# how to tell if an airport is VFR

#### fisher37

##### Well-Known Member
so the chief pilot of my school asked me tonight on my private checkout exam, how to tell if an airport is in VFR or IFR conditions. I stated to him that the rotating beacon will be on in IFR conditions and that VFR conditions consist of 3 miles flight visibility, 2000 ft of horizontal clearance, 1000 feet above the clouds, and 500 feet below the clouds. apparently this wasnt the answer he was looking for, can somebody enlighten me on the subjet? Oh and this was in class delta airspace....

so the chief pilot of my school asked me tonight on my private checkout exam, how to tell if an airport is in VFR or IFR conditions. I stated to him that the rotating beacon will be on in IFR conditions and that VFR conditions consist of 3 miles flight visibility, 2000 ft of horizontal clearance, 1000 feet above the clouds, and 500 feet below the clouds. apparently this wasnt the answer he was looking for, can somebody enlighten me on the subjet? Oh and this was in class delta airspace....

3 miles vis, 1000 foot ceiling.

thats what i said, he was still looking for something different...

Ceilings have to be 1000' or greater, not cloud clearance requirements. Also, an airport can be VFR in a mile of vis if its in class g. So, 3 miles isn't really the only metric.

"Bitch, check the motha ####in weather. And if you want to know how to do that, go to the motha ####in AFD and find a way to find out via phone # or internet."

That should have been your response. Some people like to just get all macho that they know more, I have a feeling this was the case.

"Bitch, check the motha ####in weather. And if you want to know how to do that, go to the motha ####in AFD and find a way to find out via phone # or internet."

That should have been your response. Some people like to just get all macho that they know more, I have a feeling this was the case.

lol...thats not really the case...he always has one of those questions to try to stump people...hes just making sure you know what you need to know...i'll give this a try and see what happens! lol

I like your rotating beacon answer. That's great. Cloud clearance isn't the road to go down, though. You need better than 1000 and 3 for it to be VFR. Less than that is IFR.

At face value with the CP's question, I'd say "listen to the ATIS/AWOS". Call the tower on the phone. Call AFSS on the phone or the radio. Or check the weather on your computer. But I'd have thought the rotating beacon was what he was looking for.

For extra credit....how do you tell the airport is IFR at night? (rotating beacon is already on).

1000 ft ceilings, and, is it 5 mils vis? dont laugh at me if its wrong lol

1000 ft ceilings, and, is it 5 mils vis? dont laugh at me if its wrong lol

It's generally 3 statute miles visibility for nearly all airspaces, but as others have said, it could be as little as 1 mile if the field is situated in class-G airspace.

Another way to tell is just to take off. If, after you're airborn, you can't see ##### in front of you, the conditions aren't VFR.

so the chief pilot of my school asked me tonight on my private checkout exam, how to tell if an airport is in VFR or IFR conditions. I stated to him that the rotating beacon will be on in IFR conditions and that VFR conditions consist of 3 miles flight visibility, 2000 ft of horizontal clearance, 1000 feet above the clouds, and 500 feet below the clouds. apparently this wasnt the answer he was looking for, can somebody enlighten me on the subjet? Oh and this was in class delta airspace....

thats what i said, he was still looking for something different...

That's not what you said above, though. You described VFR cloud clearance requirements for Class D airspace, not VFR conditions. Maybe that's what your chief pilot was getting at.

...but the rotating beacon isn't used ONLY in IFR operations, is it? I swear I've seen ours on in VFR conditions...

...but the rotating beacon isn't used ONLY in IFR operations, is it? I swear I've seen ours on in VFR conditions...

Could have been stuck on. I know there was a NOTAM for DPA for awhile that it was stuck on.

...but the rotating beacon isn't used ONLY in IFR operations, is it? I swear I've seen ours on in VFR conditions...
True.
Blacksburg's beacon is on at all times. Such is the case at a few non-towered airports I know of.

For some reason, a lot of people think that. True, they are normally turned on for IFR and night conditions, but it doesn't necessarily mean that IFR/night conditions exist.

from 2-1-8 in the pilot bible (faraim). In Class B, Class C, Class D and Class E surface area, operation of the airport beacon during the hours of daylight OFTEN indicates that the ground visibility is less than 3 miles and/or the ceiling is less than 1000 feet. ATC clearance in accordance with 14 CFR Part 91 is required for landing, takeoff and flight in the traffic pattern. Pilots should not rely soley on the operation of the airport beacon to indiated if weather conditions are IFR or VFR. At some locations with operating control towers, ATC personel turn the beacon on or off when controls are in the tower. At many airports the beacon is turned on by a photoelectric cell or time clocks and ATC cannot control them. There is no regulatory requirement for daylight operation and it is the pilots responsibility to comply with proper preflight planning as required by 14 CFR section 91.103.

So basically I could have got grilled by the CP if i had read this before. I do know that our tower does have control of our beacon, and turns it on at night, and in IFR conditions only. So i guess it just depends from airport to airport.

by the way, i appreciate all the input from you guys! i'll go talk to the CP tomorrow, hopefully this is what hes looking for, 1000 ft ceilings, and 3 miles flight vis. I think that he knew that i knew what it was, but i just didnt say it in the right form, lol

For extra credit....how do you tell the airport is IFR at night? (rotating beacon is already on).

When the freight pilots are all bitching about having to find alternates while getting their coffee in the lounge.

..duh.

-mini

I like your rotating beacon answer. That's great. Cloud clearance isn't the road to go down, though. You need better than 1000 and 3 for it to be VFR. Less than that is IFR.

At face value with the CP's question, I'd say "listen to the ATIS/AWOS". Call the tower on the phone. Call AFSS on the phone or the radio. Or check the weather on your computer. But I'd have thought the rotating beacon was what he was looking for.

For extra credit....how do you tell the airport is IFR at night? (rotating beacon is already on).

If I can't find it after hitting direct to for the fifth time.

...but the rotating beacon isn't used ONLY in IFR operations, is it? I swear I've seen ours on in VFR conditions...
You're right. Rotating beacon on during the day is not a regulatory indication of IFR. I remember a quiz somewhere along the way where the question was , "What doe a rotating beacon mean during the day." The correct answer was "a controller forgot to turn it off."

==============================
AIM 2-1-8(d) In Class B, Class C, Class D and Class E surface areas, operation of the airport beacon during the hours of daylight often indicates that the ground visibility is less than 3 miles and/or the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet. ATC clearance in accordance with 14 CFR Part 91 is required for landing, takeoff and flight in the traffic pattern. Pilots should not rely solely on the operation of the airport beacon to indicate if weather conditions are IFR or VFR. At some locations with operating control towers, ATC personnel turn the beacon on or off when controls are in the tower. At many airports the airport beacon is turned on by a photoelectric cell or time clocks and ATC personnel cannot control them. There is no regulatory requirement for daylight operation and it is the pilot's responsibility to comply with proper preflight planning as required by 14 CFR Section 91.103.
==============================

My answer to the OP instructor's question, which dealt with class D airspace, would be to listen to the ATIS or AWOS or, if it had neither (doubtful) to ask for the reported ceiling. If they reported a ceiling less than 1000', the airport was IFR.

Not every airport that's IFR has the beacon on. Best stick with the ceiling and vis for the class of airspace at the airport surface.

On a side note, careful with that Chinese buffet in Salina. I rolled through there on a delivery flight the other week and got "grounded" at my next fuel stop.

(Terms I considered besides "grounded" include: "Held for Release", "Ground Stop", "Cleared to pu..." Grounded sounded best.)

How about visibility 3 miles and ceiling at least Traffic pattern altitute +500?

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