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AVSIG Discussion Sections >> Air Traffic Control

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Denny Cunningham
Top Gun


Reged: 09/01/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Gold Canyon, AZ
Class E Airspace Question
      #439481 - 06/15/17 07:24 AM

Well, this was kinda flattering, I guess-- more than 20 years since I retired, and I got pulled (via conference call) into a meeting at FAA HQ this morning. They wanted my opinion on the following hypothetical:


Imagine there's an airport that has instrument approaches and weather reporting, but no tower. That airport is at the center of a chunk of Class E airspace, and this Class E airspace has extensions to protect the instrument approaches. There is a private airfield underlying one of these extensions.

The weather reporting at the primary airport is reporting the weather to be IFR.

Can a pilot legally depart the private airstrip, and climb through the overlying Class E extension, without contacting the controlling facility? It is assumed that the pilot can comply (or, at least, claim to comply) with the required VFR weather minima for Class E airspace as he does so.


I gave an answer, which (it turns out) was the same as the answer they received from Flight Standards (and which clearly didn't sit well with some of the attendees). But I'm curious as to what the folks here think.


Thanks!

DC


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Gil Buettner [KAUW]
Top Gun


Reged: 05/17/04
Posts: 2847
Loc: Gateway to the Northwoods
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Denny Cunningham]
      #439483 - 06/15/17 01:06 PM

I am not sure of the correct answer, but as long as I could comply with visibility and cloud clearance requirements, I would do it.

--------------------
-Gil


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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Denny Cunningham]
      #439484 - 06/15/17 01:13 PM

Denny -- I'll say that the VFR departure is inappropriate and the pilot would need to obtain a Special VFR clearance. Although the departure meets the requirements of 91.155 for VFR flight in Class E airspace at the satellite airport, the override of 91.157 applies to "the airspace contained by the upward extension of the lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface of an airport". (Note it says "an airport" and not "the airport", thus it is not limited to Class E airspace defined by reference to the airport of departure.)

The AIM in 4-4-6 expressly references SVFR within Class E airspace (although we normally think of it only as applicable to Class B, C and D surface areas).

Nothing in 4-4-6 or the FARs reference the weather conditions at the satellite airport of departure as being determinative, whereas outside of the "lateral boundaries of the controlled airspace designated to the surface of an airport" the normal 91.155 rules apply and s/he'd be good to go VFR.

--------------------
www.scottdyercfi.com


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Andy Alson (HPN/NY)
THE TOP GUN!


Reged: 08/31/01
Posts: 1862
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]]
      #439486 - 06/15/17 03:33 PM

Scott,

Section 155(d) says you can't "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--"

Question is is this limitation referring to landing or taking off or entering the traffic pattern of the primary airport in the Class E airspace. Or taking off from a satellite airport. I'd argue the former.

Is this any different than a situation where the airport (a non towered airport in designated Class E airspace) is 0/0 in ground fog with the tops of the fog at 200 feet over the airport with CAVU above. Can you cruise VFR over the airport at 2000 ft AGL in the class E airspace without a special VFR clearance? Why is that any different taking off from the satellite airport in CAVU conditions?

Andy


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Andy Alson (HPN/NY)
THE TOP GUN!


Reged: 08/31/01
Posts: 1862
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]]
      #439487 - 06/15/17 03:47 PM

In addition 91.157 talks about when and where a special VFR operation MAY be conducted, not when it is required.

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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Andy Alson (HPN/NY)]
      #439488 - 06/15/17 03:56 PM

Andy -- Your last point first: Special VFR "may" be authorized under 91.157, traffic permitting: it is not mandatory that ATC grant SVFR clearances. .157 is permissive, in that otherwise 91.155(d) would prohibit VFR ops in that Class D or E absent the .157 exception for SVFR.

155(d) talks about being in the lateral confines of Class E designated for "an airport", not necessarily the satellite airport of departure, and requires cloud/vis minimums at "that airport", i.e., the airport for which the Class E is designated. So I think that supports the argument that the a plain VFR departure is not authorized.

And, while one might VFR cruise over an undercast in the last scenario, one isn't potentially climbing through IFR departures into the Class E surface area airport in so doing. (Although, that VFR overflight situation you brought up muddies the waters on a reading prohibiting a satellite airport VFR departure.)

--------------------
www.scottdyercfi.com


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Andy Alson (HPN/NY)
THE TOP GUN!


Reged: 08/31/01
Posts: 1862
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]]
      #439489 - 06/15/17 05:05 PM

Another situation - I've been inbound from the TZ bridge with the airport reporting good VFR conditions with low clouds between the bridge and the airport within the Class D area. When I've requested a special VFR clearance to ease my cloud clearance requirements heading to the good VFR traffic pattern I've been told by the tower that they can't provide a special VFR clearance when the airport is reporting VFR conditions even if it might be needed within the Class D area. Isn't this the other side of the same question? Of course their "can't" may really be just didn't feel like it.

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Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]
Top Gun


Reged: 01/11/03
Posts: 20065
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Andy Alson (HPN/NY)]
      #439490 - 06/15/17 06:00 PM

Andy -- I had a similar experience years ago, probably in the early '90s....coming from Eastern LI to HPN VFR, the wx was worsening and I was down to 1,000' or so over the Sound (which I didn't like much) in lowering vis, probably 3-5 mi). I asked for a SVFR into BDR, but was told BDR was reporting VFR so no SVFR.

Anyway, to your point.....155(c) prohibits operating beneath the ceiling under VFR within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport when the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet. So, without SVFR, unless you can maintain VFR under all of the .155 conditions (including the (c) language about not operating under a ceiling of less than 1,000', you can't operate in the "D" in your example. Of course you almost certainly can avoid flying below a 1,000' ceiling if you bob and weave a bit.

I'm reading the 1,000' ceiling requirement in (c) as being as reported at the surface area airport....especially since there isn't language in (c) parallel to that in (d) relating to visibility (i.e., allowing for flight visibility to suffice if there is no reported ground visibility).

This question is particularly interesting in Denny's example, as the Class E extends up to and including 17,999' MSL. In the Class D situations, at least there's a top around 2,500' AGL...

--------------------
www.scottdyercfi.com


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Andy Alson (HPN/NY)
THE TOP GUN!


Reged: 08/31/01
Posts: 1862
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Scott Dyer [HPN/NY]]
      #439491 - 06/15/17 06:14 PM

So if you're gonna let me bob and weave to avoid being below a 1000 ft ceiling in the actual spot in which I'm flying even though the airport has a 900 ft ceiling right over the airport, then why can't I do the same thing with VFR conditions vs the need for Special VFR conditions right over the weather reporting airport?

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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: Class E Airspace Question [Re: Denny Cunningham]
      #439493 - 06/15/17 06:48 PM

Quote:

Can a pilot legally depart the private airstrip, and climb through the overlying Class E extension, without contacting the controlling facility? It is assumed that the pilot can comply (or, at least, claim to comply) with the required VFR weather minima for Class E airspace as he does so.




Question from the peanut gallery: Assuming that it would be legal for the pilot to do this if the weather was VFR everywhere, how is the pilot supposed to know that he/she has to do things differently because the central airport is IFR? What was done might not be "legal" but I'm not sure how enforceable unless someone could make a case for "should have known".

Also, is the central airport considered "uncontrolled"? You said "no tower", so I'm guessing there's no report tower either.


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