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US pilot with questions regarding flying in europe

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I am a real world private pilot in the US. I am also relatively new to vatsim. I am comfortable with both VFR and IFR procedures in the US. However I am interested in flying in the Great Nile Ralley, and otherwise, in europe on vatsim. From my reading it does not appear that transition to IFR flight in europe would be all that difficult. However, my questions primarily relate to VFR flight.


First of all what are the key differences that I should know about when flying VFR in Europe. Which of these differences are likely to be consistant accross europe, and which are likely to change from country to contry?


Next, Once I have my flight plan filed and I am online, what is the prefered way/phrases to contact ATC to get under way with my flight. I see on the Croatia VACC web site (http://www.crovacc.org/) reference to a sample flight, complete with ATC communication and phrases. This seems to be a relatively straight forward IFR flight, but what do I do for VFR. How do I open my flight plan, or do I even need to open my flight plan if there is no ATC present?


When I have arived at my destination, if the airport is not controlled, how do I close my flight plan?


When filing a VFR flight plan, how specific does my routing need to be? can I just file my departure point and destination and leave the route unspecified, or is it still required that the routing be precise?


Any other advice for transitioning from flying US to flying europe?

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Hello Karl,


flying VFR in Europe is quite easy, really. The main difference between here and there is that our Transition Altitude is not at 18,000ft but for (example) in Germany generally at 5,000ft. Furthermore in Germany you cannot fly higher than FL100 without ATC-clearance because all over Germany we have airspace CHARLIE at FL100 and higher. As a consequence your highest "correct" VFR flightlevel is FL95 for easterly magnetic courses. If you look at Switzerland the transition altitude is usually set at 7,000ft but approaching the Alps you'll find higher TAs. You will find these TAs in our IFR-charts at http://www.vacc-sag.org (Charts and Airport Information). At VACC-SAG we also do provide VFR-charts, but due to copyright reasons these charts are only available when you are logged in to our homepage and for this you will need to register with us. Do this as "pilot only". The download-limitation is not applicable to our IFR-charts.


If you move on to other countries in Europe you will find different Transition Altitudes and different airspace structures. The UK are quite complicated but doable. On sundays they usually offer a sensational staffing of many, many airports and airfields, that should be good to go for a VFR-flight. Watch out for completely different TAs that range from 4000ft to 6000ft, lots of control zones etc... ATC will help you for sure, they are kind, although they speak in a funny accent sometimes


I think the only common thing in Europe is the fact that the standard VFR transponder code is 7000.


Flightplans: you don't need to fill in a flightplan with all details. Yes, please file a flightplan with your type of aircraft, but for the routing you may file "VFR" or your routing in plain words ("MANNHEIM HEIDELBERG KARLSRUHE") or using VORs/NDBs/Waypoints or any combination of plain words and navigation aids. If you don't know yet where you wish to fly to, insert ZZZZ into the field of ARRIVAL. The same applies to your intended altitude: if you don't know at what altitude you will fly just fill in "VFR".

Of course ATC will appreciate if you fill in altitudes, point of departure and destination, a detailled route etc. but you don't need to do this.


I am sure I forgot to mention something important, but I guess someone else will fill this gap and add it to this posting.

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Have a read of the European ATC Quick Primer by Norbert Vorstaedt, former head of the VACC-SAG training department,


You'll find it at http://www.vorstaedt.de/eurprimer.html



Ruth McTighe

Heathrow Director, Essex Radar, Thames Radar, London Information

[Mod - Happy Thoughts]t webmistress CIX VFR Club http://www.cixvfrclub.org.uk/

Webmistress Plan-G http://www.tasoftware.co.uk/

Now not a VATanything

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In the UK we have regular VFR nights on Tuesdays. If you want to sit and listen in before having a go then I recommend sitting at Gloucester Airport EGBJ after about 1830Z and listen in, there's usually quite a bit of VFR in the area sometime during the evening. Tell EGBJ_APP via text that you're observing and why and no doubt Mike (it will be Mike Pike on APP) will help you out with any questions. You can also check out the web pages of the CIX VFR Club (who are avid VFR flyers on Vatsim-UK) and that has a wealth of information about VFR'ing on this side of the pond including some examples of radio phraseology.




Good luck and we're actually quite nice helpful people over here in Europe, we'll make sure you're safe

Bill Casey

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The Swedish CAA has a nice VFR guide for foreign pilots visiting Sweden: http://www.lfv.se/upload/ANS/AIP/AIC%20A/A3-07.pdf. I think several other countries publish similar guides. Some of the info is not applicable to online flying, but it gives a nice and brief summary of the airspace cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ification, flight planning, when and where you need ATC clearance etc.


I would say that one very important difference between the US and (most of) the rest of the world is the R/T phraseology. CAP 413 is a British R/T manual which is quite helpful: http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP413.PDF


you may file "VFR" or your routing in plain words ("MANNHEIM HEIDELBERG KARLSRUHE")


To clarify, the above is acceptable on VATSIM, but in the real world (at least in Sweden), only navaids, fixes, coordinates, and place/bearing waypoints are allowed in the flight plan.

Martin Loxbo

Director Sweden FIR

VATSIM Scandinavia

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Thank you for all of the suggestions so far. They have indeed been helpful. The ATC quick primer was quite useful and well written. Yesterday I jumped in and did the first leg of "The Great Nile Ralley," starting in Zagreb. Having done it once, it is less intimidating now.


One more question, does most of europe use similar rules for VFR cruising altitude selection? If there are a few countries with exceptions, which would those be?

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Hi there,


To clarify, the above is acceptable on VATSIM, but in the real world (at least in Sweden), only navaids, fixes, coordinates, and place/bearing waypoints are allowed in the flight plan.
in the real world you can do that as well in many countries, Sweden seems to be an exception on that regulation.


Karl, the normal rule is used all over Europe (easterly magnetic courses = odd altitudes/levels + 500ft, westerly magnetic courses = even altitudes/levels + 500ft), except in the south of Europe (France, Italy, Spain) where you fly on even levels on northerly courses and on odd levels on southerly routings.

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Hello Karl and welcome to Europe !


Well... I guess you have already tasted the spicy Europe... it's a place of rich diversity and I do hope you will have some fun with us.


You are correct, the crovacc.org does not offer much VFR info, but we will be happy to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ist you anytime we meet online. So no problem there for your initial stages of the TGNR event / TGNR.crovacc.org for details /. Feel free to ask for help and you will be guided and advised when needed.


Our TGNR team is most happy to see people from around the world being willing to fly this kind of event... Happy flying, captain!

Damir Nozica

CrovACC Director

VATSIM Supervisor



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