Yes, GA flying is difficult in Europe (but pilots persevere…)

AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli recently returned to the US from Europe where he recorded a podcast interview with fliegermagazin‘s Thomas Borchert, who talked about GA regulations and fees in Germany/Europe, during the Aero show in Friedrichshafen. And while many American pilots complain about user fees and regulations over in the USA, just consider what Continental European general aviation pilots like Thomas must contend with:

  • VFR is Different. The EU might make travel across Europe easy, but there is no standardization of VFR rules. For example: In Germany, Thomas noted you must carry route charts or sectionals while every airport has a special VFR approach chart and a subscription for all of these charts does not come cheap.
  • Weird Traffic Patterns. There are traffic patterns depicted on the chart and technically you must follow them with one aviation authority declaring they must be followed to within 500 feet to the left or right – mostly to avoid creating noise for those on the ground. Such requirements lead to weird patterns and pilots looking at their GPSs rather than out the window.
  • Official Observer. In Germany, all airports, even the smallest fields, must have an “official observer” whose job it is not to direct traffic but to simply give wind and landing directions. If he or she is not present, then the field is officially closed. You may also need to call in advance and pay the official observer to stay longer if you need to land late.
  • Landing Fees Everywhere. All airports have landing fees and the louder the aircraft, the higher the fee. Moreover, if you do ten practice take-offs and landings, it could cost you €100s.
  • Touch and Gos are Touch and Stops. If you are going to practice touch and gos, you must come to a complete stop, get out, pay any fees and then be on your way for the next touch and go.
  • IFR is Even More Complicated. Very few airfields have IFR approaches because getting approvals for one is a nightmare. Moreover, every EU country has its own air space and ATC, but a big computer in Brussels needs to approve your IFR route (and already approved routes can change daily). However, there is a new online service for €17 a month that will help you determine and then submit your IFR route on your behalf.

Paul then asked: “How can you stand it?!!!” And yet Paul observed that there were hundreds of pilots at the air show. In other words and despite all of the regulations, fees and other red tape headaches, European pilots have learned how to persevere and still pursue their love of flying.


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