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France: straight-in IFR joins prohibited (a VFR circuit is mandatory?) if tower is unmanned

From here

What I’m going to say below may be French specific.

According to the French rule you are expected to perform a circling after your approach when there is no ATS :
See here in French only

Sorry for non-French speaker, I’m not sure an english version of that text even exist.
But basically, it is saying that when there is no ATS you have to :
- Get the QNH from a proper ATS station.
- Perform a circling after your approach to check the windsock, AD surface….

In other countries, do you have to perform circling when there is no ATS or is it just France ?

Last Edited by Guillaume at 22 Mar 11:33


Aha, this is new for me! Thanks for pointing this out. So basically, in France if there is no AFIS, you are limited to circling minimums and you must do a basic circuit…

In the US, that rule does not exist. I am unsure about other countries now…

Last Edited by Niner_Mike at 22 Mar 11:49
Abeam the Flying Dream
EBKT, LFQQ western Belgium, north France, Belgium

@ Guillaume

- à l’arrivée, avant de s’intégrer dans la circulation d’aérodrome, en procédant à l’examen de l’aérodrome. Cet
examen doit être effectué, sauf impossibilité, à une hauteur supérieure au plus haut des circuits d’aérodrome et
doit notamment porter sur l’aire à signaux, la manche à air, l’état de la surface de l’aire de manoeuvre afin de
déterminer la piste ou l’aire d’atterrissage à utiliser et s’assurer que l’usage de l’aérodrome ne présente pas de
danger apparent.

That is 4.1.3 of the cited document and it says that this examination regarding windsock, surface condition etc must be done, if possible at all, at a height above the traffic pattern altitude. That is not the circling altitude but much higher in most cases.

and 4.1.3. continues with an important note:

Note 2 :
Un pilote commandant de bord peut se dispenser de l’examen de l’aérodrome à l’arrivée :
- lorsqu’il a pris connaissance de la piste en service en exploitant les messages d’auto-information transmis par les aéronefs
évoluant dans la circulation d’aérodrome ;
- lorsqu’il a déjà connaissance du vent et des signaux pouvant être disposés sur l’aire à signaux et sur l’aire de manoeuvre.

" A pilot in command can be released from the airport examination at arrival:
when he gets to know the runway-in-use by evaluation of the blind position reports of aircraft in the airport traffic pattern;
when he has already knowledge of the wind and the signals that can be displaced on the signal area and the manoeuvring area."

There is even a passage that asks aircraft in the traffic pattern to give way to approaching IFR traffic demanding prior coordination between the respective pilots-in-command.
See 3.4

Sur un aérodrome non contrôlé un aéronef appartenant à la circulation d’aérodrome qui connaît la présence d’un
aéronef en vol IFR à l’arrivée doit, à moins d’entente préalable entre les commandants de bord, manoeuvrer de
façon à ne pas compromettre la poursuite de l’approche et l’atterrissage de l’aéronef en vol IFR.

EDxx, Germany

Check : It deals with our topic (how should IFR join AD circuit when there is no ATS)
It doesn’t say that you have to fly overhead the airfield, but you have to comply with anyway (perform a circling to join the downwind of the runway you are going to use)

Last Edited by Guillaume at 22 Mar 13:03

As I read it, straight in approach are not possible without ATS (IFR or VFR)

Last Edited by Guillaume at 22 Mar 12:49

Guillaume, I think your cited paragraphs and concern VFR flights.
If an IFR approach would not be allowed without AFIS or even ATC there must be a note on the charts published in the French AIP and I am sure the ATC Center or Approach Control that clear you to the IAF (Initial Approach Fix) would not do so but ask for you alternate and diversion plans.
It is allowed in the UK and in the United States, Sweden I think … it is not allowed in Germany.

EDxx, Germany

I work as an ATC in a major airport in France. I know that topic very well since we provide approach service to a “small” GA airfield which sometimes happen to be without ATS (due to lack of qualified ATC) .

In France, you can perform an IFR approach when there is no ATS at your destination airport (unless stated otherwise on the approach plate)

But you have to stop your descent above the heighest VFR traffic patern (if the weather allows you to do so) and perform a circling which is VFR join (while you are still IFR). You can fly overhead airfield or join directly the downwind if you already know the runway in use.

What you can’t do (without ATS) is to perform a straight in approach. But an IFR approach + circling is what we expect (but not everyone does that…)

For us (as ATC) it reduces the capacity of that small GA airport when there is no ATS.

Last Edited by Guillaume at 22 Mar 13:24


Guillaume is right here. He is from France after all.

Guillaume, I think your cited paragraphs and concern VFR flights.

Item 4 is about VFR and item 5 is about IFR. however: specifically refers to

If an IFR approach would not be allowed without AFIS or even ATC there must be a note on the charts published in the French AIP.

Please note that he didn’t say IFR approaches are not allowed in absence of ATS service. They generally are. He merely said that you have to fly the VFR procedure after the completion of the IAP.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 22 Mar 13:27
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany


do I understand it right that on a day with good weather I do my IFR approach and then I have to change to VFR before landing? It doesn’t matter that I’m on an IAP that terminates with a straight-in landing. When the weather does not allow VFR I can terminate the IAP IFR with a straight-in landing?

If I have to change to VFR in VMC, I suppose I will also have to say “cancel IFR” as I abort the IAP and go into the traffic pattern.

Frequent travels around Europe

Thanks Guillaume. I learned something here.
To my defense: there was activity on and around the airfield, confirming rwy19 in use. But when i landed there was no traffic in the circuit. And it was CAVOK all around.

Abeam the Flying Dream
EBKT, LFQQ western Belgium, north France, Belgium
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