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FAR's Question  
User currently offlineSaxman66 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 518 posts, RR: 0
Posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2081 times:

So me and a friend of mine were flying VFR in a Warrior, from Addison, (North Dallas) to Houstons Ellington Field. Perfect VFR day, until we found overcast at about 500 to 900 AGL. This was about over Corsicana. We thought we had to turn around since we could not fly over it. Yet later my instrument ground school teacher says that you can fly VFR over overcast clouds as long as you're 1000 feet above them. (Makes sense for being in class E space). So is this correct? Could we have kept flying VFR on top over this narrow band of clouds? Now both Dallas and Houston were reporting clear skies. Thanks for the help.

Ride Amtrak!
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2065 times:

Yup. You sure can. As long as you're 1000' above the clouds there's nothing illegal about that.

Now here's one: If you're VFR and the ATIS is reporting some clouds that are at the traffic pattern elevation yet high enough for you to be able to make a safe landing, can you land at that airport? I'm wondering if ATC would instruct you to enter the pattern thereby forcing you to either fly too close to the clouds to be legal or to make you fly a completely unorthodox patern. Obviously the alternative is to land elsewhere but for the sake of this question lets just keep it limited to this one airport.

User currently offlineRadarbeam From Canada, joined Mar 2002, 1310 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2072 times:

I don't know the FAR's, but how can one remain VFR with an overcast layer below them? There's no way to remain in VISUAL Flight Rules if you can't see the ground below. Maybe the teacher was talking about VFR OTT which is a whole different subject.


User currently offlinePPGMD From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2071 times:

I always take the published pattern altitude as a guide to a safe landing. If conditions dictate (ie clouds a couple of hundred feet below pattern alt), I would fly a lower legal patten that is closer into the airport. I also do the same with the J3 cub, fly a lower closer in pattern because the pattern and landing speed is too slow for some other aircraft, and in engine out is not safe for the cub.

Now if its only a bit of a diffrence I will fly the regular pattern, and fudge it, ATC can't see clouds on its scope, and if it will put me in the normal pattern where people are more likely to see me, and thus not hit me. That way I can keep my number of landings equal to my number of takeoffs.

Remember that the accepted pattern is nothing more than a guide, unless of course its a required noise abatement procedure.

Oh in responce to the posters message, if it was VFR above the clouds it would have been legal, but the problem is that you would have to be sure that there is a big enough hole in the clouds to get back down where you are going.

At worst, you screw up and die.
User currently offlinePPGMD From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2059 times:

VFR by nature says that you are flying my a visual referance, it doesn't nessarly mean the grounds. You can use the horizen of the clouds are the visual referance.

It has been argued over that one is not ture VFR, even though the weather is VMC. A good example is flying on a moonless night over water. The weather is VMC, but there are no visual referances to fly by. You are actually flying solely by instruments (at least if you value your life), which means that you are flying IFR, can one log it as such? (answer below)

Yes, you can. I dug up a letter from a FAA attorney which states that it is his opion (he is in the postion to decide as such), that even though it was VMC conditions would dicate that it was actually IMC because there were no visual references available to the pilot. Now that doesn't mean that I would log it as such, to be I am still in VMC and would log it as such, but it is an intresting postion none the less.

At worst, you screw up and die.
User currently offlineRadarbeam From Canada, joined Mar 2002, 1310 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2059 times:

I dumbfounded that flying over an overcast layer during a VFR flight is legal in the states. Up here in Canada you cannot go higher than a broken layer in a VFR flight unless you are VFR OTT rated. But like they say... Legal isn't always safe.

Just imagine you fly above a overcast layer and it suddenly closes at your destination airport and all around the area... what a crappy situation to be in!


User currently offlineFlyf15 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2053 times:

Its definately legal to fly VFR above clouds, as long as you have the required cloud seperation. ie: 1000ft above. Just maintain the required cloud seperation and visibility requirements and you can be VFR pretty much anywhere below 18,000ft (in the USA). The catch is that sometime or another you're going to have to get back to earth, maintaining VFR. Also, an emergency above an overcast layer with a VFR only pilot flying isn't exactly the best thing to have happen.

Skyguy, in regards to your question. It is quite possible they would have you fly the normal pattern, but as PIC (not on an IFR flight plan) you must report that you will not be able to maintain VFR minimums and keep from busting them. You can see the clouds a lot better than the controllers can. I suppose they might have you fly a nonstandard type pattern to maintain VFR. But, neither of these would most likely be the case. The airport would almost definately be reporting IFR conditions at the time if clouds were to be in the pattern. In this case, you wouldn't be flying there VFR in the first place.

User currently offlineRadarbeam From Canada, joined Mar 2002, 1310 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2055 times:


I read on another board that VFR over water during a moonless night is still considered VFR even though you are flying by reference to your instruments only and thus the hours cannot be logged as IFR. Apparently this was coming from the FAA.


User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2037 times:

Flyf15, OK I agree. However it is very possible for clouds to be at pattern altitude and the field VFR all day long, especially here in Socal where we get all that costal stratus. Many times it's 1000' scattered with 10mi vis.

Here's another one:
If you have an active TFR surrounding a stadium (3000' and below; 3nm) within controlled airspace and ATC instructs a VFR pilot to descend to and maintain 2500' on a heading that will take that pilot through the TFR, is that pilot legally able to accept the vector?

User currently offlinePPGMD From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2026 times:

Heres what I read:
"Dear Mr. Carr:

This is in response to your letter asking questions about instrument flight time.

First, you ask for an interpretation of Section 61.51(c)(4) of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) regarding the logging of instrument flight time. You ask whether, for instance, a flight over the ocean on a moonless night without a discernible horizon could be logged as actual instrument flight time.

As you know, Section 61.51(c)(4) provides rules for the logging of instrument flight time which may be used to meet the requirements of a certificate or rating, or to meet the recent flight experience requirements of Part 61. That section provides in part, that a pilot may log as instrument flight time only that time during which he or she operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments, under actual (instrument meteorological conditions (imc)) or simulated instrument flight conditions. "Simulated" instrument conditions occur when the pilot's vision outside of the aircraft is intentionally restricted, such as by a hood or goggles. "Actual" instrument flight conditions occur when some outside conditions make it necessary for the pilot to use the aircraft instruments in order to maintain adequate control over the aircraft. Typically, these conditions involve adverse weather conditions.

To answer your first question, actual instrument conditions may occur in the case you described a moonless night over the ocean with no discernible horizon, if use of the instruments is necessary to maintain adequate control over the aircraft. The determination as to whether flight by reference to instruments is necessary is somewhat subjective and based in part on the sound judgment of the pilot. Note that, under Section 61.51(b)(3), the pilot must log the conditions of the flight. The log should include the reasons for determining that the flight was under actual instrument conditions in case the pilot later would be called on to prove that the actual instrument flight time logged was legitimate.

John H. Cassady
Assistant Chief counsel
Regulations and Enforcement Division"

To sum it up its says that one can log actual in VMC if condition presist that forces one to fly only by instruments, but the pilot should provide his reasoning in the comments section if called on the carpet about it later.

At worst, you screw up and die.
User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2025 times:

Saxman66, one other thing I'd like to mention is that legal is by no means always safe. If you guys had an engine failure you'd have been in a world of hurt with 900' celings. A Warrior's glide ratio probably is only someting like 1.1 nm forward per 1000', giving you less than a mile radius of options to land after you break out. This is considering that you break out in the first place. A more likely outcome would be hitting terrain; even more likely is that the pilot will lose control somewhere during the descent through the clouds. The pilot will be very stressed (engine failures tend to have that effect), busy, and to top it off, the attitude indicator and heading indicator will not work (engine driven vacuum pump). Even if the pilot recognizes the failure, he now has to fly engine out down to 900' AGL celings with two uncovered inop instruments (VFR pilots will probably not carry instrument covers). Sorry to paint such a bleak picture but I just thought I should give a better answer than just 'yup. it's legal'.

User currently offlinePPGMD From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2453 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 2023 times:

Skyguy: Depends on the TFR. Most TFRs are worded where as one can penetrate them if allowed by the ATC agency that controls that sector.

Though there are some that don't allow that exception, and no, the pilot would not be allowed to legally accept that vector in these cases.

I should mention that there days I collect unusual postions from the FAA. I think that they would come in handy later to set precident, in some form of legal case. I only do that now adays because the laws are changing quickly for the worse, the FAA and the government are becoming too controlling and as such the pilots need documents to support their descions that they make as PIC. To date I have yet to find a repository like this, in the similar vain that Westlaw is to the legal industry. Maybe one of these days when I have enough of them I might start a site of some sort.

At worst, you screw up and die.
User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 1950 times:

PPGMD, I was talking about the 3000' and 3nm blanket TFR over all major sporting events and outdoor assemblies. And the answer is yes, the VFR pilot would be able to accept the vector under such circumstances. I wasn't sure on this one but I asked AOPA and they told me. May come in handy someday.

User currently offlineMr Spaceman From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 2787 posts, RR: 9
Reply 13, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 1943 times:

Hi guys.

If you are a VFR pilot who's found himself in a position where your destination airport (and all alternates) are reporting IMC conditions, such as haze, fog, clouds at pattern altitude, etc, you can always contact ATC and request a "Special VFR" clearance for your approach to an airport. Unless the weather conditions are a lot worse than just borderline between VFR and IFR, your request should be accepted.

Chris  Smile

"Just a minute while I re-invent myself"
User currently offlineJetguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (12 years 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 1958 times:

You are definitely legal - as long as you are able to maintain the prescribed distances and minimum visibilities - but that's not necessarily the point. JFK Jr. was legally VFR when he lost control and put it in the ocean. One of the biggest lessons that a pilot has to learn is what is legal isn't necessarily safe and what might be safe isn't necessarily legal. I posted the following on another thread a few days ago. IMHO, it bears repeating:

A pilot has to simultaneously operate within 3 specific spheres to maintain an acceptable level of safety:

1. His/her individual limitations. A freshly soloed student pilot will have different personal limitations than a 500-hour private pilot, who will have different personal limitations than a 20,000-hour airline captain.

2. The aircraft's limitations. There will always be aircraft that are more suited for a particular mission than another. A Super Cub might be just the ticket for flying off of a sand bar in Alaska, but you wouldn't want to try shooting an ILS to minimums in icing conditions in one.

3. The legal limitations imposed by the FARs.

Where pilots get into trouble is when they attempt to operate outside of the area where the above spheres intersect. The accident record is full of reports where highly experienced airline or corporate pilots "bought the farm" trying to operate in conditions that the aircraft wasn't suitably equipped to handle. (For example, trying to shoot an ILS to minimums in icing conditions in a Super Cub.) The same thing goes for "VFR only" private pilots continuing into IFR conditions in suitably equipped aircraft. I've lost several ATP rated friends - who I considered better pilots than myself - to spatial disorientation.

In my personal opinion, flying VFR over an undercast is a pretty foolish thing to do unless you are instrument rated; flying a properly equipped airplane; and finally, you are prepared to fly IFR. It's too easy to find yourself stuck on top. A VFR (or unprepared IFR) pilot in actual IMC conditions can usually measure his life expectancy (and that of his passengers) in minutes, and precious few of them at that.

User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6204 posts, RR: 12
Reply 15, posted (12 years 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 1905 times:

This is legal if you are a private pilot or above. Flying without visual reference to the SURFACE is illegal for Student Pilots and Recreational Pilots [See 61.89(a)(7) and 61.101(d)(10)]. I've done this a few times, but once I got stuck on top and couldn't get down VFR so I called up center and asked for IFR clearance.

Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
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