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Discrepancy within 121 regarding required WX

Old 12-28-2023, 07:42 AM
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Default Discrepancy within 121 regarding required WX

Title 14 CFR 121 subpart U-Dispatching and Flight Release Rules

Easier just to cut and paste

§ 121.655 Applicability of reported weather minimums.
In conducting operations under §§ 121.649 through 121.653, the ceiling and visibility values in the main body of the latest weather report control for VFR and IFR takeoffs and landings and for instrument approach procedures on all runways of an airport. However, if the latest weather report, including an oral report from the control tower, contains a visibility value specified as runway visibility or runway visual range for a particular runway of an airport, that specified value controls for VFR and IFR landings and takeoffs and straight-in instrument approaches for that runway.



§ 121.651 Takeoff and landing weather minimums: IFR: All certificate holders.
(a) Notwithstanding any clearance from ATC, no pilot may begin a takeoff in an airplane under IFR when the weather conditions reported by the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, are less than those specified in—

(1) The certificate holder's operations specifications; or

(2) Parts 91 and 97 of this chapter, if the certificate holder's operations specifications do not specify takeoff minimums for the airport.

(b) Except as provided in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section, no pilot may continue an approach past the final approach fix, or where a final approach fix is not used, begin the final approach segment of an instrument approach procedure—

(1) At any airport, unless the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, issues a weather report for that airport; and

(2) At airports within the United States and its territories or at U.S. military airports, unless the latest weather report for that airport issued by the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, reports the visibility to be equal to or more than the visibility minimums prescribed for that procedure........... [This is a long and tortuous paragraph and most that follows doesn't add to the conversation or add clairity to my question]



So it looks like a conflict. I don't even understand why 121.655 exists, seems redundent, but it creates (in my mind) a conflict. Anyone smarter than me that can explain what the Administrators thoughts where regarding required 121.655 and or how it relates to 121.651?
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Old 12-28-2023, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by 12oclockHi View Post
Title 14 CFR 121 subpart U-Dispatching and Flight Release Rules

Easier just to cut and paste

§ 121.655 Applicability of reported weather minimums.
In conducting operations under §§ 121.649 through 121.653, the ceiling and visibility values in the main body of the latest weather report control for VFR and IFR takeoffs and landings and for instrument approach procedures on all runways of an airport. However, if the latest weather report, including an oral report from the control tower, contains a visibility value specified as runway visibility or runway visual range for a particular runway of an airport, that specified value controls for VFR and IFR landings and takeoffs and straight-in instrument approaches for that runway.



§ 121.651 Takeoff and landing weather minimums: IFR: All certificate holders.
(a) Notwithstanding any clearance from ATC, no pilot may begin a takeoff in an airplane under IFR when the weather conditions reported by the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, are less than those specified in—

(1) The certificate holder's operations specifications; or

(2) Parts 91 and 97 of this chapter, if the certificate holder's operations specifications do not specify takeoff minimums for the airport.

(b) Except as provided in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section, no pilot may continue an approach past the final approach fix, or where a final approach fix is not used, begin the final approach segment of an instrument approach procedure—

(1) At any airport, unless the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, issues a weather report for that airport; and

(2) At airports within the United States and its territories or at U.S. military airports, unless the latest weather report for that airport issued by the U.S. National Weather Service, a source approved by that Service, or a source approved by the Administrator, reports the visibility to be equal to or more than the visibility minimums prescribed for that procedure........... [This is a long and tortuous paragraph and most that follows doesn't add to the conversation or add clairity to my question]



So it looks like a conflict. I don't even understand why 121.655 exists, seems redundent, but it creates (in my mind) a conflict. Anyone smarter than me that can explain what the Administrators thoughts where regarding required 121.655 and or how it relates to 121.651?
Because that's the part for VFR?
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Old 12-28-2023, 01:34 PM
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You need to consider the regulation in context, and as applicable to the operation (what you're doing). There is no conflict.

https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-1...-121/subpart-U

With 14 CFR 121.651(b)(2), you are specifically referencing a visibiity requirement required to fly beyond the final approach fix.

With 14 CFR 121.655, the latest weather becomes controlling. One may have departed with a better forecast, but the latest report is controlling, and if a report exists for a specific runway, then that, too, is controlling for that runway.

Adequate forecast weather must exist to dispatch the aircraft. Upon arrival adequate weather must exist in the latest weather report. Seems obvious: it's codified in the regulation. Where you appear to see the perceived conflict is a regulation which stipulates that the lastest weather report must show adequate weather above mininums (121.655 encompasses both ceiling and visibility), and a regulation which states one can't fly past the final approach fix unless the visibility. is good enough. Both can be correct; both are correct.

Elsewhere, the FAA has also recognized both ceiling and visibility as pertinent. in a FAA chief legal counsel letter of interpretation to Capital Cargo, the Administrator answered a question about a dispatch release for IFR or over the top operations. The administrator stated:

https://www.faa.gov/sites/faa.gov/fi...rpretation.pdf

The FAA believes requiring, for part 121 dispatch or flight release, that both ceiling and visibility minimums be met at the destination airport adds a reasonable level of safety for each part 121 scheduled flight.
That interpretation is answer a question about dispatch and release under IFR or VFR over the top, and points to 61.613, but the salent reference is the FAA's position on the relevancy of both ceiling and visibility.

121.655 is not irrelevant, nor redundant, and is not unnecessary. It should not be overlooked in both the key points in the paragraph: the latest weather (both ceiling and visibility) is what controls for takeoff or landing, and specific latest weather for a given runway, is controlling.

Don't overlook the fact that many operators have authorizations for lower minimums, and many approaches don't have a weather minimum for ceiling. Some do. Where a ceiling is prescribed, it must be adhered, just as visibility. Where only visibility is prescribed as a minimum, that must be adhered. On a typical category 1 approach, for example, a minimum visibility exists for the approach, but the altitude value is a minimum altitude to which one can descend and make a visibility decision. Other procedures may specify both ceiling and visibility, and one would be defenseless if attempting to fly an approach with 900' MDA when the latest reported ceilign is at 200'. Some takeoff procedures or departures specify a minimum visibility and ceiling for adequate visual reference to obstacles.

There is no one-stop-shop for the weather requirements. Applicable requirements include various sections of the regulation, the instrument procedures, operations specifications, and the nation-state in which one is operating, all come to bear; in nearly all cases, the most restrictive requirement applicable to that operator in that aircraft in that location, with that pilot or crew, determines what minima are required. 121.655 simply states that the current weather is the controlling weather for takeoff and landing; not the forecast, not the "tempo" in the forecast, not a recent PIREP. Current reported weather, which includes a tower report. Specific requirements exist to begin the approach, to fly beyond the final approach fix, and to go below minimums upon arrival at minimums, etc.

121.651(b)(2) is a narrow application. It covers required weather to go beyond the FAF. 121.655 has a broader application. One does not replace the other, nor take away from it.

Originally Posted by JamesNoBrakes View Post
Because that's the part for VFR?
No: 121.655 specifically states that it is applicable to VFR AND IFR takeoffs and landings, AND for instrument approaches:

https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-14/section-121.655

​​​​​​​

§ 121.655 Applicability of reported weather minimums.

In conducting operations under §§ 121.649 through 121.653, the ceiling and visibility values in the main body of the latest weather report control for VFR and IFR takeoffs and landings and for instrument approach procedures on all runways of an airport. However, if the latest weather report, including an oral report from the control tower, contains a visibility value specified as runway visibility or runway visual range for a particular runway of an airport, that specified value controls for VFR and IFR landings and takeoffs and straight-in instrument approaches for that runway.
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Old 12-30-2023, 08:32 AM
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I don't have access to the Flight Operations Manual (FOM) from my pervious job. Most, if not all pilots, who confront operational questions regarding legality look first to their pubs (Jepps) then next to their FOM for guidance while in the air. I don’t know what my (prior) company said in their verbiage regarding landing weather, ceiling and visibility, in regard to shooting an approach. I understood the “look see” provisions allowed in 121.651 and the limitations their of, particularly regarding international ops. I will say, I learned something in paragraph (b) that surprised me and I’m sure would have won me many a bar bet had I read (and reread, and again) that section while I was still working.

I do think the Fed’s could tighten up this part of the law and make it easier to understand and interpret. I would think 121.655 could be rolled into 121.651 and it would create less likelihood of confusion. Reading the regs closely, jumping from FAR 91 to 121, gives you a very stark picture of just how regulated commercial air transportation is, and just how unregulated basic general aviation is. For anyone flying under pure FAR 91 (not subpart K) you really are given free rein to put yourself, your friends and family at risk if you don’t do the intelligent thing in planning or inflight decision making.
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Old 12-31-2023, 03:25 AM
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There are three means to undertand the regulation correctly. The Federal Register preamble, followed by the FAA Chief Legal Counsel letters of interpretation, followed by the regulation itself. A fourth non-precedent setting means of understanding how the regulation has been applied in specific cases, which does not interpret regulation, are Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions in reference to enforcement action.

These sources, in order, help understand the regulation.

Company operations specifications, followed by the regulation, followed by company polices, help understand the application of the regulation in context, as it is to be applied to a specific operator.
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Old 01-19-2024, 07:27 AM
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Not mentioned previously, the FAA also puts out InFO's or Information For Operators, which include both the information, and links to more informaiton, and are accessible by year on the FAA website.

2008 InFO 08050 covers ceiling reports and forecasts in the context of 14 CFR 121.613, and also sheds some insight into the original poster's question:

https://www.faa.gov/sites/faa.gov/files/other_visit/aviation_industry/airline_operators/airline_safety/inFO08050.pdf

Subject: Ceiling sometimes required for dispatch or flight release under 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 121, § 121.613

Purpose: To explain when ceiling must be considered in accordance with § 121.613.

Background: The FAA has been questioned about the significance of ceiling forecasts and reports in flight planning, dispatch and flight release. Under Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) visibility is generally the controlling minimum for approach and landing – without regard to ceiling. However,
§ 121.613 requires that aircraft dispatchers and those people authorized to release flights in supplemental operations consider ceiling at the destination airport in certain situations.

Discussion: Section 121.613 requires “...that the weather conditions will be at or above the authorized minimums at the estimated time of arrival at the airport or airports to which dispatched or released.” However, the term “authorized minimums” is not defined in 14 CFR 1.1. Authorized minimums are identified in various places including minimum vectoring altitude charts (call the appropriate ARTCC center watch supervisor), FAA regulations, operations specifications (OpSpecs), and instrument approach charts. Therefore authorized minimums may not be uniformly understood, particularly those minimums in which a ceiling is specified.

Situations in which ceiling requirements apply include the following:
  • When the destination airport has no instrument approach available, forecast ceiling must be at minimum vectoring altitude (MVA) or 1000 feet AGL (with 3 miles visibility), whichever is higher;
  • When a circle-to-land must be conducted at the destination airport, forecast ceiling must be at charted circling minimums or at 1000 feet AGL ceiling (with 3 miles visibility), whichever is higher, as specified in the operator’s OpSpecs; and or
  • When the instrument approach chart for the destination airport specifies a controlling ceiling value, ceiling must be forecast at or above the pertinent ceiling.

    Recommended Action: Managers, trainers, aircraft dispatchers and people authorized to release flights in part 121 operations should collaborate to ensure that the significance of ceiling is uniformly understood and taken into account during the dispatch/flight release planning processes. The content of this InFO should be explicitly reflected in the training of aircraft dispatchers and those people authorized to release flights.
The full listing of InFO's can be found at: https://www.faa.gov/other_visit/avia...info/all_infos
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Old 02-12-2024, 10:01 AM
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I was slow to notice this response from JohnBurke regarding an earlier comment I had regarding FAR interpretations. If you are just reading this response, I suggest you look over this (very short) thread and, not withstanding the actual questions, note Johns suggestions on interpretations and explanations that the FAA provides by several means to clarify confusion of intent of the laws related to flight. Just looking over a couple years worth of InFO's or Information For Operators, I found several topics of “stuff” that I either thought I knew correctly/totally and found that my understanding was either faulty or dated.


For anyone in training or standards at a professional flight department/air carrier who is not totally clued into these sources, I strongly suggest you not only become familiar but also, please, share this with your line pilots and help them to maintain currency on the law and the clarifications needed in a changing world.
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Old 02-17-2024, 01:22 PM
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Short answer, 121.655 referenced above is broadly applicable to a variety of circumstances, a few of which do have ceiling requirements.

That language does not impose a ceiling requirement in places where it does not otherwise exist, which includes most of our day-to-day 121 ops.
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