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Flying a microlight from Germany into Italy.

I found some solid comments in a discussion on the German microlight forum I frequent, and with the author’s explicit consent translated it to the best of my ability. The original discussion is at

I hope it will help to get some more microlighters take interest in this forum, we have been sadly few up till now. Though there seem to be no helicopter pilots around at all, that’s even sadder.

I had to use strings of ‘x’ to indicate footnotes; the website software did weird things to the ‘*’ and ‘^’ that I tried first. Doesn’t like strings of ‘=’ either, apparently. Why can’t life/things be simple and straightforward?

= Original message from “W. Fischer” =

Based in Southern Germany, I flew into Italy several times over the last years. I also spent a couple of hours in the Italian skies in an instructor’s company. Last year, I had my first experiences under the “Avanzato” status.

First I must remark that, as a foreign pilot, either “Basico” or “Avanzato”, one is always in a kind of grey zone. Whoever wants absolute 100% legal coverage should not fly in Italy under these conditions. As I mostly flew transit through Switzerland, it was only possible with a flight plan to the first destination. x “Basico” or “Avanzato” doesn’t make a difference. That was never a cause of trouble, I had closed the flight plan with a phone call to the Swiss AIS, or entered it there through the internet. Via Austria there is even no need for a flight plan. If the first destination is an “airfield” xx one needs to be under the “Avanzato” status. (example is Marina di Campo on the Elba island). On site, however, nobody cares if one is a foreign Avanzato, as long as all goes well.

On the other hand, there are so many nice, well located Aviosuperficie and Campi di Volo that there is no real need to aim for an Aeroporto. With good preparation I can get in Toscana, or even beyond, without any airspace violations (even when these are tolerated, to a certain degree, they are not legal). You can also fly over the tops of the mountains, simply respect the ground clearance (AGL) and the airspace above.

The web page “Fliegen in Italien” xxx gives useful hints, and answers many questions. For example, when flying as “Avanzato”, one must even in G-class airspace communicate with an “Info” service (which is contrary to ICAO guidelines, I must get used to it). Flying as a Basico, one cannot communicate with any service. Given the amount of controlled airspace, ATC will have the Avanzato fly quite low, much reducing the difference with Basico flying. Only the continuous “nerving” with ATC is not everybody’s pleasure, and might cause stress, or divert one’s attention from matters more important. Meteo information is also to be taken with some reserve, as there are mountains… and clouds.

I could write much more, great flying, great hospitality, but with a German microlight it is never really legal… That is why I always prepare flights with great care (one should always be clearly aware what class of airspace one is flying in, in Italy). ATC will often try to force one onto the published VFR routes, in my opinion this leads to high flight density, with the associated risks (also near VOR’s). Fuel planning needs care, too: only few fields have fuel, but there do be some.

If/when I fly there again this year, I will fly my first stretch on a flight plan, to some place in the Po Valley; continuing at leisure as “Basico”. This, and “if at all”, is anybody’s own personal decision.

= later comment from the same author =

Flight plan: I always fly to Italy from Bremgarten EDTG. Switzerland wants a flight plan for transit, and if one lands there they also require immigration check (hence my transit). Within the EU, the toll Union is in effect (not to be confused with Schengen), thus one can fly directly from Germany to anywhere in Italy. I always filed the flight plan through Homebriefing, as required with point of departure, routing, and destination; destination is the first Italian field. A/C category is irrelevant. For further flying inside Italy, no flight plan is required. The flight plan is checked by the authority that received it, and approved (or not, in case of errors or incomplete). The flight plan can only be closed when the destination runway is in sight., or after landing. Or you can close it yourself with a mobile phone call to the registering office, if one forgets things can get expensive…

In the reverse case, I file the flight plan from my departure field per internet, when it is confirmed I can take off. Immediately before, or just after take-off through the Info service, activate the flight plan. Or even per mobile phone with the registering office, an Aviosuperficie has no Info service… At first I feared this could bring trouble, however it has always worked, for example the the Swiss/Austrian AIS. Of course one can always check the Alpine weather before starting, and wait if/as required.

Remark: though I have had a “mountain flying primer” (“Alpeneinweisung”) I take great care there, and only fly there with “Oskar” xxxx . I simply have insufficient knowledge of all those valleys; I therefore judge it better for myself to fly “sufficiently high” rather than “low, under the weather” in the valleys. Whenever possible, I fly the same route, which is the St. Gotthard, with alternates well prepared. In the Ticino area, take care of the Locarno TMA, and next of the Lugano CTR (remain above 6500’ AMSL); after, near Chiasso, descend into the thin of the Po Valley, until 500-100 AGL) xxxxx . Looks worse than it really is, but mind the Como zone. In the Po Valley, there is often Class A up from 2000’ AGL! There is a wide corridor between Milan’s two airports, it can be legally flown. Jeppesen charts are really useful in Italy.

All this of course applies equally to the Apennine region, which also has its clouds, so always check the weather. Mostly, I fly from La Spezia directly into the sea; this also requires a rather firm descent after the mountains, and there’s a couple of airspace zones to take care of. There is another option, though, straight south from Genova, if the Apennine is difficult.

I do not completely share the concerns about “poorer climb performance” with the faster microlights, mountain flying requires different tactics anyway, with full fuel and two persons on board.xxxxxx For one example, the CT is not exactly the slowest microlight around; it is not really a problem, as external factors like weather are much more demanding anyway. Also, we are not on a black/white scale of climbing or descending, a certain radius to the highest point applies to our flying heigth (AGL); and, taking the aircraft into mind, be one step ahead on reading the map.

Die Befürchtungen des “schlechteren Steigradianten” bei schnelleren Ul?s teile ich nicht unbedingt, in den Bergen muss ja schon taktisch anders geflogen werden wenn man z.B. vollgedankt und mit 2 Personen besetzt ist (Gewicht). Z.B. die CT ist auch nicht gerade das langsamste UL, eigentlich kein Problem, denn die äusseren Einflüsse z.B. des Wetters fordern da schon viel mehr ab. Ausserdem bewegen wir uns ja nicht digital im Steigen und Sinken, deshalb gilt für die Flughöhe (AGL) ein gewisser Radius zur höchsten Erhebung, und auch immer dem Flieger gedanklich mit der Karte etwas voraus sein.

A good “first destination” in the Po Valley is for me Mezzana Bigli, near Pavia. There is a nice long grass runway, Mogas pump, and nice people (as mostly everywhere in Italy). It also is the base for the “Gruppo Nando”, who make the Trial, and operate the fuel pump. Of course plan plenty of time, the pump is not a self service and it can take some while for somebody with a key to turn up; but I have never “taken root” there.

Much more could be written, a good GPS and the Avioportolano are also very useful, even if they have their price.


Translator’s comments:

x filing a flight plan may be routine to most pilots on this forum, but it is very exceptional to the average German microlighter. Most of them never leave their own FIR anyway, andf there is surprisingly little controlled airspace; even those few that do fly abroad need not always file a flight plan, there are exemptions to several neighbour countries.

xx aerodromes in Italy fall into three categories: “aeroporto”, “aviosuperficie”, “campo di volo”. Under the “basico” status, one is restricted to the “Campi di Volo”; “Avanzati” can also use the “Aviosuperficie”.

xxx whose author is well known round here ;-)

xxxx the meaning of this “OSKAR” is unclear to me, but probably corresponds to “CAVOK

xxxxx I copy the original, but suspect a typo. 500-1000_ AGL is scary enough.

xxxxxx This section is not fully clear to me, so I am only translating, stepping aside as an aviator. My experience/knowledge of mountain flying is zero, by way of excuse. I left the original text, in italics, for reference; and sincerely hope I am not sounding/looking like a cheapo copy of g__gl_ tr_ns_l_t_ …

xxxxxxx Italy discerns microlights into two classes, which makes sense to me. One begins as a “Basico”, but can fly as “Avanzato” if both plane and craft meet certain requirements. The plane wants radio, transponder, ELT, and perhaps more; the Italian pilot must have passed a separate test. Unclear how a foreign pilot can legally comply.

Last Edited by at 03 Feb 18:14
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

Great stuff Jan.

I am off to Italy tomorrow accompanying a friend who intends to buy a microlight near Rome. We are considering flying it back to Lithuania. This particular aircraft does not have a transponder, so it is definitely not an Avanzato. I have spoken to the seller on the phone and he told me he had flown the airplane to Czech Republic a few times – which is my general direction – so it apparently can be done even under Basico.

Will report after I meet the guy and find out more. If my friend buys the aircraft and we fly it back I will let know how it went.

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