Courchevel Altiport Intro

Flying to the French Alps

Courchevel (LFLJ) is an altiport in the French alps with a rather challenging runway. The total runway is only 537 meter long with an upslope of 19%. You need either a special site license or a mountain rating to be allowed to land here.

The arrival is via a town called Moutier, where we find the Whiskey (W) point. When the tower is closed, you have to fly past a ski station to calibrate your altimeter to the known height of that ski station, then overfly the runway to make sure it is clear of obstacles, snow and suitable to land. Then you fly outbound to join the circuit to the only runway available for landing (RW 04). It is a commit-to-land with no options for a go-around.

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The approach to Courchevel. The descent on final starts at 7000 feet as well.

Initially, I learned to fly to Courchevel on a Piper Archer II, then on the Cirrus SR20, SR22 and Mousquetaire aircraft, which aircraft is also used for glacier flying and mountain flight training.

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On final runway 04 Courchevel (left) and parked right next to the ski slope (right).

Flying the Cirrus SR20 or SR22 to Courchevel is a little bit more challenging. It seems that the Cirrus was not designed to take it to Courchevel, but with some training, it can be done. With the Cirrus SR22 Turbo, I can theoretically fly from Rotterdam to Courchevel in just a few hours and stand on the ski-slopes at 10 in the morning just 10 minutes after landing at the altiport. The altiport is open during the daylight period, so at the end of the day you can still depart just before sunset and be back home again before the airport of Rotterdam closes at 11 local time in the evening. OK, this is in theory, as I have never done it like this.

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The runway has a 19% upslope with a flat part at the top.

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One of the first videos I made of a landing I did at Courchevel was from a flight from Lyon-Bron (LFLY) to Courchevel (LFLJ) with the Piper Archer II. The flight goes right over the alps where I am still a little nervous about the skills I just acquired when on final approach.

A more recent video of the same approach into Courchevel, but now made with a Cirrus SR22 Turbo, shows the difference in approach speed on final when flying it with the Cirrus compared to flying it with a slower aircraft like the Piper. A little different technique is used here. Where with the Piper Archer I would have to add power after touchdown to get upslope to the top of the runway, the extra speed you have with the Cirrus makes this not necessary and you need to make sure you can stop in time before the wall at the end of the runway appears.

The circuit and approach to land as seen in the second video is also different due to the thin cloud layer that was present at Courchevel at that time. The tower was closed that day, so, at first, I had to make sure the runway was free and safe to land on, then I opted for an alternative left-hand base leg approach to the runway. There was a fresh layer of snow that had fallen that night at Courchevel, but the ski-slopes were not yet open.

Flying to Courchevel in the Summer

In the summertime, I try to visit Courchevel every time I fly en-route to the South of France and thus am passing the Alps. The summer flying at Courchevel is not less challenging than in the winter time. There is often more turbulence and downdrafts as the sun heats up the ground and makes the air move around.



The altiport lies below the wing.