VFR Weather Minimums

VFR Weather Minimums or more precisely – Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). Europe (together with most of the world) and slightly different U.S. rules. When and where can you fly VFR and when a Special VFR clearance is necessary?

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European and ICAO rules

Europe currently follows SERA (Standardised European Rules of the Air) rules, which are mostly the same as ICAO rules used throughout the world (local exceptions may apply).

Conversions for people who are used to miles:
1km = 1000m = 0.54 nautical mile = 0.62 statue mile

Current VFR Weather Minimums are:

  • At and above 10000 ft (3000m), in every class of airspace – flight visibility 8km; 1500m horizontally from clouds, 1000 ft (300m) vertically from clouds.
  • Below 10000 ft (3000m) and above 3000 ft (900m) or above 1000 ft  (300m) above terrain (whichever is higher) in every class of airspace – flight visibility 5km, 1500m horizontally from clouds, 1000 stóp (300m) vertically from clouds.
  • At or below 3000 ft (900m) or at or below 1000 ft (300m) above terrain in class A, B, C, D, E airspace (controlled) – flight visibility 5km and 1500m horizontally from clouds i 1000 stóp (300m) vertically from clouds.
  • At or below 3000 ft (900m) or at or below 1000 ft (300m) above terrain in class F and G airspace (uncontrolled) – flight visibility 5km, clear of cloud and with sight of surface. *

There are exceptions from the last rule (*). ICAO rules allow for flights (at or below 3000 ft or at or below 1000 ft above terrain in F and G uncontrolled airspace) when flight visibility is no less than 1500m:

  • at speeds that, in the prevailing visibility, will give adequate opportunity to observe other traffic or any obstacles in time to avoid collision
  • in circumstances in which the probability of encounters with other traffic would normally be low, e.g. in areas of low volume traffic and for aerial work at low levels

A similar exception (at or below 3000 ft or at or below 1000 ft above terrain) applies to helicopters, which can fly when flight visibility is less than 1500m.

Check the rules of the country you are flying in – this exceptions may be different, apply only during the day or further restrict speed.

For example – in Europe (SERA rules) the following:

  • at speeds that, in the prevailing visibility, will give adequate opportunity to observe other traffic or any obstacles in time to avoid collision

was changed to:

  • at speeds of 140 kts IAS or less to give adequate opportunity to observe other traffic or any obstacles in time to avoid collision

Some countries (like Poland) allow VFR flights in reduced visibility only during the day.

Refer countrie’s AIP (usually AIP ENR 1.2 or AIP ENR 1.1) for local restrictions.

 

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VFR takeoffs and landings in controlled airspace

VFR takeoffs and landings in controlled airspace require (class B, C, D and E) require at least 5km of flight visibility and cloud ceiling (BKN and OVC clouds) not lower than 1500 ft. Special VFR clearance may be obtained if those conditions are not met.

Special VFR clearance

Special VFR clearance may be obtained for a flight in controlled airspace (class B, C, D and E) when flight visibility is not less than 1500m (for aircraft, 800m for helicopters), during day only*, when ceiling is not less then 600ft (BKN006 or OVC006 in METAR).

* – competent authority may allow for night SVFR clearances – example – German AIP.

Pilot in Special VFR flight must stay out of clouds and fly with the speed of 140 knots or less (to give adequate opportunity to observe other traffic and any obstacles in time to avoid a collision).

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United States

FAA rules are similar to ICAO rules but miles (statue) are used instead of meters and kilometers.

Above 10000 ft the required visibility is 5 miles (instead of 8km), cloud distances can be easily remembered as “111” – 1000 feet above, 1000 feet below, 1 mile horizontally.

Below 10000 ft in controlled airspace (B, C, D, E) 3 mile flight visibility is required. Cloud distances – “152” – 1000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2000 ft horizontally.

In uncontrolled airspace below 10000 ft and at night flight visibility has to be equal or greater than 3 miles and cloud distances equal or greater than (152) – 1000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2000 ft horizontally.

In uncontrolled airspace between 1200 ft (above terrain) and 10000 ft during day flight visibility has to be equal or greater than 1 mile and cloud distances equal or greater than (152) – 1000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2000 ft horizontally.

In uncontrolled airspace below 1200 ft (above terrain) during day flight visibility has to be equal or greater than 1 mile and pilot has to stay clear of clouds.

2/500 and 1/1000 rules. For commercial flights (including air taxi and small airlines) these two rules apply. Regulations say that for cloud base lower than 1000 ft 2 miles of flight visibility are required (500 is a minimum available altitude – hence 2/500). For cloud ceiling above 1000ft only one mile of flight visibility is required (1/1000 rule).

Special VFR clearance in US requires 1 mile flight visibility. Pilot must stay out of clouds.

At night SVFR clearance can be obtained only by a pilot who is instrument flying adequately equipped aircraft.

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Summary
Article Name
VFR Weather Minimums
Description
VFR Weather Minimums or more precisely - Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). Europe (together with most of the world) and slightly different U.S. rules. When and where can you fly VFR and when a Special VFR clearance is necessary?
Author
Sceneries recommended by C-Aviation. When you buy products at FSS following these links you help pay for keeping this site online. You may consider contributing directly. Thanks for your support!
Aerosoft - Night Environment - Poland Pacific Islands Simulation - Marshall Islands Vidan Design - Danish Airfields X - Endelave Vidan Design - Danish Airfields X - Nordborg Vidan Design - Sonderborg X Vidan Design - Danish Airfields X - Tunø

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