Enroute IFR from Switzerland to Carcassonne

Being one of a handful EASA Enroute IR (EIR) holders in Europe, I feel slightly obligated to share my experiences with it. Soon, the EIR will be replaced by the Basic IR (with enroute module) and thus, this enroute IFR rating will live on.

Instrument flights consist of three phases: Departure*, enroute and arrival/approach**. The Basic IR can be obtained with the enroute privileges only. The privileges for the other flight phases can be added at a later stage. This allows you to ease into the IFR system and become a more structured, competent private pilot.

*Standard Instrument Departure (SID); **Standard Arrival Route (STAR)/Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP)

I recently flew from Switzerland to Carcassonne via Grenoble Isère. The trip was a huge confidence boost, as I spent a little time in IMC with the airplane’s new equipment and I realized that my skills gained from my FAA CPL/IR are not at all worthless in Europe. It took me some time to become accustomed to Eurocontrol and I am still wondering about some ATC-things happening, but overall I’ve seen the pieces come together and am looking forward to lots more IFR flying on our beautiful diverse continent.

Cessna 175 Skylark in and out of clouds thanks to the EASA Enroute IR (resp. Basic IR with enroute module)

Despite blue skies on the weekend, the controller of Geneva vectored us over the Jura mountains, where I got some minutes of IMC in the cumulus clouds. After being vectored over the airport of Geneva I cancelled IFR to descend via the VFR route to Grenoble Isère. Skyguide managed to cancel my entire flight plan, possibly instead of entering a flight rule change to VFR. Lyon approach had to find and reactivate the flight plan, so we could cross the border (the same thing happened on the return flight with Bern approach, according to my autorouter messages).

Overall Skyguide didn’t seem very organized as I already had an interesting situation after takeoff. As required by the Swiss AIP, I called Skyguide on the phone for a squawk and departure frequency. It would also work without calling, I’ve done that before, but I thought I’d follow the instructions of the AIP, just to be sure. During my VFR climbout, the tower asked why I was squawking IFR and I replied that I was instructed to do so by Skyguide on the phone. It seemed as if this confused the tower, perhaps because noone else follows the AIP, who knows. Well, on my next flight I will probably inform the tower before takeoff if I am squawking a code given by them over the phone.

The Enroute IR in action.

My Eurocontrol learning curve continued as we approached Carcassonne. After receiving a direct course to the initial approach fix, I was advised to expect the RNAV (GNSS) approach. I informed the controller that I request to cancel IFR and fly the approach under VFR. The controller looked puzzled into her microphone, so I explained: “unable to accept approach clearance due to the pilot’s enroute instrument rating. Request cancelling IFR and continue the RNAV approach under VFR, maintaining own seperation from terrain in VMC.” The controller simply said: “Roger, IFR cancelled, continue RNVAV appraoch under VFR, contact tower…” This shows how important it is to speak clearly on the radio and let the controllers know of your intentions. They don’t know your rating privileges. They don’t know your personal weather minimums (they’re used to airliners). So let them know what your intentions are.

We descended via the LPV approach to the minimum of 250 feet and passed by the impressive middle age town of Carcassonne. Due to a strong headwind I kept the speed up, to make room for the next Ryanair.

My dad flew the next leg to Albi, LFCI, which was another beautiful old town. The airport had an interesting NOTAM, saying that the threshold was displaced due to racing in progress. At the departure and approaching end of the runway, a racetrack crossed the thresholds. As we descended to our flare, a white and green Lamborghini crossed underneath us. Pretty cool! And it was safe, as it was mentioned in the NOTAM and by the AFIS controller. Additionally, some markings indicated the displaced threshold.

On the way home, the routing was pretty much a perfect straight line, even through the area of Geneva. At our fuel stop in Grenoble Isère, we flew another practice RNAV LPV approach to the minimum of 200 feet. Just before the initial approach fix, we flew for a few more clouds and I really enjoyed doing that. Not because it was necessary, but because it made me realize, yes I do have more privileges with this rating. Even though the usability of the EIR (or BIR w/enroute module) is limited, as low ceilings usually affect the approach and departure and not the enroute part, the Enroute IR and Basic IR at least help in becoming part of the Eurocontrol system and flying nice straight lines through complex airspace.

After all, during these four flights I never had to worry about any special use airspace, except during takeoff and landing. As explained in my last post about the Enroute and Basic IR, these ratings are worth much more than many pilots think. It’s your entry into the IFR world, which is — in favorable weather — much simpler than flying VFR.

The EASA Basic IR with enroute module (or today the Enroute IR) can be your first step into the world of IFR flying.

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