Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 3:22 am
|I had a very frustrating discussion with our regional "specialist" regarding this issue. Here's how it went...
Further to the email we received regarding SVFR, I am wondering how a pilot can remain VFR without a ceiling of 1000 ft. According to CAR’s a pilot must be 500 ft below the cloud and 500 ft above the ground.
Home > Transport Canada
Part VI - General Operating and Flight Rules
Canadian Aviation Regulations 2008-2
DIVISION VI - VISUAL FLIGHT RULES
Minimum Visual Meteorological Conditions for VFR Flight in Controlled Airspace
602.114 No person shall operate an aircraft in VFR flight within controlled airspace unless
(a) the aircraft is operated with visual reference to the surface;
(b) flight visibility is not less than three miles;
(c) the distance of the aircraft from cloud is not less than 500 feet vertically and one mile horizontally; and
(d) where the aircraft is operated within a control zone,
(i) when reported, ground visibility is not less than three miles, and
(ii) except when taking off or landing, the distance of the aircraft from the surface is not less than 500 feet.
We went through this whole debate a number of years ago, and the wording was changed back to require 3 miles and 1000 ft for VFR flight in a control zone. Does Transport Canada agree that 5 miles and 100 ft constitutes VFR within a control zone? Somehow I doubt it. I was a pilot for over 20 years, and VFR in a control zone has always required 3 miles and 1000 ft. To have an IFR on approach with a VFR aircraft flogging around just below the cloud at 100 or 200 ft is an accident waiting to happen. I hope Nav Canada is willing to accept the responsibility for that…I’m certainly not.
I look forward to your reply.
My answers are embedded below. Hope this helps, keep the questions coming if you need further.
We had a situation this morning where an IFR aircraft was on approach with 9sm vis and 600ft ceiling. A VFR aircraft (a Lear Jet if you can believe that) was also inbound. The professional pilots in the Lear elected to remain outside of the zone while the IFR landed. What if he had wanted to enter the zone VFR with the ceiling at 600 ft? Could he legally have done that? Ans: The point is that we have no way of knowing if he can legally do that or not. He is the one who determines if he can maintain VFR based on flight observations of the cloud.
When the IFR aircraft was on final and had the airport in sight, he requested that I cancel his IFR and continue VFR (in order not to delay the SVFR that the Lear was waiting for). I told him that with a ceiling of 600 ft I couldn’t cancel his IFR clearance. Should I have cancelled his IFR clearance? Ans: Again, his choice. He is the one that needs to determine if he can maintain VFR. We can’t tell him that we won’t cancel his IFR flight if the visibility is 3NM or greater. If he asks we do it.
Did the Lear need SVFR? Ans: Only the pilots know.
There are other situations that are not covered in your emails. What if an enroute aircraft wants to transit the zone and fly directly over the airport? I would know what the ceiling is overhead. Does this aircraft need SVFR? What about another aircraft inbound to land at the same time? Is it able to come in and land VFR while the other aircraft needs SVFR? Ans: Again, we will have individual pilots making their own decisions on the maintaining VFR. The controllers are prepared to have SVFR and VFR mixed, or VFR and IFR mixed, but never SVFR and IFR within the zone at the same time.
What about an aircraft on the ground that wants to depart VFR when the ceiling is 600ft? How is he to know, unless we tell him, that he cannot meet the requirements for VFR flight within a control zone, without telling him what the ceiling is and advising him that SVFR is required? Ans: Because ceiling/cloud requirements are based on flight visibility we can’t tell him that SVFR is required. We can pass him the weather, and after he departs he can always ask for SVFR. In fact-he is legally required to ask for SVFR. (Nobody has a plan what to do if this happens and there is an IFR in the zone as well) Remember he does not need to maintain the clearance if he is climbing out on departure.
Since when did our weather reports not represent the weather in the control zone? Unlike AWOS, we look out to the horizon to judge the sky for the METAR. It is representative of the entire zone, not only the portion of the sky directly overhead. Ans: Yes, and at many sites we can’t see all of the control zone, and there is also case where visibility is limited in any direction by weather. Also not terribly relevant as our determination of ceiling does not matter, it’s the pilots perspective that is called for under the regulations.
Who at Transport Canada has interpreted the CARs so that a 1000 ft ceiling is no longer required for VFR in a control zone? I’ve only seen the interpretation by Nav Canada…not Transport. Ans: The FSS you represent operates under NC operating certificate, do you really need to know anyone else in the chain of decision makers?
And who decided that the METAR ceiling was no longer representative of the control zone? Ans: I never meant to imply that. It very well may, however an aircraft occupies only a portion at one time, and that is the only portion that he legally needs to be concerned with. I would really like to know who is making these decisions.
As I mentioned in my previous email, this happened several years ago causing a lot of confusion, and then the 1000 ft ceiling was reinstated because a you must have a ceiling of 1000 ft in order to meet the CARs 602.114 requirement of being 500ft above ground and 500 ft below cloud. I don’t see any other way that this can be interpreted! Ans: Another 180 could happen at any time. NC made the determination as per our operating certificate. TC was unable to raise any objections and they had not done what needed to be done to keep this as practice. If and when TC gives us the power through different regulations, we will change our procedures to match. We are bound by the law and can’t make up our own rules. TC put rules in place without the support of CARS and they were able to do that as both the service provider and the regulator, we are not.
I appreciate your time in this matter. Sorry if I sound a little frustrated…I take the safety aspect of my job very seriously, and this new interpretation of CAR’s decreases the safety factor in my opinion. Ans: That’s fine, understanding is a really important part of what makes us safe. Please don’t believe that we don’t take safety seriously.
I would just like to state again, the point of this is not to encourage pilots to disobey the law. The point is that we can’t determine if they are or are not. The responsibility is on the pilot to conduct his flight under CARS. We will never say “SVFR NOT REQUIRED”, perhaps the basic truth is that its “PILOTS DISCRETION”.
It's like banging your head against a brick wall.
A couple of years ago, NC instituted this change for the VFR tower world. While it never really took in the western half of Canada, back east they have been running SVFR in control zones with towers since then. TC did give us some feedback, but unfortunately they were not willing to make the changes to CARS to make it a reality. The change required would be to write in the requirements somewhere that the ceiling as observed from a single point of observation was good for the control zone. Instead, with the way the flight ceiling requirements are now, there is the very common possibility of an aircraft having a higher ceiling in a different direction or further from the point of observation and being able to maintain that. The pilot has to meet all these requirements, our involvement is limited to (d) (i), having a requirement for a minimum reported ground visibility in addition to his flight visibility. All of the rest of the requirements we can’t report, they fall back on the pilot to be responsible for. If the pilot is flying within the CARS regulations, we should be getting a request for SVFR anytime his flight visibility drops below 3 miles, regardless of what we report on the ground. That doesn’t happen either. The rationale is one that is a little overused but it is certainly the way that things seem to be in this millennium. Our procedures have to follow the regulation and this one does not allow us to monitor the ceiling. To make up rules without having CARS support opens the corporation up to risk.
Our involvement in this is to follow our responsibilities for situational awareness and to provide and request traffic updates frequently when we are aware that pilots are operating with limited ceilings. I am confident that the FSS are skilled and trained to perform this task consistently.
I thank you for your great perspective. It is apparent you were well researched and also concerned about the impact of this change. Since you wrote to me directly I will not cc my reply, but feel free to share my reply with anyone appropriate.