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Aircraft

Aircraft register

What are the requirements for entry in the domestic aircraft register?

An aircraft is allowed to enter in the domestic aircraft register only if it meets one of the following conditions (Article L.6111-3 of the French Transportation Code):

  • The aircraft belongs to a French natural person or a national of another EU or European Economic Area member state.
  • The aircraft belongs to a legal person constituted in accordance with the legislation of an EU or European Economic Area member state and has its registered office or principal place of business there.
  • The aircraft is operated by an air carrier whose operating licence has been issued by the French administrative authority.

Mortgages and encumbrances

Is there a domestic register for aircraft mortgages, encumbrances and other interests? If so, what are the requirements and legal effects of registration?

By application of the Geneva Convention 1948 on the international recognition of aircraft rights, aircraft mortgages are registered in the French Aircraft Register (Article L.6122-8 of the Transport Code) and are valid for 10 years from the registration date. The mortgagee must produce a copy of the mortgage deed.

The mortgage – if belonging to the aircraft’s owner – covers the hull, engines, propellers, aircraft equipment and all parts intended for its continuous service. Under certain conditions, the mortgage can also cover spare parts if the location of where the spare parts are stored is made public.

In the event of the loss of or damage to an aircraft, the mortgagee creditor is subrogated in the amount of its claim, unless otherwise agreed, by the rights of the insured in respect of the indemnity due from the insurer. Before any payment is made, the insurer must request a statement of mortgage registration (Article L.6122-9 of the Transportation Code).

If there are several mortgages for the same aircraft, their rank is determined by their registration date. Except in the case of a forced sale, an aircraft may not be removed from the register if it has not been previously released from the registered mortgage.

The following claims are preferred to mortgages (in the following order) if they are registered in due course and concern an aircraft or insurance indemnity in the case of the loss of or damage to an aircraft:

  • the legal costs incurred in order to sell an aircraft and the distribution of the sale price in the common interest of creditors;
  • the remuneration due for the rescue of an aircraft; and
  • the necessary expenses incurred for an aircraft’s conservation.

Detention

What rules and procedures govern the detention of aircraft?

All aircraft may be subject to seizure on the grounds of an executive court order rendered against its owner due to outstanding debts to a creditor.

A private aircraft can be subject to a preventive seizure order with court authorisation in the case of debts owed by its owner.

An aircraft assigned to state service or commercial transport may be subject to a preventive seizure order only if the claim concerns debts due by the owner for the aircraft’s acquisition or training or maintenance contracts concerning its operation.

In the case of the failure of a formal notice to resolve such issues, the preventive seizure of an aircraft operated by or belonging to a debtor may be requested via the courts by:

  • the minister of transport – in the event of non or insufficient payment of route or air traffic service charges and the non-return of state aid;
  • the airport operator – in the event of non or insufficient payment of airport charges; and
  • the Authority for Airport Noise Control – in the event of non or insufficient payment of administrative fines that it has imposed.

The order will be communicated to the air traffic authorities for the immobilisation of the aircraft. The costs incurred by this seizure will be borne by the debtor.

In the case of the seizure of an aircraft registered with a party to the Geneva Convention 1948, no forced sale can occur if the seizing creditor’s rights cannot be fully covered by the sale price or if they are paid by the purchaser. However, if a mortgaged aircraft causes damage to third parties on French territory, the previous stipulation will not apply to the victims or their beneficiaries involved in the accident or any other aircraft owned by the same owner.

Safety and maintenance

What rules and procedures govern aircraft safety and maintenance?

The safety and maintenance of an aircraft are governed by EU Regulation 216/2008, EU Regulation 2042/2003 and a decree dated July 24 1991 regarding French general aviation.

The owner or lessee on the registration certificate is responsible for the maintenance and safety of the aircraft and must therefore guarantee its airworthiness.

Continuing airworthiness depends on:

  • compliance with airworthiness directives and any other requirements relating to airworthiness mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC);
  • compliance with the limitations contained in the flight manual;
  • the completion of all maintenance in accordance with the accepted maintenance programme;
  • the rectification to standard of any defects or damages affecting the aircraft’s safety , considering the list of deferred works;
  • the modifications or repairs required in accordance with an approved standard; and
  • compliance with the DGAC’s operational guidelines.

With regard to large aircraft or aircraft used for commercial air transport, organisations involved in maintenance must be approved by the DGAC (a list of Part 145 workshops is available online).

With regard to general aviation, the renewal period of an airworthiness certificate and an airworthiness review certificate depends on who carries out the maintenance. If a maintenance programme is approved by the DGAC or if maintenance is operated by an agreed workshop, certificates are valid for one to three years; if the maintenance is operated by the owner without an agreed maintenance programme, certificates are valid for six months.

Drones

What is the state of regulation on unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in your jurisdiction?

The outdoor use of drones is subject to the regulation of air activities. As a result, with some exceptions, the use of drones outside is subject to prior authorisation from the DGAC. Commercial or professional use is also subject to prior authorisation. However, the simple use of recreational drones is considered to be aeromodelling and if the drone weighs less than 25 kilogrammes (kg) authorisation is not required.

The use of a drone does not affect the rights of landowners over whose land a drone is flown  (Article L.6211-3 of the Transport Code). The use of drones over sensitive sites, such as nuclear power stations, military sites or historic monuments, is prohibited and can result in criminal liability for the drone’s pilot. Drones must be no more than 150 metres from the ground and that threshold is lowered to 50 metres in certain areas (eg, close to airports or military training areas). Pilots are also required to have direct vision of their drone. Nocturnal use of drones is forbidden and pilots must have a permanent direct view of their drone, except if it weighs less than 2 kg or, with prior authorisation, if a second person is able to see the drone.

From January 2018, all drones weighing more than 800 grams must be registered. 

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