We already know what VFR stands for, visual flight rules, but what is Special VFR? First, let’s recap, visual flight rules (VFR) is a set of rules under which a pilot operates an aircraft in generally fair weather where the pilot can clearly see where the plane is going. Generally, the basic VFR minimums are, visibility should be at least 3 statute miles and distance from clouds should be 500ft below, 1000ft above, and 2000ft horizontal. So, what’s the difference between basic VFR and Special VFR? What makes it so special?
As I’ve already explained, basic VFR has its own set of rules while SVFR on the other hand gives pilots less restrictions. How? It allows pilots to fly even if the weather is below the basic VFR minimums. For example, there’s an irritating cloud that’s 900ft over the airport but you see the next territory you want to pass over, hence that’s when you request a special VFR clearance that will then allow you to fly towards better weather. When flying SVFR, the most important thing is to always fly towards better weather conditions or have some sort of escape plan.
Special VFR as defined by ICAO is a “VFR flight cleared by air traffic control to operate within a control zone in meteorological conditions below visual meteorological conditions”. What’s it regulations? Its visibility must be at least be 1 statute mile, the pilot still has to be clear of clouds during the day and night, as well as be instrument rated flying an IFR capable aircraft.
Can a student pilot request a SVFR? No, even Sport and Recreational Pilots are not allowed to request SVFR clearances as stated by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Either way, even pilots with substantial experience rarely request SVFR clearance but nonetheless it depends on each and every situation therefore its very relevant to learn and understand it, who knows when someone might need a special VFR clearance? However, it’s always the air traffic control’s decision, depending on their workload and other operational considerations.
In conclusion, SVFR can be very useful in allowing Pilots to roam freely in weather that is less than the basic VFR minima. I guess in short, you don’t know when you might need this tool so it’s better to have all its requirements met for whenever you decide to fly. Even so, keep in mind what Dan Namowitz said, “SVFR may be special, but it’s not reliable as a shortcut”. That being said, always be safe and enjoy your flight.