French Customs Service

Operator Profile

Key Facts

Current Title:
Douanes Françaises
English Title:
French Customs Service
First Established:
ICAO Code:


Narrative Summary

The French customs service is officially known as the Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes (Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects, DGDDI), but more informally called the Douanes Françaises. A French Customs Service was first formally established in 1791, and survived the revolutionary period due to the need to maintain government income. Prior to WW2 it included a para-military section that acted in tarrif enforcement and border guard roles, but this was disbanded under the Vichy government in 1940. After WW2 the Customs Service was modernised and a single helicopter was leased on a short term basis in 1950. The trial ended the same year with a fatal accident. Ten years later, the service borrowed an Alouette II from the Navy for more trials, which were much more successful. Two Alouette IIs were delivered in 1962, and a Customs Helicopters Group established in 1963.

The helicopter force expanded gradually, and fixed-wing aircraft were added in 1969. In 1985 the extension of territorial waters to 200 nm demanded additional fixed wing aircraft. In 1987 a detachment was established on the Carribbean island of Martinique, and marine pollution monitoring began. In 2000 a fleet rationalisation took place, during which a number of aircraft were retired.

Key Dates

1791    French Customs Service first established.
1950    First helicopter leased – Hiller 360.
1962    First full-time helicopters delivered.
1969    First fixed-wing aircraft delivered.
1985    Additional maritime patrol duties assigned.
2000    Fleet rationalisation carried out.

Current Status

The DF aircraft are used for air-ground monitoring, pollution patrol and maritime policing.

Future Plans

No plans known.


Special Markings

Douanes aircraft operate in an overall white colour scheme with a red and blue fuselage cheatline. No national insignia are carried except for the national flag as a fin flash. The service title DOUANES FRANCAISES is carried on the fuselage sides.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Douanes aircraft and helicopters carry civil registrations in the F-ZBGx and F-ZBLx ranges, eg: Cessna F406 F-ZBGA. Earlier registrations are reused as older types are withdrawn.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used


Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Table of Current Service Aircraft

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

False reports of aircraft on order or in service – none known.


Main Headquarters

Douanes Francaises, 11, Rue des Deux Communes, Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, France.

Organisational Structure

The aviation branch is the Section Aerienne. The aviation units are grouped into two directorates: Surveillance Aeromaritime (Maritime Air Surveillance) and Surveillance Aeroterrestre (Land Air Surveillance). The former is divided into Mediterranean, Atlantic and English Channel divisions. In addition there is an overseas unit in Martinique.

Current Unit Assignments

Table of Current Unit Assignments

Historical Unit Assignments

Historical Unit Assignments for 2008

All-Time Flying Units List

Groupement Douanier d’Hélicoptères
Section Aerienne Mediterranee
Section Aerienne Atlantique
Section Aerienne Normandie/Manche
Section Aerienne Le Bourget
Section Aerienne Toulouse
Section Aerienne Martinique
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Hyeres Avion
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Hyeres Helicoptere
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Merignac
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Lorient
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Le Havre
Brigade de Surveillance Aeroterrestre Dugny Le Bourget
Brigade de Surveillance Aeromaritime Le Lamentin

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

See organisation table above.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

Section Aeriennes at Dijon and Pau were closed in 2006.

More Information


French Aviation Bibliography – to be added


World Air Power Journal No.10 p.157


Douanes official website

wikipedia: Directorate-general of customs and indirect taxes


Les hélicoptères de la Douanes

Les Bases Helicopteres des Douanes Francaises

Facebook: Helicopteres et Avions ded Douanes Francaises

Any further photographs illustrating this air arm would be welcome.

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