I understand about the rule about odd / even (+500ft) separation at altitudes above 3,000ft AGL, but what about when you're flying without a definitive destination such as sightseeing where your track might change often? I realize that the solution isn't to continuously change altitudes, but what is the generally accepted rule here?

UPDATE: To be clear, I'm not suggesting sightseeing above 3,000ft or anything like that, but rather what is the rule (if any) to help with safety in regards to collision avoidance when flying with no definitive track. Is it normal / expected to be able to simply just fly-about at any altitude?

  • $\begingroup$ Why would you be sight-seeing at 3000'+ AGL? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 7, 2016 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer, I have updated my question to clarify this. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2016 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ After seeing your update I'm not sure what sort of answer you expect here. The obvious thing to do for safety is to follow the regulations and fly at the appropriate altitude. If you don't do that, you're endangering people who do follow the rules and - of course - yourself too. If you have a specific scenario in mind - or you can invent a realistic one - it would be great to add it to the question. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 8, 2016 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife, here is another example of what I'd be referring to: What about practicing maneuvers that involve altitude changes? You don't have a set heading, you aren't going from point A to point B. Furthermore, what if you wanted to practice those maneuvers within an altitude that would maybe put you in the WEEO rule? When with my flight instructor, we simply did the maneuvers and "watched for traffic". But is there a rule around this or can you simply fly at any altitude if you're not in level cruising (baring the rules about congested areas / none congested areas)? $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2016 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the example, but again I personally don't see an issue there. Apart from a few exceptions where altitude is needed for safety (e.g. spins), I've never done much training or practice above 3000 AGL and if I did, we were maneuvering a lot anyway and 91.159 wouldn't apply. In general, under VFR you can fly anywhere you like at any altitude provided you follow whatever rules apply to that airspace. I guess that one extra safety measure would be to ask for flight following (if it's available), you don't need to be following a specific route to get it. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 9, 2016 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


14 CFR 91.159 says:

Except while holding in a holding pattern of 2 minutes or less, or while turning, each person operating an aircraft under VFR in level cruising flight more than 3,000 feet above the surface shall maintain the appropriate altitude or flight level prescribed below, unless otherwise authorized by ATC: [etc.]

So if you're above 3000' AGL and not turning or in a hold, then you're required to follow the odd/even rule. Personally, I've never found it to be an issue because if I'm on a sightseeing flight or just following a river or whatever for fun then I'm usually below 3000' AGL anyway (and 91.159 is one of the reasons why).

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    $\begingroup$ If it's willy-nilly altitude and heading sightseeing flying, I would say it isn't "under VFR in level cruising flight." $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2016 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanMortensen If you're really climbing and turning all over the sky then I'd agree, it isn't level cruising flight. But turning is a specific exception in the regulation anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 8, 2016 at 13:35

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