There are a bunch of VFR flight minimums. My question here is the follows:

Lets say one of the minimums is '1000 feet above'. Does that mean.

A. The flight should be 1000 feet above clouds?
B. The clouds should be 1000 feet above the flight?

Different websites on google are interpreting it differently.

Until today I thought it is 'A' .... but recently came across a FAA knowledge test question on Sportys, where the answer is follows.

No person may operate an aircraft VFR within the lateral boundaries of Class D airspace with a ceiling less than 1,000' and visibilities less than 3 miles.

Here it says ceiling less than 1000'. Which by interpretation, one should not fly a flight under VFR (class D), with less than 1000' below clouds. This says the right interpretation is 'B'.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you quote where you are getting the info from? It sounds like you are conflating two different regulations. Cloud clearance and ceiling are different things. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jun 27, 2021 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Ohh...I did not know cloud clearance and ceiling are different things. Please link me to the two different regulations you are talking about. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ Here is the clearance requirements. There’s a pretty good diagram here. The regs are under 14 CFR 91.155. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jun 27, 2021 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


I think you're getting the concept of a "ceiling" confused with cloud clearance regulations. They're two different things.

A "ceiling" is a layer of clouds that is greater than a certain density. At least in Class D airspace, you can't fly VFR at all unless either there is no ceiling, or the ceiling is more than 1,000 feet above the ground.

If it is legal to fly VFR, then you still have to stay a certain minimum distance from any clouds, regardless of if any given cloud is part of a layer or not. So, a single cloud in an otherwise clear sky wouldn't constitute a layer, much less a ceiling, but you do still have to stay away from it.

The phrase "1000 feet above" means you are the one that's above the cloud, not the other way around.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide a URL to the ceiling requirements $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @JeshKundem 14 CFR § 91.155 (scroll down to part c). Also, the definition of "ceiling" is in 14 CFR § 1.1. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ Re -- "You can't fly VFR at all unless either there is no ceiling, or the ceiling is more than 1,000 feet above the ground."-- generally speaking, this is not true. You are referring to FAR 91.155c which only applies " within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport". I.e., in areas where Class B, C, D, or E airspace comes all the way down to the surface. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ (And, arguably, excluding surface-level Class E extension airspace -- see aviation.stackexchange.com/q/74738/34686 .) $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ (Granted, the question was specifically about Class D airspace, but you meant the answer to also be restricted to this also, it would help to say so-- e.g. "In Class D airspace, you can't fly VFR at all (unless you receive authorization for SVFR) unless there is either no ceiling, or the ceiling is more than 1,000 feet above the ground.") $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2021 at 12:52

Consider how the “500 feet below [clouds]” requirement of 91.155(a) interacts with the “500 feet above ground” requirement of 91.119(c). The logical result is what 91.155(c) says, but saying it explicitly also bars the “except as necessary for takeoff and landing” in 91.119 from being used as a loophole to do stupid, dangerous things.

If the ceiling is 1000ft AGL, then it would be technically legal* to fly VFR at exactly 500ft AGL. However, if the ceiling were even one foot lower, then there is no way to legally fly VFR.

(* Note that “legal” does not mean “safe”. Do not try this at home.)


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