Pilot's tip of the week

When SVFR Makes Sense


Subscriber question:

"When would a pilot use Special VFR? I'm uncomfortable with flying VFR when the ceiling is below 1000 feet or the visibility less than 3 miles." — Louis R.


“Here are a couple of examples where I have used special VFR to get in or out of a Class D airport.

At most tower-controlled airports the visibility is reported by a person in the control tower who looks out the window and identifies prominent landmarks at known distances. There can be a situation where ground fog, rain showers or snow showers will obscure the visibility at the tower but the weather is totally different on another part of the airport.

I have been in situations like this both arriving and departing Class D airports. One airport I used to fly out of had the control tower located at the far eastern side of the field. In the winter we would often get small snow squalls passing over the airport and they would bring the visibility down to one or two miles. The squalls would almost always move from west to east. So often when a squall would cover the airport, the tower would issue a revised weather report that made the field IFR. As the squall moved east, the west side of the field and the runway would be virtually in the clear but the tower would still be in low visibility. In this case, a Special VFR clearance was a legal way to depart as long as you were westbound.

I have seen similar situations at airports near large bodies of water where ground fog will obscure only part of the airport. If the tower happens to be in that part, the reported weather will be much lower than the rest of the airport.

Remember, it is up to the tower to approve or decline a special VFR clearance and it is still the pilot’s responsibility to maintain VFR and comply with the clearance. It is not a clearance to fly in the clouds.”

Have you ever used a Special VFR clearance?

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