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Skunkworks85

Class E airport VFR? IFR?

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For the CFI types out there, 

If you are standing on the ground at a class E airport, with the E starting at the surface(dashed Magenta) and the AWOS/ASOS is reporting IFR conditions,  BUT,  the conditions are clearly VFR. 

Can you take off VFR? What are rules behind this situation? Proceed with extreme caution? Not allowed? Let me know your thoughts.

 

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You are PIC and always make the sole decision to launch or not launch.  A report of IFR conditions does not obligate you to stay on the ground.  Automated weather systems can and do fail and/or give inaccurate information.

That said, you have to use your head.  Sometimes it's clear skies over the airport and 200ft ceilings 360° around the airport once you go three miles.

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50 minutes ago, FlyingMonkey said:

You are PIC and always make the sole decision to launch or not launch.  A report of IFR conditions does not obligate you to stay on the ground.  Automated weather systems can and do fail and/or give inaccurate information.

That said, you have to use your head.  Sometimes it's clear skies over the airport and 200ft ceilings 360° around the airport once you go three miles.

Ok. Let's use your example. If you can get above the layer. Within the confines of the e airspace? Legal?

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1 hour ago, FlyingMonkey said:

That said, you have to use your head.  Sometimes it's clear skies over the airport and 200ft ceilings 360° around the airport once you go three miles.

Sometimes it's less than a mile before it turns to crap, I've launched in some nasty marginal VFR weather when the Sheriff has called me out, to fly less than 1 mile from the strip and determine the risks are too great, crank it around and land one minute later.  I can work some very low ceilings out over Lake Huron and be legal, once you're feet wet altitude is sort of irrelevant, with search missions over water often 200 - 500 AGL depending on the target.

Then there was Airventure '02, before cell phone with screens, Ipads, and all those goodies.  Did flight briefing on the field in north 40, there were delays to open field due to fog / low ceilings.  After planes started launching I waited another :30+ to be "safe", departed with a Cherokee in front of me, shortly after crossing the hwy to west he started descending and I wondered why, then a few seconds later realized it was due to low ceilings ahead.  Scud running for about :25 to some little strip I could duck in, it was packed with many of the other airplanes that launched ahead of me - some of the pilots were visibly shook up.  About 2 hours later became solid VFR.

And for another good story / bit of fear.  One month after I passed my check ride my instructor crashed and died in hard IFR.  Took a lightening strike, lost both engines (Saberliner jet), lost power to nav / com before they could shoot a dead stick approach into Iron Mountain MI, overshot the airport by several miles and shredded it in the woods.  20 years later that NTSB report still has the transcripts from CVR still burned in my mind.

Do not mess with weather, have plenty of options and outs, and never ever push it beyond them.

Now for my opinion on departing Echo / getting above layer - yes, legal.

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2 hours ago, Skunkworks85 said:

For the CFI types out there, 

If you are standing on the ground at a class E airport, with the E starting at the surface(dashed Magenta) and the AWOS/ASOS is reporting IFR conditions,  BUT,  the conditions are clearly VFR. 

Can you take off VFR? What are rules behind this situation? Proceed with extreme caution? Not allowed? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Automated systems are great, but they are no infallible. Between flying and working at an airport since the automated systems came out I have seen plenty of times where the automated system didn't agree with what was actually happening. The visibility is measured between two points about 2 feet apart. You get a little dust or spider web in there and the visibility goes to nothing when its great. The computer sees the bad visibility, and says to itself that it must be an obscuration, and you get a 200VV when it is actually CLR.

So if it is obviously good VFR, but the AWOS says it is not I think that you would be legally justified to take off, but if it is actually below 3 miles and or below 1000 feet I would not try and say it is better just so you can get out.

The other option is to call and get a special VFR to get out of the class E airspace.

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23 hours ago, Skunkworks85 said:

Ok. Let's use your example. If you can get above the layer. Within the confines of the e airspace? Legal?

Unless you are under ATC control you can climb and descend at your discretion in class E airspace.  Once again, you are PIC.

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23 hours ago, Skunkworks85 said:

Ok. Let's use your example. If you can get above the layer. Within the confines of the e airspace? Legal?

Yes, provided you have a 1000 ceiling and 3 miles visibility, and maintain your cloud clearances. If you don't have your basic 3 miles and 1000 feet you can request a SVFR, but there is no guarantee that it will be granted. 

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The one thing I haven't seen brought up so far in this discussion is whether the pilot is flying under Light Spot rules (with a Light Sport or higher certificate) or an LSA with at least Private Pilot privileges.  If under Light Sport rules, then you must be able to maintain ground contact (i.e. no overflying an overcast  or broken ceiling though you might be able to make an argument however poor with the latter) ceiling and can't fly in under 3 miles viz even with a SVFR clearance.  If using Private Pilot rules (even using Basic Med), then you can overfly a ceiling or take that SVFR clearance and go. 

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Light Sport rules demand all operations are performed in VFR.  VFR over the top of a solid layer is still VFR.  "Over the top" is perfectly legal VFR for all.  

Here is an AOPA article which discusses that:

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2001/july/flight-training-magazine/over-the-top

Regarding what the AWOS says vs reality:  It is up to the PIC to decide the go/no-go; but the caveat is, if there is an incident, the NTSB report (and the lawyers and the FAA) will refer to the nearest AWOS record, and the report will say... "continued flight despite reported IMC (or marginal) conditions..." 

I have, on occasion, taken a photo on my phone out the windscreen during a flight where the AWOS has reported IMC but the actual conditions are VFR, just to document what the actual conditions are like, should the feds get involved.   A picture is worth 1000 words. My "get out of jail free" card.

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1 hour ago, MEH said:

Light Sport rules demand all operations are performed in VFR.  VFR over the top of a solid layer is still VFR.  "Over the top" is perfectly legal VFR for all.

Incorrect.

Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 61.315   What are the privileges and limits of my sport pilot certificate?

(c) You may not act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:

(13) Without visual reference to the surface.

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1 hour ago, MEH said:

Light Sport rules demand all operations are performed in VFR.  VFR over the top of a solid layer is still VFR.  "Over the top" is perfectly legal VFR for all.  

Here is an AOPA article which discusses that:

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2001/july/flight-training-magazine/over-the-top

Regarding what the AWOS says vs reality:  It is up to the PIC to decide the go/no-go; but the caveat is, if there is an incident, the NTSB report (and the lawyers and the FAA) will refer to the nearest AWOS record, and the report will say... "continued flight despite reported IMC (or marginal) conditions..." 

I have, on occasion, taken a photo on my phone out the windscreen during a flight where the AWOS has reported IMC but the actual conditions are VFR, just to document what the actual conditions are like, should the feds get involved.   A picture is worth 1000 words. My "get out of jail free" card.

First off that article was written 3 years before the sport pilot rules were put into effect. Second there are limitations that apply to sport pilots that do not apply to private pilots. CFR 61.315, c, 13 state that a sport pilot may not fly without visual reference to the surface.

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Put another way, the prohibition on flying over a solid layer with no visual contact with the ground has nothing to do with the aircraft.  It has to do with pilots flying under Sport Pilot privileges, as pointed out above and specified in 61.315.  The prohibition is on the pilot, not the airplane.

A person flying under higher than sport pilot privileges may fly a light sport aircraft over a solid layer legally.  (Always to careful to check the operating limitations for that specific aircraft).

It helps if we are careful to make sure when we talk about "light sport" that we are talking about an airplane, not the pilot privileges.  When we talk about flying under "sport pilot" rules we are talking about pilots, not the aircraft.  

Light sport = airplane, defined in 1.1

Sport pilot = person defined in 61.3xx series.

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1 hour ago, Jim Meade said:

Put another way, the prohibition on flying over a solid layer with no visual contact with the ground has nothing to do with the aircraft.  It has to do with pilots flying under Sport Pilot privileges, as pointed out above and specified in 61.315.  The prohibition is on the pilot, not the airplane.

A person flying under higher than sport pilot privileges may fly a light sport aircraft over a solid layer legally.  (Always to careful to check the operating limitations for that specific aircraft).

It helps if we are careful to make sure when we talk about "light sport" that we are talking about an airplane, not the pilot privileges.  When we talk about flying under "sport pilot" rules we are talking about pilots, not the aircraft.  

Light sport = airplane, defined in 1.1

Sport pilot = person defined in 61.3xx series.

Thanks for clarifying that distinction, Jim.

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Correct. 

"Light Sport" and "Sport Pilot" are two different things.  "Light Sport" is what the CT series is defined as. 

The original question was basically: "Can I fly above a layer" and "Is the AWOS report inviolable?"  The pilot certificate holder level was not defined.

As this is a CT and hence "Light Sport" forum, and as of 2019 there were 6,467 active Sport Pilot certificate holders in the USA and more than 161,000 active Private Pilot certificate holders (Wikipedia), and the original certification level of the query was not specified, the assumption is that the original question proposed was by a Private Pilot Certificate holder, not a Sport Pilot certificate holder, and the question was referring to the CT design, not the training level. 

As such, the answer is: "Yep.  Fly over a cloud layer all you want to with your CT. It is VFR, even if you can't see the ground." (Assuming VFR cloud clearance and visibility minimums).

Certainly those Sport Pilot minority among us (who had the requisite 20 hours of flight training) would have remembered those limitations drilled into them by the FAA flight examiner on the day of their examination, and it is the Light Sport designation of the Flight Design aircraft type that is the origin of the ambivalence, not the Sport Pilot certificate limitations.

However, if the assumptions are incorrect, then apologies are in order, and are given.  

MEH

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"Light Sport rules demand all operations are performed in VFR.  "

 If one reads the quote interpreting Light Sport to mean Sport Pilot meaning either holding a sport pilot certificate or flying under sport pilot privileges then the meaning is correct even if the wording is wrong.  If it is read as "light sport aircraft" then it is inaccurate.  A Piper Cub is a light sport aircraft, as was my old Champ, both of which have a standard aircraft certificate as well as is my FDCTSW which has a Light Sport certificate.  Light sport aircraft can be flown above the clouds under some circumstances.

Using statistics from Wikipedia (not usually  cited as an authoritative source) the assumption may be made that the Sport Pilot certificate holders have no higher rating and of course must fly light sport aircraft if PIC.  However, anyone with a higher rating can fly under Sport Pilot privileges if they qualify under the medical regulations.  I have an ATP rating and used to fly under Sport Pilot privileges because I let my medical lapse.  When flying under Sport Pilot privileges, even though I hold an ATP, I could not fly above a solid deck because I had no visual contact with the ground.

I am willing to bet money that most people on this forum are here because they are or were flying under sport pilot privileges and therefore were restricted as PIC to light sport aircraft.  I suppose a poll would sort that out if one answers polls.  

No matter what, this discussion is a good reminder that the FAA definitions can seem confusing and it's helpful to all of us, myself first and foremost, to try for precision when talking about these issues.  I guess that is why there were so many questions on the FAA exams, (at least there were 40 years ago) about the various certificates and what was included under them.

Anyone want to talk about the definition of "night"?  No?  :)

 

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20 hours ago, Andy said:

If under Light Sport rules, then you must be able to maintain ground contact (i.e. no overflying an overcast  or broken ceiling though you might be able to make an argument however poor with the latter) ceiling and can't fly in under 3 miles viz even with a SVFR clearance.

I have flown over layers that were called out by automated weather as broken, and were clearly scattered.  Conditions don't always match up perfectly with the weather reports.  I don't think it's too hard to make the case that "local conditions were not as reported".  This of course isn't to say a sport pilot should fly above a layer without ground reference, just that often times a reported broken layer has perfectly good ground reference and plenty of holes to descend while maintaining legal cloud clearance.

EDIT:  I replied to this post without reading all the later posts about layers and sport pilots, so yeah...I think it's been well covered.  :laughter-3293:

Also, IIRC a Sport Pilot cannot request a SVFR clearance.

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1 hour ago, FlyingMonkey said:

I have flown over layers that were called out by automated weather as broken, and were clearly scattered.  Conditions don't always match up perfectly with the weather reports.  I don't think it's too hard to make the case that "local conditions were not as reported".  This of course isn't to say a sport pilot should fly above a layer without ground reference, just that often times a reported broken layer has perfectly good ground reference and plenty of holes to descend while maintaining legal cloud clearance.

EDIT:  I replied to this post without reading all the later posts about layers and sport pilots, so yeah...I think it's been well covered.  :laughter-3293:

Also, IIRC a Sport Pilot cannot request a SVFR clearance.

Andy, the difference between a scattered and broken layer is only 1/8 sky coverage, 3/8 to 4/8. That is a fine line that can be hard to distinguish.

On the SVFR clearance I also remember that it was prohibited for a sport pilot, but I can no longer find the prohibition in the regulations. That may have been changed back in 2010, or it may have simply been someone's interpretation.

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21 minutes ago, Tom Baker said:

Andy, the difference between a scattered and broken layer is only 1/8 sky coverage, 3/8 to 4/8. That is a fine line that can be hard to distinguish.

On the SVFR clearance I also remember that it was prohibited for a sport pilot, but I can no longer find the prohibition in the regulations. That may have been changed back in 2010, or it may have simply been someone's interpretation.

Agreed on the clouds.  My rule of thumb is that if I can see the ground and get down while maintaining legal cloud clearances, then I'm operating safely and (at least probably) legally.

90% of my flying is at 2500ft AGL or less, so this doesn't come up much except on long cross country flights, and even then only rarely.

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