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VFR Flying to Europe presentation 2012, and again 2024

It is under Articles / Tech Resources

I did this presentation earlier in 2012, at Shoreham.

From the feedback, it was well received, although at 2hrs I substantially underestimated how long it would take. It needs at least 3hrs.

I am "donating" it to EuroGA because I can't see myself doing it again. It is difficult to advertise this kind of thing because the obvious way to advertise it - posters at the flying schools at whichever airfield you are doing it at - does not elicit the slightest co-operation

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Great job. It looks really complete.

A few remarks though.

  • Make clear that the GAR form takes care of customs/immigration at the UK end only, and only under specific conditions (no transport of commercial goods for instance). If you cannot or will not want to use the GAR form, you've got to go through a customs airport at the UK end too. And isn't there some sort of project to submit your GAR form electronically now? (pg. 51)

  • I believe under the new ICAO FPL format, the DOF/ is now mandatory. So suggesting it's not a good idea, might not be a good idea (pg. 49).

  • As far as I know, your actual departure can be +/- 30 minutes from the filed departure time if VFR. So not 60 minutes late, but between 30 minutes early and 30 minutes late. (On the other hand, this may vary from country to country) (pg. 49)

  • Regarding pg. 60. A number of countries (including Denmark and the Netherlands; you can dig out the full list from the Eurocontrol site) have delegated the invoicing for Terminal ATC services to Eurocontrol. So despite your best efforts to pay all fees locally and immediately, the operator may be invoiced for "terminal control charges" via Eurocontrol weeks or even months later. Eurocontrol has local bank accounts in most countries, including the UK, so you can pay without incurring significant transaction fees, but for rented aircraft it might be a good idea to inform the operator beforehand that this invoice will be coming. (Note that there may be landing charges and take-off charges, charged separately. Sometimes an out-of-hours takeoff has a different rate than normal, that's why the take-off is not included in the landing. And note that these are not the same as the Eurocontrol enroute charges, where VFR and IFR < 2000 kg MTOM is exempt.)

  • Regarding pg. 64. What I'm missing here is a discussion on the Eurocontrol computer that validates your IFR routes. "IFPS rerouting accepted" and stuff like that can help you generate a valid route.

  • Pg. 66. If you have a PADI oxygen handler certificate (or whatever it's called), getting a refill at a scuba shop becomes much easier, or so I've heard. And these certificates can apparently be had without actually getting a divers license.

  • Pg. 68. Apparently if you include a cover letter with your bank account details together with the drawback form, you can get HMRC to deposit the drawback directly into your bank account, instead of cutting you a check. That may be more convenient if you live in the UK, but is absolutely vital if you don't have a UK bank account, since cashing the check through a foreign bank will cost a lot of money in itself.

  • Pg. 69. I realize that you cannot cover the full decision making process on this page, but the legal requirement (according to EASA; I can dig out the link if you need to) is actually provide life vests - and common sense dictates that these should be worn instead of just being avialable. All other safety equipment (drysuits; life raft; RescueStreamer; PLB; signal mirror etc.) is left to the discretion of the PIC.

  • What I'm missing is the tip to avoid "mandatory handling" from a commercial handler, by contacting a local flying club and see if they can do the handling for you.

  • Pg. 73.

Now all we need is a counter-presentation "flying to the UK"... :-)

Good points.

I am sure that as time goes on, a lot of details can be updated.

The EASA stuff is particularly impenetrable, and is changing as we speak. The only person who understands it is bookworm - maybe he will be along later

But anyway different countries ignore different bits of it. To be honest I don't think even most European CAAs have the staff capable of understanding the thousands of pages.

What I'm missing here is a discussion on the Eurocontrol computer that validates your IFR routes

It's a VFR presentation

IFR is much easier, though the main benefit of an IR is realised only with an aircraft of reasonable performance.

If you cannot or will not want to use the GAR form, you've got to go through a customs airport at the UK end too

You may need to do the GAR even if going through a Customs airport in the UK - depending on details. For example, Ireland to Shoreham (EGKA) needs the GAR (12hrs before) even though EGKA is Customs PNR.

If you have a PADI oxygen handler certificate (or whatever it's called), getting a refill at a scuba shop becomes much easier, or so I've heard

That's been claimed, and could well be right, but my experience (scuba shops in Sussex, UK) is that if you get somebody at the shop who is sufficiently anally retarded he will say "this is for aviation, isn't it... NO we can't do that". I've had that. The issue appears to arise because the cylinder is obviously not a scuba cylinder and you are bringing some sort of refill adaptor (almost no scuba shop can refill a cylinder with the standard US '540 thread, without an adaptor of some sort). Otherwise, you could just confidently walk in and bluff them

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I don't understand the scuba shop argument. Which scuba shop carries pure oxygen and for which purpose? Scuba divers use normal compressed air or enriched air (Nitrox) but to my knowledge never pure oxygen.

@ achim Many scuba shops do carry oxygen for rebreather diving. Oxygen is a regulated gas in UK, and some scuba shops don't touch aviation cylinders. A DIN connector is preferable to a US CGA 540 if you want them to refill it.

@ peter I put my comments on ppl/ir.

United Kingdom

Many scuba shops do carry oxygen for rebreather diving.

It's this kind of system.

A DIN connector is preferable to a US CGA 540 if you want them to refill it.

There are pros and cons to both, and different people are able to sort out different arrangements locally. Also what you can get locally may vary over time; for example during the 10 years I've been using O2 I was able to get O2 refills for a year or two. Eventually I got fed up with the bull I was getting from the scuba shops and rented the BOC cylinder and together with the large "48 cu ft" carbon/kevlar cylinders I now fly with, all the refilling hassles have vanished, and I certainly don't miss them!

I use welding oxygen which is the same as any other oxygen (they are all made with the same process; only the paperwork differs) and (for obvious reasons to do with the sort of people working in that business) the welding gas supply scene is totally unregulated. If you do what I do i.e. take the old cylinder back to the gas depot yourself for a swap for a new one (which I do once a year or two) no questions will ever be asked. Loads and loads of private individuals have cylinders at home for e.g. making jewellery. If OTOH you asked BOC to deliver it to your house, they might get a bit funny about it - and also you pay for that service.

I put my comments on ppl/ir.

You should post them here That is a closed forum, members only. About 10x to 100x more people will see stuff here.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It's not just for rebreathers. Scuba shops have pure oxygen available to mix Nitrox on the spot to whatever percentage you need. I believe mixing and testing the mixture for the right O2% is actually part of the Nitrox course even.

Oh, and the dive community is also big on offering pure oxygen, no questions asked, to any victim of a decompression accident. So any rescue diver needs to learn how to handle 100% O2 cylinders for that purpose.

On the other hand, the diving community is pretty conservative about cylinder testing and inspections, and the diving community is pretty much limited to using alu or metal cylinders - weight is not so much an issue underwater as it is in aviation. So if you drop in to a scuba shop with your newfangled carbon fiber lightweight aviation O2 cylinder, in which you can't even stamp the testing markings but need to use a sticker to identify the date of last test, and an adapter to hook it up to their system, I can well understand they get a bit apprehensive.

One thing which has been claimed elsewhere in relation to this subject is that while Switzerland is in Schengen, it is not in the EU, so while (if I understand it correctly) there is free movement in people there isn't free movement in goods (e.g. vehicles).

It is alleged (but few details provided) that a pilot wishing to take advantage of Switzerland's Schengen status and thus

  • flying into Switzerland, having departed from a non Customs airport, or
  • flying out of Switzerland, into a non Customs airport

is liable to a €500 fine and also paying import duty and VAT, even though the aircraft already has a VAT-paid status in the EU.

The name of the rule has been reported as "Zollflugplatzzwang". There are google hits but only in German. One partly readable translation is here. On a quick read I don't see anything particularly earth-shattering there, given that "EU status" is partially meaningless for international travel which still requires a Customs airport, it is in any case impossible to depart for Switzerland from a non-Customs airport (at any officially-manned airport they won't let you do it because it is non EU) and it is likewise impossible to do the opposite for the same reason.

I have always had suspicions about Switzerland's Schengen status being a bit ambiguous but never had to test it because the "other end" would have never allowed the flight anyway.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom


it's quite simple: Switzerland is not part of the customs union so when traveling to / from Switzerland, you have to clear customs. Schengen in this context is mostly meaningful to 3rd country citizens that don't need an extra visa for Switzerland.

If you fly e.g. from Germany to Switzerland and you do that from a non customs airfield to a non customs airfield, you violate the law of both countries and you can be fined. When you walk across the DE/CH border, you do clear customs because both the German and the Swiss customs will be there looking at you. The same applies when using the car (when crossing the DE/FR border, there isn't anything but a sign that you are now in France). When using the train, first German officers bord the train and look at what you carry, then Swiss officers. Switzerland is not in a customs union with any other country (but Liechtenstein) so there is no away around clearing customs.

Until not too long ago -- before Switzerland started to change its business model from gray to white -- it was quite common esp. in France and also in Germany to fly your private airplane to Switzerland loaded with cash. Such flights obviously started at small airfields, without flight plan. Switzerland would not prosecute such violations (see business model) and the other countries would simply not know about them.

There is one theoretical difference between customs (EU) and immigration (Schengen) checks. They can be carried out by different police units. If you fly from e.g. Russia to Frankfurt, you first go through immigration (Bundespolizei -- Federal Police, formally called Bundesgrenzschutz) and then clear customs (Zoll). When flying from DE to CH, an officer of Zoll would have to come but when flying from DE to Croatia, an additional officer from Bundespolizei would be required. Luckily, the law allows the Zoll (which is present throughout the country due to highway traffic surveillance) to carry out immigration duties for small airfields. So from a private pilot point of view, Schengen/customs are the same thing -- unless both are met, you have to go through the same entry procedure. The exception is of course the UK with their excellent GAR policy. That would be something Schengen and Switzerland should adopt.

Any preparing breathing mixes for diving (nitrox or trimix or heliox) includes handling O2 - if you find anyone who does that, he can fill your oxygen tank. Caution in handling pure oxygen is necesarry because it can start fire during transfilling if O2 incompatible materials and lubricants are used in attached hoses, regulators and pressure gauges.

Different fittings come from some EU bureaucracy when people who know nothing about diving and safety decided that different fittings would prevent somebody from breathing wrong gas at wrong depth.

BTW pure oxygen in diving is also used as decompression gas - we breath it during (last) deco stop at 6m below surface to accelerate decompression.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia
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