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If conditions at a towered airport are not IFR, can pilots request a special VFR clearance? For example, at a Class D airport, ceiling 1300 broken, 10 sm visibility is technically too low to remain in the pattern (assuming a 1000 foot AGL pattern and maintaining at least 500 feet below clouds), yet it is not IFR.

With a Special VFR clearance, the pilot would be able to maintain a 1000 foot pattern and remain clear of clouds. If the pilot requests SVFR, will the tower grant it?

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  • $\begingroup$ A missed point here is that no one really answered "... will the tower grant it?" Instead the answers seem to be aimed at, "can they?" I think if you were inbound and were going to do a single full-stop landing, then yes, if there is no IFR traffic that you would be interfering with. If you wanted to go up and do 10 touch-and-go's starting from the ground? Probably no. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Mortensen May 8 '16 at 6:22
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A Special VFR (SVFR) clearance may be issued to a pilot when:

  • The weather is below VFR weather minimums, as reported at the intended airport
  • The pilot is able to remain clear of clouds
  • The pilot has at least one mile flight visibility (other than helicopters) at all times
  • The pilot is operating (or wants to operate) within the lateral boundaries of the airport surface area
  • The pilot specifically requests it.
  • The airport is not among those listed in 14 CFR Part 91, Appendix D (except helicopters)

If the weather is not reported at the airport, the pilot must tell ATC that they are "unable to maintain VFR" and request SVFR.

Side note: The weather conditions that you describe above are technically "Marginal VFR" and not IFR. It would be a perfect situation to operate SVFR though.

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    $\begingroup$ Please mention that this is for FAA-land only. Marginal VFR doesn't exist in ICAO countries. $\endgroup$ – Philippe Leybaert Dec 25 '13 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ @PhilippeLeybaert: The question is tagged FAA, therefore I answered the question with the appropriate information for the appropriate jurisdiction, so I believe that it would be redundant to have that in the answer. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 25 '13 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ You're right. I didn't notice. However (and that's just a personal opinion), this site will probably be used by a lot of people unfamiliar with the (tiny) topic tags so I feel that the question and possibly the answers should explicitly mention that it is about FAA or ICAO regulations. $\endgroup$ – Philippe Leybaert Dec 25 '13 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilippeLeybaert: Well, the problem with that is there are lots of other regulations too. CAA, JAA, etc, etc.... It would be nice if FAA was mentioned in the question to make it more obvious, but to have it in every answer to every question would start to get old fast... Not to mention that a lot of people simply won't do it. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 25 '13 at 2:11
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In Europe, a SVFR clearance may be given when meteorological conditions are below VFR within the control zone of the airport (ceiling below 1,500ft AGL and visibility less than 5km). The clearance can only be given when the aircraft can stay clear of clouds, see the ground and with a minimum surface visibility of 1.5km.

In other words, if the visibility is between 1.5km and 5km and/or the ceiling is between 1,000ft and 1,500fr AGL, a SVFR clearance can be requested. Those conditions are not solid IFR though. Also, SVFR can never be offered to the pilot. The pilot has to explicitly ask for it.

The rules for SVFR are different in the U.S.

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  • $\begingroup$ does the airport have to have official weather reporting? in the US, if the airport doesn't have official weather, ATC will say something like "no weather available. such-and-such (nearby airport) is reporting ..." and the pilot has to say he is "unable to remain VFR" $\endgroup$ – rbp Jan 19 '15 at 16:30

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