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Low Level VFR or Not?

Historically, if flying an aeroplane by day under VFR in Class G below FL100, the metricated VMC minima were 5km visibility / 1500m horizontal and 1000ft vertical separation from cloud.  But if below 3000 ft a.m.s.l. and 140KIAS and if in sight of the surface, the minima could be reduced to 1500m visibility and ‘clear of cloud’.

However, as written under SERA.5001 (and in the UK AIP ENR1.2 para 1.1), this has apparently changed so that flying in sight of the surface is now mandatory when flying under VFR if at and below 3000 ft a.m.s.l. (or 1000 ft above terrain, whichever the higher), no matter how good the visibility might be, or how clear you might be from cloud.

Under such circumstances, you must always be clear of cloud and in sight of the surface.  In-flight visibility may be reduced from 5km to 1500m if you are also flying at or below 140KIAS, or 'in circumstances in which the probability of encounters with other traffic would normally be low, e.g. in areas of low volume traffic and for aerial work at low levels.'

AOPA contacted the CAA to ask  whether the EASA's change to historic UK Class G VMC criteria was really what was intended, or whether there was an error when SERA.5001 was promulgated.

AOPA had a response from the CAA and, with further clarification, the situation is:
"If an aeroplane is flying in Class G airspace at 140KIAS or less and below 3000ft amsl, no matter how great the visibility or distance from cloud, it cannot be flown under VFR unless in sight of the surface."

The ANO definition of in sight of surface is :
“With the surface in sight” means with the flight crew being able to see sufficient surface features or surface illumination to enable the flight crew to maintain the aircraft in a desired attitude without reference to any flight instrument.

Please remember that both the Aircrew Regulation and the Air Navigation Order both now require that, in order to fly under IFR, pilots of aeroplanes and helicopters must have a valid instrument qualification.  The legacy UK PPL no longer includes IFR privileges without an instrument qualification included in the licence!

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