VFR in Class D


Question for you: Can you transition a class D surface area when the weather at the airport is below basic vfr conditions, but you report in vfr conditions and say you are able to maintain vfr conditions while in the class d?

I was told that since the airport is below vfr, I could not transition the airpace and I am confused why. Living in Southern California the marine layer drifts in and out, and many times the tops of the clouds are 1500’, being at 2000’ with unlimited vsby. it’s easy to transititon the class d airspace as long as I do not want to land. I understand the Special vfr requirements. My point is the Tower reports the weather at the field, they don’t report the weather two miles east of the field and if a pilot tells the tower they are in vfr conditions and can maintain vfr while in the class d, what diference does it make if the ifr arrival or departure is out there?

When it’s a vfr day, and I am told to report downwind then they clear an ifr a/c to land or for takeoff who is seperating the two aircraft? You can’t tell me the tower, because the only seperation is for the tower is 1). for them not to hit or r2). runway seperation. They are not radar controllers many times and can’t see all the airplanes, nor can they use the d-brite for seperation. The ifr departure is probably taking to the departure controller anyway.

I’ll be glad to admit I am wrong, just want this rule to be applied constistantly, because I’ve done it beofre.
Thanks in advance.


The main point of these rules is to provide enough separation for you to be able to see an IFR aircraft emerging from the clouds to avoid hitting it when you are flying VFR. The simple answer to your question is to just fly over the top of the Class D airspace with appropriate/regulated cloud clearance, which is usually only 2500’ AGL.


With what you state above, you are NOT able to maintain VFR and remain in Delta airspace. Hint… VFR cloud clearance requirements ABOVE cloud deck.



Hey Allen,
OK, In my example it does not show 1000’ verticle clearance from the tops. But if all the weather is to the west and towards the east its much better, my question still stands. Many times at the coast, the wx to the west is a lot worst than towards the east. It could be ovc towards the west and hazy or clr towards the east. While the clouds burn off, it turns into a beautiful day!

Can you transition a class D surface area when the weather at the airport is below basic vfr conditions, but you report in vfr conditions and say you are able to maintain vfr conditions while in the class d?

I say the Tower does not have the right or authority to keep an aircraft out of the class d airspace UNLESS the wx is below basic vfr and you are requesting a Special VFR clearance. Then they can tell you to remain clear, expect __minute delay.

When a pilot says they are in vfr conditions and can maintain vfr they should say transition apvd, report clear. The only separation standard they have is on the runway.



While I agree with both sides here… I find this statement arguable.
Who’s airspace are you entering? The Tower. If they say no- Then that’s it. You’re in their airspace and are their responsibility even though they cannot see you.

I think any controller that believes and trusts you will clear your request.
I also think you’re talking about a 500 foot area here (cloud tops at 1000’ + 1000’ clearance). Just climb the extra 500’ above and remain clear of the class D completely.


Nope. Class D covers a very tiny chunk of airspace in diameter. If the airport is reporting IFR, there is a cloud somewhere within that chunk of airspace.

In your example above, you are in Echo airspace which is not controlled by Tower. In the tiny area D airspace encompasses, I personally cannot fathom one little cumulus cloud causing the airport to report IFR. In that tiny chunk of space, you would not be able to maintain horizontal clearances or above the reported cloud deck within the confines of Delta airspace.

Pilot IS NOT the final authority on airspace entry. VFR conditions do not dictate transition rights. Tower controlls the airspace above the runway environment within the Delta confines (or C or B as appropriate).

If you were to go around, you remain with tower until advised, you don’t go to approach automatically.



The reasoning in me stating that the tower cannot exclude pilots from entering is because they don’t have any separation standards except for SVFR and runway sep. I think they can tell us to hold south of the field expect 10 minute delay for traffic, but they can’t exclude pilots from entering. Their job is to advise and of course help out when time allows, but not to establish set separation standards with the exceptions of SVFR and runway sep. If two planes hit each other whether its in the pattern or out of it, it’s not their “fault”. If two planes hit each other on the runway, it’s their deal as well as ours…

I don’t need to comply with class c and b requirements because they don’t control the airspace in class d like they do in class c and b. If two planes get close to one another either departing or arriving, it’s not the tower’s responsibility- it’s ours! See and avoid…

As far as wx, if more than half the sky is obscurred by clouds or the cummulative clouds equals to more than half the sky(ex. 005sct, 008bkn), that means the other portion of the sky is not obscured by clouds and that is the area in which I am talking about.

Hopefully I made sense. Please know that I am a very responsible pilot and always try my best to be very professional. I bring this you because I want you understand that I did comply with their request to remain clear of the class d airspace. I am only bringing this subject up in a forum so I can get your opinions and learn. Thanks a lot.


Delta airspace protects runway environment. Read what I posted above about going around. If you were to be on a flight plan, you would be cleared of Delta space once tower tells you contact XXX frequency, whether it be center or approach. You don’t leave tower frequency until advised which is when you leave Delta airspace.

Not on a plan, I am not sure of the procedures since I operate out of an uncontrolled airport and the class D KHKS near by me hands you off to KJAN approach.

I do know tower controls the runway environment. I brought B and C up as it’s the very same principle. Tower controls runway environment

You cannot maintain VFR clearances in Delta airspace with sky conditions you describe above. ATIS ASOS reports bases. I’d suspect that the tops would be more then 1000 AGL with 800 bases. Certainly possible you have a thin layer of clouds less then 200 feet, but not very likely in the real world of flying I have done.

Sct is not a ceilinig so you begin with 800 for determining VFR clearance altitudes.

Ceilings of this nature makes the airport IFR.



According to the AIM section 3.2.5, the controller can deny entry to the class D airspace: If workload or traffic conditions prevent immediate entry into Class D airspace, the controller will inform the pilot to remain outside the Class D airspace until conditions permit entry.

While you may disagree with the controllers judgment, he/she ‘owns’ the airspace and it is not worth arguing with them about it, since you only need to climb to 2500 feet and you are outside the class D airspace and can transition over the top of it. If you would like to fight with the controller about a slice of airspace 500 - 1000 feet tall (above the clouds and within the class D with appropriate VFR cloud clearances), you have the right to do so, but what is the point?


I never argued with the controller and thought I made that clear, my question was is it legal to transition? I still don’t have the answer. AIM 3.2.5 speaks exactly what I was talking about, if the controller is too busy due to traffic. The second reason is for Special VFR.

So you suggest I climb to 2500’, cut over class d, don’t talk to ATC, and fly in the face of a departure or arrival on final? That doesn’t make any sense to me?

I know sct is not a ceiling, however it IS used to define a ceiling. Example: 4/10ths of the sky has sct clouds at 300, 3/10ths of the sky has sct clouds at 800’ and another deck of clouds 3/10ths which covers the sky at 20,000’. The weather observer will report 003sct, 008bkn, 200ovc. The sct clouds at 300 “are” used to help define a ceiling.



One more thing, runway “environment” doesn’t include the airspace around the airport. It has to do with the airport movement area. Rwys, Twys, helipads, etc.


WRONG.** Sky coverage and cloud ceiling have nothing to do with each other. Before you embarrass yourself further please look up these definitions.

Sky Coverage
Cloud ceilings

**WRONG. ** You are describing airport environment, NOT runway environment. I’m too lazy to find the exact FAR / AIMS reference, so the following source should be considered “unofficial” but clearly supports what I have been saying. (Taken from history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=200471)

Airport towers.

An airport tower is responsible only for traffic in the immediate vicinity of the airport, within a radius of about 2 mi. Human controllers in the tower direct aircraft as they land, taxi on the ground, and take off. Some 400 airport towers are considered to be part of the U.S. ATC system.

A tower employs an airport surface detection equipment (ASDE) system to detect aircraft from the surface to 200 ft altitude, as well as vehicles and even carts on the ground. It employs another system, called digital brite radar tower indicator equipment (DBRITE), to direct aircraft on the runways and taxiways and around terminals. Towers at major airports are now being equipped with terminal Doppler weather radar (TDWR) to alert ground controllers to severe wind conditions that can cause “microbursts” or other wind effects capable of violently knocking an aircraft from the sky.

I am always open for learning. If you have something to support what you are saying FAR/AIMS, please point me to your source.



3.2.5 answers your question:

“3. Arrival or Through Flight Entry Requirements. Two-way radio communication must be established with the ATC facility providing ATC services prior to entry and thereafter maintain those communications while in the Class D airspace. Pilots of arriving aircraft should contact the control tower on the publicized frequency and give their position, altitude, destination, and any request(s). Radio contact should be initiated far enough from the Class D airspace boundary to preclude entering the Class D airspace before two-way radio communications are established.”

If the controller either a) does not acknowledge your call and therefore does not establish radio communication or b) tells you to remain clear, then you cannot transition the class D airspace. The AIM gives workload and traffic conditions as reasons that the controller might not approve entry into class D. While you might not think that IMC near the airport with VMC above or away from the airport are valid reasons for the controller to keep you out, it appears that the controller did. If he made an error in judgment (and I don’t think that he did), he erred on the side of safety.

No, I am saying that you had that as an simple alternative to passing through the class D airspace when the controller wouldn’t give you a clearance through it. If I wanted to stay low for some reason in your situation, I would climb to 2501-3000’, call the tower and let them know I was overflying their airspace from [direction] to [direction] at [altitude]. Then they know where you are and what you are doing in case they need to move any IFR traffic around you.


I stand corrected, it use to be categorized in tenths, now it is in 8ths.


Click her to the noaa web page and start reading under multiple layers Chapter 5.2.2
This will prove to you that the bottom layer is used to identify a ceiling.
Got to go to work, I’ll chat more later.


When they have the hearing to suspend your license it would help your case if on the tapes you were screaming MAYDAY. Otherwise, you have a looser.

Frank Holbert
Former Air Traffic Controller


Look up the definition of ceiling…

You won’t find scattered in there. 500 SCT 4000 BKN = Ceiling 4000 = VFR.

Just don’t touch the scattered 500 AGL cloud on take off and landing and maintain VFR distances from that scattered cloud.



Repeat from earlier…

I know sct is not a ceiling, however it IS used to define a ceiling. Example: 4/10ths of the sky has sct clouds at 300, 3/10ths of the sky has sct clouds at 800’ and another deck of clouds 3/10ths which covers the sky at 20,000’. The weather observer will report 003sct, 008bkn, 200ovc. The sct clouds at 300 “are” used to help define a ceiling. "

Maybe you didn’t read it. Look at the first sentence, it is used to define a ceiling. Yeah, I used tenths like it use to be and not 8ths. But no matter.

2/8 of the sky has sct clouds at 300’
3/8 of the sky has sct clouds at 800’
This equals 5/8 of the sky, and is considered a bkn ceiling at 800’
An additional 3/8 of the sky has clouds at 20,000’
This equals and ovc sky at 20,000’
WX report: 003sct 008 bkn 200 ovc


Read a little further from an earlier post, we were talking about class D airspace, and I already stated the two exceptions. 1). Traffic 2). SVFR- atc will advise on delay. In class D if I establish 2 way with the twr, I am allowed in. CAFlier brought up 3.2.5. really good ref.
As far as separation standards that atc’er have in class d is 1). runway separation (to include wake turb. 2) svfr.
If the tower controller can’t see you, how is he/she suppose to separate us? All they do is advise us of other traffic. All the extend downwind, etc. is to achieve runway separation. You know what their duty priority is, but tell me what their “separation standards” are? So they don’t hit? How can they accomplish that if they have 4 in the pattern, a few departures, you call inbound and are told to report _____ and hit an earlier departure. Is that the towers fault? NO, it’s yours because it’s see and avoid.



Still WRONG. See srh.noaa.gov/ffc/html/gloss1.shtml

Ceiling is lowest BROKEN or OVERCAST layer. Has nothing to do with combining sky coverage and layers.

Need an FAA reference since that is what we fly by, go to faa.gov/about/office_org/fie … gyourm.ppt

Can’t seem to get onlinie FARs to cooperate, but I am sure that will also confirm that ceiling is LOWEST broken or overcast layer in the VFR minimum requirements.



Allen is correct, Section 1 of the FAR says, >Ceiling means the height above the earths surface of the lowest layer of clouds or obscuring phenomena that is reported as “broken”, “overcast” or “obscuration” and not classified as “thin” or “partial.”<

Scattered clouds are not considered a ceiling, nor do they in any way contribute to a ceiling. It is not uncommon to hear a weather report like: 1000 scattered, ceiling 2000 broken.


Since I was in a hurry earlier today, I guess I didn’t show you all the exact ref. I used from the NOAA website. Argue all you want and type in REDs or YELLOWs, but this is from NOAA, heard of them???

The exact website is:

if it doesn’t work let me know, but here is what you will find minus the few pictures.

5.2.3 Layer Amounts
The amount in eighths of clouds or obscurations (i.e., smoke, haze, fog, etc.) not necessarily all of the same type,
whose bases are at approximately the same level. It may be either continuous or composed of detached elements.
If the layer is on the ground, the sky cover is the eighths of the sky hidden by the phenomenon. That portion of the
surfaced-based layer through which the sky can be seen is not considered sky cover. An obscuration that hides part
of the sky is reported in both the sky condition and remarks.
Up to six layers may be reported for sky condition; reportable contractions are as follows:
Reportable Summation Amount of
Contractions Sky Cover
VV Vertical Visibility 8/8
SKC S Ky Clear 0
FEW FEW less than 1/8 to 2/8
SCT S CaTtered 3/8 to 4/8
BKN BroKeN 5/8 to less than 8/8
OVC OVerCast 8/8
Table 5-1. Reportable Contractions for Sky Cover
5.2.4 Stratification of Sky Cover
Sky cover will be separated into layers with each layer containing clouds and/or obscurations (i.e., smoke, haze, fog,
etc.), with bases at about the same height.

5.2.5 Evaluation of Multiple Layers
Frequent observations are necessary to evaluate layers. A series of observations will often show the existence of
upper layers above a lower layer. Through thin lower layers, it may be possible to observe higher layers. Differences
in the directions of cloud movements are often a valuable aid in observing and differentiating between cloud layers,
particularly when the presence of haze, smoke, etc., increases the difficulty of evaluation. Ceiling light indications may
be used as a guide in determining the presence of multiple layers at night.

5.2.6 Evaluation of Interconnected Layers
Clouds formed by the horizontal extension of swelling cumulus or cumulonimbus, which are attached to a parent
cloud, will be regarded as a separate layer only if their bases appear horizontal and at a different level from the parent
cloud. Otherwise, the entire cloud system will be regarded as a single layer at a height corresponding to the base
of the parent cloud.

5.2.8 Summation Layer Amount
A categorization of the amount of sky cover at and below each reported layer of clouds and/or obscurations. The
summation amount for any given layer is equal to the sum of the sky cover for the layer being evaluated plus the sky
cover of all lower layers including partial obscurations. Portions of layers aloft detected through lower layers aloft
will not increase the summation amount of the higher layer. A summation amount for a layer cannot exceed 8/8ths.
When multiple layers are visible, the Sky Cover for any given layer is the total of the sky hidden by any surface-based
layer plus the amount of sky covered by all layers aloft that are below the layer being evaluated plus the layer being
Once you have broken the sky into separate layers, you are expected to determine the sky cover, in eighths, for each
of the layers and select a sky cover contraction to represent each layer in the report.
Always start evaluating sky cover at the lowest layer. As you evaluate the sky cover of each layer above, the amount
determined must be either equal to or more than the previously evaluated lower layer. For example, if the sky was
completely covered by clouds in four different layers and each layer by itself covered 2/8 of the sky, the sky cover
determined for each of the layers would be:
Ch. 5 Pg. 3
First layer (lowest) (200 feet) (2/8)= 2/8 sky cover (FEW)
Second layer (5,000 feet) (2/8 + 2/8)= 4/8 sky cover (SCT)
Third layer (10,000 feet) (2/8 + 4/8)= 6/8 sky cover (BKN)
Fourth layer (highest) (25,000 feet) (2/8 + 6/8)= 8/8 sky cover (OVC)
Notice that the sky cover of the highest layer is considered to be 8/8, even though (by itself) it is only covering 2/8
of the sky. The reason for this is that sky cover is always determined with respect to an observer on the ground.
The following example would be coded in Sky Condition as:
FEW002 SCT050 BKN100 OVC250

Although the clouds at 200 ’ aren’t a ceiling, those clouds are used in adding up to make the “ceiling” at 10,000?