Special VFR Class C/D when A/P is reporting VFR

Tired Soul

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Here's something that has me scratching my head.......
I got refused a Special VFR clearance while trying to descent into a Class D airport under a Class C shelf. Controller said no, the field is VFR, I can only give you special VFR if the field is reporting IFR

Here's the conditions:

  • I'm at 3000' in a SE inside Class C
  • I'm above a broken layer with ceilings at 1500'
  • Destination Class D airport ATIS is VFR with 7 SM vis and 1500 BRK
  • There is no way I can descend and maintain VFR
Eventually I end up going 20 NM further North, descend and turn around.
After the flight I grab the FARAIM and sit there scratching my head.
So I decide to call the ATC facility, get a very nice controller on the line to discuss and maybe learn. I don't know everything maybe I've been wrong. Who knows.
Anyway we couldn't get to agree and I'm still saying that I'm right.

Here's what I'm thinking:
Special VFR only applies to B,C and D.
I can't get Special VFR to descend from 8,500' to 6,500' through a broken layer out over the boonies in Class E.
This is what the book says:
14 CFR 1.1 Definitions:

Special VFR conditions mean meteorological conditions that are less than those required for basic VFR flight in controlled airspace and in which some aircraft are permitted flight under visual flight rules.
Special VFR operations means aircraft operating in accordance with clearances within controlled airspace in meteorological conditions less than the basic VFR weather minima. Such operations must be requested by the pilot and approved by ATC.
Agreed, but I need to go through an area of less then basic VFR to get to the airport. In this case this area is vertical rather then horizontal.

91.157
(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 Sec. 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 Sec. 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.
So you can only substitute flight visibility if the airport has no weather reporting, nothing else.

AIM 4-4-6:

4-4-6. Special VFR Clearances
a. An ATC clearance must be obtained prior tooperating within a Class B, Class C, Class D, orClass E surface area when the weather is less than thatrequired for VFR flight. A VFR pilot may request andbe given a clearance to enter, leave, or operate withinmost Class D and Class E surface areas and someClass B and Class C surface areas in special VFRconditions, traffic permitting, and providing suchflight will not delay IFR operations. All special VFRflights must remain clear of clouds. The visibilityrequirements for special VFR aircraft (other thanhelicopters) are:
1. At least 1 statute mile flight visibility foroperations within Class B, Class C, Class D, andClass E surface areas.
2. At least 1 statute mile ground visibility iftaking off or landing. If ground visibility is notreported at that airport, the flight visibility must be atleast 1 statute mile.
3. The restrictions in subparagraphs 1 and 2 donot apply to helicopters. Helicopters must remainclear of clouds and may operate in Class B, Class C,Class D, and Class E surface areas with less than1 statute mile visibility.
b. When a control tower is located within theClass B, Class C, or Class D surface area, requests forclearances should be to the tower. In a Class E surfacearea, a clearance may be obtained from the nearesttower, FSS, or center.
c. It is not necessary to file a complete flight planwith the request for clearance, but pilots should statetheir intentions in sufficient detail to permit ATC tofit their flight into the traffic flow. The clearance willnot contain a specific altitude as the pilot must remainclear of clouds. The controller may require the pilotto fly at or below a certain altitude due to other traffic,but the altitude specified will permit flight at or abovethe minimum safe altitude. In addition, at radarlocations, flights may be vectored if necessary forcontrol purposes or on pilot request.
NOTE-
The pilot is responsible for obstacle or terrain clearance.
[SIZE=-2]REFERENCE-[/SIZE]
[SIZE=-2]14 CFR Section 91.119, Minimum safe altitudes: General.[/SIZE]
d. Special VFR clearances are effective withinClass B, Class C, Class D, and Class E surface areasonly. ATC does not provide separation after anaircraft leaves the Class B, Class C, Class D, orClass E surface area on a special VFR clearance.
e. Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraftare prohibited in some Class B and Class C surfaceareas due to the volume of IFR traffic. A list of theseClass B and Class C surface areas is contained in14 CFR Part 91, Appendix D, Section 3. They arealso depicted on sectional aeronautical charts.
f. ATC provides separation between Special VFRflights and between these flights and other IFRflights.
g. Special VFR operations by fixed-wing aircraftare prohibited between sunset and sunrise unless thepilot is instrument rated and the aircraft is equippedfor IFR flight.
h. Pilots arriving or departing an uncontrolledairport that has automated weather broadcastcapability (ASOS/AWSS/AWOS) should monitor thebroadcast frequency, advise the controller that theyhave the "one-minute weather" and state intentionsprior to operating within the Class B, Class C,Class D, or Class E surface areas.
So why can't I get a Special VFR clearance operating within a Class C trying to descent into a Class D? This airport is obviously not on teh list of SVFR prohibited airports. And I didn't call TWR since TWR needs to coordinate with APP so I made my request with the APP controller I was talking to.
Can somebody get me a reference as to chapter and verse of the Controllers Handbook or something where I can look this up?

Since there may be very little cross contamination I've also posted this in the ATC section.
 

Singlecoil

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It sounds like the controller answered your question. They won't issue specials if the field is VFR. I've asked the same question when I wanted to fly the traffic pattern when the weather was 1100 overcast. I didn't want to fly 500 feet below that layer, but they simply won't or can't issue a special when the field is VFR.

I know what you are asking, and it is a sort of gray area. You wanted to descend through a broken layer. You weren't clear about it, but I'm guessing you were intending to remain clear of clouds while descending, but couldn't maintain 91.155 clearances from those clouds as you were doing it. The simplest thing to do would be to do it anyway. They have you on radar, and you aren't going to hit other traffic as they are providing basic separation. Otherwise, you should stay below the lowest layer on your way into the airport. Being VFR between layers or above a layer is seldom a good thing.
 

Tired Soul

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You wanted to descend through a broken layer. You weren't clear about it, but I'm guessing you were intending to remain clear of clouds while descending, but couldn't maintain 91.155 clearances from those clouds as you were doing it.
That's exactly what happenend.
My point is I was already inside Class C and the AIM specifically states "operate within".
In this case descend from inside a C to a D airport.
Haven't had time yet to start digging through the Controller's Handbook.
 
Last edited:

propilot

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Why wasting time with the Special VFR through a layer? Why didn't you just pick up an IFR clearance and save all the hassle?
 

rettofly

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It sounds like the controller answered your question. They won't issue specials if the field is VFR. I've asked the same question when I wanted to fly the traffic pattern when the weather was 1100 overcast. I didn't want to fly 500 feet below that layer, but they simply won't or can't issue a special when the field is VFR.

I know what you are asking, and it is a sort of gray area. You wanted to descend through a broken layer. You weren't clear about it, but I'm guessing you were intending to remain clear of clouds while descending, but couldn't maintain 91.155 clearances from those clouds as you were doing it. The simplest thing to do would be to do it anyway. They have you on radar, and you aren't going to hit other traffic as they are providing basic separation. Otherwise, you should stay below the lowest layer on your way into the airport. Being VFR between layers or above a layer is seldom a good thing.
Doesn't the 500 below go away within 1200 ft AGL?
 

nosehair

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Mini...where the aych-ee-double-hockysticks have you been?
 

Flying Ninja

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91.157(b) Special VFR operations may only be conducted— (1) With an ATC clearance;
(2) Clear of clouds;


How are you even considering descending through a cloud layer operating under VFR? Radar environment or not, you as PIC under VFR are responsible to see-and-avoid other traffic. Radar does not relieve you of this responsibility, nor does it guarantee protection from collision with other traffic. Descending through a layer under VFR thinking "they have me on radar" is asking for it.


Also, in case you haven't seen this:


Part 91 Appendix D
Section 3. Locations at which fixed-wing Special VFR operations are prohibited.
The Special VFR weather minimums of §91.157 do not apply to the following airports:


Atlanta, GA (The William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport)
Baltimore, MD (Baltimore/Washington International Airport)
Boston, MA (General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport)
Buffalo, NY (Greater Buffalo International Airport)
Chicago, IL (Chicago-O'Hare International Airport)
Cleveland, OH (Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport)
Columbus, OH (Port Columbus International Airport)
Covington, KY (Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport)
Dallas, TX (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport)
Dallas, TX (Love Field)
Denver, CO (Denver International Airport)
Detroit, MI (Metropolitan Wayne County Airport)
Honolulu, HI (Honolulu International Airport)
Houston, TX (George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston)
Indianapolis, IN (Indianapolis International Airport)
Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles International Airport)
Louisville, KY (Standiford Field)
Memphis, TN (Memphis International Airport)
Miami, FL (Miami International Airport)
Minneapolis, MN (Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport)
Newark, NJ (Newark International Airport)
New York, NY (John F. Kennedy International Airport)
New York, NY (LaGuardia Airport)
New Orleans, LA (New Orleans International Airport-Moisant Field)
Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia International Airport)
Pittsburgh, PA (Greater Pittsburgh International Airport)
Portland, OR (Portland International Airport)
San Francisco, CA (San Francisco International Airport)
Seattle, WA (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport)
St. Louis, MO (Lambert-St. Louis International Airport)
Tampa, FL (Tampa International Airport)
Washington, DC (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base, MD)
 

ksu_aviator

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You won't get a Special VFR clearance in any case if you are on an IFR flight plan. For one, the entire airspace must be cleared. Let's say you are going into a class D airport...there must literally be no aircraft inside the airspace for you to get a special VFR. I'm sure there are more reason...just the first that came to me.
 

PA44Jockey

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You won't get a Special VFR clearance in any case if you are on an IFR flight plan. For one, the entire airspace must be cleared. Let's say you are going into a class D airport...there must literally be no aircraft inside the airspace for you to get a special VFR. I'm sure there are more reason...just the first that came to me.
I will second that. Controllers in Sanford, FL back in 2000 would often not grant special VFR if they had people practicing approaches. In order to give the clearance, they have to clear the entire airspace.

Also, to the Original Poster. Say you got a special VFR clearance, that doesn't give you the ability to break through an overcast layer of clouds. If that was your intention, a local IFR clearance would have gotten you in.

Under special VFR you must remain clear of clouds. Also, under special VFR you must meet the requirements of Instrument flight under part 61. So if you met the requirements, and he denied you special VFR, the local clearance would have gotten you on an approach.
 

Tired Soul

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OK for all the dyslexic pilots on this board

I was in Class C above the Class D airport.
The airport in question or the C in question is not on the list of VFR prohibited.
Flying Ninja your list refers to Class B airports.

And yes I can descend through (a hole in a) broken layer.
Obviously not going full blown "in the clouds" IMC.

KSU aviator, I was not on an IFR flightplan trying to get special VFR that's the whole point.
I was proven right by the way, don't have the reference in front of me now but I will quote song and verse from the controllers handbook
 

Flying Ninja

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Flying Ninja your list refers to Class B airports.

And yes I can descend through (a hole in a) broken layer.
Obviously not going full blown "in the clouds" IMC.
I'm aware of that. I provided the list in case you weren't aware of its existence.

I also realize what you're trying to do, dive bombing through a hole in a broken layer. Most pilots would have a very hard time maintaining VFR cloud separation under such conditions, but hey, if no one calls you out on it, I suppose it's legal and safe. *sarcasm*
 

Tired Soul

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I'm aware of that. I provided the list in case you weren't aware of its existence.

I also realize what you're trying to do, dive bombing through a hole in a broken layer. Most pilots would have a very hard time maintaining VFR cloud separation under such conditions, but hey, if no one calls you out on it, I suppose it's legal and safe. *sarcasm*

(Turn on soft and soothing voice..)
Dive bombing?
I was trying to descend legally without resorting to filing IFR.
I was trying to stay legal and safe.

(Turn of soft and soothing voice..)

Here's the reference by the way;
http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Order/ATC.pdf

Psalm 5 verse 7-5-1 (b)


b.​
SVFR operations may be authorized for aircraft
operating in or transiting a Class B, Class C, Class D,
or Class E surface area when the primary airport is
reporting VFR but the pilot advises that basic VFR

cannot be maintained.
So unless I need to learn how to read, I'm right.
 

Flying Ninja

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Did you tell the controller that you were unable to maintain VFR? Anyway, you got your answers. And it would have been a lot easier to obtain a local IFR and shoot an approach into the airport.

IMHO, it's not the smartest thing to be "flying" through a hole in a broken layer when you can see behind those clouds around the airspace you will eventually occupy. You never know who's flying under it and in Class D, they don't have any requirements or obligation to alert you, as you are under VFR and see-and-avoid is 100% on you.
 

Tired Soul

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Did you tell the controller that you were unable to maintain VFR? Anyway, you got your answers. And it would have been a lot easier to obtain a local IFR and shoot an approach into the airport.
Yes, I did tell them that I would not be able to descend and maintain VFR in accordance with 91.155
When we got a DUAT WX briefing for this flight SCT was reported and forecast.
When we got there it turns out to be a broken layer.
The fact that I have an instrument rating is irrelavant, at least supposed to be for this discussion.
What if it would have been a VFR only pilot? according to the ATC controller he/she would have had to declare an emergency.
Not true as pointed out, SVFR would be the option to continue to operate legally.

Not relevant to the discussion but this Class C is notoriously difficult with IFR clearances when airborne. They always refer you to FSS to file.

The celing of the class D in question is 1200' where it meets the overlying Class C.
I would seriously doubt that a Class D TWR controller would allow traffic to overfly the airport at 200' above traffic pattern altitude.
Any traffic above 1200' would have been talking to the Class C controller.
SVFR and IFR are seperated so Im not sure where you're trying to go with the following statement:
it's not the smartest thing to be "flying" through a hole in a broken layer when you can see behind those clouds around the airspace you will eventually occupy. You never know who's flying under it and in Class D, they don't have any requirements or obligation to alert you, as you are under VFR and see-and-avoid is 100% on you.
Exactly my point hence the SVFR request.

But hey..whatever.. we can still be friends..:pimp:
 

Flying Ninja

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If it was a VFR pilot, s/he would have done what you did; circumnavigate. As for PITA to get local IFR, well, that's on you. If I needed it, and FSS is the only way, so be it. I'm also unfamiliar w/ the airspace configuration so this is all generalized discussion on my part.

As for it's not the smartest thing to be "flying" through a hole in a broken layer part, I don't know where you are in the D airspace, and what's in it. Are you descending over the airport? 4SM out where there might be obstructions/guy wires to consider? I don't know. I wasn't there. Once again, generalized discussion here.

And yes, we can still be friends. :)
 

Tired Soul

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Hey I quit smoking so temper wise I've been on a hair trigger the last couple of months. Maybe I need a SODA....but that's a whole other can o' worms...
 

Flying Ninja

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Congratulations on your decision to quit smoking . Just think, you probably added additional years of flying in your future! :)
 

Singlecoil

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Well I enjoyed the discussion and I learned something.
Thanks.
 
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