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Help understand the best option for flying around Europe - LSA or UL

Hi All,

Getting ready to finally finish converting my non EU license and buy a plane. I ready the 600KG discussion here and got more confused. My goal is to do long distance flying a few times a year and trying to understand what would work best for me. I am looking for LSA or UL, not GA aircraft.

I hear conflicting info on restrictions for “regular” UL vs 600KG vs LSA on entering/flying over certain countries. I live in Portugal now but was told by a few schools here to go get a French ULM license since it is much better and register my plane there. I can only do that by converting my current license to a PPL/LAPL since France doesn’t offer the written exam in English and I don’t speak French well.

Flying from Portugal over Spain is restricted to 1000f AGL which in summer must suck with thermals so I was told to go for LSA but then, can’t do your own maintenance like a french register ULM?? Is it true?

Anyway, would love to hear from others who actually fly cross country sometimes in UL or LSA what is a suitable solution between cost and restrictions.

Portugal

Best of luck! – you’ll need it.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I came to the conclusion that “flying to go somewhere” in Europe is next to impossible. You have to REALLY want to – as a few of the people on here do. All strength to them, but it’s a lot of work. If you’re VFR (which you obviously will be) you need to know the quirks and wrinkles of the rules and airspace for every single country to intend to fly through and even more so, to land in. The only one I know well is France, and believe me, there’s a lot to know that is unique to France.

That’s ignoring the weather, which is likely to leave you stranded for days if you try to do a multi-day trip.

LFMD, France

I fly certified, mostly IFR on my long cross countries (>500nm), though I have gotten lucky with weather and done a few VFR. I won’t be much help, except to say I’m interested in hearing from people who do this. I’m intrigued by the many fast ULs on the market which seem really well suited for traveling with one or two people, but the various limitations and restriction to VFR only seem like big drawbacks. Maybe less so in southern Europe where the weather is more favorable.

EHRD, Netherlands

I have to wonder. Why do people bother when there are so many rules and regulations made seemingly with the only intention of making life miserable for GA pilots? Is it that bad in “Europe” ? If it was, I would for sure stop flying

But then I live in Scandinavia where the flying is easy (and the weather is bad)

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

Maybe less so in southern Europe where the weather is more favorable.

Pah! Oh yes, right, the sun never stops shining on the Cote d’Azur. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun, etc. :-)

The reality is that even on the Cote d’Azur, while it is often sunny, non-VFR clouds are pretty common too, especially towards the end of the day. Try to go west (and there’s not much choice if you want to stay in France, Nice is geographically more in Italy) and this sort of mixed weather, changing several times during the day, becomes more and more common.

In the south-west, where we spend quite a lot of time, weather forecasts are barely useful 6 hours out, never mind 24. The forecast says sunny all day in the morning, and by 3 it’s pouring. Or vice versa.

LFMD, France

I don’t think LSA or UL can do IFR in Europe. UL definitely not. LSA IFR thread.

Next, review the Ultralight international privileges thread.

I don’t know anything about an LSA version of the above.

Other than the above, yes you can fly VFR all over Europe. It has always been possible – I have some 2003/2004/2005 VFR trip writeups here which are as long as anybody is likely to want to do. Today, VFR is easier than it used to be because the satnav tools are very good. Against that you have the ever growing matrix of job-creation / job-protection hassle like this but again the satnav apps make digging out notams easy enough.

IFR, if it were possible, would not help much in the aircraft types in question, due to performance, ice protection, etc. and would expose you to Eurocontrol slots (CTOTs) which are departure delays caused mostly by ATC strikes. CTOTs are avoided by going VFR.

Weather remains the biggest variable on long legs, simply because it is likely to vary over the distance. But, again, we are fortunate in having windy.com which gives a great visualisation but far more importantly has access to the ECMWF weather model. European weather models have for decades been a commercial secret.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thank you everyone for the input so far. I understand the weather limitation and can deal with that since we are flexible and don’t have to be back at work on a certain day.

I was more curious on the actual VFR flight limitation for controlled air space, height etc. I can deal with the cost of the “permit to fly” in some countries.

Portugal

Generally VFR OCAS works fine but you must do a narrow route notam briefing, or the satnav app equivalent because ATC is not looking after you when VFR. They might but there is no obligation.

The gotchas are in CAS transits and there are countless different ATC policies around. For example Swiss ATC will probably not let you into its Class C (FL130+) over the Alps, so you end up flying quite close to the peaks (ok in light winds). France bans VFR in a large chunk of N E France above FL115. Various previous threads on these.

In France VFR works well with ATC doing easy CAS clearances mostly, but they will still leave you to bust the vast amount of mil / prohibited areas.

The above is regardless of certified or not.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I was more curious on the actual VFR flight limitation for controlled air space, height etc.

This is exactly what varies completely from country to country. In France it’s a serious challenge to find an altitude that works along a whole flight – you’ll have some “restricted” (but maybe perfectly usable) airspace from say FL95 – 3000, followed by a Class C that they may or may not let you into from 4500-1000.

I know very little about other countries, although Italy looks like a nightmare even compared to France. But you also need local knowledge. For example, experienced French pilots will tell you, just plan what you want, avoiding obvious no-nos like prohibited areas and overhead busy airports, and ask nicely. Most of the time you’ll get the clearance you need. But not always – round here there are two restricted areas next to each other. One you will almost always get into, maybe at a specified altitude, while the other you will almost never get into. You just have to know. Rinse and repeat for 30+ countries all doing things their own way.

LFMD, France

LSA = EASA Certified, Day VFR, No permits

A Light Sport Airplane (LSA) is a simple two-seater with a maximum take-off weight of 600kg based on certification specifications CS-LSA published in 2011.

UL = National airworthiness, Uncertified, Day VFR, Permits acc. each country’s rules

To give you an example:

You can’t simply fly over another country in an UL. It might be allowed, it might be not. What people do in practice is a different story.

always learning
LO__, Austria
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