Crossing the Alps (which you would not be doing if just going UK-Switzerland) is easy enough if you can go to ~FL130 and go straight over the top, picking a nice low wind clear day for it. Great scenery. But that needs oxygen, which is perhaps why most people going that way fly in the canyons ("mountain flying") and then one only needs to cross the spine of the Alps range which I think can be done at about 9000ft.
Switzerland is GA friendly, with lots of airports. The usual things to watch for are Customs and PPR.
I would like to fly somewhere near the alps, without actually doing mountain flying as I havent had any experience of it yet.
May June is a good time, avoid late summer early autumn as you can get some pretty hefty build ups piling up over the Alps which spill out over the Italian lowlands.
There is pretty high ground in a lot of that area so if you are inexperienced its probably more important to be flexable on the week you take and only go when there is a stable high pressure system over the area. As well as cloud cover look at winds which should be light.
There are many potential destinations but most involve some mountain flying. Remember the lowest ones tend to be higher than anything we have here in the UK hence the advice re cloud and winds.
It may be well worth getting some mountain flying instruction while over there? I have flown all over the Alps in twins and light jets. One of my favourite runs is into LJLJ in Slovenia.
Stunning scenery, stunning airport but further than your desired hop. Geneva sits on the lake and running down you come to Chambery, further down is Grenoble and a host of smaller airfields in between.
Having just read that your using a C150 and your experience levels another option would be to fly the west coast of France down to San Sebastian.
This is a low route with loads of alternatives on the way and spectacular coastal scenery. When you get to San Sebastian not the Alps but spectacular mountain scenery and airports around the Pyrenees. Have fun
The Bern valley is nice. On the SE side are spectacular alps, on the NW side the Jura which go up to a few thousand feet, and offer interesting walking if that appeals. Grenchen (LSZG) is a super little GA airport on the Jura side which we used a visit to Solothurn last June. Bern itself may be a bit pricier.
If you have experience of bigger airports, Zürich (LSZH) is doable and relatively inexpensive, though now has compulsory handling so it's a bit more hassle than it used to be. PM me if you want more info.
Les Eplatures (LSGC) in the Jura mountains is nice & friendly - like a UK GA airfield, but with ILS. PPR/Customs requirement is satisfied by a flight plan to them, in my case 2 Customs agents drove in to meet the aircraft, took my passport number, then came back again in the afternoon to have their photo taken next to the aircraft! Fuel/handling's simple, both Jet-A1 and Avgas available. And it's only a short walk into the local town, decent airfield cafe too.
Sorry for slight drift but I'm planning on going to Braga in Portugal this summer stopping at San Sabastian. The area going past Cazaux looks very restricted. I have been past this way once before but it may have been on a weekend as I don't recall any problems. Have you had much dealings going through these restricted areas. Any tips
Last edited by steveking; 5th Jan 2010 at 13:34.
France has a lot of military airspace (east and west, less so down the middle) but a lot of it is inactive at weekends.
You need the SIA 1:1M VFR charts (available for about 30 euros from the SIA online shop - 1st item on this list) and these come with a booklet which states, for each R( ) area when it is active. Also, the regional FIS services will tell you if/when some area is active, and there are even phone numbers for some of these. The Cazaux stuff is not very useful because by the time you are within VHF range it is too late to re-route substantially.
If one can fly at a higher level, there are the Class E routes, FL065-FL105, which avoid most of the mil airspace. UK PPLs often call them "airways" but Class E is uncontrolled airspace for VFR. These routes tend to run between the VORs so you get the bonus of an easy VOR backup for GPS. The rather pretty IGN charts, popular with VFR pilots, don't show these routes though...
I have been through France a few times and know that in reality especially weekends going through these restricted areas is not a problem however when I go to Braga it will be for just a few days so either going or coming back one leg will be during the week. Looking on flight star the Cazaux area is a maze of restricted layers from ground up to unlimited. In fact there is so much of it I'm hoping if on a FIS then going through it should be ok. I'm planning on flying one leg to San Sabastian so if I could find out before I go that would be great. Oh well I do have till the summer.
IO are those class E routes shown on the charts you put the link to.
Barne If you are really keen on the Alps then ST Johanne(LOIJ) in Austria is the best flying I have done. It's only about 15 mins into the Alps and I have found that arriving late in the afternoon and leaving early in the morning avoids most of the turbulance. You just can't beat flying through the Alpine Valleys.
I flew to Bern in Switzerland last Sept. It avoids having to go over the really high mountains, so shouldn't be a problem in a C150.
For some really nice scenery we got a hire car, and stayed in the Eiger Hotel in Murren. You can't get up to Murren with a car, so you have to park at the 'base' of the mountain, get a cable car up, and then a train along the side of the mountain.
The views are fantastic, and the hotel quite nice. There is plenty to do and see within a 1-2 hour drive of Murren, to keep you busy for a few days....a lot longer if you enjoy hiking.
It's a pretty simple trip to make.
Some pics of Murren.
I seem to remember parking being about €30 per day day, and landing something similar.
My advice for accomodation generally would be to book with the Accor group.
They have a huge range of hotels, so you can go for budget to high end choices as you like, but their principal advantage for VFR touring is that they can be cancelled right up to the evening of expected arrival without penalty (assuming you select the flexible price). This brings great peace of mind for VFR touring!
Yes, I still use Navbox Pro for VFR, although I have rarely flown VFR internationally since I got the IR in 2006. It's a pretty accurate and very usable program for rapid plog generation, which is basically what one does with flight planning software. Always used in conjunction with the printed VFR charts.
The only other game in town for VFR is Jepp Flitestar VFR, but the map data in that is still not good enough IMHO to be used solely for stuff like MSA planning, so printed charts are still needed (SIA for France and Jepp VFR/GPS 1:500k for all else) and Flitestar is a right clunky piece of for what should be simple VFR work.
Flitestar IFR is more or less the only option for IFR (airways) but that's another story...
There is PocketFMS (Dublinpilot knows about that one) but I don't think it eliminates the need for the printed VFR charts, either.
This is a shameless plug, but in response to a question.
SkyDemon contains France data (as well as many other European countries) and also the facility to turn on "weekend view" whereupon all airspace designated not active at weekends will disappear. As others have noticed, this clears the French chart up quite a lot. It also shows all the class E airways, if you turn them on.
It will also bring you weather and plot NOTAMs for you, and doesn't cost anything to have yourself a 30 day trial.
I have operated a C150 in Switzerland for almost 13 years before stepping up to a M20 recently and flown all of it (and as far as Spain outside it) without any problems worth mentioning. It will take a reasonably long time getting here and back, doing some 90 kts and 300 NM legs at most, but it's perfectly feasible. I've done some crazy stuff like going Zürich to Spain and back in one day, but take a pain killer for your behind .
As to airports, coming from France, Grenchen has been mentioned which is a good port of entry. After that, there are many nice places to go to. In the Western region of Switzerland, Yverdon is nice, so is Lausanne. You can go to Sion, it involves mountains left and right but has a quite nicely big valley in front . Bern is a good GA place, quite busy at times. Others are Wangen-Lachen on the lake of Zürich and St.Gallen/Altenrhein in the East. Zürich is feasible, mind that you need slots and good knowledge of ATC, otherwise Birrfeld is a possibility.
With a C150, mountains are not too big a problem as long as the plane is not too heavy and temps not too hot. Flying down to the Ticino via the Gotthard is fun if the weather is really nice (and only then for someone with no experience in mountains) and requires about 9000 ft over the Gotthard pass. Samedan is a nice place but not necessarily for a C150, even though I have done it during pilot training (in the early 80ties), I'd say you need an instructor with you for that one. Otherwise, stay north of the Alps but that means you can fly along them, pretty nice and scenic too.
I don't see many (if any) of these places allowing you to camp there, but there are inexpensive places around, just ask at the C-Office.
If you need specifics, PM me, I'll try to get you answers.