3
$\begingroup$

Sec. 91.157 Special VFR weather minimums. (a) Except as provided in appendix D, section 3, of this part, special VFR operations may be conducted under the weather minimums and requirements of this section, instead of those contained in Sec. 91.155, below 10,000 feet MSL within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport.

Suppose I'm granted an SVFR clearance to land at KSTS (a typical towered airport with a Delta airspace and Echo surface extensions). Can I fly through the echo extensions with only SVFR minima? (e.g. for helicopter just clear of clouds) Or do the 91.155 minima apply. This really boils down the definition of "designated to the surface for an airport".

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate, but this answer addresses the meaning of "dedicated to the surface for an airport" pretty well. The "for an airport" is really superfluous and is considered so by the FAA $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jan 30 '18 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, that helps. But I'm still unclear on the scope of an SVFR clearance. Is it a clearance for lower minima in all the surface airspace for the airport? (Delta + surface Echo) Or only for the core Delta circle? My CFI says it's only for the central 5SM Delta and that the Echo surface extensions remain at higher minima. This makes no sense to me, so trying to understand. $\endgroup$ – user28642 Jan 31 '18 at 1:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ATC should tell you what they’re clearing you for. If they just say they’re clearing you for the delta then you will need to be VFR before you reach echo or avoid it. If you need SVFR through the echo you should tell them that when you request clearance. It will be up to them if they can do that or not. The point is, if you’re not told you’re cleared svfr into the echo then you are not $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jan 31 '18 at 3:05
0
$\begingroup$

Does an SVFR clearance extend to Echo surface extensions to Class D airspace? No it does not.

Likewise at KTLV (Lake Tahoe), authorization to operate under special VFR would only be valid within the round dashed magenta shape, not the rectangular dashed magenta shape. (See chart).

In both cases the key phrase is "designated... for an airport".

Therefore the only practical purpose of a Class-E-to-surface "extension" is to extend standard Class E cloud clearance and visibility requirements all the way to the surface, for the protection of IFR traffic emerging from clouds at low altitudes. Once a VFR aircraft is above the level of the floor of the Class E airspace surrounding a Class-E-to-surface "extension" (typically 700' AGL), there is no practical significance as to whether the aircraft is within the "lateral boundaries" of the "extension" or not.

Highly related -- January 10 2018 FAA memorandum carefully addressing the precise meaning of "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport"-- the specific context here is commercial drone operations. This is virtually the same language as we find in FAR 91.157 -- "within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport", and FAR 91.155 -- "beneath the ceiling... within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport when the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet."

Also related -- much longer in-depth answers to these questions--

Does FAR 91.155c apply to class E surface extensions?

Which parts of class E airspace can an ultralight (part 103) fly in without prior ATC authorization?

As an aside, in relation to interpreting the language of the ATC Handbook regarding where SVFR is authorized (7110.65W, para. 7-5-1-a 2), which lacks the "designated for an airport" or "designated to the surface for an airport" qualifier, it is relevant to note that the AIM, and the section headings of FAA JO 7400 "Airspace Designations and Reporting Points", both use the phrase "Surface Area" to refer ONLY to the Class-E-to-surface airspaces that actually enclose the airports whose approaches they protect-- i.e. the same class-E-to-surface airspaces that are described as "designated as a surface area for an airport" in the main body of JO 7400-- and not to the Class-E-to-surface "extensions". The "extensions" are never called "surface areas" in these documents.

If anyone can come up with ANY written guidance from any FAA source on the exact original question (or the one re FAR 91.155c), that is written SPECIFICALLY to address SVFR operations, and gives an EXPLICIT clear answer without making the reader parse the regs, AIM, and other relevant materials to come up with an understanding of the meaning of phrases like "designated to the surface for an airport", "within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport", "within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport", "Designated as a Surface Area", and "Surface Area", then PLEASE add a link to that material here. Regardless of whether the material is recent or older, or supports or contradicts this answer. Likewise for that matter for any content SPECIFICALLY addressing the ultralight question re FAR 103.17. Research on related topics suggests that it would not be at all surprising if the FAA has not been entirely consistent with its memoranda, rulings, and interpretations on these issues.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ In the comments below an answer to the question "Does FAR 91.155c apply to class E surface extensions?", John Hutchinson commented "Furthermore, I've confirmed through other sources that there is no mechanism to get a special VFR clearance in the echo extensions. " -- would you mind sharing with us what those sources were? That information might allow this answer to be improved. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 11 '18 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @John Hutchinson - in the comments below an answer to another question, you commented "Furthermore, I've confirmed through other sources that there is no mechanism to get a special VFR clearance in the echo extensions. " -- would you mind sharing with us what those sources were? That information might allow several answers to be improved. PS sorry for the redundancy, still learning the ropes here, just figured out that the "at" sign makes the comment show up in your inbox. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 12 '18 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, during my rotorcraft checkride, the DPE (Barry Llloyd) asked me, "if the field (KSTS) is IFR and you can get an SVFR clearance to depart, can you fly with SVFR cloud clearance/vis through the echo extensions. After a torturous discussion he finally showed me his long correspondence with the FAA and finally a letter from the FAA stating that there is no known mechanism to grant an SVFR clearance in a type 2 echo airpace (like at KSTS). I will reach out to Barry to try to get a copy of the letter. $\endgroup$ – user28642 Oct 12 '18 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I got the info from my DPE but it’s too much to fit in a comment $\endgroup$ – user28642 Oct 15 '18 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ I posted the additional info as a separate answer. This info aligns with your interpretation $\endgroup$ – user28642 Oct 15 '18 at 5:49
2
$\begingroup$

This is an answer to the question provided by my checkride examiner Barry Lloyd

On 01-26-2010, a query asking whether SVFR is available in Class E extensions was routed to FAA ATC Headquarters. Below is a response to that query from the FAA ATO Western Service Center:

"Our opinion is:

FAR 91.157 (a) ..."special VFR operations may be conducted"..."within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport." This permits SVFR clearances within the vertical extension, not the lateral/horizontal extension of an airport designated surface area.

FAAO 7400.9T par 6002. Definition of Class E2 airspace: "The Class E airspace areas listed below are designated as a surface area for an airport."

FAAO 7400.9T par 6004. Definition of Class E4 airspace: "...airspace extending upward from the surface designated as an extension to a Class D or Class E surface area."

The language in FAR 91.157 exactly matches the language in FAAO 7400.9T par 6002. Par. 6004 does not match and the FAR does not permit SVFR operations in the lateral extension of a surface area designated for an airport; only within the vertical extension.

Presumably this could be corrected if we indeed want to provide for SVFR within lateral extensions, but it is currently not permitted.

There are other operational issues involved: eg. an extension to a Class D surface area where the tower provides SVFR services within the Class D airspace as is permitted via LOA. They cannot issue a SVFR clearance in the E4 extension. If permitted, the controlling agency, presumably the ARTCC would have to do this.

Our opinion is that E4 airspace is not part of the airspace designated as the surface area for an airport. The surface area for an airport is D, C, or E2. Extensions are treated differently from surface areas designated for an airport, ie there is no communication requirement. In addition extensions, by definition in 7400.9, are not airspace designated as the "surface area for an airport"."

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for posting that John. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 15 '18 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ I had an insight a while ago that has not been edited into my answer to this and other related questions. Let me try to explain it as best I can. Basically there are two ways of looking at the language here. "Interp 1" and "Interp 2". And it turns out that "Interp 2" is the one that works with the language of the FAR's, AIM, JO 7400, and other related documents.. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 15 '18 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ Interpretation 1:"Surface area of controlled airspace" means any controlled airspace that extends to the ground. If a given procedure or restriction is described in various FAA materials as applicable to "Class E surface areas", and is described in other FAA materials as "applicable to Class E surface areas designated to an airspace", this proves the "designated for an airport phrase is meaningless. All Class-E-to-surface could be said in some sense to be "designated for an airport"-- it wouldn't be there if no airport were there. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 15 '18 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ Interp 2- When "control zones" morphed into other things, "Surface area" came to mean a body of contrlld arspce w/ a surface footprint completely surrounding the airport whose approaches it protects. Class-E-to-surf extnsns do not fall within this def. "Designated for an airport" means the same thing" as "surface area"-- the airspace in question surrounds the airport whose airspace it protects, and is not an "extension" to some other airspace. Under interp 2, either the phrase "surface area" or the phrase "designated for an airport" is sufficient to exclude the Class-E-to-srface "extensions" $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 15 '18 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ All the FAR's and FAA rulings etc that I'm aware of work best w/ interpretation 2. Consider the definition of "Surface Area" in the pilot-controller glossary-- "SURFACE AREA- The airspace contained by the lateral boundary of the Class B, C, D, or E airspace designated for an airport that begins at the surface and extends upward." One question is does "designated for an airport" pertain to "E airspace" or to "Class B, C, D, or E airspace". Either works w/ interp 2 but it's only in relation to E in particular, that it is not redundant, because it is needed to exclude the extensions. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 15 '18 at 6:49
1
$\begingroup$

The Class E airspace that goes to the surface for KSTS is Northwest towards Hearldsburg. As long as you are within the lateral boundaries of that segment of Class E airspace (northwest of KSTS), which goes all the way to the surface (as opposed to starting at 700 or 1200 AGL) you are in airspace where SVFR is authorized.

enter image description here

The regulation (cited correctly in your question) "within the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport."

Class E airspace is "Controlled Airspace" by definition:

From the Airman's Information Manual para. 3-2-1 a. -

Controlled Airspace. A generic term that covers the different classification of airspace (Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E airspace) and defined dimensions within which air traffic control service is provided to IFR flights and to VFR flights in accordance with the airspace classification.

Therefore, as long as you have received a SVFR clearance from ATC, have at least 1 mile vis, remain clear of clouds, and between sunrise and sunset, you may fly your airplane under SVFR in the Class E surface area depicted in the picture above (as asked in your question)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your reply. I'm continuing to get conflicting answers to this question. This morning I got bold and asked a controller at KSTS. He responded that when they give and SVFR clearance it's only valid in the lateral bounds of the Delta and further that they don't even control the Echo extensions. He went on to say some disparaging comments about the Echo extensions, which I won't repeat ;-) $\endgroup$ – user28642 Feb 19 '18 at 20:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @john Hutchinson - no disrespect to the controller, but the rule says what it says. Here is some wording from the ATC Handbook regarding where SVFR is authorized: (7110.65W, para. 7-5-1-a 2) "Only within the lateral boundaries of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E surface areas, below 10,000 feet MSL." Now, ATC could limit in its clearance such as "Cleared to enter Class D surface area, maintain Special VFR" (see the example in the reference above). SVFR is done in many places in a Class E surface area. Sometimes there is only Class E surface area for an airport (no Class D) $\endgroup$ – 757toga Feb 19 '18 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnHutchinson - Here is a pretty clear example of Special VFR in Class E surface area: faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/… $\endgroup$ – 757toga Feb 19 '18 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ I feel this answer is not correct and have provided an alternative one. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Oct 11 '18 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer - I appreciate your answer/comments. There are certainly many seemingly valid and logical hypotheses that would point to my answer being incorrect. The Jan. 2018 memo shown in your answer is one of them. However, keep in mind that memo addresses only part 107 operations, not part 91. Lastly, carefully read this link regarding SVFR operations in Sitka Alaska. Clearly SVFR ops there includes the Class E extensions. faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/… $\endgroup$ – 757toga Oct 11 '18 at 20:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy