carry an unused tube may result in a fine. You have been warned!

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High-visibility jackets are required to be carried and easily accessible in the event of vehicle breakdown - one for each person in the vehicle.     

Is there anything else?

Not really - just bring the necessary documents as described earlier, along with any other pilot documentation that you might have. The booking-in process at the club lasts 15 minutes and then there is little left to do but rig, have lunch, and fly!