Proposed changes to VMC minima in class D airspace

Closed 31 May 2019

Opened 15 Apr 2019

Feedback updated 29 Sep 2020

We asked

For views on proposals to remove the requirement for an ATC unit to provide separation between Special VFR flights in certain circumstances.

You said

We received 203 responses; 68 from organisations and 135 from individual pilots. There was little support for the Special VFR proposal.

We did

Based on the feedback provided through the consultation, our activity focussed on preparing for the expiry of ORS4 No 1312 on 27th March 2020.

Results updated 29 Sep 2020

Following the introduction of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 923 2012 (the Standardised European Rules of the Air (SERA)), the UK had exempted any aircraft being flown within the UK at or below 3,000 feet (ft) above mean sea level (AMSL) and within class D airspace from the requirements of SERA.5001 (VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima) Table S5-1 and SERA.5005(a) (visual flight rules), subject to specific conditions.

However, the UK’s exemption case had been repeatedly unsupported by EASA and European Commission (EC) (Commission Decisions 2016/7654 and 2019/1957 ), and the EC was expected to be about to launch infringement proceedings against the UK.  Retaining the exemption was thus not a viable option and we were directed by the Department for Transport (DfT) to take steps to withdraw it.  The DfT permitted a continuation of the exemption from September 2018 only to provide time for the CAA to complete activity to implement the SERA VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima.

Between 15 April 2019 and 31 May 2019, we ran a consultation whose purpose was to highlight the need to withdraw the exemption, and to seek the views of stakeholders on a CAA proposal with regards to Special VFR flight.

A number of responses, typically from the private pilot community, expressed a preference to retain the exemption; however, as has been described, this was not a viable option.  Other responses indicated concern over the added complexity of any modification to the special VFR flight arrangements and to the potential impact of such upon air traffic controller workload.  Based on these concerns, we concluded that we should introduce the SERA class D VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima, without change to the current Special VFR provisions as stated in SERA.5010, by allowing ORS4 No 1312 to expire on 27th March 2020.

Between June 2019 and 27 March 2020, we were in dialogue with the DfT regarding the course of action to take in respect of the exemption.  It was not until the days immediately prior to 27 March 2020 that the final decision was taken by DfT that the exemption would not be renewed and to allow it to expire.

Overview

Since 2014 the UK has exempted any aircraft being flown within UK class D airspace at or below 3,000 feet above mean sea level from SERA.5001 (VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima).

This exemption applies when the aircraft is flying in accordance with specific conditions currently set out in Official Record Series 4 (ORS4) No 1282. The exemption will remain effective (as ORS4 No 1302) until 12 September 2019. 

Why we are consulting

In October 2018 the Department for Transport agreed to extending the exemption on the understanding that the UK would move to comply with SERA.5001 (VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima).  

As a result, the SERA.5001 distance from cloud minima will apply to class D airspace in the UK at or below 3,000 feet from 12 September 2019.  

To support this, we are proposing changes to the requirements to provide separation between Special VFR (SVFR) aircraft in certain circumstances.

What we are proposing

We propose to remove the requirement for an ATC unit to provide separation between SVFR aircraft in certain circumstances.  

As a result, SVFR flights would maintain separation from other SVFR flights through see and avoid principles.  In effect this remains the same as flying VFR in accordance with the current UK exemption.

Give us your views

Stakeholders are invited to submit their views on our proposal and respond to questions set out either in the document or on the online survey.

Our proposal is outlined in CAP1779 - Consultation: Regulation (EU) 923/2012 Standardised European Rules of the Air - Visibility and Distance from Cloud Minima within Class D Airspace (paragraph 1.2).

How to respond

Responses can be submitted by email to sera@caa.co.uk (using the consultation response document below) or by online survey.

Further background

Audiences

  • General Aviation
  • Air traffic control staff

Interests

  • Air Traffic Control