Advice for Flying in Spain
In Spain microlights are required to stay below 1000ft AGL, but since that’s where you really don’t want to be especially during the hot summer weather, and if there is a mountain at 4000ft nearby …. . If you want to fly through controlled airspace you have to file a Flight Plan, even for domestic sectors.
There are several military restricted areas around Spain to be careful of, some of which only appeared recently and some are only active Mon-Fri. The military don’t always stay within their allotted areas either!
The Murcia area Military restricted airspace area LER63 has been clarified as 2000ft AGL or AMSL, which is more realistic, considering the mountainous area it covers.
In general, I have learned that with Spanish ATC its sometimes best just to keep a low profile, a low height, and with so many mountains they likely can’t see you on radar anyway!
To fly in Spain it is necessary to obtain a Permit to Fly from the the civil aviation (AESA). Following the UK leaving the European Union one of our members has been advised that the declaration under EU rules is no longer applicable for British registered microlights (ULMs) but they can revert to ICAO rules and have granted an authorisation under that Convention article 9 of the Spanish civil aviation (AESA) Statute.
We are awaiting clarification whether a specific application form is needed, the EASA application form was (until recently) accessed from http://www.seguridadaerea.gob.es/media/4352573/f_dsa_upf_01.pdf, but has been removed.
Once completed the form needs to be emailed with the following documents to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Completed and signed application form
Copy of your flying licence
Copy of aircraft registration certificate
Copy of your UK PtF & Certificate of Validity
Copy of your insurance
Copy of Class II or LAPL medical certificate. The medical certificate is now being enforced and there is no way around it! The new U.K. medical self-declaration and the old GP signed-declaration are not acceptable. You will need to obtain the medical certificate from an authorised Aero Medical Examiner AME (list from the UK CAA website) - note they have to be an EASA-approved AME. Likely to cost £150-200 !
Make sure all certificates are valid for the full period you need the permit, which is normally issued for a max of 6 months. It normally takes about 1 week to get the permit back.
The new medical certificate requirement is a real off-putter, especially for a short visit. I personally have never been asked for any documents here, and as entering from another Schengen zone state means no Customs checks .....but, you never know. I can see this requirement spreading in Europe as this requirement came from a need to conform with an EU regulation 1178/2011 which the UK Medical Self-Declaration explicitly does not conform with.
Flying to Spain:
Flying direct across Spain North-South in mid-summer might be rather turbulent with the temperatures often experienced. The interior ‘plain’ is also average between 3-4,000ft elevation so ‘hot&high’ conditions. I have flown the Med coastal route (see below), as far South as Vera, near Almeria, where I am based. There are some very high mountains inland and several major airports’ airspace to either fly around or navigate through. With the mountains and summer temperatures you have to be very careful of winds here. It can change quickly, and get strong quickly. Obviously strong sea breezes in summer.
In return I found most of the ATC very helpful, Barcelona and Valencia in particular, the latter enabling me to transit along the coast at 1500ft with a good traffic service. Apart from Alicante, where at 15NM from the airport and at the required 1500ft they claimed they couldn’t identify me on radar, even squawking ident, so refused my flight planned VFR transit of their CTR along the published route. After telling me to go away I took the option of routing out to sea by 15 miles and below 1000ft to avoid their CTR. Cloud base over land was around 1500ft so that was the only option, apart from landing at Muchamiel. I have since been given the name and number of an instructor at Muchamiel who is also one of the Duty Managers at Alicante so might be able to arrange a visit to ATC to discuss future transits.
Further south, San Javier were most helpful and allowed us overhead transit at 1000ft so got a nice shot at (I mean photo of) the military jets on the ramp. Well, luckily it was a Saturday so they were all at the beach! We stopped at Castellon, north of Valencia, which is a very friendly airfield. It’s a sky dive centre so need to watch for that but they did speak English on the radio. The runway surface is rather worn. They have Avgas but its very expensive, about EUR2.30/L! But there are some good beach hotels just a few hundred metres walk (best rates at the reception) and a good bar/restaurant on the airfield.
Benicolet ULM airfield (short and grass) south of Valencia, inland from Denia has Derek Holman’s New Horizons Microlight School and worth a visit. And the Costa Blanca Flyers website is quite helpful.
Close to San Javier is a great ULM airfield called Los Garranchos with tarmac runway and nice club house/bar. Its inside San Javier’s CTR but outside of the ATZ. Keith Reynolds has just set up a school operation there. A bit further on is Totana, compacted earth strip but with plenty of hangars and a club house; several Brits fly out of there.
I’m based at a small, private tarmac strip at Vera, South of Cartegena. Its short and in a dip so challenging approaches but can arrange access, fuel runs and they have a small apartment to rent for flyers.
I’ve not flown further west of here yet and with the Sierra Nevada mountains up to 11,400ft the coastal route would again be best in Summer.
There are several ULM airfields North along the coast from Barcelona.
We flew to Spain through France, routing via Chartres then Villefrance de Rouergue (lovely grass airfield with mogas on site and good hotel within walking distance and town which looks worth exploring) then to Torreilles, near Perpignan. Great flight down the coast into there.
Torreilles is a great ULM airfield with large hangar crammed with many types of aircraft, a ULM school, small club house and Mogas on site. Hotels are a taxi ride but more would be open in summer.
A point to note; the owner/operator of Torreilles may tell you that microlights can’t fly into Spain. Rubbish but perhaps he means they don’t let French microlights in!
Anyway, the main point is that the Spanish didn’t accept my flight plan coming from Torrielles because it isn’t ICAO designated, even thought the French have 4-digit codes for all their ULM airfields. So, I re-filed from Narbonne, which is about 20mins flying North along the coast and has a proper ICA code. That plan was accepted so I got airborne from Torreilles, flew north towards Narbonne then called ATC to activate my flight plan. Bingo, I was then granted my flight planned altitude and transit through Perpignan CTR!
(Adrian Whitmarsh, Feb 2017, updated Feb 2021)