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
- Excellent soaring conditions, especially south of
- Few limitations on cross-country
- Spectacular mountain scenery.
- Wonderful food and wine, to suit all tastes
- Plenty of activities and attractions for
The guidance notes given below
are believed to be valid as of May 22nd 2012 and are offered in good faith. Don't blame me if they are
in error or out-of-date!
What's The Problem, Anyway?
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.
Whilst previously turning a blind eye to the
anomaly that is the UK Glider Pilot, these days the French authorities have
taken the view that pilots from other EU states may only fly freely in France if they have a
state-issued licence and, in our case, this would mean a CAA Glider Pilot's Licence
(not one issued by some other authority like the BGA). The reasons the French
have taken this stance are in dispute but, as we are glider pilots and therefore
pragmatic by nature, let's deal with the situation as it stands.
It must be understood further that these
restrictions have not been at all welcomed by the instructors on the ground. We have
been flying at Sisteron for
years and are aware that many of the French clubs
manage to survive only on the custom provided by visitors. The last thing they
needed was a pile of bureaucracy from Paris. Fortunately, after negotiation, measures were
introduced by the French that would allow UK glider pilots to fly their own gliders in
France without the need for a UK PPL, and the following describes how this may
OK, This Paperwork, Then ...
These are the rules:
- If a pilot with a BGA Gliding Certificate wants to
fly solo in France, he/she must be given approval by the French Authorities.
- If a pilot wants to
fly solo in a French glider, he/she must hold a Glider Pilot's
Licence issued by a National Authority. The only exception is when flying
solo as a student pilot under instruction. There is currently no way around
- If an Annex II UK-registered
glider is to be flown in France, the glider must be provided with a French
Permit to Fly. EASA gliders do not require a Permit.
There are now two alternative processes available:
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
- A fee of 80 euros, payable
- 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: You must allow enough time for the Sisteron office to process your
application. A minimum of 10 days is required for the DGAC to process
your application. Further information may be required by the Sisteron
office, so simply sending your details just 10 days in advance of your
arrival may not guarantee that you will be allowed to fly. A lead time
of 30 days would be appreciated.
- 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:
REGIE AVANCES ET RECETTES
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.
Minister de l'Equipement des Transports et du Tourisme
Direction Général de L'Aviation Civile
Délégation Régionale Provence
13727 MARIGNANE - CEDEX
The validation papers will be sent to you
after your application has been
approved and payment received.
Two of these items require further
The medical regulations now
require all pilots to undergo an ECG examination in addition to a formal
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 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 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
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 DGAC 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
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.
Pilots intending to fly from Sisteron, the following contact information may be
|| 22 avenue de la Libération (next to Toyota garage
on main road south of town centre)
4 92 61 13 80
4 92 61 18 91
Place de l'Horloge (in the centre of Sisteron Town)
11.973N 05º 56.643E
that Dr Neuveux intends to retire by the end of 2011. Please click
entering 04 or 05 in the postcode section, for a list of local
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
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)
the extra hassle the Pilot Validation process causes the visiting UK pilot, the
Sisteron and Vinon clubs have offered an alternative in the form of half-day
courses designed to assist you in obtaining a French Glider Pilot's licence
Pilote de Planeur).
The process will
- Presentation of the documents listed
in the Pilot Approval section, in advance of your visit.
- An oral examination to assess your knowledge of gliding.
- A test flight.
- A one-off fee of 80
experienced pilot should have no trouble in passing the exam and the
test flight. The Sisteron team envisage that the entire process would be completed
in half a day, after which a temporary one-month pilot validation will
be provided, while the paperwork is sent off to the DGAC for processing.
The pilot will be able to start flying immediately, subject to the notes
The obvious advantage
is that there will no longer be any need to revisit the Pilot Validation
in the future (at least until EASA gets in the way). And a further
benefit is that some licence holders will be permitted to fly
CFI of the Sisteron club has requested that I post some clarifications in
respect of the BPP. These notes apply to pilots who do not possess a
PPL. The guidelines are more relaxed for PPL-holders.
- You must allow enough time for the Sisteron office to process your application. A minimum of 10 days is required for the DGAC to process your application. Further information may be required by the Sisteron office, so simply sending your details just 10 days in advance of your arrival may not guarantee that you will be allowed to fly. A lead time of 30 days would be appreciated.
- The exam that is
offered by Sisteron for the French Glider Pilots' Licence is available
only to pilots who are flying from the Sisteron club. The CFI is
unwilling to sign off licences for pilots from other clubs, whom he does
- The basic
privilege of the BPP allows the holder to fly locally, solo only (even
in the pilot's own glider).
- Further privileges
are dictated by French rules, which state that after the licence has
been granted, at least 10 hours of cross country training is required in
order to obtain authorisation to fly cross country. A further
flight-test is required after 50 hours following the granting of the French
in order to obtain authorisation to fly with a passenger. PPL holders
may fly cross-country with a passenger immediately after the licence has
- Given the above,
visitors may prefer the extra flexibility afforded by the annual Pilot
Equivalence over the potential benefits of the French Licence. Please allow the
CFI to manage your expectations by discussing with him well in advance
your gliding experience and your intentions during your
Feedback from a British pilot who has managed to obtain his Brevet de Pilote
de Planeur from the Vinon club is of the opinion that the process may take
substantially longer than the half-day quoted by the Sisteron team. If this is a
matter of concern for you, my advice would be to obtain the Pilot Equivalence as
described in paragraph 1 of this section and, if you are willing to take the
extra €80 hit, you could arrange to take the exam during your stay.
Please contact the club
direct for further details.
Anyone who would like to
practice their French comprehension can view this document on the licence
gliders are required to undergo a
validation procedure, which requires a copy of the glider's BGA C of
A. a fee of 20 euros and a note indicating where the glider is to be
based and the relevant dates, to be sent to:
50 Rue Henri Farman
75720 PARIS CEDEX
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.
for more details on Flarm.
It is mandatory for all gliders flying from French Alpine clubs to carry high-visibility
anti-collision markings. The Sisteron club now 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.
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.
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:
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.
New Driving Regulation: 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!
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!