Special VFR for Sport Pilot?

Paul Hamilton is one of the first persons to become a DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) for sport pilots. As a full-time author and sport pilot expert, he writes books and produces DVD's for Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA). Now Paul has graciously agreed to answer your questions here. Thanks Paul! For more information about Paul, please visit www.Paul-Hamilton.com and www.Sport-Pilot-Training.com.

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tu16
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Special VFR for Sport Pilot?

Postby tu16 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:08 am

Hi,

Checkride in 2 days... :) This topic intrigues me. Everywhere on the net they say "sport pilots cannot request SVFR, because of of 3SM visibility limitation".

But this doesn't make much sense to me. SVFR is needed to operate in controlled airspace when weather drops below VFR requirements that include visibility *OR* ceilings. So 3SM requirement alone doesn't define VFR requirements. Airport will close VFR operations in its controlled surface area when ceiling drops below 1000'. So if visibility IS still 3SM but ceilings at the airport drops below 1000', say, within class E surface extension how a sport pilot can legally land there, short of declaring emergency and all IFR traffic around be damned? "What are your intensions?" Would it be safer for everybody involved for a sport pilot to ask nicely for SVFR where SVFR operations are allowed, get the clearance while staying in class G and land while visibility is still above 3SM and IFR traffic is protected?

What am I missing here? (Granted, it is unlikely to have 3+SM visibility with celings below 1000' - but it is not totally out of the realm of possibiity)

Thanks!
Alex. (Inquiring student :) )

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rfane
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Re: Special VFR for Sport Pilot?

Postby rfane » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:56 am

tu16 wrote:What am I missing here?


FAR 91.157 states that the plane and pilot receiving a Special VFR clearance must meet the requirement for instrument flight. No Instrument rating means no Special VFR, even for those holding a Private Pilot cert. and above. When you request the SVFR clearance, you are stating to ATC that you and the plane are legal.
Roger Fane
Former owner of a 2006 Flight Design CTsw

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tu16
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Postby tu16 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:58 pm

Thanks!

Not sure where FAR 91.157 states this for sport pilots. IFR requirement in 91.157(b)4.i applies only in special cases of helicopter operations as defined in 91.157(b)4.

zdc

Postby zdc » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:25 pm

Wx limitations on Sport Pilot in Part 61 only state that you must have 3 miles flight visibility. Unless you have a SVFR clnc you must also comply with the cloud clearance requirements, as stated in Part 91. IFR requirement for SVFR is only needed if clnc is requested at night. I don't see anything in regs that would prohibit a SVFR during the day for Sport as long as the flight visibility is at least 3 miles. Advisability of a Sport Pilot flying with less than a 1000 ft ceiling is questionable however.

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tu16
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Postby tu16 » Sun Dec 05, 2010 9:03 pm

zdc wrote:Wx limitations on Sport Pilot in Part 61 only state that you must have 3 miles flight visibility. Unless you have a SVFR clnc you must also comply with the cloud clearance requirements, as stated in Part 91. IFR requirement for SVFR is only needed if clnc is requested at night. I don't see anything in regs that would prohibit a SVFR during the day for Sport as long as the flight visibility is at least 3 miles. Advisability of a Sport Pilot flying with less than a 1000 ft ceiling is questionable however.


Thanks, zdc! That is my reading too. Also agree on questionable advisability of a sport pilot flying with ceilings that low. In northwest coastal areas though I think it is not uncommon in the late summer mornings/noons that lifting ground fog leaves a clear air beneath....

The reason I asked was that most pilots seem to believe that sport pilot simply cannot request SVFR under no circumstances. Even Paul Hamilton's book "Sport Pilot Checkride" states so. (and my ground intsructor :) ) I also was curious if ATC controllers when hearing "LightSport" as type designator (due to the fact that many LSA do not have FAA type designator) would start the same debate with a pilot or refuse the clearance :)

zdc

Postby zdc » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:55 pm

Tu, as an aside, no where in FAR's that I can find defines VFR as at least a 1000 ft ceiling. However, with less than a 1000 ft ceiling it may be difficult or impossible [depending on the location] to comply with FAR 91.119 [minimun safe altitudes] with less than a 1000 ft ceiling You could have a 1000 ft celing and still not able to comply with 91.119 if over a congested area. The NWS will depict any area with less than 3 miles visibility or a 1000 ft ceiling as IFR, but that is an NWS definition not an FAR definition.

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Postby Jim Stewart » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:20 pm

Roger,

If you reread FAR 91.157 I think you'll see that the IFR limitation is only for night flight.

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tu16
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Postby tu16 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:27 am

zdc wrote:Tu, as an aside, no where in FAR's that I can find defines VFR as at least a 1000 ft ceiling. However, with less than a 1000 ft ceiling it may be difficult or impossible [depending on the location] to comply with FAR 91.119 [minimun safe altitudes] with less than a 1000 ft ceiling You could have a 1000 ft celing and still not able to comply with 91.119 if over a congested area. The NWS will depict any area with less than 3 miles visibility or a 1000 ft ceiling as IFR, but that is an NWS definition not an FAR definition.


"Basic VFR Requirements" are defined by 91.155 with basic limits defined in 91.155(a) - but this is not the whole story. When mentioning 1000' ceilings I was referring to surface area of controlled airspace and its relationship to SVFR. This is 91.155(c):

"Except as provided in Sec. 91.157 ("SVFR weather minimums"), no person may operate an aircraft 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 a VFR pilot needs SVFR to operate in controlled surface airspace under 1000' ceiling OR with visibility less than 3SM (91.155 (d))

I do agree with you wrt general hazards of such flying nor do I advocate one. Focus here was on regulations for SVFR for Sport Pilot. However, theoretically, 91.119 makes an exception for takeoff/landing operations and there're plenty of non-towered satellite airports with Class E surface extensions with aproaches over uncongested areas/water etc - just have a look at Seattle chart.

AOPA Safety once ran story with transcripts about VFR pilot surrounded by quicky developing weather and who was making approach to land at his alternative airport, had an airport and runway in sight, was clear of clouds and whose clearance to land was not given by the controler at the last minute due to celings lowering below 1000' over airport during his approach. The pilot didn't request SVFR when asked about his intentions (maybe was not familiar with this option, and controllers are not allowed to suggest it), tried to push through to the nearest airport and died in severe IMC. While it can always be argued that his death was a result of poor flight planning and decision making prior his attempt to land at this airport - but one still can wonder if he could live through this if he was more familiar with SVFR option avaiable for him and wouldn't hesitate to use it.

Unfortunately all this still is just a theoretical point for me - I've just screwed up and failed flight portion of my checkride today :( ... Bummer... Back to more training for me, looking for these rare VFR days in the gloomy winter skies over PNW... :) FARs alone do not make a pilot yet :) :)

Embarassed, but not discouraged in Seattle... :)

Clear skies to all!

zdc

Postby zdc » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:57 am

Tu16, yes it would have helped if the pilot knew about SFVR, but it sounds like his fear of authority did him in. He should have explained his situation to ATC [controller probably not aware of the severity of the situation] and after that if not given a clnc to land, tell ATC he was landing anyway.

When you find yourself in a very bad situation when flying you have to declare two things in your mind: The airplane now belongs to the insurance company and to hell with what the FAA will do later. Everything has to be considered to include an off field landing while you still can.

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Postby dstclair » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:42 am

Tu16 - I'm sure you didn't fail the entire check ride. You simply failed to perform one or more of the required tasks at the prescribed level. This happens a lot. You just need to practice then go back and do those maneuvers that didn't meet the standard. You won't need to redo the whole thing.

Relax and you'll get your ticket in the next couple weeks.
dave

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Postby bryancobb » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:55 am

dstclair wrote:Tu16 - I'm sure you didn't fail the entire check ride. You simply failed to perform one or more of the required tasks at the prescribed level. This happens a lot.


I don't know what's up with Sport DPE's! I only know 1 pilot that ever failed ANY portion of a Private+ checkride, and this fella failed his Private, Instrument, AND Commercial rides. All because he was arrogant and couldn't be taught because he thought he knew everything already.

I know at least 100 licensed pilots and he's the ONLY person I know that ever failed.
Bryan Cobb
Sport Pilot CFI
Commercial/Instrument Airplane
Commercial Rotorcraft Helicopter
Cartersville, Ga
bryandcobb@att.net

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tu16
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Postby tu16 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:34 pm

dstclair wrote:Tu16 - I'm sure you didn't fail the entire check ride. You simply failed to perform one or more of the required tasks at the prescribed level. This happens a lot. You just need to practice then go back and do those maneuvers that didn't meet the standard. You won't need to redo the whole thing.

Relax and you'll get your ticket in the next couple weeks.


bryancobb wrote:I don't know what's up with Sport DPE's!


:)

Thanks guys for cheering me up a bit :) 'Cause the aspiring pilot's bruised pride does hurt quite a bit :) I'd rather fail the ground portion of it :) And I bet they all say "this was my worst day ever..." :) :)

I do want to say that my DPE is a nicest guy, did a long, great and remarkable service to this country and its aviation, it was an honor for me to share a cockpit with him.

But the fault was mine and mine only. I also bet it was the quickest failure in a checkride in a history of aviation. :) I've failed on a first takeoff within first 3sec of flight :) The soft-field takeoff in a calm weather was orderd and once airborne low in a ground effect the plane was drifting to the left edge of a runway, despite my frantic attempts to push the right rudder through the floor :) DPE had to drop wing to to the right (which I was reluctant to do being low and slow) to return us closer to centerline. and that was it.... He did let me to fly the whole thing - but I already couldn't shake off the black mood and was just piling on mistakes. Short landing wasn't short enough, steep turns were not steep enough... So it's all fair and DPE did the right thing, although it visibly pained him to fail a student. It is not all lost of course and retest will be be much shorter list - but the confidence in delivering proficiency on demand was shaken up quite badly.... :)

It'd be interesting to compare success/failure statistics for PP and SP. I personally think the demands on "stick'n rudder" flying skills in a light plane done to essentially same PTS are bigger on SP. Effects of moving air, power torque and miriad other disturbing forces are more pronounced in a much lighter plane and this places greater demands on pilot skils to counteract them and guide the plane. This may be indirectly confirmed by published insurance industry claims that they have significantly higher percentage of accident rates of PP transitioned to LSA than "straight to SP" pilots that had to demonstrate PTS in LSA in a formal checkride setting. In which sense it was somewhat ironic to bill SPL as a "cheap" way to start flying considering that the one needs probably more talent/aptitude and/or training to safely fly an LSA than a comparable heavier certified plane. Maybe somebody has to come up with the system of ratings for SP to get them busy on something while still honing the mastery of their light planes :)

Anyway , thanks for the support - I'll keep working on it :) Be well and safe!

Alex.

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TU You are A Great Guy

Postby bryancobb » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:01 am

Hi Tu,

I admire the way you handled your unsuccessful practical test. You are the kind of fellow I would love to have as a student, and I have no doubt you will be successful next time.

I just went and reviewed the PTS standards for a soft field takeoff. It is vague and doesn't really give go/no-go criteria for drift. It merely says "maintains directional control and proper wind-drift correction throughout takeoff and clim."

This just reinforces what I asked before -what's up?- with Sport DPE's.

As I have said before, I have taken six civillian and ten or twelve military checkrides. The pass fail standard on the flight portion was always as follows:
* Did the examinee ever do anything unsafe
* Did the examinee fly in way that demonstrates adequate understanding
* If a maneuver exceeded acceptable standards, was the examinee correcting it.

I have "Busted" the +/- 50ft published altitude deviation standard on every checkride I have ever taken. I was always correcting though. I never failed one.

I agree LSA's are harder to fly with precision than GA's are, especially in the wind . I doubt the Sport PTS writers took that into account. I'm sure they just copied and pasted from the Private Pilot PTS if it seemed appropriate.

I do not know your Sport DPE, but IF he has never taken a Private Pilot checkride, or higher, the only thing he has to compare his methods and pass/fail judgements on, is what's in the PTS and what he has been taught in the seminars or classes he attended to become a DPE.

The written pass/fail standards in the PTS and the black-and-white standards presented on a PowerPoint presentation at an FAA Class for Sport DPE's, doesn't really represent what ACTUALLY happens on checkrides for the Private License and above, and it shouldn't on Sport Pilot rides either.

I'll speculate now without being there:
I would bet, based on your descriptions, that IF you had been in that same aircraft, in that same set of circumstances, and performed the Soft Field Takeoff, Short Field Landing, and Steep Turn, just as you did...
Any of the Civillian or Military check-pilots that have given me practical tests would have passed you unless your deviations became UNSAFE during the ride.
Bryan Cobb

Sport Pilot CFI

Commercial/Instrument Airplane

Commercial Rotorcraft Helicopter

Cartersville, Ga

bryandcobb@att.net

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Paul Hamilton
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Postby Paul Hamilton » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:15 pm

It is hard for anyone to determine whether or not the checkride should have been failed or not since we were not there. There are many different aspects. But anytime the examiner has to take the controls the checkride is failed. For good of for bad. This is an absolute. Does not matter now.

Nothing wrong with failing a checkride except the time, money and temporary humiliation. I have plenty of stories of people who failed checkrides, no blood was spilled and everyone is still breathing.

Just focus on what you know to get through the next one successfully.
No big deal.
Paul is a Sport Pilot CFI/DPE and the expert for ASA who writes the books and produces the DVD's for all pilots flying light sport aircraft.
See www.SportAviationCenter.com www.Sport-Pilot-Training.com and www.BeASportPilot.com to Paul's websites

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He didn't HAVE TO.

Postby bryancobb » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:31 pm

Paul Hamilton wrote: anytime the examiner has to take the controls the checkride is failed... This is an absolute.


Paul,
I agree with you 100% that "IF THE EXAMINER HAS TO" take the the controls to avoid an accident or avoid an unsafe action by the examinee, then the ride is failed... ABSOLUTE!

If the examiner "takes the controls" to climb because you are 55 feet below the altitude he assigned you, or because you are drifting a little further from the centerline than he thinks you should, this should not result in a failed ride. TU stated that the DPE let HIM continue flying.

This goes back to the thread a few weeks ago where I stated that Sport Pilot Applicants are fearing their Checkrides more than Private and higher aplicants are. I feel the reason is that Sport DPE's are causing that.

I think every Sport Pilot DPE should be required to ride along in the back seat and observe, on two Commercial Checkrides, (FOR FREE OF COURSE) one from a Designated Pilot Examiner and one from an FAA Government Examiner. That would give them something to compare their rides to.
Bryan Cobb

Sport Pilot CFI

Commercial/Instrument Airplane

Commercial Rotorcraft Helicopter

Cartersville, Ga

bryandcobb@att.net


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