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Long distance VFR (homebuilts)


I’ve been reading this forum for quite some time now, but never posted.
I’m a current airline pilot who also does some ga touring with rented aircraft, mostly ifr. I do some vfr flying as well, but almost entirely low and local.
I’m thinking about buying an experimental (lancair 360 or legacy is what i’m currently looking into) for some reasonably affordable touring in Europe. I understand that ifr flying in an annex 2 is not allowed. My question is this: how doable is it to fly long VFR trips in the fl080-170 range? And I mean atc/airspace wise. Do people actually do this, or is it a pain?

I do!

I do this and I know nothing else. As much as people advocate stepping up to an Instrument Rating at some point, I find long VFR trips across Europe entirely doable and enjoyabe – with all the caveats (weather, buffer days etc.) that you’re surely aware of.

It will probably be helpful to know where you’re based and where you intend to fly.

I have found ATC/airspace to be a limiting factor in none of the following countries at FL up to 012: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia. Italy is an exception in that it IS a PITA (lots of inaccessible class A). If flying in the Netherlands, I usually fly lower (shorter trips anyway).

Hungriger Wolf (EDHF), Germany

You can do it near airports which are not busy. Frankfurt, Brussels, Lyon, Marseilles etc will keep you low or will not let you cross. In Italy Rome and Milan will keep you low so you always have to plan alternative route in case you have been refused. Once you know it it is simple.

I did it for years here in the US in my twin. Closer to 300hrs of pure long cross countries in the 1500nm range. Only once did I have to leave her behind and pick her up a few days later due to impenetrable weather. Sometimes I had to wait things out. I always made it through, even if it wasn’t always the shortest route or the safest.

Last Edited by AdamFrisch at 19 Jun 16:26

Absolutely doable. You will find that the limiting factor isn’t airspace or ATC but rather the European wx, especially in the northern part.

Welcome to EuroGA, Cet

Firstly, I would suggest checking out the VFR privileges of a homebuilt in Europe. Do a search here on “homebuilt” and “homebuilts” and you will find numerous threads which affect them. They cannot be generally “based” outside the country of their registry and an N-reg one especially cannot be “based” anywhere in Europe. Europe has no US-style “experimental” regime. Also, there is no general right to fly around Europe. There are some automatic concessions, but e.g. Belgium cannot be overflown at all by non-Belgian-reg homebuilts. There is an LAA document which outlines it, mentioned here

Secondly, IFR appears to be allowed but only in 1 or 2 countries and not outside them. The UK is working towards IFR – not much in the public domain yet but some here. That will however be only for G-reg homebuilts and only in UK airspace (unless other airspace owners accept it also; this is all non-ICAO so they are not obliged to).

Finally, subject to the above, yes you can fly a GA aircraft VFR all over Europe, as already mentioned. You just need more flexibility, and IMHO the key to getting a reasonable despatch rate is VMC on top i.e. high altitude. I have some VFR writeups here. You can see I haven’t written many up since I got the IR in 2006 But actually VFR is a good tool for the right sort of trip e.g. here. Doing it at high altitude gets you above the wx (if carefully chosen) and as importantly presents ATC (controlling CAS) with a virtual fait accompli in that if you turn up at the sector boundary at FL100 they will assume you are a competent pilot, and of course they will be right! Whereas if you are at 1500ft, the service you will get will be highly dependent on the country and the particular ATCO.

VFR is not possible at all in some places e.g. Class A (UK and Italy, mainly) and in much of France above FL115 (Class D but they ban enroute VFR in it).

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

If you’re an airline pilot and your aircraft is IFR equipped, then you stretch the VFR definition so that there is not much difference to IFR anymore.

If your experimental is N-reg, then it should be doable to fly IFR. Strictly speaking it may not be legal but it is being done and seems to be without problems.

Got it. Happy that it’s doable (and that other pilots are doing this regularly). I was afraid about being forced down low. VFR-on-top is what I’m aiming forThe plane would be based in Belgium, and would have to be on a Belgian registration as I understand it. Thank you, Peter, for the links. I will check them out tonight.

Belgium does not allow N-reg experimentals? I would be surprised if that was the case. Personally I’d go for N-reg if possible.

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