In the last online helicopter ground school post we looked at some of the airspace you’ll be flying in as a helicopter pilot. Before you enter that airspace you need to know if it is legal to do so. There are a few requirements to be aware of but today we are going to concentrate on the minimum weather requirements.
Most helicopter pilots in Canada will spend their career operating under Visual Flight Rules or VFR as it’s usually referred to. This means you are flying with visual reference to the ground at all times.
The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) specify exactly what these minimum requirements are under 602.114. Your level of experience, ability, aircraft and the type of flying should also always be considered when deciding what the minimums are. Just because CARs says you can be out flying doesn’t mean you should
As you’ve no doubt committed the whole of the last blog post to memory , you’ll know we have controlled and uncontrolled airspace. The weather you can fly in changes depending on where you are.
When in controlled airspace you must maintain;
a visibility of at least 3 statute miles;
a horizontal distance of 1 statute mile from cloud;
and 500 ft vertically from cloud.
Uncontrolled VFR weather minimum
When flying in uncontrolled weather minimum the requirements change depending on your height. If you are flying 1000 ft or higher above ground level (AGL) you must maintain:
1 statute mile visibility;
2000 ft horizontally from cloud;
500 ft vertically from cloud.
Below 1000 FT AGL in Uncontrolled Airspace
Here you must maintain;
1 statute mile visibility;
be clear of cloud.
The above VFR weather minimums are the big three. As a pilot you need to know them without thinking about them. There are however two occasions when you can fly VFR with visibility below what has been stated above.
The vast majority of airspace in Canada is uncontrolled. Lets say you have two miles visibility and you are out working in uncontrolled airspace. What happens when you finish your job and start heading back to an airport in controlled airspace? You can’t legally enter that airspace because you need 3 statute miles visibility.
This is where special VFR comes in. It allows you to fly in a Control Zone with a visibility of one half of a statute mile, clear of cloud.
There are a few things required before you can use special VFR.
1) The pilot has to request it;
2) There can be no inbound or outbound aircraft flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR);
3) It can only be used in a Control Zone.
Some commercial pilots may be able to fly in uncontrolled airspace with a visibility down to one half of a statute mile. There are a few requirements that have to be met;
1) The company must be authorized to do this in their Company Operations Manual (COM);
2) The pilot must have at least 500 hours Pilot in Command (PIC) time;
3) The pilot must receive annual low visibility training;
4) The pilot must take part in a Pilot Decision Making (PDM) course initially and then at least once every three years.
So there you have it. Visual Flight Rule weather minimums that you as a pilot have to comply with.