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Flying in France: IGN 1/500 000 charts up to FL115

As you prolly know, the IGN 1/500 000 charts are currently limited to 5000 AMSL / 2000 ASFC.

With effect from spring 2013 it looks as though they're to be extended up to FL115.

Is this a good thing? I'm not sure: for those of us on low and local bimbles, the 1/500 000 charts are going to be more cluttered...

More info (in French)


When flying in France, I use a combination of the IGN half mil and the one mil from "Documents VFR." I think the current IGN half mils are excellent compared with the CAA equivalent (which cover up to FL195) because of their lack of clutter. They even include electricity pylons which would be entirely unimaginable on the UK charts!

However, it's a drag to need 2 sets of charts, so I can see both sides. I expect the new charts will be harder to use for 80% of flights, like the UK ones.

Do you know anything about the reason for the change?

EGBJ / Gloucestershire

I have a bit of a contrary view, because I have always felt the 5000ft limit on the IGNs robs the pilot of the best long distance flying options for France, which is to fly higher up, in the extensive Class E airspace (which UK pilots often call "French airways" but being Class E it is uncontrolled airspace for VFR).

The base of this airspace is mostly FL065 and the highest usable level is FL115.

The routes run largely between VORs which assists navigation.

Above FL115, France is generally Class D and it is mostly (in my admittedly not recent experience totally) impossible to get a VFR clearance in there.

So I can see the reason for the change: deliver a single set of charts which can be used for VFR in France.

OTOH I am suprised they did this, because anecdotal reports from French pilots I know suggest that the bulk of French based GA activity is done at low levels, between clubs not far apart, and thus well served by the IGNs.

Also, from the fragment shown on the site, the charts do not show the VOR-VOR routes. The 1:1M SIA chart (example) shows them; in this case as R10 between the two VORs marked with yellow arrows.

I suppose they did that because the routes are not in any way mandatory for VFR - so long as you keep off the military airspace which often goes right up to the edge of the Class E.

But without seeing a big piece of the chart it's hard to say more.

France also has the Cartabossy 1:1M charts which are a sort of halfway between the IGN ones and the SIA ones.

I don't think any of this is a problem because a map is a map and you just have to spread it out on the table and read it

My earliest flights into France were done with the IGNs and for some stupid reason I thought that flight above 5000ft was not allowed As soon as I sussed that, I flew with the SIAs entirely and I still carry them because if e.g. departing from an unmanned-tower airport you have to remain OCAS until you pick up an IFR clearance from somewhere, which can take some time... The SIAs also show airway intersections which is great for programming a route into a GPS.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I use the SIA 1:1000000 only, but I usually buzz across France to Biarritz (either from UK or Germany). It works for me as you avoid all restricted areas using the 'French airways'. I had no issues to get FL120 at one point and they cleared me to a long direct (2.5hrs to SAU) on a VFR flight.

EGBE - Coventry, United Kingdom

the extensive Class E airspace (which UK pilots often call "French airways" but being Class E it is uncontrolled airspace for VFR)

As you definitely know, class E is controlled airspace for both VFR and IFR In Germany, E starts at 2500ft AGL or lower and has ATC services.

The CAS/OCAS terminology in the UK is rather misleading for non UK people (+ airspace structures)...

OK, agreed; Class E is officially "controlled airspace" BUT you can fly in it (per ICAO) without ATC clearance or even a radio contact, which is de facto same as Class G - isn't it?

UK Class G has potentially got ATC services too but they have no actual power to tell you what to do.

Does one need an ATC clearance to enter Class E in Germany? I never came across that when I used to fly there VFR, most of which was done VMC on top at say 8000ft.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The exact wording in german PPL theory textbooks is: "class E is controlled airspace in which VFR aircraft are not subject to control".

Thus, a clearance is not required for VFR aircraft.

So, in a certain way you are right. Most VFR-PPL pilots "consider" class E as "uncontrolled" airspace just like class G, only with substantially higher weather minima (and then some don't even know that ).

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

I think it's a good think.

The thing about France is that unlike the UK, the airspace is very accessable, and the weather regularly allows higher VFR flight. Indeed it's after useful in the hot summer days to avoid bumps and keep cool.

It's rare that I fly any distance in France below 5000ft, and I only fly VFR.

For me this is a good thing.

EIKH Kilrush

The term "controlled" airspace means that Air Traffic Control (ATC) services are available. SERA.8001 states that air traffic control is available to IFR flights in airspace E only.

So one could say that for VFR flights, E is CAS. However, an airspace is classified the same for everybody, i.e. at a given 3D position both VFR and IFR flights are in the same airspace. Thus I don't think it makes sense to talk about E as uncontrolled airspace.

OK; the UK pilot training system is firmly attached to

controlled airspace = airspace for which you need a clearance

which kind of makes sense if your objective is to keep people from busting it.

It also doesn't make sense to me (gramatically) to call it "controlled" when there is no "control".

Class E is a bit of an oddity, because you can be IFR (and absolutely "controlled") but there can be non-radio traffic in the same space.

I am not sure why France has got it, given there is almost no VFR traffic in it and even less IFR traffic.

I can see why the USA has got it: they have it almost universally from 1200ft to 17999ft, and the bottom limit means that if you are, ahem, "VFR" but in IMC, the moment you climb into Class E you are definitely illegal, and the FAA has busted people for that (needs witnesses, but Germany is familiar with that concept too )).

That, together with the much accessible FAA IR, and a lack of IFR charges > 2T, means that a lot of Americans willingly go for legit IFR capability and they don't seem to have the European (and particularly British) "VFR in IMC" culture. This in turn protects instrument approaches; a particular issue in the UK with Class G IAPs where one is often dodging traffic flying straight through the IAP.

It's much more difficult to bust somebody for flying "VFR" in IMC in Class G because ATC is not capable of giving you an IFR clearance in the first place. AFAIK, the FAA has done those busts for "not filing an IFR flight plan".

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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