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What’s ‘special VFR’?
For reasons that are both obvious and sound, student pilots must abide by stricter limits than certificated pilots when it comes to operating an aircraft solo in the presence of clouds or in reduced-visibility conditions.
To appreciate the hazards that these rules address, it is a good idea to experience marginal VFR conditions safely on some dual instructional flights—perhaps at the stage of training when you take on the tasks associated with basic instrument maneuvers in the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards. That’s a set of skills you learn for the sole reason of being able to control your aircraft without visual references in the event of an unintended encounter with instrument meteorological conditions. (Continued flight into instrument conditions by noninstrument-rated pilots is a persistent cause of serious accidents.)
For every rule, some commonsense exceptions apply, depending on a pilot’s level of certification. Sometimes a flight is ready to depart VFR from Class B, C, D, or E airspace in good en route weather, but must wait until conditions at the departure airport are reported to be above basic VFR minimums. Or, an arriving VFR flight may face deteriorating conditions, such as a coastal airport where a sea breeze has begun to transport a fog bank or low cloud deck onshore.
Both are examples of circumstances when a special VFR (SVFR) clearance may be requested and approved under FAR 91.157, permitting an arrival or departure with visibility of at least one statute mile and clear of clouds (different visibility rules apply for helicopters).
When you are quizzed on the topic, remember to note that a student pilot is not allowed to operate on an SVFR clearance. “Student pilots are not permitted to request SVFR on solo flights, and SVFR is not allowed in most Class B airspace. SVFR is not permitted at night unless the pilot is instrument-rated and the aircraft properly equipped for instrument flight,” explains the Air Safety Institute’s online discussion of the rule titled “How safe is special VFR?”
Your ground review of the SVFR clearance with your instructor also provides a good opportunity to review and update your solo endorsements, and make any needed adjustments to the limitations for solo flying that he or she has noted in your logbook as appropriate for your training needs and changing level of experience.
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
Every AOPA member—including those who have accepted AOPA’s six-month introductory membership offer—has free, live access to our in-house flight instructors and aviation experts who are standing by to answer your questions. Call the AOPA Pilot Information Center toll-free at 800/872-2672, and check out our online Pilot Information Center subject reports. Topics for these reports are drawn from the real-life concerns of AOPA members who call our staff for help more than 100,000 times every year.
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
Turn passion into profit: Aviation enterprises
A commercial pilot certificate can help you turn your passion into a profit—but it can be hard to know where to start. AOPA is offering a Webinar Dec. 7 for aircraft owners who have, or want to start, an aviation-related business with their aircraft. AOPA Senior Aviation Technical Specialist Andy Sable and Raymond C. Speciale, Esq., CPA, will discuss aerial photography, leasing an aircraft, sightseeing flights, flight instructing in your own airplane, and other enterprises commercial pilots engage in under Part 91. Sign up for either 3 p.m. or 9 p.m. Eastern.
Fifteen high school students received a 10-hour aviation ground school made possible by a grant from the Santa Ynez Valley (Calif.) Airport Authority. Taught by AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Bob Perry, the ground school sessions were held over three weeks in October. The students also received a tour of the Santa Barbara Fire Department helicopter as well as a glider, and heard presentations from a former airline pilot and current members of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department Aero Squadron, according to the Santa Ynez Valley News.
Ercoupe flights become art
Mary Edna Fraser is not a certificated pilot, but she has flown in her family’s cherished Ercoupe enough that she feels comfortable taking off and landing it. Fraser, an artist who lives in Charleston, S.C., has created a series of silk batik prints depicting images she photographed while flying with her brother, Claude Burkhead III. Read more >>
Orange Coast College program goes in new direction
The aviation program at Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, Calif., has been revitalized with a new director. Richard “Smokey” Young, an airshow performer and Formula 1 competitive air racer, cleaned up the classroom facilities, rewrote and updated the curriculum, and obtained $40,000 in grant money to purchase a Piper Cherokee for the program. With his encouragement, some of his students competed as individuals at a recent National Intercollegiate Flying Association competition, according to the Orange County Register.
Wading through the FAR/AIM instrument flight rules can be a time-consuming and daunting process. But with the Air Safety Institute’s IFR Insights: Regulations course, that task is made easier as it helps you understand what matters in the IFR world. Scenarios, quizzes, and practical tips pull together real-world knowledge to keep you legal and safe. And, if you like game shows, you’ll be in for a treat with the Air Safety Institute’s interactive 1970s-style game show. Whether you’re an instrument-rated pilot or looking to become one, take the course to qualify for AOPA Accident Forgiveness and FAA Wings.
Second chance for 'Emergency Operations' Webinar
Did you miss last month’s Air Safety Institute Webinar on emergency procedures? If so, be sure to check out the recorded version, now available on AOPA Live®. From the importance of distinguishing an “abnormal” situation from an emergency, to the best ways of handling engine problems and other specific troubles, you’ll get plenty of useful tips from Air Safety Institute Chief Flight Instructor JJ Greenway and air traffic controller Andy Marosvari. Watch it here.
As you look at your tax planning for 2011, were you aware that flight training is a deductible expense if and when it is required by your current job or employer, or when it enhances current employment short of qualifying you for a new job? If considering an aircraft purchase, be cognizant of the tax provisions that may benefit you if you plan to use your airplane for business. Read more >>
Four new discounts for AOPA members
Four more companies have joined the AOPA Lifestyles Member Discounts Program, a new, free core membership benefit available to all AOPA members. New offers include a 10-percent discount on a unique line of aviation-themed merchandise at Airspeed Junkie, a 15-percent discount on Ball watches through authorized dealers, and a 15-percent discount on tear-resistant sectional aeronautical charts from DuraCharts. Additionally, AOPA members and their families will qualify for free shipping within the United States plus $50 off select handheld storm and lightning detector models at Thunderbolt International. Just log in to the Lifestyles Web page and click on one of the 17 offers now available.
VFR MagnaPlotter from PilotMall.com
For the pilot who wants double-duty from every tool he or she uses, here’s the VFR MagnaPlotter. Not only does it include a sectional and a WAC scale in statute and nautical miles, but it also serves as a magnifier for charts or other printed material. The clear plastic plotter is about the size of a bookmark. It sells for $3.99. Order online.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: This is my first year flying in cold weather. How much frost on the wings is considered hazardous?
Answer: In short, any amount is too much. It is a serious hazard to flight and should be treated with care. Even a small amount of frost on the wings can prevent an aircraft from becoming airborne at normal takeoff speed. Also, if an aircraft does manage to get in the air, there might be insufficient airspeed above the stall speed so that a moderate gust or turning flight could lead to a stall. Frost does not change the aerodynamic shape of the wing, but it does impede the smooth flow of air over the wing causing early airflow separation and ultimately resulting in a loss of lift. For more information on the subject, check out the Air Safety Institute’s Safety Brief about wing contamination.
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
What’s New Online
The airlines are hiring, and Chip Wright shares an insider’s look at the process. Also, Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian Twombly reveals some surprisingly simple ways to manage your risk when flying.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a manager of flight training programs, online product manager, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, associate editor–Web/ ePilot, and aviation technical specialist. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our online gallery, “Air Mail.” Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 8,500 photos (and growing). Photos are put into rotation on the AOPA home page!
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER
Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We’ve enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events in your region to make planning easier. You also can bookmark the personalized calendar page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics
The next Air Safety Institute Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in Denver, Colo., Orlando, Fla., and Northbrook, Ill., Dec. 3 and 4; Baltimore, Md., Ypsilanti, Mich., Portland, Ore., and San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 7 and 8; Long Beach, Calif., Jackson, Miss., and Charlotte, N.C., Jan. 14 and 15; and San Jose, Calif., and Bellevue, Wash., Jan. 21 and 22. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars are scheduled in Mesa, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 5; Tucson, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., Dec. 6; Tampa, Fla., Timonium, Md., and Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 7; Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Dec. 8; Mesa, Ariz., and Reno, Nev., Jan. 9; Tucson, Ariz., and Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 10; Milpitas, Calif., and El Paso, Texas, Jan. 11; and Santa Rosa, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M., Jan. 12.
Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Got news? Contact ePilot. Having difficulty using this service? Visit the ePilot Frequently Asked Questions now at AOPA Online or write to [email protected].
Editorial Team: ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill W. Tallman | ePilot Editor: Sarah Brown | Contributor: Alton K. Marsh