Page 3.32 (12,608)
SVFR and scud running
(Some repeated material from PTS)
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SVFR Changes; …When SVFR; ...You Never Know When You Will Need SVFR; ...Safe SVFR Is Much Like Safe Sex...Come Prepared; ...Special Visual Flight Rules--SVFR; ...Altitudes and Clouds; ...Need to Know Information; ...More SVFR; ...What SVFR Is Not; ...Class B Airspace; ...Low Visibility SVFR; ...Low Ceiling SVFR; ...Night SVFR; ...CCR SVFR Situations; ...Scud Running; ...Minimum Safe Altitudes; ...Low Level Pilotage; ...Knowing the Options;; ...Knowing Your Best Options; ...Wire Strikes; ...Low Altitudes; ...See and Be Seen; ...Minimums Instruction; ...VFR at Minimums; ...Low level CCR to Petaluma; ...Petaluma to CCR; ...CCR to Rio Vista at Minimums; ...CCR to APC at Minimums; …SVFR Clearances; …VFR Cloud Clearances and Visibility; ...On Top is NOT Over the Top; ...Practice in Preparation for Less-than-Perfect Conditions; ...VFR into IMC Opinion); ...SVFR Situations; ...Using SVFR in Cross Country Instruction; ...SVFR Flying Lesson; ...What's Wrong ...The Devil Is in SVFR Details; ...Some Details; ...Most Likely Airspace Deviation: ...Instructional Responsibility? ...Learning to Fly By Wires; ...CFIT (Controlled Flight into Terrain); ...Finding Cloud Height; ...

SVFR Changes (2000)
FARs 91.155(d) and 91.157 have changes to allow pilots at a satellite airport in controlled airspace where visibility conditions exceed minimums for departures under SVFR even though no weather reporting capability exists.

SVFR 1998 change
AIM 4-4-5 makes pilot responsible to get ASOS and AWOS weather and to advise ATC of intentions.

1) A SVFR (or an IFR) clearance is necessary to operate an aircraft beneath a ceiling within a surface area when the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet or the visibility is less than three miles,
2) A SVFR clearance can be issued to anyone requesting one if the visibility is at least one mile
3) A helicopter can be issued a SVFR clearance when the visibility is less than one mile.
4) ATC can authorize SVFR operations for aircraft operating in or transiting a surface area when the primary airport is reporting VFR but the pilot advises that basic VFR cannot be maintained. (This would be when visibility say at 2000' AGL is less than three.)
5) In SVFR conditions ATC has special restrictions that allow only one IFR aircraft in the airspace at a time, unless visual contact is established between the aircraft.. Approved separation must be applied between SVFR aircraft and between SVFR and IFR aircraft. Visual separation is one type of separation, but not the only type.

The first requisite for SVFR is knowledge. You must know the FARs, you must know the area, and you must know your own capabilities. SVFR flight can only be flown with a Class B Honolulu) C, D, or E clearance. Helicopters can get Class B SVFR even no SVFR is allowed for airplanes. Students are NOT allowed to request or fly in SVFR conditions. You can tell when a daytime airport is below VFR minimums and requiring SVFR or IFR clearances by noting if the airport rotating beacon is rotating. You must interpret the weather from the ATIS. The ATIS will not tell you that SVFR is needed. The controllers will not tell you to ask for SVFR. Only by listening to the ceiling and visibility can you determine that the airport, in at least one of the two factors, is below VFR. Note: SVFR for helicopters has lower minimums.

A SVFR clearance can only be given when ceilings are less than 1000 feet or visibility is less than three miles but the one mile is determined by a qualified weather observer. In SVFR conditions ATC has special restrictions that allow only one aircraft in the airspace at a time, unless visual contact is established between the aircraft. This contact may be by ATC having seen both aircraft or one aircraft seeing the other and accepting avoidance responsibility. An IFR aircraft either arriving or departing has priority use of Class C, D, or E airspace before SVFR aircraft. This means that when an IFR aircraft is inbound to the airspace or inside the airspace no SVFR aircraft will be allowed to enter or leave until ATC has visual with the IFR aircraft. If an IFR aircraft is departing SVFR aircraft will be told to remain above specific altitudes or clear of the airspace. If a number of IFR departures or arrivals occur in sequence this can be quite a while.

Conditions do not have to be below VFR minima to obtain a SVFR clearance, ATC can authorize SVFR operations for aircraft operating in or transiting a surface area when the primary airport is reporting VFR but the pilot advises that basic VFR cannot be maintained.

Special VFR allows pilots to fly in Marginal-VFR or worse conditions. There is no guarantee that you will be able to do this without getting into trouble. You still can't fly in the clouds...but you can fly a lot closer than in VFR conditions and in much lower visibility. This allows VFR traffic in and out of D and C airspace when the weather is bad. SVFR lets you go from uncontrolled airspace to a landing at an airport with Class D airspace by adjusting the allowable minimums.

Had a student held for five minutes before being cleared for takeoff. Went up to the tower later and found that the field had gone down to 'basic'. Basic means that the airport has between 3 to 5 mile visibility with clouds above 1000'. There was a controlled burn about five miles away and conditions were so variable that they held the student for conditions to improve. Even IFR clearances cannot be issued for the visual approach unless visibility is better than three miles and ceiling of 1000'.

Any time ATC says the field is IFR; it is up to the pilot to make the proper request for a clearance. Between IFR and VFR is the contact approach. The pilot must be on an IFR flight, visibility must be one mile and there must be an approach procedure. You can get a contact approach into a Class G airport from a radar facility just by saying, "Airport in sight'. A contact approach is the IFR version of SVFR. The pilot accepts obstacle avoidance responsibility with a contact approach.

You Never Know When You Will Need SVFR
There are only two categories of aviation weather; VFR and below VFR minimums or IFR. Between these two there is an intermediate weather condition that will allow a VFR pilot to fly in special conditions less than VFR but not IFR. This special condition is called SVFR. The VFR pilot flying in SVFR conditions in controlled airspace is required to have a clearance. This clearance limits his flight by requiring one-mile flight visibility and remaining clear of clouds in specific airspace with direction and altitude restrictions.

The airport must have either a ceiling of below 1000 feet and visibility below three miles. Before ATC can give a SVFR clearance there must be on- mile ground visibility. If, for some reason, you do not recognize these conditions from the ATIS ATC will start playing word games with you. You must request SVFR. ATC cannot initiate the flight except by hinting that there may be something 'special' that you would like or something similar.

An additional condition or restriction has to do with IFR traffic. IFR flights have priority. SVFR flights are held outside of controlled airspace occupied by IFR flights. This means that a VFR pilot cannot depart or enter where an IFR flight is in progress. Class B airspace does not authorized SVFR but its flight minimums allow clear of clouds with three-mile-visibility.

A pilot must not request SVFR unless there is a reasonable certainty that SVFR can be maintained. There are some tricky aspects for entering Classes C and D airspace under SVFR. The altitude restriction for SVFR in the airspace clearance may well be higher than the airspace altitudes allowed outside. This situation exists at Concord, CA. Unless you have three-mile visibility outside the 3.1 miles of Class Delta Airspace you must remain below 700'/1200' AGL as the airspace requires. The pilot who has never flown in these situations would be well advised to get some experienced help before doing it for the first time. JFK is an example of what can happen without training.

Interestingly, if you were to look through any number of flight training programs, you would be most unlikely to find SVFR as part of the program. All too many pilots encounter SVFR for the first time alone, inexperienced, and unaware.

When I am called to give a pilot a checkout in a new aircraft I generally try to hit him with, "Have you ever flow SVFR?" Most often they have never been in SVFR conditions and have no plans to get the experience. I do not fly in SVFR conditions, rain, or winds of 30 knots for fun. I do train my students and other pilots in those conditions, however. I do it because, at some point in our careers toward becoming old pilots we may face conditions not of our choosing.

Not too many years ago student pilots could ask for and get SVFR clearances. Bad things happened just often enough so now only pilots can get SVFR. Like IFR, SVFR increases the utility of flying. On occasion, it is possible, safe, and legal to make an airport arrival under SVFR when IFR flights cannot. My personal feeling is that a pilot should be trained in the use of SVFR, not to be used as challenge to weather conditions, but rather, as a parachute through an unplanned condition. SVFR at night is very near an emergency situation. That said here is how to do day SVFR.

The following applies to the S.F. Bay area. Other places may vary in some particulars. Don't let your first SVFR learning experience be without an experienced pilot or instructor.

Safe SVFR is much like safe sex...come prepared
Just as the biker can best protect himself from automobiles through knowledge of their performance capabilities and rules, so can the VFR/SVFR pilot benefit from knowledge of IFR. Stay clear of IFR approaches, check points and altitudes. Under SVFR the VFR pilot is actually flying in IFR conditions. Normally, SVFR flights are required to remain clear or denied takeoff clearance if an IFR flight is present. IFR flights have priority. If the VFR pilot will listen carefully on the radio he will hear IFR flights being given specific reporting points and routes. Become familiar with both the routes and points so as to remain clear or know where to look for traffic.

SVFR is a good thing to keep in mind for landing if the weather turns bad on you. If you can't do IFR and ATC won't allow VFR, requesting SVFR can get you down safely. I makes me wonder whom, in his right mind, would ask for an SVFR at night if he already has an instrument rating? A pilot who is so doubtful of his remaining fuel that he wants the quickest way in could well opt for the SVFR.

SVFR is a very useful way for the qualified pilot to make better use of his aircraft and the airspace. Qualified in this instance has nothing to do with total experience or ratings. SVFR qualified means knowledgeable. One thing about SVFR is that it may be allowed when conditions are below minimums for an IFR approach, but still be legal to land under SVFR! There are many circling IFR approaches, which require visibility better than a mile. The expectation of a successful landing or VFR conditions requires that the pilot get the best weather information. Listening to local aircraft communications and active participation or queries should influence your flight decisions.

SVFR should never be attempted unless the pilot is VERY familiar with the airport and surrounding area. You must know well all arrival checkpoints from ten miles out right to the airport. You MUST know where you are at all times in relationship to airspace, obstacles, and route. You must know the location and altitudes of all obstructions along the route. You must know what you are doing before SVFR becomes a reasonable option. If you are going to fly under the weather, fly to the right side of valleys and roads. Flying in SVFR conditions requires that you get some experience and training in your area's specific requirements. Again, if your experience has never included SVFR with an instructor do not try it alone the first time.

SVFR should be part of your training experience. SVFR is not something you should learn on your own. A pilot should never, repeat never, attempt to use SVFR until he has made several flights with an instructor or pilot who has made SVFR flights in the area and who knows both the legal and safety requirements involved. Instructors should take students who live in coastal regions subject to avection fog on several SVFR flights. It is important to experience, first hand, the limitations and potentials of SVFR flight. Many FBO's insurance limit non-instrument rated pilots to the basic VFR weather minimums (i.e., no specials).

No pictures or words can ever take the place of an actual VFR flight in marginal conditions. On the last day of September, just before my medical ran out, I took my student out to expose him to an airport of very mixed aircraft use.

Coming home we were surprised to hear that the airport was below VFR minimums on the ATIS. The forest fires of Northern California had spread smoke over the entire area and reduced visibility to about two miles. The magenta and blue transition areas are 'turned on' when 3-mile visibility does not exist or cloud clearance cannot be maintained.

The VFR options are to get above the conditions or get below them. We selected the below option and initially had to approach the airport from the East within 1200 feet of the ground (blue. When within 1200 feet of the ground VFR flight is allowed with only one-mile visibility.

Because of the arrival direction we found it necessary to cross from the 1200-foot area into the 700-foot area. This meant that we had to fly closer to the ground. There is a wide area of the S.F. Bay region all the way up to Sacramento that is magenta. We had two-mile visibility but had to get a SVFR clearance into the airport. We had to circle outside the Class Delta airspace within 700 feet of the ground for about ten minutes before the controller was able to fit us into the IFR mix.

SVFR is a relatively safe and benign process if the pilot maintains situational awareness and knows the SVFR procedure. You must know whether you are in a blue or magenta transition area, you must know the boundaries of where they might meet as well as the exact dimensions of the tower-controlled airspace. My home field has only a 3.1 nm circumference with an extension to the VOR. You must set yourself up so that the controller knows that you know where you are, he knows where you are and how long it will take you to get on the ground.

When visibility is less that three miles or VFR cloud clearance cannot be maintained then only one aircraft at a time is allowed in the Class Delta airspace unless they are in visual contact of one with the other.

It is vital that every student pilot be exposed to this experience because having the experience without an instructor aboard can be rather traumatic. Interestingly, it is possible to get into an airport under SVFR when IFR traffic cannot get in at all. This occurs when the SVFR pilot is able to come in below the cloud deck while IFR aircraft descending through the clouds do not break out at minimum altitudes so they can't land.

Every airport will have slight differences of altitude and space restrictions caused by letters of agreement with the local radar facility. Under advection fog conditions getting in under the fog can be easy with unlimited visibility and a 200' ceiling.

Radiation fog may make a low-level arrival impossible so your SVFR clearance will call on you to report over the airport in VFR where you can see the runway straight down below. You will then be allowed SVFR entry spacing permits or even when you can see the other aircraft.

Special Visual Flight Rules--SVFR
SVFR is not a deviation of the FARs. It is a replacement of another FAR standard. The pilot must request SVFR. ATC cannot suggest that you ask for SVFR. ATC can only ask what your intentions are. SVFR requires an ATC clearance. Whenever a pilot in Classes B, C, D or E airspaces cannot proceed in VFR conditions a SVFR ATC clearance may be requested and given where ATC facilities can provide an adequate level of safety. When conditions outside the controlled airspace have the required VFR visibility or in Class G airspace of one mile and you can remain clear of clouds. You can fly in the clear above a Class E airport that is below VFR minimums. The clearance allows you to depart controlled airspace fly to VFR conditions.

SVFR is available in the vertical footprint of Class C, Class D and Class E surface areas up to 10,000 feet that is not designated as NO SVFR. No SVFR clearance can be given if visibility is less than 1 mile. Morning flying in the fall and winter often requires that a departure be made under SVFR. If the visibility is officially reported at less than three miles or the ceiling less than 1000 feet, flight conditions are declared to be below VFR minimums and any flight other than IFR requires SVFR clearance. During the day this is indicated by operation of the airport beacon. No SVFR clearance can be given if visibility is less than 1 mile. A SVFR clearance is needed to depart or enter a control zone that is below VFR minimums.

SVFR is not a temporary Class G airspace, either. In class G airspace, no separation is provided by ATC even with radar. Under SVFR the only separation provided by ATC is by clearing only one aircraft into the airspace at a time. Non-radar ATC has separation responsibility only when both aircraft are on the ground. Many pilots have a mistaken idea that under VFR, IFR and SVFR you always receive ATC separation services. Not so.

A SVFR clearance applies only to the lateral boundaries of a specific surface area. The minimums of such Class E, D, and C can be modified by ATC to those of Class G i.e. one mile visibility and clear of clouds. SVFR can only be issued when requested by the pilot when the issuing authority has one-mile visibility and prior to the aircraft making entry.

ATC must insure aircraft separation within the controlled area until such separation is successfully passed over to the pilot. The pilot should not lightly take such a passing of separation responsibility. A pilot who is exiting the lateral edge of a surface area MUST abide by the visual requirements and altitudes of this new airspace. This usually means that you must have three-mile visibility with VFR cloud clearance or be below 1200/700 AGL as appropriate.

The various airspace minima are aimed at making sure pilots can both fly to a destination and avoid other airplanes. SVFR is a way to reduce the separation burden of the pilot in really marginal conditions while leaving the responsibility. You still need to be able to keep the aircraft under control, figure out where you're going, and avoid hitting mountains and trees along the way.

Altitudes and Clouds
There is a great difference between being able to recite the VFR minimum altitudes and cloud clearances according to the FARs and applying them on a local flight. I am not advocating that these flights be an every day planned occurrence. Rather, I am proposing that such flights should be part of a pilot's on-going training program. These flights, as training exercises to improve capability, confidence and judgment could prevent an unintentional virgin entry into such conditions.

You will be exposed to flight in vicinity of clouds. If you can sense that the cloud is moving you are too close unless you are within 700' of the ground in the broad flyway between CCR and SAC. Behind Mt. Diablo the height is within 1200' of the ground. Above these altitudes you must have three miles visibility and maintain 500' below, 1000' above and 2000' laterally up to 10,000'. The distances increase above 10,000' MSL. (Mean Sea Level). Try drawing some terrain and airspace and place the words where appropriate:

10,000 feet
1000' above
O.K. to fly

2000' to side 2000' to side
cloud 500' below

700' O.K. to fly
Mt. Diablo

Contra Costa County has an ordinance for Buchannan Field that expects that no turns will be made below 600' AGL on takeoff and that no turn shall be made from downwind to base below 1000'. This requirement is not a FAR but a local ordinance applicable to CCR and enforceable by local agencies. Every airport may have a similar ordinance that becomes part of the FAR requirement for "all available information" prior to flight. CCR has an unusual Class D airspace footprint of three-(3) nautical mile radius where the standard is 4.4 nautical miles at most controlled airports.

If an instructor does not give a student an opportunity to fly into marginal conditions so as to learn their own personal limits, they are contributing to the VFR into IFR accident rate. No student should get his license without exposure to decision making situations related to weather.

Need to Know Information:
--Will you know your exact location at all times?
--Are your prepared to declare an emergency and climb IMC?
--Will the windshield withstand a bird strike?
--How will you handle a low altitude engine failure?
--How much space is required for a 180-degree turn?
--(Make a 180 for visibility not for turbulence.)
--Make a practice to fly at lower altitudes when weather is better. This makes it possible to determine minimum safe altitudes .....and obstacle locations.
--You want to learn where the wires are in good conditions.
--What is the minimum safe altitude for your direction of flight.

The purpose of SVFR is to make possible arrivals, departures and flight in Classes C, D, E and some B controlled airspace under less than VFR conditions locally. When, within the airspace footprint of an airport, the visibility is reported at less than three miles or the ceiling at less than 1000 feet, flight conditions are declared to be below VFR minimums and any flight other than IFR requires SVFR clearance. This is providing that given a ground visibility of at least 1 statute mile (or flight visibility of at least 1 statute mile if ground visibility is not reported). During the daytime having the rotating beacon operating shows this condition. Special VFR is available only in airspace in which all aircraft are under positive control.

The various airspace minima are aimed at making sure pilots can both fly to a destination and avoid other airplanes. SVFR is a way to reduce the separation burden of the pilot in really marginal conditions while leaving the responsibility. You still need to be able to keep the aircraft under control, figure out where you're going, and avoid hitting mountains and trees along the way.

What SVFR Is Not
SVFR is not a deviation of the FARs. It is a substitution of another FAR standard. The pilot must request SVFR. ATC cannot suggest that you ask for SVFR. ATC can only ask what your intentions are. SVFR requires an ATC clearance. Whenever a pilot in Classes B, C, D or E airspaces cannot proceed in VFR conditions a SVFR ATC clearance may be requested and given where ATC facilities can provide an adequate level of safety. When conditions outside the controlled airspace have the required VFR visibility or in Class G airspace of one mile and you can remain clear of clouds. You can fly in the clear above a Class E or D airport that is below VFR minimums. The ATC clearance allows you to depart controlled airspace fly to VFR conditions.

Only one aircraft IFR or SVFR is allowed in the Class D footprint airspace at one time. Unless one pilot has acknowledged visual contact and accepted responsibility for separation, two planes cannot be in the airspace at the same time. Once a pilot has accepted separation responsibility from ATC it remains in effect as long as you are in the airspace. You should also know that the altitude restriction in the SVFR clearance is due to a 'letter of agreement' between the airport and the local radar facility. The designated altitude is where radar coverage becomes possible. Radar/tower IFR handoffs normally occur as aircraft transit this altitude up or down. SVFR flights are restricted below this designated altitude.

SVFR is not a temporary Class G airspace, either. In class G airspace, no separation is provided by ATC even with radar. Under SVFR the only separation provided by ATC is by clearing only one aircraft into the airspace at a time. Non-radar ATC has separation responsibility only when both aircraft are on the ground. Many pilots have a mistaken idea that under VFR, IFR and SVFR you always receive ATC separation services. Not so.

A SVFR clearance effectively provides you with services in a like manner to IFR aircraft, that is, one aircraft at a time into the airspace unless one aircraft or the other takes on separation responsibility. In order to grant you an SVFR, the controllers must ascertain that your SVFR will not delay any IFR flights. If you try it, you will probably discover just how long it takes you to fly 5 NM (about 3 minutes in a Skyhawk). This distance is the minimum IFR separation.

Just as the biker can best protect himself from automobiles through knowledge of their performance capabilities and rules, so can the VFR/SVFR pilot benefit from knowledge of IFR. Stay clear of IFR approaches, check points and altitudes. Under SVFR the VFR pilot is actually flying in IFR conditions. Normally, SVFR flights are required to remain clear or denied takeoff clearance if an IFR flight is present. IFR flights have priority. If the VFR pilot will listen carefully on the radio he will hear IFR flights being given specific reporting points and routes. Become familiar with both the routes and points so as to remain clear or know where to look for traffic.

SVFR is a good thing to keep in mind for landing if the weather turns bad on you. If you can't do IFR and ATC won't allow VFR, requesting SVFR can get you down safely. I makes me wonder whom, in his right mind, would ask for an SVFR at night if he already has an instrument rating? A pilot who is so doubtful of his remaining fuel that he wants the quickest way in could well opt for the SVFR.

SVFR should never be attempted unless the pilot is VERY familiar with the airport and surrounding area. You must know well all arrival checkpoints from ten miles out right to the airport. You MUST know where you are at all times in relationship to airspace, obstacles, and route. You must know the location and altitudes of all obstructions along the route. You must know what you are doing before SVFR becomes a reasonable option. If you are going to fly under the weather, fly to the right side of valleys and roads. Flying in SVFR conditions requires that you get some experience and training in your area's specific requirements. Again, if your experience has never included SVFR with an instructor do not try it alone the first time.

Class B Airspace
Class B has a modified version of SVFR always available without SVFR clearance requirement. Contrary to some thinking this SVFR is not analogous to Class B airspace since visibility requirements are lower in SVFR and collision avoidance is provided in SVFR by exclusion of other aircraft. The VFR flight visibility of three miles in Class B airspace is not changed but distance-to-clouds minima of 'clear of' are set primarily to try to avoid midair collisions, especially between VFR aircraft and IFR aircraft which may be popping out of clouds. Where Class B surface area primary airport data on the sectional restricts SVFR flight you should know that the restriction applies only to fixed wing aircraft. The basic restrictions to VFR flight in SFO Class B airspace is clear of clouds and three mile visibility in your flight direction is not identical to SVFR. SVFR can be used in Class B by helicopters.

Low Visibility SVFR
The poor visibility of SVFR provides pilots with four areas of difficulty - attitude control, navigation, avoiding impact with terrain, and avoiding impact with other aircraft. A weather front or radiation fog can create SVFR conditions due to visibility. Radiation fog may often linger all day. Ceilings will be reported as indefinite. Even with one-mile ground visibility the slant range visibility may make the only viable approach be from overhead. The fog may be anywhere from 400 to 1000' feet thick vertically. The airport is completely visible only from overhead. In this case the SVFR clearance will direct the pilot to report above the airport at a specified altitude in VFR conditions to await a SVFR clearance. When traffic conditions allow, the SVFR flight will be directed to descend in the pattern for landing. A corresponding departure may be directed to climb in the pattern and report reaching VFR.

Low Ceiling SVFR
Still SVFR does not need to be always flown in poor visibility. It just as likely, and even more likely to be flown in good visibility but under low ceilings. This particular type SVFR is caused by advection fog conditions. Advection fog forms a layer anywhere from 400 to 2000' thick. It will ride like a blanket in and out from the ocean over the land for many miles. How far inland it goes is pretty much determined by the inland temperatures the day before. The hotter the Central Valley of California the further inland will intrude the advection fog. This fog can extend clear across the valley. It moves in and out from the ocean in about four day cycles depending on the interior temperatures. By learning to read the changes you can predict SVFR conditions.

It is possible for a SVFR flight to make a safe arrival at an airport when an IFR flight might not. Once cleared into or out of the Class D or C airspace the SVFR flight has no minimum altitude restriction. You can remain as close to the clouds as you want but must have 1 mile visibility in the flight direction. You could arrive/depart at 300' under SVFR conditions where the IFR pilot would have 400' descent minimums and never see the airport. These flight conditions are not unusual with avection fog in coastal regions.

Occasionally, ATC may delay giving you your SVFR clearance and ask you to report a geographic point just outside the airspace footprint. This enables ATC to slip your SVFR flight, into the airspace with a clearance not possible from farther out due to IFR traffic. Once in this situation, I was less than three minutes from a safe arrival and landing. Knowing what is legal and safe in minimum conditions should be required knowledge.

Night SVFR
Night SVFR must have both pilot and aircraft equipped and qualified for IFR (91.157b4). With the FAR change in night visibility requirements for VFR is 3 miles 500/1000//2000. Above 1200' AGL and 10,000 MSL to 5 miles 1000/1000/1 mile. It would appear that even a SVFR clearance in Class D airspace would present a problem for a pilot attempting to leave the IFR class surface area at night unless certain of the visibility and cloud clearance.

A student pilot can only fly at Concord or any other Class D controlled airport if it is at or above the VFR minimums of 1000' ceiling and visibility of 3 miles at night. At night (below 10,000') full VFR visibility of three miles and 500/1000/2000 cloud clearance is required all the way to the ground.

Is this the kind of flight you would take for fun? Hardly! When it's night, the basic rules of VFR survival change. In the daytime you can see worse conditions ahead, at night you can't. The existence of a cloud comes to your attention when everything disappears except the reflection of your rotating beacon; the ground and all the lights suddenly disappear. A form of pilot suicide at night is flying without positive knowledge of position in relationship to terrain. If you have not planned and predetermined the route and terrain for a night flight, be sure to get your affairs in order. See additional material on night training.

CCR SVFR Situations
A pilot (not student) who might wish to do some ground reference work in the vicinity of Montezuma Slough, might proceed as follows. Depart SVFR off 32. He can according to his clearance climb to 1500'. However, on leaving the Class D airspace he must be at 700' AGL or below as indicated by the magenta on the sectional or area chart. He would cross the river in the vicinity of the Mothball Fleet at 690' as long as he had 1 mile flight visibility and could stay clear of any cloud. Even if the visibility improved to 3 miles or more he would be required to maintain the 500/1000/2000 cloud clearance at any altitude above 700'. This means that he could not go above 700' even in over 3 mile visibility unless the cloud bases were 1200 or higher because of the 500 below required cloud clearance. You should do this with an instructor to fully understand and cope with its complexity.

Ceiling at CCR 900'. SVFR departure into area where ceiling is 900'. It would be legal to fly out of CCR surface area at slightly below 900' but once out of the Class D surface area the flight could legally continue only within 700' of the ground.

Ceiling at CCR 1200' with departure to the Northeast where ceiling remains at 1200. VFR departure but must remain 500' below clouds but on reaching Willow Pass hills can legally fly between hills and cloud bases because within 700' AGL. On crossing the hills the flight must continue at 700 AGL. The flight can only be made at higher altitudes as the cloud level rises above 1200' or as the terrain rises but the 500' below clouds FAR applies.

By turning to the Southeast we will leave the magenta shading and be able to fly almost to 1200' next to clouds in uncontrolled airspace. The 500' below clouds FAR does not apply until the ceiling reaches 1700' AGL or higher. Be aware that there are 2500' TV towers and support wires that will be mostly hidden in the clouds. Only towers and power lines above 200' are shown on sectionals.

Ceiling at CCR 800' Visibility 12 miles. Arrive at Clayton in VFR conditions and request SVFR for left base 19L. Cleared and fly below clouds at 700' MSL for landing.

Visibility one mile with 400' indefinite ceiling. Ground fog. Call for SVFR departure in the pattern. ATC will tell you to report over the field above 1500' in VFR conditions and get your clearance from there. Clearance will allow you to descent in pattern to the active runway.

Scud Running
Scud running is inherently dangerous. Avoiding the circumstances under which bad things happen can reduce the risks involved. Don't fly into a situation where you can run out of alternatives. In flying, two of the greatest safety factors are altitude and visibility. Both of these are compromised when scud running. No flight is so important that it should not be made safely.

Scud running means deliberate flight below clouds near ground level. If the uncontrolled airspace is bounded by magenta shading the flight must be within 700 of the ground. While some areas do have MSL minimums (See: Northwest of Ukiah) all other areas must be flown within 1200' AGL. To be legal this flying must be where there is one-mile flight visibility and clear of clouds. This means you must have one mile in the direction being flown while never entering a cloud. This type of flying has some inherent dangers. Pilot over-confidence in knowledge and ability is the killer. You don't know what you don't know. Pseudo-agnosia!!! Take an attitude adjustment program. Flying low and lost is dangerous, very dangerous.

When visibility is poor the slant range ahead to the ground appears farther than the horizontal range to the rear. Horizontal visibility seems to be closing since there is no ground, apparent distance, visual contrast or depth.

Knowing where you are when flying low requires more area knowledge than when flying high. Things look different and flow by much faster. Its difficult to see transmission lines and other wires from an aircraft. There is a single static line above the main wires. This wire is rarely visible at all. If the visibility is over a mile but the ceiling is forcing you to within 200' of terrain you are flying in big-wire country. Consider flying at your minimum slow speed for your skill level. You will see more wires at slow speed. Since you are always flying toward what is in front of you, the visibility SEEMS better in that direction.

Scud is factostratus or fractocumulus clouds of bad weather. It consists of small, dark clouds that exist below layers of stratocumulus or nimbostratus.

I1. Being forced ever lower by descending ceilings.
2. Make a 180 but avoid terrain in the turn.
3. Communicate if possible.
4. Get on the ground.
5. SVFR only if capable

Minimum Safe Altitudes
Flying in marginal weather conditions requires a sense of risk management. You have several risk choices such as stay underneath, go on top, turn right or left. Flying low has known hazards. 63% of fatal maneuvering accidents have happened during buzz jobs or low-altitude flight. Altitude above you is wasted. You must chose a minimum safe altitudes based on your knowledge of the terrain, suitable landing areas, airspace requirements, obstacles, safe routes, and other aircraft probabilities. Every altitude above the minimum safe is a compromise reaching toward the absolute safe. Absolute safe does not exist. Knowledge reduces the risk factor.

From your home airport and perhaps even your home area you have developed a sense of risk management that is going to be lower than those who are unfamiliar. Prior planning best reduces unfamiliarity. Prior planning could well include a phone call to your destination or a conversation with a knowledgeable fellow pilot. You will always get the best knowledge from the locals. Each airport has peculiarities of areas to be flown over, avoided, and viewed. A visit to the airport bulletin boards for noise abatement procedures is always worth while. You serve yourself and all other pilots by obeying the caveat that is often unwritten but there.

I have done my share of scud running. I often do so with students so that they can be exposed to the available options and choices. I always fly down the right side of valleys and roads. I fly ridges in preference to valleys since this gives me a wider turn space. I fly over power towers instead of between them. I fly away from navigable rivers since they are more likely to have high towers. I fly in less than three-mile visibility only when I know exactly where I am in relationship to my destination and all the problems I face getting there under adverse conditions. I teach as much as conditions will safely allow about minimum altitude flight. Better for the student to be exposed to the problems and solutions. Such flying is a learning experience comparable to on-the-job training.

FAR 91.119 gives the minimum safe altitude as one that permits a pilot to make an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property. There are stated minimums over congested areas, and other than congested when within 500 feet of person, vessel, vehicle, or structure. Marginal VFR has a ceiling from one to three thousand feet with a visibility between three and five miles. In a familiar area there is practically no hazard in flying in such conditions. The exception is if the conditions are deteriorating or you are flying toward rather than away from deteriorating conditions. If you should get suckered into a situation that is getting beyond your experience or ability get ATC help if you can. If you can't reach an airport your best survival option is a precautionary landing while conditions allow a controlled and planned arrival.

At minimums the pilot must know, at all times, where he plans to land and how he expects to avoid any obstacles. Altitude is the most important ingredient in any emergency landing. The ideal is the arrive abeam the 'numbers' of your selected landing site with 1000' of altitude so that you can make a normal power-off approach and landing.

The major difference between an FAA emergency approach and landing from any other landing is that there is no go-around option. One recommended technique is the airplane-best site-cockpit (ABC) system where you set up your best glide, select the best landing option below you that allows landing into the wind, and finally prepare the cockpit. Once you are committed to land, it is best to shut off the fuel to prevent the engine from causing a re-start crash, shut off the electrical and open the doors.

1. You are most likely to be disoriented in low visibility
2. Being instrument rated is only partially effective as insurance.
3. The onset of vertigo may completely disable the pilot.
4. Loss of situational awareness, being lost, is mentally disabling.
5. The stress of being lost increases susceptibility to illusions
6. Disorientation is the greatest cause of fatal accidents.

Low Level Pilotage
The pilot who makes a plan prior to the flight and then follows the plan is not going to get into a scud running situation. Basic to the plan is clouds no lower than 1000', no less than three mile visibility, selected visual points along the route at a minimum of half the visibility (1-1/2 mile) and knowing exactly where you are at all times. Take a flight with an instructor in three-mile visibility and low ceiling between two local airports. It is certain to heighten your awareness of the need for checkpoint selection. You must have a pre-selected sequence of checkpoints. The one you are over, the direction of the next one and the one to look for after that. If you can't do this along the route you have no business in the air.

Interstate highways are good. Especially, look for distinctive patterns, such as a curve to the south of a town, for unambiguous location. Airport pattern orientation recognition is essential for navigation by low level pilotage.

Factory smokestacks and nuclear plant cooling towers are excellent if there is a plume that can be seen for a long distance. Big clusters of oil tanks are very nice, but unfortunately rare. Suggest you never use a tank farm as a checkpoint in Oklahoma. I did once as a reporting point. ATC said it was not a good idea. Landmarks that are duplicated are often only useful if you already know exactly where you are. Some landmarks, such as railroad tracks, are seasonal. Trees can hide them in the summer, but they really stand out in winter snow. Power line right-of-ways can be used if they cut through trees, since there is good contrast, but that isn't always the case, and it's hard to tell from the chart.

Many smaller lakes out west are seasonal, as are islands in these lakes. I find that flying across rural areas with irregular farms and small roads is the most challenging of the pilotage situations. Midwestern pilots are lucky: The entire landscape is ruled in perfect lines!

The distance between checkpoints should vary with visibility. A best checkpoint is best when it is off to your left side and good when to your right side. Poorest right on the course line. Checkpoints should have at least two other verifiable references. Use VOR radials if you must.

Once flew low level across Oregon. Told ATC that I was over a small town with a distinctive lumberyard. Same company yard was in all the small towns of Oregon. Once told UNICOM that I was over a crossroads with a Shell service station. Only one of several in the area.

It is common on hazy days for the visibility to decrease in the direction of the sun as it is close to the horizon, morning or afternoon. Aircraft flying into the sun may have less than three-mile visibility while the tower is reporting ten miles. Slow down so your turn radius will allow you to turn more quickly. A thirty percent reduction in speed will reduce the turn radius by fifty percent.

Knowing the Options
The most frequent pilot weakness in scud running is lack of knowledge in dealing with the airspace requirement. You must know that when the visibility becomes less than three miles or you are not able to maintain the one thousand able or five hundred below clouds you have only three options. Conditions that have visibility of less than one mile do not allow SVFR procedures. In this situation you must look to other options. Any options depend on your knowledge of the area and your flight experience.

--Get a clearance IFR or SVFR or
-- Get close to the ground or
--Declare an emergency.

Consider #3, declaring an emergency. It has certain advantages over #2. Especially if you are running out of options. If you are over unknown terrain and of uncertain location you should opt for the emergency. Fly toward the best weather and get help. A descent will decrease your ability to communicate, decrease the availability of radar assistance and decrease the options available. You are far less likely to get into FAA investigation problems by declaring an emergency than you are by trying to work your way out.

If visibility is below three-miles but greater than one mile, any pilot other than a student pilot can request a special visual flight rules clearance (SVFR)into controlled airspace. This clearance requires only that you have one-mile flight visibility (the direction of flight) and that you remain clear of clouds. This clearance could allow you to remain high enough to get ATC communications and radar assistance.

Option #2 consists of getting closer to the ground. This is a viable option only under certain conditions. You must know where you are and where you will be along your route. You must know the airspace rules as they apply to low level flight. Class G airspace is the uncontrolled airspace close to the ground that allows daytime flight with only one mile visibility and clear of cloud. At night these minimums increase to basic VFR, 3 miles visibility, 1000' above' 500' below and 2000' lateral. Based on the night minimums night scud running is not a feasible option and probably never has been.

The altitude rules of class G are controlled by FAR and charted on the Sectional charts. Where there is magenta shaded lines the airspace between the shaded sides exist as Class G within 700' of the surface. As the ground rises and falls so does the airspace except in selected mountainous areas. The entire flyway of the Bay Area to Sacramento has a floor of 700' where Class G begins. In marginal conditions, any effort toward VFR flight above Class G airspace could put you in conflict with IFR aircraft.

Airspace not shaded or shaded in blue exists as Class G within 1200' of the ground. As the surface rises and falls so does the airspace. Areas around airports in this area may be shaded magenta where instrument approaches exist. Failure to know where you are in relation to such airports may cause an airspace violation.

--; In selected mountainous regions, to avoid the up/down elevation requirements a level altitude is selected and outlined with a ragged blocked blue line. This space has the base altitude given. Any aircraft within this space must stay below the base altitude and maintain one mile flight visibility and clear of clouds. (See S.F. Sectional northwest of Ukiah)

--; If the only runway on which you can make a safe landing is "closed" with a big X this does not necessarily mean that you cannot land on it. Being closed does not necessarily make it either unsafe or unusable. FAA cannot close a runway; only the airport authority can do that. However, if the runway is closed you cannot get a clearance either to takeoff or land from ATC. ATC will merely advise that such a clearance cannot be given and that any landing will be at your own risk. All controllers do not know this provision. If there is a local ordinance against such a takeoff or landing then you may have to deal with the local authorities.

--Aside from the ease with which the FARs can be violated the next greatest difficulty lies with pilot unfamiliarity with terrain and obstructions. It is a recommended practice that as pilots drive and fly throughout the area that note is taken as to location and heights of flight hazards. Just remember, new power lines and towers can be installed in just a few days. Every few years some pilot tries to make it through the Caldecott Tunnel or low over Lake Berryessa. Getting lost at higher altitudes is bad enough. Getting lost while scud running amounts to receiving a death threat from your local terrorist.

-- It is very easy to run out of visibility while scud running. Always fly to the right side of roads and valleys. Know in which direction the clear weather lies. You should know that an aircraft could make a turn in much less space at slow speeds. A 180 turn at 65 takes much less turning room that one at 100. You should begin your turn near the side of your clear space. The use of flaps can make the turn even tighter but don't over bank just hold the selected angle longer to complete the turn.

--Getting lost greatly increases the stress of flying. Any increase in stress focuses the attention on the problem and decreases the flying capability of the pilot. You will not react as well to any loss of visibility, turbulence, or mechanical problem if it is compounded by the stress of being lost.

--In all of these flights there is a "basic law" that requires the aircraft always to be able to make an emergency landing without injury or damage to persons or property. This means that in sparsely populated areas it is legal to fly as low as you want so long as you can make a safe landing. This "basic law" also applies in the vicinity of airports, where you can fly as low as required so long as you have intention to land. This intention is best expressed on the radio.

Knowing Your Best Options
In the North Bay region there is only one airport that has the potential of being VFR when advection fog conditions exist. That airport, Virgil O. Parrett-(2O3) is at 1848' MSL and 3200 feet long with lighting. What this means is that any aircraft caught on top of the cloud layer, even at night, has a viable option up to 1800 feet a little more than 20 miles north west of Napa airport. Pilots in the South Bay area have Bonny Doon without lights, 2400' long, and slightly over 2000'. If you fly in an advection fog region you should learn just where your best (closest) useable airport may lie.

If you are under the advection layer or the visibility options mean that an emergency is the only remaining option. Declare an emergency and make your best effort to get to a major airport with surveillance radar approach capability. At some point in your training you should get the experience of making a practice surveillance approach. In the North Bay Travis AFB is a preferred choice. I phoned Bay TRACON and was told that they do not offer surveillance approaches. I wonder how they handle emergencies?

The procedure that will exist in an emergency at Travis is that you get radar vectors out to about a five-mile final and are told to descend to 400'. When the final controller takes over you are told not to respond by voice to any directions. You make all turns at half standard rate. Vectors will consist of "turn right, turn left, stop turn". All other information will have to do with how well you are flying toward the airport. In practice you will be required to advise what your missed approach plans are. You must not descend below 400' nor will you be allowed to land except in an emergency.

Wire Strikes
There are 115 reported wire strikes annually. Less than 10% of wire strikes are reported so the actual number is close to 1500. If visibility report exists, 90% occur with visibility in excess of three miles. 86% had over 1000' ceiling and 60% had clear or scattered clouds. 40% of the pilots knew about the wires they hit. The ratio of airplane to helicopter is 4 to 1 in favor of the airplane. 70% of wire strikes occur below 100'.

In our area we often have advection fog that gives unlimited visibility underneath a coastal or river region. Pt. Reyes just north of San Francisco is a projection that traps pilots flying southeast along the coast. Every year or so someone will fly down into Tomales Bay and run into an airplane eating hill. Also when following rivers that have freighters such as our Sacramento and San Joaquin the power line towers rise to nearly 500' instead of the usual 200 or less. Following a river works best if you fly over the towers. Never between them. Always fly to the right side of roads, rivers, and valleys.

Wires are marked by utilities according to aircraft probability and lack of visibility, not by altitude. Pilots hit wires; wires do not hit pilots. Wires under 200' are not charted. The best way to avoid wires is by climbing. Visible wires often have invisible wires below them. Flying over the poles is the best guarantee of wire avoidance. An 80-knot speed gains 16 seconds of seeing time over 120 knots. Ask yourself "Where are the wires." not "Are there wires?" A 10,000-hour pilot is the most likely candidate for a wire strike.

Low Altitudes
Precautions for LVFR (Low VFR)
1. Slow to low cruise...reduces turn radius and gives time to see things.
2. Be sure to put on Carb. Heat
3. Put in partial flaps
4. Hand on throttle
5. No turns over 30 degrees
6. Make turns into wind to reduce radius
7. Remain trimmed for level flight
8. If you don't know where you are, get help
9. Lights on, fly right side of roads and valleys
10. Maintain radio contact or monitoring

FAR 912.119 requires that in the event of power failure a landing can be made without hazard to person or property. This means that in uninhabited areas you can go "this" low. California can apply fines up to $1000 for low flight in addition to what the FAA might do. 10% of buzzing accidents account for 30% of general aviation fatalities. Low flight is dangerous and in many cases illegal. The risks aren't worth it.

If you wish to make a low altitude flight over the runway, never express this as your "intent" on the radio at an uncontrolled airport. Big brother may be watching/listening. Make all turns and altitudes as though "intending to land" and then call a "go around". An acquaintance in Oregon was given a 90-day suspension for flying contrary to FAR 91.119 for having the wrong "intent".

Flying low is a type of flying that, while enjoyable, requires specific training and experience. Low flying exposes you to obstacles not usually encountered. Tall towers have guy wires that angle out from the top. These guy wires are invisible to pilots until it is too late. Know where the local towers are and their height. Over 200' AGL they will be (should be) on the charts. The power line towers adjacent to rivers are in the over 600' category to allow ship passage. Narrow valleys have high wires that extend several hundred feet above the valley floor.

One way to reduce the closure rate toward hard to see obstacles is to slow down the aircraft. Not only will this increase the time to see it will increase the maneuverability of the aircraft. Speeds below Va will allow full control defection. If you can find towers, plan to overfly them directly. Be prepared to fly under power lines if necessary. Flying close to a tower and under the lines will allow a higher altitude. Flying to a power line at an angle allows greater viewing time. When worse comes to worse and you are going to hit a line, do so with full power. This will increase your penetration and controllability.

See and Be Seen
The pilot is requires to rely on a combination of his own vigilance, ATC (when available), color contrast, and lighting. Becoming familiar with the terrain and reporting points enables the pilot to put more time into aircraft scan. The pilot should know where to expect and look for the most likely traffic while not ignoring the possibility of a surprise from elsewhere. The pilot should know where things are within the cockpit. The exterior scan should be 4 to 1 to the outside vs. the inside.

When using the flight computer or charts hold them up so that you can maintain the 4 to 1 proportion of your scan over the top of the chart. Looking down into your lap will cause the weight of your head to cause a well trimmed aircraft to descend. Keep your head up and raise the chart. Know that the most likely collision is going to be with an aircraft on your horizon. An airplane on the horizon that remains in a fixed position is going to hit you unless you change direction. Remember, if you are in a relatively slow aircraft you are most likely to be hit at about 30 degrees from the rear. The most dangerous other aircraft in the air is the one you don't see and probably can't see.

Minimums Instruction (instructor)
As indicated previously the best time to learn to fly is in fall and winter. Private pilot weather training is a weak area of training and instruction. It takes a special effort of both instructor and student to fit the desirable instruction into the available weather. Book learning won't teach the how and when to fly when ceilings and visibility are low. Look for opportunities to fly in less than desirable conditions.

The FAR minimums are not safe or practical except when the pilot has had previous instructed experience in the same area. The pilot must constant situational awareness of his position. His position in relationship to where he is going, has been, obstacles, and likely traffic conflicts.

The pilot selected minimums should be well above the FAR minimums. This required knowledge of area weather peculiarities. The S.F. Bay Area has both avection and radiation fog conditions. The decision to fly depends on an 'experienced' assessment of both the present and expected situation.

Different kinds of weather create differing visibility problems. Avection fog give a ceiling or deck, radiation fog may give vertical position while obscuring any slant range visual references. Loss of the horizon reference is the prelude to IFR. Poor visibility is the primary cause of becoming lost. Poor visibility greatly increases the chance of running into an obstacle. Poor visibility greatly affects your ability to estimate distances. Airports that seem far away may be twice as close. If you make repeated flights over an area, use one of the flights to determine the minimum safe obstacle clearance altitude while flying good VFR.

You ability to navigate by pilotage or traditional navigational aids will be greatly reduced by being forced to fly low. GPS is not so affected. Look out! GPS or LORAN can easily fly you into terrain if your data base s does not have terrain altitudes. Given the opportunity, go flying in the rain with an instructor for virgin flights.

VFR at Minimums
Good flight planning will avoid a pilot getting into clouds, without visual references at night, or with one-mile visibility at 699' AGL. Good planning will get you high clouds, good visibility, and no weather. A VFR flight when weather is marginal will require more planning and local weather and terrain knowledge than will an IFR flight. Planning may include flying small ifr (I follow roads). You need to know where the transmission lines are, towers, and obstacles. Mostly, you need to know where you are at all times, which way is the most dangerous, which way is safest, and where you need to head to get where you are going.

Planning an alternate route before departure is far superior to having to make an alternation because of lowering conditions. Marginal conditions get worse later in the afternoon. VFR rules change even more at night. Staying visual during the day is much easier than at night. Without a moon, night flight is more like IFR than VFR.

Within 3000' of the ground, in VFR conditions, where 500/1000/2000 cloud clearance and 3 mile visibility can be maintained, there is no restriction as to what direction you must be flying in Class E airspace. Neither is there such a restriction if you are climbing and descending, regardless of altitude up to 18,000' Above 10,000' you must maintain 1000/1000/1 mile clear of clouds and 5 mile visibility. You must have an operating transponder above 10,000'. If you become uncertain as to how the hemispheric rule applies to the magnetic course you are flying make gradual climbs and descents and you will technically never be in violation if you maintain the appropriate cloud clearance and visibility.

When it comes to choosing a flight altitude in VFR conditions between two points it is important that you consider several items:
-- Aircraft capabilities.
Don't try to climb to 9,500 in a C-150. A C-150 flight to Las Vegas can be a 12 hour round trip regardless of wind direction.
-- Choose an altitude appropriate to the distance.
Avoid 3000'. Remember local flights tend to stay below 3000. No need to go high for short distances. Most pilots tend to fly at even 500s even below 3000. Choose a unique altitude so as to avoid traffic. Above 3000 AGL you must fly according to the hemispheric rule. Fly at 7,500 or 8,500 to minimize traffic conflicts but be aware when you cross, parallel or fly airways.
-- Choose an altitude appropriate to the terrain and airports.
This means that route selection may be predicated on several factors.
-- Choose an altitude appropriate to the winds.
Winds usually increase in velocity with altitude. Plan accordingly. Choose an altitude with reference to special airspace restrictions, local hazards and cloud layers. It is more likely to be a rough flight below clouds.

Low level CCR to Petaluma
The pilot now plans to depart CCR for Petaluma under a cloud cover that has occasional clouds at 1500' and varies from overcast to scattered at 2500' for the entire route. Visibility is 15 miles. He departs 1R and requests on course Petaluma. Two options now exist. Find a hole in any scattered area of clouds and climb up if you are able to maintain 2000' lateral distance from any cloud. How do you tell? Anytime you can sense the movement of a cloud you are too close. Also you are making an assumption that you will be able to find a similar hole at Petaluma or if not when returning to CCR. Advice, don't get caught on top of clouds. Don't do this flight on top unless weather is definitely improving.

The second choice is to stay below the clouds. Only cloud clearance presents an obvious weather problem. At 2000' he should be able to stay below the clouds. 2000' presents several problems. It is the altitude at which he is most likely to meet other aircraft. A clearance is going to be required if the flight touches the new 5-mile Class D at Napa. There is along the shoreline of San Pablo Bay a National Game Refuge with a 2000' minimum altitude, which would make the cloud clearance questionable. There are several hilly populated areas that could be over-flown with questionable AGL altitudes as per FAR 91.119 requirement of 1000'. How does he do it?

Don't fly at 2000'. Choose 1850'. Fly at unusual altitudes when within 3000' of the ground. Fly the shoreline until reaching the Mare Island Bridge. Be alert for the high high-voltage towers just east of the Vallejo Bridge. You could turn inland to cross these lines over lower towers. Always cross power lines at the towers. Avoid any clouds at your flight altitude by at least 2000' unless you are within 700' of the ground. Along the southern coast of Mare Island, proceed inland across the old Black Point Cutoff known now as Route 37. The bay side of this road is a National Wildlife Refuge with a 2000' minimum altitude. Proceed along the right side of the road inland to allow some room for opposite direction traffic that may not be able to clear the Refuge. Not so far inland as to intrude on Napa's Class D unless we obtain a clearance for the intrusion and passage. After passing the Sear's Point Raceway fly up the Petaluma Hill Road until you pick up the airport.

The actual arrival at Petaluma will require a bit of creativity because the cloud level may make a right 45 entry difficult to impossible. It may be desirable to overfly the airport at a maximum allowable altitude and make a pattern entry from there. Use the radio to let others know where you are and what you a doing. The next time there are marginal conditions of this type, make the flight with an instructor who is both familiar with the route and its options. Know IFR approach routes and altitudes into Napa.

Petaluma to CCR
On the route home, the pilot chooses to fly a more direct route over the hills to the east and through the Class D airspace at Napa. To do this he will need to fly between the cloud layer and the tops of the hills. This can be legally done as long as there is some space available and it is done without intruding on the 500' clear of persons required by FAR 91.119. The rule is that when we are within 700' of the ground (magenta) we can fly as close to a cloud as we want but not into it. If an area is not magenta tinted, the altitude is 1200' of the ground. You will never fully understand the application of the rules until you are actually exposed, with an instructor, to the actual flight.

Once over the hill we descend to 500' below the clouds. Now we are once again faced with the "all available information" aspect of the FARs. Ignorance is no excuse but this pilot is about to intrude on the instrument approach airspace used into Napa. These approaches are flown at 1770' and 420' to and from the SGD VOR on a course of 050 degrees. It is vital that we avoid this area and altitude range until we ascertain whether there is inbound IFR traffic. By making radio contact with APC tower and obtaining both advisories and a clearance through their airspace en route of CCR we can maximize our safety options.

As he reports "clear" of Napa and gets the ATIS at CCR he finds that CCR has a 600' ceiling with 10-mile visibility. This is well below VFR minimums so a special VFR clearance is required. He circles near the Mothball Fleet while he makes his request for SVFR clearance. He knows that under these conditions his location and arrival path to CCR will be in minimum conflict with inbound IFR traffic. He also knows that with his SVFR clearance he need only stay clear of clouds and have 1 mile flight visibility. His intention to land allows him to proceed to the airport at minimum altitudes but noise considerations are always in effect. Under SVFR conditions you must know where you are at every moment. These are the worst possible conditions to become disoriented or lost. From this position any one of several arrivals can be made. Straight in 14, base to 19, downwind 1, direct entry downwind 32. Since you will not be allowed into the CZ when IFR traffic is present you will probably be the only aircraft in the area. Take your most economical choice according to conditions.

CCR to Rio Vista at Minimums
On a direct flight from CCR to Rio Vista with weather below VFR minimums you must remain within 700' of the ground under but up to the fog deck and you will be allowed to climb above that altitude only when the fog deck exceeds 1200'. Remember 500' below clouds unless within 700' of ground. However, you should note that there is, near Rio Vista, a two-mile distance where 1200' is specified and for that short distance you could fly up to 1200 but not above that until the deck reached 1700. (the required 500' below again) It is important that you note the areas of 700' (Magenta) between the Bay Area and where they meet the 1200' regions which are no longer indicated in blue on the sectional as of November 1992.

CCR to APC at Minimums
What this means is that in a flight from the CCR surface area to the APC surface area you can fly under a layer of fog within 700-800' of the ground in the daytime only as long as you do not enter a cloud and can see 1-mile in your flight direction. You will not be allowed to either enter or leave either of the surface areas by means of a SVFR clearance unless there is a reported 1-mile visibility.

By FAR you will not be allowed to fly above 700' of the ground except where the fog deck allows you 500' clearance below. Within the airport surface areas you are limited by your clearance to a specified altitude (2000 or 1500) or lower. Within the surface area you must be clear of clouds, not above the clearance altitude restriction and have 1 mile flight visibility. Draw the flight line CCR to LVK both direct and via freeways so as to determine how the flight should be made under a 900' deck.

(1) Cleared (to enter\out of\through) the Concord Delta Surface Area (direction) of the Concord Airport, maintain SVFR conditons at or below 1500 while in the Delta Surface Area.
Entering the Delta Surface Area
Leaving the Delta surface area or reaching VFR conditions, which ever occurs first.

(2) Overhead arrivals
Descend in SVFR conditions at or below 1500 in right/left traffic (runway) report leaving 1500.

(3) Overhead departures
Climb in SVFR conditions in right/left traffic (runway) until reaching VFR conditions. If not in VFR conditions by
1500, maintain SVFR conditions at or below 1500 and advise.

(4) Local Operations
Local SVFR operations in the immediate vicinity of Concord Airport are authorized until (time). Maintain SVFR conditions at or below 1500.

VFR Cloud Clearances and Visibility
3-152. 3 miles visibility., 1000 feet above clouds, 500 feet below, and 2000 feet horizontally
5-111 .5 miles, 1000 above, 1000 below, 1 mile horizontally
1-COC. 1 mile visibility. clear of clouds

On Top is NOT Over the Top
VFR on top requires an instrument rating and clearance that allows you to climb in IFR conditions until reaching VFR and to continue your IFR flight using VFR altitudes. VFR over the top is flown strictly in VFR conditions with VFR cloud clearances, visibility and altitudes. VFR over the top cannot be flown by a student pilot if it does not allow visual contact with the ground. Your aircraft must be IFR equipped.
--Will you be able to safely and legally get both up and down through the clouds?
--Below 10,000 feet you will need a 2000-foot hole to get legally up and down.
--Will you know where you are when you can't see the ground?
--What to do in the event of an emergency
--Plan for the worst and hope for lucky.
--Only make such a flight into improving weather.
--Do not get above cloud conditions forecast to deteriorate.
--Tops of cloud layers will begin rising in mid morning.
--Rising clouds can easily outpace the performance of G.A. aircraft.
--Visibility will be poor east of the Mississippi below cloud layers.
--Holes in clouds to the west of the Mississippi are surrounded by higher terrain.
--Fly your compass heading when VFR over the top.
--Winds above and below a cloud layer must be expected to be considerably different.
--Keep an accurate time check of any confirmed visual location.
--Fly as high as you can above the clouds to improve your view of holes to descend through.
--Descend through a hole using full flaps as rapidly as you can in a tight spiral.
--Remove the flaps to increase your rate of descent coming out the bottom.
--Listen to local AWOS and ASOS to be aware of ceiling AGL.
--Have plenty of fuel and keep track of your backdoor options.

Practice in Preparation for Less-than-Perfect Conditions
--Takeoff as though you were on a 2000 foot runway, land the same way.
--Look for departures and arrivals that are clearways at 300-foot ceilings.
--Fly the hilltops and obstacle tops so as to learn where your minimum safe altitudes will be.
--Find the emergency highest reachable airport for your aircraft when the area closes down..
--Fly the valleys to find where all the power lines are and the minimum safe altitudes
--At altitude, learn how slow you can go while maintaining positive aircraft control.
--Do emergency (simulated) descents with hands-off while configured for slowest possible descent and airspeed.
--Ask for or use crosswind runway when the traffic conditions allow and the winds will test your ability.
--See how close you can get to the runway at a high speed and still make the first turnoff.
--Make every fifth landing a no-flap landing.
--See how low and slow you can maintain control over a very long runway.
--See how accurately you can guess the amount of fuel needed to top off your fuel tanks.

Scud Running Lesson
I had student select route believed to be the lowest safe flight between two airports. Initially we studies the charts with reference to obstacles, power lines, housing, roads and references easily identified.

Power lines are useful to give you routes but often difficult to see and may be poorly charted. Fly the route in the very best of visibility and weather so as to determine safest options.

Non-Standard departure
If you need to gain altitude sooner, consider asking for a 270 that will overfly the airport well above pattern altitude.

Special Communications Request
At controlled airport include in your departure request an immediate transfer to departure frequency so as to allow request to special routing and/or altitudes.

Communications Routes
How to fly between airports with minimum radio use.
How to use ATC facilities to get direct routes between airports. All you need to do is ask. he worst that can happen is to be told, "Unable".  Clean up your radio work so that ATC will give you what you ask for.

Planned Arrivals
When twenty miles out pick your initial call-up position to a runway that will give you the most economical arrival to the airport combined with best taxiing route. Again, don't hesitate to request a crosswind runway based on traffic and your skills.

Creative Flying
How many different ways can you find between airports that contain slightly different advantages. Faster, lower, higher, cheaper, quieter, etc....

VFR into IMC. (Opinion)
Last I heard they were the majority weather accident cause as of a couple of years ago. This is particularly disturbing since most of them were private pilots, and less than 20% of private pilots are instrument rated in the first place. One might even be tempted to believe that having an instrument rating puts you at higher risk of dying in an inadvertent VFR-into-IMC incident. I will attempt to explain why I believe this is absolutely true.

Let's face facts - basic attitude instrument flying proficiency has been required at the private pilot level for well over a decade now. A few years ago the FAA started mandating three hours of instrument training. Before that, it was possible to go to a private checkride with as little as one hour of instrument time (I did) but the maneuvers you had to demonstrate were exactly the same - climbs, descents, turns to headings, and unusual attitude recoveries. In a RADAR environment, these skills are sufficient to save your ass and get you down even in some really scuzzy conditions if you do what you are supposed to - climb, communicate, confess, and comply. I know this from personal experience, because I once had to do it. At the time, I had less than three hours of total instrument time, was low time, and was not very current or experienced in the airplane I was flying. I did not even know what an ASR was, but I asked for a RADAR guided approach and I got one.

I believe that the key to surviving the experience is realizing that you indeed have an emergency situation, staying calm and carrying out your plan of action for the emergency. If you do that, you will most likely (but not certainly) come out alive.

If you ask around, very few pilots out there have not had an inadvertent VFR into IMC encounter. The vast majority of those who have one do survive, by using the skills they were taught in preparation for the private pilot checkride. Some few even become comfortable with the process and start flying IMC whenever it is convenient.

Recently, I asked a few of the high time instrument rated pilots around my home field about their instrument experiences prior to obtaining the instrument rating. The consensus seems to be that 2-6 hours of solo actual is typical before STARTING work on the instrument rating. There's a lot of IMC flying by un-rated people going on out there. Some are just punching layers to get up or down, and some have actually graduated all the way up to filing IFR illegally and flying full approaches. While this is grossly illegal, I don't think this is what really causes the accidents. These people know that they are doing something illegal and dangerous, and they treat the operation with all the respect it deserves.

The reality is that an instrument rating does not really prepare the average pilot for the sort of instrument flying he really wants to do. How many of us know an instrument rated pilot (or a pilot working on an instrument rating) who owns a light single (or typically rents light singles) and just wants the rating as a 'safety net?' I see a lot of these guys. They fly less than 100 hours a year, they mostly fly VFR, and unless they have a real reason to go somewhere (which they rarely do) they don't intentionally fly in scuzzy weather. Their thinking is that if they are flying along and the weather goes bad, they can just file IFR to get down and out of the weather. I believe that kind of thinking is going to kill quite a few of them.

See, flying IFR is a hassle, and the less performance your airplane has, the more of a hassle it is. Unless you have IFR RNAV (and sometimes even if you do) you get routed out of your way along airways. You lose a lot of time climbing, and because you don't really get to do a shallow descent a lot of times, you don't get it back on the descent. It's not so bad en route, but it's really bad on the departure and in the terminal environment. If your airplane has short legs and poor climb (and most of the GA fleet does), you can increase your trip time by 50%. Flying IFR is fun (in a twisted sort of way) if you can cruise 150+ kts, carry 5+ hours of fuel, and climb 1000 fpm. Otherwise it's just a pain in the ass. As a result, most instrument rated private pilots are actually flying very little actual - and most of their instrument time is in the training environment.

Unfortunately, the training environment is rather unrealistic. Real IFR flying involves very little actual airmanship most of the time. You plod along, mostly straight and level, in and out of the soup for three hours, and at the end you maybe get one approach out of it (if that). Most of what you are doing is monitoring weather and systems. Mostly navigation is just not a major concern - you have multiple redundant systems and aids to situational awareness. Sure, you CAN fly with just a single Nav/Com, but outside the training environment nobody does. In the training environment, you spend so much time flying with just the bare minimum that you can easily begin to think that's normal.

So here we have our statistic waiting to happen. He is in your average minimally equipped airplane, which means he has maybe a couple of NavComs (or just one) and maybe an ADF and probably a decent portable GPS with a yoke mount. If he is a renter he might be in the instrument trainer, which probably has DME, but probably doesn't have a decent mount for the GPS. He is instrument rated and technically current - he just had an ICC three months ago. He has an ICC every six months - it's cheap insurance. He is making a routine VFR XC flight. The weather shows a chance of marginal VFR, and even a remote chance of patchy IFR, but mostly it's supposed to be decent enough VFR. Our friend even filed an IFR flight plan, just in case. He has a book of approach plates and a low altitude chart in the back seat. The weather is deteriorating, but he is undeterred. It is still technically VFR, and anyway he has a flight plan on file, he is legal and current. He knows all about air filing - he did it a couple of times while working on his rating, on a clear blue-sky day.

Now the weather has gotten marginal. He contacts center, but everyone else wants to talk to them too. On a blue-sky VFR day, center is mostly handling the turbine traffic. Everyone else is VFR. Now the weather is deteriorating, and the system is full of guys in Bonanzas, 210's, and Barons who all filed 20 minutes ago. The controllers are talking a mile a minute and our friend can't get a word in edgewise. When the controller finally acknowledges him, he tells the guy to file with FSS - he can't find the flight plan. See, it was never opened on takeoff and it's with a different center.

Now our friend has his hands full. He's hand flying the airplane in scuzzy weather, fumbling for maps, trying to find the right frequency, tuning radios, and pretty soon he's in the soup. He should now declare an emergency (because that is exactly what he has on his hands) but he is instrument rated and current and he knows that declaring an emergency now might mean a violation and a 609, but if he only files normally and flies his clearance all will be fine. In the meantime, he lets his scan slip. He notices that all of a sudden, the airspeed is way too high and the descent rate is way too low or worse that tower comes out of the mist...

My experience is that the most difficult part of the IFR in IMC flight is the transition to instruments, not the approach. Approaches are standardized, they are charted, and the portion flown past the final approach fix is absolutely invariant. Instrument departures are worse - you are maneuvering down low, with the airplane not squared away yet. But by far the most difficult kind of instrument flying is making the transition from VFR to IFR in scuzzy weather in an unplanned manner. I'm not saying it can't be done, and I certainly have done it, but these are the times when my workload is highest. This is also something that is not evaluated on the instrument checkride in any realistic way, and as a result most instrument instructors do not teach it.

Sometimes the most comforting words you can hear are "Cleared to ABC via..., descend and maintain 5000, fly heading 200 direct XYZ when able." I have had experiences where it took 20 minutes from when I first contacted ATC to the time I heard those magic words. The weather can deteriorate A LOT in 20 minutes. Some people just don't live long enough.

Unfortunately, the instrument rating is now being recommended to everyone for the sake of safety. I suspect that when it comes to the VFR-into-IMC fatality statistics, this is doing more harm than good. There was a time when scud running was considered a skill, and the realistic way to get to an airport in a 100-mph airplane when weather deteriorated. Instrument flying in a 100-mph airplane was considered insanity. Today scud running is considered insanity, and instrument flying is considered a reasonable way to get to an airport when weather deteriorates. I don't think this is progress.

SVFR Situations;
In years past, I have flown with four SVFR aircraft in the pattern. When an IFR aircraft arrived, we were told to land and then all took off again afterwards. SVFR cloud clearances applied while in the pattern.

I have also made overhead SVFR arrivals when conditions around the airport precluded low level arrivals. The last time I did this under SVFR ATC insisted that I have visual contact with a departing IFR aircraft while making my overhead arrival descent in the pattern.

I have also made SVFR arrivals at CCR over Downtown CCR at altitudes below 500'. It is my understanding that 'intent to land' and the clearance suffice.

I have in the last year or so made SVFR arrivals at altitudes below the IFR minimum altitudes when all the IFR aircraft have been unable to land.

I have always made a point of teaching SVFR arrivals to my students with the understanding that it is not available to student pilots. I do this because knowing the way to make a SVFR arrival and departure are skills that greatly enhance the use of flying.  SVFR self-taught is prelude to disaster.

Using SVFR in Cross Country Instruction
I have a student who is taking advantage of his wife's vacation with the kids to fly as much as possible. A day or two ago we took advantage of some low visibility to make a SVFR flight to a neighboring airport and back.

Today we were able to build upon that experience to complete a cross country dual flight that might have put the program completely off schedule. We had to depart and arrive at Concord using SVFR clearances but were able to make the rest of the 3.5 hour flight in VFR conditions.

This was the first dual flight for the student. Together we planned the flight to Columbia, CA,, to Monterey, and back to Concord. After determining the course lines, using the POH true airspeed for the VFR altitude selected by the student (which was too low and taught a very important lesson), we worked backwards from Columbia to Concord in 28 mile distances using visual checkpoints. Then I showed how we could also use VOR radials to plot our progress along with upgraded ETAs since we were using evenly spaced intervals except from takeoff to first checkpoint.

While selecting the checkpoints and radials I was able to point out the advantage of having checkpoints to the left side of the route. VORs were selected based upon the proximity and closeness to being at right angles to our selected course. Student was warned that his altitude selection was going to become an important training lesson. Every VOR checkpoint radial used had both frequency and radial written on the chart and on the log form being created. Every communications frequency and radio procedure for the airports, FSS, Flight Watch, and radar facility was discussed, reviewed, and written down. Flight plan was only as far as Monterey. We would be in continuous radar communications and contact from Monterey back to Concord with several handoffs and frequency changes for the learning experience involved. Flight plan was filed. We had once visited the front desk of a FSS but had been allowed no further thanks to 9/11 security.

The actual flight had several unexpected twists that played a part in the multiple lessons presented, learned and remembered. The weather was such that at 3500 only the largest visual checkpoints could be visible straight down from the aircraft. The winds were forecast as calm to light and variable at all altitudes. We were unable to make the requested left 270 over the airport as requested because of ATC refusal so we had to begin the flight off-course and fly pilotage to our first checkpoint. We timed from the first to second checkpoint as 8 minutes to cover 14 miles. Due to the poor visibility we flew dead reckoning for course and noted that the time between the checkpoints were constant until visibility improved sufficiently to show that we were substantially right of course. Lesson is that winds are never to be trusted as forecast. During this part of the flight we contacted Flight Watch and gave a visibility/weather PIREP. ETA would have been near exact had we flown directly to the airport.

Using the Linden VOR we were able to correct our flight to put us on course. We over flew several visual reference points for finding Columbia but were unable to find the airport. Only by climbing and using a radial off Linden were we able to locate the airport. Throughout, our search we were in communication with several aircraft at Columbia but were having difficulty finding the airport until getting altitude. Due to the lost time in the search we did a touch and go rather than the planned full-stop with taxi back.

Had to remind student to get time off at Columbia but failed to have him give a position report. Did have him establish contact with Sierra Approach only to find that Stockton Approach is a separate facility good learning lesson for instructor. When Stockton kissed us off without a handoff we were informed that we were too low to get radar advisories from Oakland Center. We monitored Monterey Approach frequency until we were close enough to get in contact. This time the student's altitude selection was just right. Our course took us through a lower level of hills that were below the haze level. The taller hills were to each side of our course. We were using VOR radials but were able to see cities, freeways and large airports like Crows landing while crossing the Central Valley. Visibiliity in the Santa Clara and Salinas valleys was about seven miles but airports were not visible. We got the ATIS at Monterey.

Once contact was made with Monterey Approach we were soon told to fly to Moss Landing. I helped student find the river and power plant. Since no further instructions were given I had student request for clarification of procedure to follow. We were told to follow freeway and to expect right downwind. When handed off to the tower we advised that we wanted 28 left with a full-stop taxiback. His response was only to ask what our destination would be and advise that we turn to 240 and contact departure on 127.15. Only then did I remember to close our flight plan. We were still within our time estimate but I was chagrined that I had forgotten. Turned it into a lesson by having student ask ATC for frequency change to close flight plan. .Took several minutes but ATC was not perturbed when we returned to frequency.

Departures only remark was for us to continue own-nav to Concord. I had the student fly across the valley to the east side of the valley and over the hills at 3700. At this altitude we had several aircraft pass both above and below us and ATC gave us a traffic alert along with a vector. We flew past RHV, San Jose, and Livermore without seeing any G.A. aircraft and asked ATC for a frequency change. ATIS at Concord had two-mile visibility with runway in use was 1L. Student made SVFR request and we were told to wait outside the Class Delta. After a few circles we were cleared into the Class Delta only to discover that we were somewhat disoriented land unable to make a straight in as planned. We reported on left base and after showing a light we were cleared to land on 1R. This allowed another aircraft to depart 1L more quickly. We were within three-minutes of our planned ETA for the entire flight. It still pays more to be lucky than good.

SVFR Flying Lesson
Private pilot's first SVFR lesson:
I am presently teaching a private pilot whom over six months ago, shortly after getting his private license, failed to pass his IFR checkride. Someone, unknown, referred him to me. As a private pilot training for IFR he never filed a tower-en route or a pop-up clearance. He had never had a SVFR lesson. His radio work required a major overhaul. He had never been taught to use paper plates or charts in the planning process to determine ahead of time his expected routes, altitudes, frequency sequence, anticipated ATC calls and anticipated pilot responses. Prior to my entry he was totally dependent upon use of the GPS and Air Map display. All of this changed when I started teaching him. We used duct tape to put the airport runway diagram on the hangar floor, more duct tape outside to mark all the VORs, airports, and intersections used for the numerous transition routes used. Prior to this he knew only two arrival and departure routes. Every flight was preceded by over an hour of ground preparation covering all aspects of the flight mentioned previously. We flew at least five different IFR tower en routes under visual conditions without the hood. I wanted the pilot to learn just where he was on each flight and how he could use the VOR and airway intersections to locate where he was land how using them could make it possible for him to anticipate the changes in radio frequencies, altitudes and airspeeds required. Some of these flights were flown twice to get the radio procedures into better shape. Several of the flights were flown during MVFR conditions but never in IFR since I was out of currency.

After the last flight he indicated that he was going on a trip the following week. Over the past weeks we had waited through gradually improving fog and haze conditions for VFR before departure. Today, in anticipation of his trip requiring an early morning departure, I had him read about SVFR procedures on my web site

After going over all the primary reporting points available for SVFR arrivals the SVFR departure requests along with the anticipated (canned) ATC clearances entered the aircraft. We requested a series of SVFR departures and arrivals of the tower and the request was refused. We were allowed one departure and one arrival. Here is how I adapted the lesson to the ATC limitation. We were able to fly in VFR conditions within 200' above the Class Delta Airspace and see the ground through the haze.

Ground call-ups are as follows:
Aircraft type and number, location on the airport, request SVFR clearance to the (direction), will take clearance at the run-up, with (ATIS). (Taxi instructions from ATC followed)

The Concord ATC SVFR clearance is as follows.
(Aircraft type and number) is cleared out of the Concord Class Delta airspace to the (direction) maintain SVFR while in the Class Delta airspace at or below 1500 report clear of the Class Delta airspace or VFR which ever occurs first.

Shorthand copy would be: _____ _____
(Aircraft type and number) C^ CCR(D) (direction) SVFR (D) 1500 rpt Clr (D) r VFR

Aircraft type and number, location of call-up point and altitude request SVFR clearance for runway #.

The Concord SVFR clearance is as follows.
(Aircraft type and number is cleared into the Concord Class Delta airspace from the (direction) report entering the Class Delta airspace maintain SVFR while in the Class Delta airspace report (downwind, 2-mile base/final (runway)

Shorthand copy would be: _____
(Aircraft type and number) C\ (D) frm (direction) rpt ntrng (D) SVFR n (D) rpt/rwy

Before entering the aircraft the above departure procedures and arrivals were discussed and practiced relative to at least five or more locations and directions specific to Concord Class Delta airspace. Our initial SVFR departure was to the NW where we climbed to VFR conditions above the haze and above the Class Delta airspace. We proceeded back across the airport to the southeast where we practiced a SVFR call up by the pilot and an ATC clearance by the instructor followed by the appropriate readback by the pilot. We then proceeded back over the airport and performed a simulated arrival, report and landing above the runway and above the Class Delta airspace.

Pilot was then told to make a SVFR departure request in a different direction and copy the clearance given by the instructor along with the appropriate readback. We then departed as 'cleared' and pilot 'reported' outside the Class Delta and proceeded to another reporting point and practiced his arrival call up to a different runway again to copy the clearance given by the instructor, give the readback and fly the clearance. This exercise was repeated five time before an actual SVFR arrival was requested for full stop landing. Total time was one hour.

Everything was recorded on tape and pilot planned to copy the exercise for review of his radio work which was occasionally hesitant and uncertain. To both the participants it was a good effective lesson.

What's Wrong?
What I have seen in SVFR instruction is a failure of the large instructional institutions to teach. The real reason is a sense of liability that overwhelms their sense of responsibility. It is not just limited to the big outfits. Just a week ago one of my students was at a meeting where the group of 30 or so were asked as to whether they had ever flown SVFR. My student, who had flown dual with me, and one other raised their hands.

The instructional problem, as I see it has to do with the teaching of the FARs and procedures WITHOUT teaching the selective judgment required for safe SVFR. (The same problem exists in trying to teach airspace minimums without actually flying them.)

My first rule is to know the area. You get to know the area by flying the approach routes in VFR conditions to learn how low you can go safely. This helps night flying as well. When driving I pay particular attention to towers and power lines. Don't use IFR routes for SVFR.

Second, never fly unless the weather is improving. Even then know where the out-door is. Even the most experienced can be fooled by the weather.

Second and a half, work on your slow flight and partial flap configuration speeds. The best SVFR option may be from above. Ask for it when the ceiling is thin giving the visibility not available in slant range.

Third, Never, NEVER, push you personal limits.

These are the minimum basics. More?
Gene Whitt

The Devil is in SVFR Details; Some Details
--N. Miller wrote SVFR can be defined in a few words but the devil is in the details. (Flight Safety 3-03)
--SVFR clearances are consistently similar with only reporting points, flight direction, and an altitude.
--SVFR departures should be predicated on knowing where VFR exists and is likely to remain VFR
--With SVFR training, the SVFR procedure would be a viable 'emergency' procedure for a student.
--I do dual SVFR with every student I teach because I believe it is too dangerous to be self-taught.
--The critical aspect of SVFR is pilot familiarity and orientation. You must know where you are.
--I have been cleared SVFR into an airspace but been unable to remain SVFR to the airport itself.
--Shortly after landing SVFR I once advised two departing pilots not to make the departure.
--You will never fly long enough to know all the variations possible flying SVFR
--There are numerous hidden FAR violations awaiting the untrained SVFR pilot.
--It is the FARs before and beyond the SVFR clearance that poses the problem.
--You can get the 'canned' SVFR clearances just by phoning the tower.
--Selective use of SVFR will greatly increase the utility of your flying.
--ATC never asks the status of a pilot requesting any clearance.
--Even in an emergency ATC cannot recommend SVFR?
--SVFR is not a procedure that should be self-taught.
--Students are not allowed to ask for or fly SVFR
--Night SVFR requires an IFR capable and current aircraft and pilot.
--IFR cannot be changed to SVFR. Complete your IFR flight under IFR.
--A SVFR clearance can only be issued if conditions are below basic VFR.
--The request for a special visual flight rules MUST be initiated by the pilot.
--In order to get a SVFR clearance from ATC they must have one-mile visibility.
--Conditions requiring SVFR are less than 3-mile visibility or ceiling below 1000'
--A SVFR flight is always given priority behind arriving and departing IFR flights.
--You must report entering or leaving the airport airspace. Give your altitude as well.
--Below basic VFR conditions can be relatively safe at 2-mile visibility and ceiling of 800-feet.
--The only exception to this one-only rule is unless visual separation is authorized and accepted.
--A controller can only allow one aircraft, IFR or SVFR into the non -VFR tower airspace at a time.
--Below basic VFR can be one-mile visibility and 300-foot ceiling. At CCR no IFR arrivals possible.
--There's no SVFR ceiling requirement but aircraft must be clear of clouds with one-mile flight visibility.
--At night, after the tower closes, arrivals can be make under the clear of clouds and one-mile visibility rule.
--Get into VFR conditions well clear of the airport controlled airspace before making contact for clearance.
--On initial contact may to be given a holding point outside the airport footprint to await SVFR clearance.
--The advent of the moving-map and GPS has made SVFR far more efficient. Practice using it for SVFR.
--One mile visibility and clear of clouds is VFR when within 700 or 1200 feet AGL in Class E airspace.
--I have occasionally been able to fly safely into CCR under SVFR while no IFR arrivals were possible.
--Disorientation is likely when your route to the airport is deformed by gyrations while avoiding clouds.
--For an overhead SVFR arrival you may be told to enter the tower airspace but not below an altitude.
-- Make it a practice to fly low-level routes to home field in good conditions to map SVFR routes.
--I plan SVFR routes that avoid inhabited areas by flying over parks, freeways and golf courses.
--Any SVFR entry into an airport's airspace must be via a clearance from VFR conditions.
--Get the ATIS, listen to the radio for IFR traffic in the air and on the ground.
--Plan to avoid any arrival that might conflict with IFR traffic.

I have good reason to believe that CCR tower controllers are unaware of the arrival/departure restrictions of the 700-foot Class E airspace around their Class D if VFR conditions do not exist outside their airport footprint. They have no responsibility to know, as well. The poorly taught, unaware and unfamiliar could be easily trapped into an airspace violation by not recognizing that the clearance altitude only applies to Class D airspace.

The SVFR arrival can be initiated from overhead the airport. Likewise the departure can be flown climbing in the pattern to VFR conditions if reached before the 1500' altitude clearance limit. Get a 'tops' report before departing.

The overhead arrival consists of two parts:
(A) ATC tells you to report over the airport in VFR conditions at or above (assigned altitude). Then you will be requested to report any traffic 'point outs' by the tower as being in sight.
(B) Your clearance will be similar to:
Cessna 345 is cleared into the Concord Class Delta airspace with visual reference keeping the reported traffic in sight, report entering the Class Delta airspace, report downwind (runway).

The overhead departure will be similar to:
(A) Cessna 345 is cleared out of the Concord Class Delta airspace climbing in the pattern. Report reaching 1500 or VFR whichever occurs first.

Most likely Airspace Deviation:
Depending on the transition altitude surrounding the controlled airspace the arrival and departure to/from the airport airspace footprint might require an altitude considerably below that in the SVFR clearance.

Concord is bounded by a 700-foot Class E. This means that any arrival not in VFR conditions to the boundary line needs to be within 700-feet AGL with one-mile visibility and clear of clouds. Any departure
from the clearance boundary that is not VFR would also have to be within 700-feet AGL until VFR.

It should be noted that the clearance altitude varies according to the 'Letter of Agreement' between the radar facility and the airport as determined by a minimum-vectoring altitude. In less than VFR conditions the controlling authority shifts at that altitude. I have never experienced a handoff at this point.

Concord now has a non-certified radar 'Bright' display from a Mt. Tamalpais that has been six years in the making. Since the antenna is some 25+miles away it has not affected the SVFR procedures.

I have tried to explain the rules for flight in marginal conditions with regard to visibility and cloud clearances. I have never found a better way of explaining such flight than taking the pilot/student up into the actual conditions.

Recently a CFI in my club displayed his expertise (Or lack of it) by giving the club members the SVFR clearances commonly used at my home airport, Concord, CA. The departure clearance specifies that SVFR be maintained at or below l500 while in the Class Delta airspace. And to report leaving the Class Delta or reaching VFR conditions.

If you do not reach VFR at the boundary of the Class Delta airspace the maximum legal altitude is only 700' in any direction.

There are 2000' hills within three miles of the airport in both east and west directions. The orthographic lifting of the ceiling at these hills often create a 300' space between the clouds and the tops of the hills. To the east this practically always allows legal flight into this space and into VFR conditions once over the hill. These hills are uninhabited.

I have seen pilots spend hours waiting at this airport waiting for what they consider 'legal/ safe' flight conditions. An hour of the proper training would greatly increase the practical utility of their airplane. Explaining this is difficult. Demonstrating it in both directions is an easy and satisfying experience to both the instructor and pilot.

Instructional Responsibility
I recently flew with a pilot trained at Oakland who, when planning a flight from Concord to Auburn selected an altitude of 7500' for a flight under 60 miles. I let his plan stand. By the time we reached Auburn we were flying within 1500 AGL under a broken ceiling. It was a learning experience for him in that it required use of radar vectors to find the airport. At his planned altitude it was doubtful that we would have found a hole in the ceiling large enough to allow a descent.

Thus the question of instructional responsibility arises. Do we teach our students to fly in only the safest VFR conditions? Leaving them to discover their skill deficiencies on their own. Or, do we teach them to fly safely into less than perfect situations.

Learning to Fly By Wires
--All the wires will blend into the background so as to become unseen. 90% were unseen before hitting
--Wire strikes frequently occur during maneuvering flight such as ground reference. Know your areas.
--While on the ground, mark all the power lines that cross your route of flight. Now try to find them.
--For all the wire strikes, there are far more near misses that the pilots never even knew about.
--Avoid flying down valleys and canyons that you have not surveyed by car or horseback.
--The top wire between towers is harder to see and is a lightning rod wire of woven steel.
--600' towers exist along water channels used by ships. (Don't fly near such rivers.)
--Power line wires vary in size and amount of sag (length) according to temperatures.
--A VASI gives you protection within 4 miles and 10-degrees of the threshold.
--The lightning rod wire can be hundreds of feet above the power cables.
--Towered airports are unlikely to have wires that pose a hazard.
--Over 85% of wire strikes occur in VFR while within 100' agl.
--Majority of wire strikes occurs in cruise flight within 40' agl.
--Better to look for towers and fly over them for safety.
--Dodging one wire often causes flight into another.
--Towers to 199' need not displayed on sectionals.

CFIT  (Controlled--Flight--Into--Terrain)
GPWS = Ground Proximity Warning System,
Radar altimeter which warns of ground proximity.
ATC Radar has low altitude warning alert.
At night only the altimeter setting can keep you away from CFIT.
CFIT Problem Areas
–Visual approaches
--Warning devices'--false alarms
--Controller skills
--Available technology
--Reference material
--Improved radar
--Surveillance Approach Assistance
--Use of you equipment
CFIT is a matter of flying into wrong place at the wrong time
--Incorrect altimeter setting
--Mis-reading the altimeter
--The final approach course direction is not the problem, just the altitude at the wrong time
--Circle to land is a dangerous non-cloud flight situation, lose runway, go missed

Finding Cloud Height 
---Unsaturated air cools at the dry adiabatic lapse rate of about 3 degrees C per thousand feet of altitude. 
---Dew point decreases at about 0.5 degrees C per thousand feet. 
---Take the temperature and the dew point, subtract to get the difference ---Divide by 2.5 to get how many thousand feet AGL the clouds will form.
(There is an easier way somewhere on this site.)

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