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So my question is that since we are transitioning through a class E surface area, do we need an SVFR clearance? Part 91.155(c) is not applicable since we are not beneath the ceiling of 1000 ft; however, Part 155(d) states that we cannot enter the traffic pattern of controlled airspace unless we have 3SM visibility or greater. That being said, what dictates how big a traffic pattern is and would ensure we didn't enter it?

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  • $\begingroup$ My understanding is that it is considered good for "accessibility" (e.g. vision-impaired people using screen readers) if as much as possible of the relevant information is actually included in the text, not only in pictures-- e.g. the printed material at the top of the picture-- $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2022 at 17:53

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Your question: (in pertinent part) ...since we are transitioning through a class E surface area, do we need a SVFR clearance?

and;

Part 91.155(d) states that we cannot enter the traffic pattern of controlled airspace unless we have 3SM visibility or greater. That being said, what dictates how big a traffic pattern is and would ensure we didn't enter it?

Answer: 14 CFR § 1.1 - General definitions: Traffic pattern means the traffic flow that is prescribed for aircraft landing at, taxiing on, or taking off from, an airport.

Since, according to your question, you are only "transitioning" through a class E surface area you are not landing at, taxiing on, or taking off, from an airport (i.e., not entering a traffic pattern). Consequently, you are not bound by any limitations specified in FAR 91.155(d) and do not need a SVFR clearance.

Note: FAR 91.155 (d) states:

Except as provided in § 91.157 of this part, no person may take off or land an aircraft, or enter the traffic pattern of an airport, under VFR, within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport -

(1) Unless ground visibility at that airport is at least 3 statute miles; or

(2) If ground visibility is not reported at that airport, unless flight visibility during landing or takeoff, or while operating in the traffic pattern is at least 3 statute miles.

(emphasis is mine)

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed, though I've heard a high-level staffer in the FAA Flight Standards division state that the reported conditions at the airport should be considered to be "controlling" as to whether or not a SVFR clearance is needed for VFR flight in a Class E "surface area"--! $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2022 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ I guess a core question here is whether the phrase "enter the traffic pattern" means only to "begin flying the traffic pattern" or could also mean to "pass through the area covered by the traffic pattern", in which case we're left wondering how big the "traffic pattern" should reasonably be considered to be. In the particular case of the test question, the aircraft is unambiguously above the traffic pattern, but the ASE question also asks about the size of the traffic pattern. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2022 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I've recently seen a (possibly recently posted) ASE answer or comment, can't remember which, from an air traffic controller stating that when the airport went "below VFR minimums", they "closed the entire Surface Area". So it appears that some controllers do not conform to the letter of the regs here. Wish could remember link as would like to bring the present question/answer to that person's attention to see if they would like to submit their own contrary answer. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2022 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Those are precisely the thoughts going on in my head quiet flyer! I even looked at a few of your questions to try and help answer mine before I posted. $\endgroup$
    – Wes
    Mar 28, 2022 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ That’s a very good question I guess more than 1 way to skin a cat $\endgroup$
    – Wes
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:25

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