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?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2016 at 6:22

2 Answers 2


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; OR the weather is above VFR minimums, but "the pilot advises that basic VFR cannot be maintained" (JO 7110.65 7–5–1).
  • 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.

To answer the question directly: NO, the airport does not need to be reporting less-than-VFR weather conditions in order for a pilot to be issued a Special VFR clearance.

  • $\begingroup$ Re "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" -- So do you disagree with this answer-- aviation.stackexchange.com/a/42449/34686 ? Perhaps might care to offer a different one? $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2022 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ (Oh-- just noticed your last sentence. So-- the weather does not actually have to be "below VFR weather minimums" (whatever that means exactly?) for the tower to be able to issue a SVFR clearance?) $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2022 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer-- see my added link to the 7110.65, specifically subpara 7–5–1b. It's there in black-and-white: the WX being less than 1000'/3SM is not a prerequisite for an SVFR clearance. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 28, 2022 at 16:26

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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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, 2015 at 16:30

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