Special VFR allows a pilot to land or take-off (in daylight only) during weather that is considered to be IFR.

This is especially useful if the weather is crappier than forecast at a destination, you can request SVFR into the zone and land.

Several pilots did just that at Buttonville on Monday afternoon. The visibility dropped to as low a 1 mile in snow.

In the clip you will notice that the pilot calls up tower asking to enter the zone. The controller says that weather is below VFR and gives the visibility and cloud heights. CAR 602.117 spells it out for you, but in summary you can request SVFR if:

– Visibility is not less than 1 mile

– You can maintain visual reference to the ground

– You can establish two way radio communication

– You are clear of cloud

The controller will never offer SVFR clearance into the zone. You must ask for it. And that is exactly what this pilot does. The controller asks the pilot to hold, and then clears another aircraft to land (Seneca 129). The clip has been edited to take out the “blank parts”. From the time MKK calls up to when Seneca 129 actually lands is about 10 minutes.

My question (to you controllers out there) is: Can an aircraft only enter a control zone using SVFR if he is the only aircraft in the zone?

As the clip progresses you can hear the pilot make multiple attempts to land the airplane. He eventually gives up and goes for a full IFR approach.

Listen to the clip here.

(UPDATE: Check the comments for answers to my question)

(UPDATE2: I’ve found a copy of the NavCanada ATC MANOPS from 1999.)

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7 thoughts on “Special VFR

  1. “My question (to you controllers out there) is: Can an aircraft only enter a control zone using SVFR if he is the only aircraft in the zone?”
    Simple answer is NO. Controller can authorize more than one, but not more than he can SAFELY handle. By allowing MKK into the zone immediately it may have conflicted with another IFR flight. Also at many towers the ACC has to approve SVFR and the controller may have had to make the request with them prior to clearing MKK in.
    Nice website.

  2. Thanks for the comments. Someone also forwarded me this information:
    Manops 311 SPECIAL VFR
    Authorize SVFR within the control zone
    provided: (P)
    A. the aircraft has requested SVFR;
    B. you determine that the weather is at or
    above the minima for SVFR; (N)(R)
    311.1 B. Note:
    The visibility minima for SVFR is 1 mile for fixed
    wing aircraft and ½ mile for rotorcraft and must
    represent the highest value common to sectors
    comprising one-half or more of the horizon circle.
    311.1 B. Reference:
    Ground Visibility; Definitions.
    Below Minima Operations; 314.
    Special VFR Flight; 602.117, CARs.
    C. you obtain approval from the appropriate
    IFR Unit; (N)
    311.1 C. Note:
    This approval may be contained in an Arrangement.
    D. you make an adequate arrangement for
    E. you keep SVFR aircraft clear of the flight
    paths of IFR aircraft; and
    F. you authorize only the number of aircraft
    that you can control safely and efficiently.
    311.1 F. Note:
    The number of aircraft you authorize during SVFR
    conditions may vary, depending on factors such as
    the time required for recall if approval for SVFR is
    withdrawn by the IFR unit, and the stability of
    weather conditions.
    311.1 Phraseology:
    CONTROL ZONE, (cut-off time if required),
    (additional control instructions as necessary).

  3. SVFR must be authorized by the IFR controller who has jurisdiction over the airport (in the case of CYKZ, the one controlling on 133.4) and can be issued through a tower, or even FSS (CYSN being a good example). Most towers in the FIR would have an agreement with Toronto that allows them to use SVFR on a full time basis to the extent of saftey and efficiency. There are so few situations where SVFR would cause a confliction for the IFR controller that it is easier to suspend it during those brief periods, than to make the tower controller request it every single time. However at an airport like CYSN, there is no agreement with FSS, so if you were to request SVFR, the the FSS would call Toronto and request approval before granting it.
    nice MANOPS reference. I wish I had less of the memorized.
    Interestingly, SVFR can be used for departures at night if you are a helicopter

  4. Joe,
    Thanks for the clarifications.
    I would love to get my hands on a copy of the MANOPS. I’m always curious as to what happens on the other side of radio.

  5. Trust me, its not that exciting. I might be able to find an extra copy somewhere, or I have tons of expired CD versions, if you want one.
    Its like a more boring version of CARS.

  6. Hi Joe,
    I found a copy of it online, from 1999 (link in updated post). If you have a more recent copy, feel free to email it to me.
    (By the way, the email address you used is bouncing).

  7. There are really only minor changes since 1999, nothing hugely significant.
    I think I was using a combination of my work and personal addresses, it should work now.

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