Last update: 10/11/2022
1 - Regulatory framework
Civil aeronautical activities in France are governed by the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), which contains aeronautical information about to the territory of metropolitan France and the overseas departments and territories, as well as the portions of the airspace above the high seas in which France has agreed to provide air traffic services.
The Civil Aviation Authority in France is the Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile (DGAC). This Directorate pertains to the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Sea.
The AIP France is published by the SIA (Service de l'Information Aéronautique), a body responsible for French aeronautical information under the Directorate of Operations within the DGAC.
The AIP France is available here: https://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr
This publication is available free of charge in French, accompanied by an English translation. However, only the text published in French has official value. The update is done through bulletins (BMJ, Bulletins de Mise à Jour) at each AIRAC cycle change.
2 - The French airspace
French airspace is structured into flight information regions:
- FIR (Flight Information Region): this space extends from the surface (SFC) to the FL195 included
- UIR (Upper Information Region): this space extends above FL195
Air traffic services are provided in the airspace of Metropolitan France, the management of which has been entrusted to France by ICAO and which includes:
- Bordeaux FIR (LFBB)
- Reims FIR (LFEE)
- Paris FIR (LFFF)
- Marseille FIR (LFMM)
- Brest FIR (LFRR)
- France UIR
Each FIR (as well as the corresponding UIR airspace) is managed by an en route control centre (CRNA, Centre en Route de la Navigation Aérienne) and includes controlled and uncontrolled areas, defined by airspace classes.
Air traffic services
The airspace within which French authorities provide Air Traffic Services (ATS) are organised according to the services provided to VFR and IFR flights. These services are:
In France, there are only controlled spaces of class A, C, D and E and uncontrolled airspaces of class G. Class B and F airspaces are not used.
- Upper Traffic Area (UTA) located between FL195 and FL660. It is a class C airspace.
- Lower Control Areas (LTAs) located between the higher of the two following levels FL115 or 3000 ft ASFC and FL195. These are class D areas with the exception of the mountainous regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Verdon) and the airspace above the high seas (beyond 12 NM from the coast), which are class E airspaces.
- Control Areas (CTAs) located in FIR space, these are class D airspaces.
- Airways (AWYs). In the FIR airspace, the AWYs are class E airspaces from the airway minimum level to FL115 and class D from FL115 to FL195. In UIR airspace, AWYs are class C airspaces.
- Terminal Manoeuvring Areas (TMAs). These are class A (TMA Paris), C, D or E airspaces.
- Control Traffic Regions (CTRs). These are class D airspaces.
- The UIR airspace above the UTA is an uncontrolled G class airspace.
- The flight information regions (FIRs) of metropolitan France are class G airspaces excluding controlled regions and zones.
Flight Information Sectors
The flight information service, like the alert service, is provided in all airspaces, whatever their class.
In controlled airspaces, it is provided in accordance with the airspace class concerned by the air traffic control operators or by a Flight Information Centre (CIV, Centre d’Information de Vol).
In uncontrolled airspace, it is provided within:
- Flight information centres (CIV), associated to en route control centres
- Flight Information sectors (SIV), associated to terminal control centres (approaches)
- AFIS (Aerodrome Flight Information Service)
Dangerous areas (D) and temporary dangerous areas (ZDT)
These are portions of the airspace where the air traffic authority indicates that operations (civilian or military) may pose a hazard to aircraft, its occupants or the environment. When they are permanent, they are indicated on the charts by the letter D, followed by an identification number of the zone. When they are temporary, their creation, location and validity are communicated by NOTAM or in the SUP AIP.
In IVAO France division, permanent and temporary dangerous areas are not active, unless explicitly indicated by NOTAM in the context of division-specific events or activities.
Restricted areas (R) and temporary restricted areas (ZRT)
These are portions of the airspace of which the air traffic control authority may restrict or regulate penetration under specific conditions. When they are permanent, they are indicated on the charts by the letter R, followed by an identification number of the zone. When they are temporary, their creation, location and validity are communicated by NOTAM or in the SUP AIP. The activation of the R and ZRT zones is communicated by the air traffic control authority.
In IVAO France division, permanent and temporary restricted areas are not active, unless explicitly indicated by NOTAM in the context of division-specific events or activities.
Prohibited areas (P) and temporary prohibited areas (ZIT)
These are portions of the airspace whose air traffic control authority prohibits entry, except in special conditions, and for security reasons (nuclear power plants and sensitive industrial sites, military bases, the city of Paris, etc.). These zones are indicated on the charts by the letter P, followed by an identification number of the zone. When they are temporary, their creation, location and validity are communicated by NOTAM or in the SUP AIP.
In IVAO France division, only permanent prohibited areas are active. ZITs may be instituted by NOTAM as part of division-specific events or activities.
Manoeuvring and training areas (TSA et CBA)
These are portions of the airspace manageable by the Cellule Nationale de Gestion de l’espace aérien (CNGE).
They are called:
- Temporary Segregated Areas (TSA): airspace of defined dimensions reserved for the exclusive use of specific users for a specified period of time
- Cross Border Areas (CBA): TSA airspaces established across international boundaries to meet specific operational needs
Their creation, location and validity are communicated by NOTAM or in the SUP AIP.
In IVAO France division, TSAs and CBAs are not active, unless explicitly indicated by NOTAM in the context of division-specific events or activities.
Warning: in all airspaces, regardless of their class, the speed limit is 250 kt below FL100.
3 - Radio communication
In France, radio communications between pilots (on air-to-air frequencies) or between pilots and ATC (on frequencies of air traffic control units) can be carried out in both English and French.
It is reminded that any communication on UNICOM must be made necessarily in English.
3.1 - UNICOM Vocal
Vocal UNICOM is used to convey intentions in the same way as with the text version, as indicated in the rule 2.3.6.
In France, French can be used, but english remains mandatory from the moment when at least one traffic in the zone does not master the local language, in accordance with the rule 2.1
More information here : Practical sheet for Voice UNICOM
4 - VFR rule specificities
VFR (Visual Flight Rule) flights must be performed under specific conditions of visibility and distance to clouds (VMC, Visual Meteorological Conditions).
When VMC are considered to be absent and in all cases where the ground visibility is less than 5 km or the cloud ceiling is less than 1500 ft, a Special VFR (SVFR) clearance is required to enter or evolve in the circuit of an aerodrome located in a controlled area.
A night VFR flight may only be conducted to and from approved aerodromes and in particular meteorological conditions.
Within the IVAO France Division, given the possibilities offered by flight simulators, VFR flight is always permitted, regardless of the weather conditions and flight time used in the simulator. However, during division-specific activities, VFR flight may be prohibited depending on weather conditions and time of flight.
It is recalled that in order to enter and operate in class C or D controlled airspace, an aircraft in VFR flight must obtain clearance.
VFR flight is strictly forbidden in class A spaces, except in case of derogation
Maritime overflights (Mediterranean and English Channel) under VFR rules are subject to specific compulsory routes.
5 - Mandatory equipment
In VFR flight, the mandatory equipment is (the letter in parenthesis corresponds to the type of equipment in the flight plan):
- VHF radio equipment (V) with 8.33 kHz (Y) spacing capability for any flight in controlled airspace
- Radio navigation instruments (VOR, VOR /DME, ADF, GPS,...) in case of loss of sight of the ground (VFR on top, night VFR) or compulsory routes
- Mode C transponder in controlled airspace or in night flight
In IFR flight, the mandatory equipment is (the letter in parenthesis corresponds to the type of equipment in the flight plan):
- VHF radio equipment (V) with 8.33 kHz (Y) spacing capability
- Radio navigation instruments (VOR, VOR/DME, ADF, GPS, IRS,...) allowing, for more than 95% of the time, to follow the nominal axis of the road without departing beyond a distance of 5 NM or 5% of the length of the road
- RNAV (R) capability, specified by PBN in case 18 (Remarks), for any flight above FL115
- RVSM (W) capability for any flight between FL290 and FL410
- Mode S transponder
On IVAO, any aircraft must be equipped with a transponder (from mode A). N mode is not allowed
Any aircraft with a maximum certificated take-off weight greater than 5700 kg or when the maximum approved passenger seating configuration is greater than 19 shall carry an Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS).
6 - Altitudes and flight levels
For any VFR flight, minimum flyover altitudes are:
|Countryside, isolated house, obstacle||500 ft|
|Park or nature reserve, installation bearing a specific mark||1000 ft|
|Urban area with a diameter of less than1200 m|
1700 ft (single-engine)
3300 ft (multi-engine)
|Urban area with a diameter greater than 1200 m and less than 3600 m ||3300 ft|
Urban area with a diameter greater than 3600 m
Under VFR, the maximum level that can be used is FL195.
Under IFR, the minimum altitude or flight level must be at least 1000 ft above the highest obstacle within an 8 km radius of the estimated aircraft position. This value is raised to 2000 ft in hilly or mountainous regions.
7 - Altimeter setting
The altimeter setting procedures applied in France include:
- Transition Altitude (TA) set for each TMA and published on the IAC charts of aerodromes within the TMA as well as those of aerodromes below the TMA when the minimum holding altitude is above the minimum altitude of the TMA. In France, the TA is usually 5000 ft
- Transition Level (TRL) determined by the approach controller according to the atmospheric pressure measurements (QNH) performed by the aerodrome weather station. This is the first IFR flight level at least 1000 ft above transition altitude
- Transition layer (airspace between the transition altitude and the transition level) of a thickness strictly greater than 1000 ft
- Local QNH setting (rounded down to the nearest integer hPa) below the transition altitude (TA) or, outside the terminal control regions, below 3000 ft AGL - Altitude setting
- Standard setting (1013,2 hPa) above transition level (TRL) - Flight level setting
- In the transition layer (between the TA and the TRL) no level flight, standard setting during climb and local QNH setting during descent
- Local QFE setting possible only during approach or in the aerodrome circuit - Height setting
8 - Semi-circular rule
The semi-circular rule defines the altitude/flight level usable parity according to the magnetic route. It is applied from 3000 ft AGL, both in VFR and IFR and off airways (which have their specific parity).
In France, the semi-circular rule to be applied follows the standard East/West declination:
- "East" Magnetic route (000° < Rm < 179°): ODD altitude/flight level (A035, A055, FL75, FL95, etc. in VFR; A030, A050, FL70, FL90, etc. in IFR)
- "West" Magnetic route (180° < Rm < 359°): EVEN altitude/flight level (A045, A065, FL85, FL105, etc. in VFR; A040, A060, FL80, FL100, etc. in IFR)
The airways (AWY), both in the lower airspace and in the upper airspace, have a published parity. In France, the majority of airways have a published parity that follows the standard North/South declination.
The cruise level is free below 3000 ft AGL.
Compliance with the semi-circular rule and airway parities is mandatory in the absence of air traffic control. In the presence of control, the altitude or flight level to be used are assigned by ATC.
9 - RVSM airspace
In France, the UIR airspace between FL290 and FL410 is a reduced vertical separation airspace (RVSM, Reduced Vertical Separation Minima). The FIR airspaces and the UIR airspace below FL290 and above FL410 are conventional vertical separation airspaces (CVSM, Conventional Vertical Separation Minima).
It is recalled that vertical separation minima in CVSM airspace are 1000 ft below FL290 and 2000 ft above FL290. In RVSM airspace, the vertical separation is reduced to 1000 ft.
10 - SSR codes
SSR codes are assigned by air traffic control.
In the absence of ATC instructions:
- VFR flights can use standard code 7000
- IFR flights can use standard code 1000
11 - Units
The units of measurement used in French aviation are indicated below:
- Distance: nautical miles (NM)
- Height, altitude, flight level: feet (ft)
- Horizontal aeronautical speed: knots (kt)
- Vertical Aeronautical Speed: feet per minute (ft/min)
- Wind direction: sexagesimal degrees (°)
- Wind intensity: knots (kt)
- Horizontal visibility: kilometres (km)
- Temperature: degrees Celsius (°C)
- Pressure: hectoPascal (hPa)
12 - Aeronautical charts
French aeronautical charts are available free of charge on the SIA website:
- For metropolitan France: eAIP FRANCE and Atlas VAC FRANCE sections
- For the French West Indies and French territories in South and North America: eAIP CAR SAM NAM section
- For the French territories of the Pacific Islands, excluding French Polynesia: eAIP PAC N section
- For French Polynesia: eAIP PAC P section
- For the French territories of the Indian Ocean (Reunion Island, Mayotte): eAIP RUN section
The 1/500.000 OACI-IGN chart metropolitan France is available free of charge here: