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Simplon Pass - details


This is a follow-up to this thread:

I’m spending a lot of time comparing the various options to cross from Bern or Zurich towards the south. I zoomed in a bit on the Simplon pass as my favorite choice (although I’ll prepare several alternatives to choose from on the day of departure depending on actual conditions). Now, I’ve read various opinions on the Simplon pass, from “challenging” to “not that hard”.

The reason I like the Simplon is because the route itself (towards the pass) looks both rather simple and scenic.I’d be coming from Bern, passing over the Eastern corner of Lake Geneva, flying up the Rhone valley via Martigny-Ville, Sion and finally Brig. All this seems uncritical to me – even if SkyDemon failed, correct? There’s also the airfields of Sion and Raron in case a precautionary landing should become appropriate (although I suppose under many circumstances, even turning around and flying back to base would be an option here).

The critical element in my view is the part from Brig where you turn south to follow the E62 road over the pass towards Domodossola.

What is it that makes it challenging in the view of those who find it challenging? @boscomantico, may I ask you directly because you describe it as “anspruchsvoll” on ?

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

You can also fly straight south from Bern through the Alps, see the Jungfrau, Eiger, Monch, Aletschglacier and then pop down the Simplon.

On the route you mentioned you also have Lausanne and Bex as diversion airfields.


it is demanding only in relative terms, in particular if compared with the Brenner routing. Why?

First of all, the pass height is higher (6500 vs. 4500 feet), so you must fly higher up, where the air is thinner and aircraft performance is lower.

Also, passes like the Simplon are not as wide as the Brenner. No highway + railway line crossing the pass.

Simplon is also less straightforward (literally) than the Brenner. The Brenner you can fly most straight down, with little chance of taking the wrong turn (even though some still manage to do so). So it slightly more demanding navigation-wise.

Of course if you have

  • blue skies and low winds
  • lots of aircraft performance
  • a good moving map GPS

then every mountain pass is a doodle. So if you have the above, after crossing the Simplon or a similar pass, you will probably say “what the big deal”? But often, these perfect conditions just don’t exist.

The routing section of my site is written for basic PPL pilots with little or no mountain experience. Believe me, for many these, such a flight is a really thrilling experience. So, I think it is better to warn people that it might not be the proverbial piece of cake.

Fly whatever routing you fancy, pick good weather, fly in the morning, lightly loaded, take along a good GPS / mapping program and it will be easy.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

Thanks for those details, boscomantico – certainly helps!

Now I’m just realizing how difficult it is to find a suitable landing spot near Lago de Varese that has customs (coming from Switzerland)…

LILC (my favorite), LILN, LILG don’t have customs. Lugano is on the wrong side of the border and while it would help me with THIS landing, it would make life difficult on the next leg of the trip into Italy. Como has customs on request, but no solid runway… Malpensa only IFR as far as I know… Running out of options..

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

Yes, that in indeed a problem. The northwest of Italy is scarce on GA- adequate customs airports.

Please don’t blame the Italians – blame the Swiss!

Your best bet in that area is probably Milan Bresso (LIMB). It’s PPR for customs and they charge only 15€ extra or so for customs. It’s not far from Varese after all. Biella (LILE) would be another option, but they charge a lot for customs clearances.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 17 Feb 14:19
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

The northwest of Italy is scarce on GA- adequate customs airports

I am hardly a specialist on Italy but Albenga, Genoa, Elba and Lucca all have Customs and Immigration and Avgas and ought to qualify for “NW Italy”. The PNR for C/I can be 24hrs though. A Lucca writeup is here Elba has very pricey avgas (€3.50/litre) – writeup here. Albenga was visited on this trip. Great trips, all done in 2014.

Further down into Italy it seems to get much worse. Padova is the only place I recall getting all the stuff, but on a later trip there I had some fun which would make me think twice. Well, Caglieri in Sardinia is technically “Italy”.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Would you fancy flying from Switzerland to Genoa and then back to the Lago Maggiore area?

I did indeed mean the very northwest.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany and the slightly more official Italian AIP say Customs NIL for LIMB.

Is your PPR for customs experience recent?

Worst case scenario is Linate, which would be a pain in terms of ground travel later on…

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

See here (the words “dogana su richiesta” are your friend).

Give the aeroclub a call and ask to confirm, also the customs clearance fee.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany
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