Que Sera, Sera – IFR Minimum Equipment in Switzerland

Que Sera, Sera. –  It isn’t just a popular song from 1956. It also isn’t just a great remix by French Hip Hop producer Wax Tailor. “Whatever will be, will be”, so the translation of the title, is the answer to a girl’s question to her mother about her future life. When she becomes mother herself, she tells her daughter the same: “Que sera, sera. The future’s not ours to see.” But no, it isn’t just a songtext either. It is the way how European air law comes into force. With lots of questions by pilots and industry but few answers.

Sera Sera
Even EASA plays with the joke. (Click illustration for a pdf leaflet about SERA)

About a year ago SERA came into force, the standardised european rules of the air. Member states of EASA could file a derogation if they felt the new rules would not fit the national needs. Switzerland for example filed an amendment to SERA.5001 to keep the country’s airspace G at 2000ft agl, instead of per SERA at 1000ft agl. However, as far as I know, this has been the only derogation filed. Other than this derogation, SERA is in force in Switzerland as it is. But, is it?

SERA 5015
SERA regulates IFR equipment just as the FAA does (Click illustration for the full pdf of SERA)

SERA.5015 explains to us in clear FAA-copy-paste-manner the minimum equipment for IFR flight. As a FAA commercial pilot I am familiar with this wording. It means that, if you would like to fly IFR from a VOR to another VOR and fly a VOR approach to minimums, all you need is a VOR. Period. It has to be said that what is legal isn’t necessarily safe. But it is legal in the United States, as well as in the States of SERA. But wait, SERA.5015 says: …in accordance with the applicable air operations legislation. What is the answer to that? Que sera, sera.

Luftrecht Schweiz IFR Equipment.png
Verordnung des UVEK über die Verkehrsregeln für Luftfahrzeuge in der Schweiz (click illustration for full pdf)

If you need a translation to English, just read SERA.5015. You don’t need an autopilot or who knows how expensive equipment (I have never flown an airplane equipped with A/P for IFR, I don’t even know how to use one). You simply need what you need for the flight. There is only one problem.

The problem is that EASA member states and EASA licensed pilots are not informed about the regulation. If you are an airplane owner, it is likely your plane is equipped for IFR and you don’t even know. The airplane is approved for VFR only? I bet the type certificate of most Cessnas and Pipers had been IFR at the time when the aircraft was new. Later, thanks to airline-standard regulation, the airplane lost its IFR privileges due to a lacking autopilot, DME, ADF, or whatever might have been missing. Now SERA came and you could apply for an amended certificate to make your airplane IFR-ready again. But does the national aviation authority know about this change? I think at least the Swiss Authority does not.

Thanks to the superb equipped IFR airplanes left in Switzerland, the authority might think that minimal equipment would not be safe. Many pilots even think alike. Don’t forget however, that you don’t plan a flight with minimum equipment in crazy bad weather. Flying IFR in blue skies, maybe climbing through a few hundred feet of stratus clouds, can be done without expensive instruments. IFR flying isn’t just used to make approaches down to 200ft agl. It is also used in blue skies, for example to have a simple, standardised way to fly to any country, without the fear of flying into special use airspace.

Que sera, sera, the future’s not ours to see. That might be true. The present however, is pretty darn sure ours to see. The regulations are too complicated to leave the interpretation to the pilots, aeroclub, internet forums and bloggers.

More detailed information: myclimbrate.com, IFR Minimum Equipment Switzerland

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