This post was initially released on my home blog www.plasticpilot.net and as it is full of tips for foreign pilots visiting Switzerland I publish this updated version here.
If you want to add a new destination to your logbook in 2009, why not Switzerland ? As a local, I can give you some tips to make your swiss operation seamless and enjoyable.
Important things first: Switzerland is not member of the European Union, so you’ll have to clear customs. Some airports and airfields offer permanent or on request customs service. This can range from shaking hands with a customs guy to fill-in a form, and it is mandatory. As Switzerland finally ratified the Schenggen treaty, it should be easier, but the transition phase starting early April 2009 is still quite fuzzy. Shenggen applies to persons only, not to goods and this makes things complicated. My best tip is to contact your destination airport before your flight to sort out all details.
Swiss airspace is split in two, along a south-west to north-east line. North of the line is the “Plateau” area. This has Class-G airspace up-to 2000 ft AGL (except in CTRs), then Class-E up to FL 100, and Class-C from FL 100.
South of the line is the “Alps” area. The Class-E is up to FL 130 in case of military activity and up to FL 150 if military are not active. Above that is Class-D airspace (mandatory clearance) up to FL195, and Class-C above.
All CTR’s are Class-D and TMA’s are Class-C. Flying within Geneva (LSGG) or Zurich (LSZH) TMA is normally not allowed. Crossing Bern (LSZB), Payerne (LSMP) or Emmen (LSME) is just matter of calling on the radio.
The country is split in two FIRs, Geneva and Zuerich, each with its Information frequency. The boundary runs along Bern (LSZB) TMA.
Routes on controlled airports
All controlled airports have mandatory VFR reporting points and routes for both arrivals and departures. You can’t just call “10 miles east for landing”. Most of these airports also have ATIS broadcasts that you’ll have to copy before callint TWR.
Sectors on non-controlled airports
Non-controlled airfields procedures are based on sectors through which you must arrive and depart. The AFIS service is generally very limited, and most of time you’ll have to do blind position reports (sector – overhead – downwind – base – final).
Be careful with airfields operation times – many restrictions do exist. Some airports even close from 12:00 to 13:30, and violating such a rule could cost you up to 700 swiss francs (approx. 600 US dollars).
Flight Plan filling
You can get briefing and file flight plans using computer based system called “AMIE” or “self-briefing” which is available at all airports and airfields. You can create an account if you want, so as to be able to close your flight plan on arrival. This system is for free at airports, and if you prefer to use it on the internet you’ll have to pay a yearly fee.
Talking of thees, you’ll have to pay for landing fees in all swiss airports. The price will depend of the MTOW of your aircraft, but can also vary depending of the services you’ll use (parking, customs, …). Landing fees will vary from 10 to 80 Swiss francs.
Many airfields, but at some times also major airports require a prior permission for VFR flights. For mountainous airfields it is also important to get informed about runway status as snow cleaning is not always granted.
If you want to fly over the mountains and are not used to, be extremely careful with weather and winds. I personally don’t fly in mountains if wind is over 20kts ! Envisage hiring a local instructor if you want an introduction.
If you want more details, or some help to plan your flight to LSxx, feel free to contact me directly. I’ll be happy to provide you some support, and may be to meet you.