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Thread: AVWeb Article on Special VFR Comments and Questions:

  1. #1

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    AVWeb Article on Special VFR Comments and Questions:

    AVWeb Article on Special VFR Comments and Questions:

    Good article but for me it created more questions than answers. I would like to speak with the author (and other CFIs) of the AV Web February 18, 2021 article by Paul Berge entitled "Whats So Special About Special VFR?"

    https://www.avweb.com/insider/whats-...#comment-13403

    I am open to suggestions as to forums for the discussion but will suggest the EAA Forum EAA IMC Club (http://eaaforums.org/forumdisplay.php?26-EAA-IMC-Club) although I doubt it is ideal because of limited activity and other issues.

    CFIG1467368@Yahoo.com

  2. #2

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    No one has posted so I will offer the observation that most of the article is aimed at instrument rated pilots, which is probably good. The part about Special VFR emphasizes that it is best done by pilots familiar with the local area and its hazards. I will suggest that is good advice most of the time but there are a number of situations that I have run into where a stranger can safety use Special VFR to arrive or depart. If conditions are very stable, or are demonstrably improving, and better weather is nearby, Special VFR is a good tool to get in or out of an airport. The marine layer example cited in the article is one example. If you know that it is clear and blue 10 miles inland and you get a big enough opening over the airport that would allow you to circle to be above the low layer before turning on course, it makes sense to ask the tower whether they can accommodate a Special VFR departure. I have done that. Tower may decline if they have IFR traffic inbound or outbound. They can not accept IFR traffic if you launch and have not yet departed their airspace. So you can ask and they can say yes or no.

    Another situation is where the airport is under the edge of a cloud layer with an 800' ceiling but great visibility and you are in good VFR 10 miles out. If you can see the airport and won't get into trouble flying over downtown at that altitude, it makes sense to request Special VFR.

    This all supposes that your airplane is healthy and Mother Nature has created a situation where you can stay clear of clouds. Mostly we are talking about good visibility to where you need to go.

    Best of luck,

    Wes

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by WLIU View Post
    No one has posted so I will offer the observation that most of the article is aimed at instrument rated pilots, which is probably good. The part about Special VFR emphasizes that it is best done by pilots familiar with the local area and its hazards. I will suggest that is good advice most of the time but there are a number of situations that I have run into where a stranger can safety use Special VFR to arrive or depart. If conditions are very stable, or are demonstrably improving, and better weather is nearby, Special VFR is a good tool to get in or out of an airport. The marine layer example cited in the article is one example. If you know that it is clear and blue 10 miles inland and you get a big enough opening over the airport that would allow you to circle to be above the low layer before turning on course, it makes sense to ask the tower whether they can accommodate a Special VFR departure. I have done that. Tower may decline if they have IFR traffic inbound or outbound. They can not accept IFR traffic if you launch and have not yet departed their airspace. So you can ask and they can say yes or no.

    Another situation is where the airport is under the edge of a cloud layer with an 800' ceiling but great visibility and you are in good VFR 10 miles out. If you can see the airport and won't get into trouble flying over downtown at that altitude, it makes sense to request Special VFR.

    This all supposes that your airplane is healthy and Mother Nature has created a situation where you can stay clear of clouds. Mostly we are talking about good visibility to where you need to go.

    Best of luck,

    Wes

    Thanks Wes. Good comment.

    I have a clarification on the following from the PAE tower chief. This edit corrects the following post and gives comments on good procedures. Special VFR can be issued thru the Class D airspace. Operations at an airport within the Class D is not a requirement. When the primary airport is IFR but VFR conditions (VMC) exist for the operations requested it is encouraged to request VFR transit thru the Class D and this can be approved while IFR operations continue. A request for Special VFR may be denied because it will not allow any IFR operations while the Special VFR clearance is in effect. IFR operations have priority over Special VFR operations. In the example given below (where PAE is 800 feet overcast and fights up and down the sound have a 1400 foot overcast with good visibility) a VFR transit can be approved if the pilot maintains an altitude of 900 feet or less, 500 feet below the overcast layer.

    One point I would like to clarify is if in some cases a Special VFR is only available for VFR to or from an airport in the Class D (etc.) airspace*. In the Seattle area KPAE is at 600 feat MSL and about a half mile from Puget Sound. PAE can be 800 feet overcast and fights up and down the sound have a 1400 foot overcast with good visibility. This is a popular seaplane route. Whidby Island creates a problem in that it has a finger that projects about half a mile into the Class D on the other side of the Sound that is well removed from the IFR approach and departure paths. If transiting aircraft flying North or South along the sound can not get a Special VFR clearance to transit they are forced to go over the hills of Whidby Island and this can get interesting.

    If one can continue over the sound there is no need to even climb to the airport elevation. The other option is to request a Special VFR to KPAE and follow with a missed approach to the opposite side of the Class D. This is really an abuse of the system in an aircraft with straight floats IMHO. We have been very fortunate to have exceptional ATC employees in this area but those days getting scarce.

    It is little traps like this that can get a pilot into problems because of "Standards" such as the circular Class D airspace that does not account for local conditions. After studying the Kolby crash I suspect similar ATC limitations were a factor in the outcome.

    Comments welcome.

    * This was reported by a knowledgable ATC person but is not supported by information I have access to. It may be a part of controler training or controler manual or local agreements. I have attached material from an internet search below as a reference. I will do more checking on this and report back with any additional information.

    91.157 Special VFR weather minimums.

    (a) Except as provided in appendix D, section 3, of this part, special VFR operations may be conducted under the weather minimums and requirements of this section, instead of those contained in 91.155, below 10,000 feet MSL within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport.
    (b) Special VFR operations may only be conducted—
    (1) With an ATC clearance;
    (2) Clear of clouds;
    (3) Except for helicopters, when flight visibility is at least 1 statute mile; and
    (4) Except for helicopters, between sunrise and sunset (or in Alaska, when the sun is 6 degrees or more below the horizon) unless—
    (i) The person being granted the ATC clearance meets the applicable requirements for instrument flight under part 61 of this chapter; and
    (ii) The aircraft is equipped as required in 91.205(d).
    (c) No person may take off or land an aircraft (other than a helicopter) under special VFR—
    (1) Unless ground visibility is at least 1 statute mile; or
    (2) If ground visibility is not reported, unless flight visibility is at least 1 statute mile. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term flight visibility includes the visibility from the cockpit of an aircraft in takeoff position if:
    (i) The flight is conducted under this part 91; and
    (ii) The airport at which the aircraft is located is a satellite airport that does not have weather reporting capabilities.
    (d) The determination of visibility by a pilot in accordance with paragraph (c)(2) of this section is not an official weather report or an official ground visibility report.


    AIM 4.4.6


    • Special VFR Clearances
      • An ATC clearance must be obtained prior to operating within a Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface area when the weather is less than that required for VFR flight. A VFR pilot may request and be given a clearance to enter, leave, or operate within most Class D and Class E surface areas and some Class B and Class C surface areas in special VFR conditions, traffic permitting, and providing such flight will not delay IFR operations. All special VFR flights must remain clear of clouds. The visibility requirements for special VFR aircraft (other than helicopters) are:
        • At least 1 statute mile flight visibility for operations within Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas.
        • At least 1 statute mile ground visibility if taking off or landing. If ground visibility is not reported at that airport, the flight visibility must be at least 1 statute mile.
        • The restrictions in subparagraphs 1 and 2 do not apply to helicopters. Helicopters must remain clear of clouds and may operate in Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas with less than 1 statute mile visibility.

      • When a control tower is located within the Class B, Class C, or Class D surface area, requests for clearances should be to the tower. In a Class E surface area, a clearance may be obtained from the nearest tower, FSS, or center.
      • It is not necessary to file a complete flight plan with the request for clearance, but pilots should state their intentions in sufficient detail to permit ATC to fit their flight into the traffic flow. The clearance will not contain a specific altitude as the pilot must remain clear of clouds. The controller may require the pilot to fly at or below a certain altitude due to other traffic, but the altitude specified will permit flight at or above the minimum safe altitude. In addition, at radar locations, flights may be vectored if necessary for control purposes or on pilot request. NOTE-
        The pilot is responsible for obstacle or terrain clearance.

        REFERENCE-
        14 CFR Section 91.119, Minimum safe altitudes: General.
      • Special VFR clearances are effective within Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas only. ATC does not provide separation after an aircraft leaves the Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface area on a special VFR clearance.
      • Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraft are prohibited in some Class B and Class C surface areas due to the volume of IFR traffic. A list of these Class B and Class C surface areas is contained in 14 CFR Part 91, Appendix D, Section 3. They are also depicted on sectional aeronautical charts.
      • ATC provides separation between Special VFR flights and between these flights and other IFR flights.
      • Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraft are prohibited between sunset and sunrise unless the pilot is instrument rated and the aircraft is equipped for IFR flight.
      • Pilots arriving or departing an uncontrolled airport that has automated weather broadcast capability (ASOS/AWOS) should monitor the broadcast frequency, advise the controller that they have the “one-minute weather” and state intentions prior to operating within the Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface areas. REFERENCE-
        Pilot/Controller Glossary Term- One-minute Weather.


    FAI FFS - Special VFR Clearances

    For a complete explanation of special VFR procedures, see 14 CFR 91.157 and Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) chapter 4 section 4. This page will only give an overview of the procedures.

    One of the first rules you should know about special VFR clearances is that we cannot suggest that you ask for one. You, the pilot, have to initiate the request. If you request to enter or depart a surface area that is IFR, we will advise you that an ATC clearance is required, but it is up to you to then request a special VFR clearance if that is what you want.
    The next thing you should know is that you must have at least 1 Statute Mile (SM) ground visibility officially reported at the airport in order to land or depart the airport unless you are flying a helicopter. In most cases there will be an official weather report available, but if not, then all you need is 1 SM flight visibility. Also if you are not landing or departing an airport that reports weather, for exampleyou are flying through the class E surface area but are not landing anywhere in the surface area, or you are landing at a location in the surface area other than an airport where weather is reported, then all you need is 1 SM flight visibility.
    For example, let's say you are flying a float plane from Whitehorse, Yukon to Yarger Lake which is inside the Northway, AK class E surface area. You monitor the Northway ASOS and it is reporting 3/4 SM visibility and ceiling 600 overcast. You call Northway FSS and report that you are inbound from the southeast, have 1 SM flight visibility and are requesting a Special VFR clearance to land at Yarger Lake. The clearance can be issued, but you must maintain at least 1 SM flight visibility at all times. However, in the same situation, if you requested a Special VFR clearance to land at Northway, we would have to say that the Northway visibility is 3/4 SM, A-T-C unable to issue entry clearance unless an emergency exists.
    In some cases there will be personnel on the airport reporting the weather. In other cases there will only be an automated system on the field, in which case it will be the pilot's responsibility to monitor the automated broadcast to see if 1 SM or more is being reported. In those cases where there is only an automated system, unless the controller issuing the clearance is located on the field, he or she will only have access to the most recent weather information that has been transmitted into the national database, which very well may be different from the current 1 minute weather observation, which is what matters.
    For example, let say you want a special VFR clearance to land at Tanana airport. Fairbanks FSS is the only ATC facility that has communications in that area so you would call us for a clearance. First you should monitor the Tanana ASOS broadcast on frequency 135.1 and let's say they are reporting 1 1/2 SM visibility. You then call Fairbanks Radio and advise us that the current weather at Tanana is visibility 1 1/2 SM and ceiling 800 overcast. We may check the Tanana weather from our system and lets say we show 3/4 SM visibility, but that is irrelevant. We can still issue the clearance because you have told us that the visibility is now 1 1/2 SM.
    Always keep in mind that if you have an emergency situation, declare an emergency and we can issue a clearance no matter how low the visibility is. Don't fly around until you run out of fuel or fly into some mountain because of low visibility.

    Page last modified: December 08, 2014 1:10:31 PM


    • Special VFR Clearances
      • An ATC clearance must be obtained prior to operating within a Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface area when the weather is less than that required for VFR flight. A VFR pilot may request and be given a clearance to enter, leave, or operate within most Class D and Class E surface areas and some Class B and Class C surface areas in special VFR conditions, traffic permitting, and providing such flight will not delay IFR operations. All special VFR flights must remain clear of clouds. The visibility requirements for special VFR aircraft (other than helicopters) are:
        • At least 1 statute mile flight visibility for operations within Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas.
        • At least 1 statute mile ground visibility if taking off or landing. If ground visibility is not reported at that airport, the flight visibility must be at least 1 statute mile.
        • The restrictions in subparagraphs 1 and 2 do not apply to helicopters. Helicopters must remain clear of clouds and may operate in Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas with less than 1 statute mile visibility.

      • When a control tower is located within the Class B, Class C, or Class D surface area, requests for clearances should be to the tower. In a Class E surface area, a clearance may be obtained from the nearest tower, FSS, or center.
      • It is not necessary to file a complete flight plan with the request for clearance, but pilots should state their intentions in sufficient detail to permit ATC to fit their flight into the traffic flow. The clearance will not contain a specific altitude as the pilot must remain clear of clouds. The controller may require the pilot to fly at or below a certain altitude due to other traffic, but the altitude specified will permit flight at or above the minimum safe altitude. In addition, at radar locations, flights may be vectored if necessary for control purposes or on pilot request. NOTE-
        The pilot is responsible for obstacle or terrain clearance.

        REFERENCE-
        14 CFR Section 91.119, Minimum safe altitudes: General.
      • Special VFR clearances are effective within Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areas only. ATC does not provide separation after an aircraft leaves the Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface area on a special VFR clearance.
      • Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraft are prohibited in some Class B and Class C surface areas due to the volume of IFR traffic. A list of these Class B and Class C surface areas is contained in 14 CFR Part 91, Appendix D, Section 3. They are also depicted on sectional aeronautical charts.
      • ATC provides separation between Special VFR flights and between these flights and other IFR flights.
      • Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraft are prohibited between sunset and sunrise unless the pilot is instrument rated and the aircraft is equipped for IFR flight.
      • Pilots arriving or departing an uncontrolled airport that has automated weather broadcast capability (ASOS/AWOS) should monitor the broadcast frequency, advise the controller that they have the “one-minute weather” and state intentions prior to operating within the Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface areas. REFERENCE-
        Pilot/Controller Glossary Term- One-minute Weather.

    Last edited by jedi; 03-07-2021 at 05:36 AM. Reason: Reply from PAE tower Chief added

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