VFR Procedures in Class D Airspace are Changing
Within UK airspace the rules of the air that we must follow are governed by Part-SERA (Standardised European Rules of the Air), part of the EASA legislation.
Since its inception Part-SERA has dictated VFR minima to legally fly under VMC (Visual Meterological Conditions) within certain classes of airspace – stipulating a minimum flight visibility and distance from cloud. The UK however has been granted recurring exemptions in the form of an ORS (Official Record Series) that allow us to fly with less restrictive helicopter minima of 1500m visibility with the surface in sight (or 5km visibility for non-helicopters), and no distance from cloud requirements.
The latest exemption has been granted until 25th March 2020, however the European Commission has informed the UK over the last week that they will not be renewing it which means flight in UK airspace under VMC will return to following the published SERA mimimums stated in SERA.5001 & SERA.5005(a).
With most CTRs in the UK being Class D, this means that when making VFR zone transits or arriving/departing a site within Class D airspace under VFR pilots must remain:
- 1000 ft vertically clear of cloud;
- 1500m horizontally clear of cloud;
- in a flight visibility of no less than 5km.
What happens to zone transits if the current weather is below this limit?
Pilots will still be able to request a Special VFR (SVFR) clearance which will allow transit of controlled airspace in the lower minima of:
- Clear of cloud;
- In sight of the surface;
- Flight visibility of at least 800m (fixed-wing 1500m);
- Flight at airspeed less than 140 kt.
Remember that the pilot needs to request a SVFR clearance from the controller managing the airspace, and once operating under SVFR the controller will then apply lateral & horizontal separation between you and other aircraft – this could lead to some delays if you need to hold for other traffic and also increases the workload of the controller, something to be aware of.
If the ground visibility reported by the tower is less than 800m (f/w 1500m), then a SVFR transit is still possible provided the visibility in flight remains above SVFR limits.
What about departing or landing at a site within controlled airspace?
A SVFR clearance is still possible but will not be issued if the cloud ceiling is less than 600ft or with a ground visibility of less than 800m (helicopters) or 1500m (fixed-wing).
Current ORS 1312: Click Here
EASA Supplimentary Instruction 2020/01: Click Here