Any pilot who wants to fly in less than perfect weather conditions should be aware of MVFR flight rules, how it is indicated, and whether it’s even a good idea to fly in such conditions.

What Is Marginal VFR?

Marginal VFR, or MVFR for short, stands for marginal visual flight rules. It is a term given to the ceiling between 1,000-3,000 feet and/or 3 to 5 miles visibility.

On flight planning software MVFR is depicted in blue.

Can Student Pilot Fly MVFR?

A student pilot is not authorized to fly MVFR.

This is according to FAR 61.89 that states a student pilot may not act as pilot in command “with a flight or surface visibility of less than 3 statute miles during daylight hours or 5 statute miles at night.”

Can a Private Pilot Fly MVFR?

Yes, private pilots are authorized to fly MVFR, though should probably avoid doing so until they have plenty of experience flying in MVFR conditions with an instructor.

Being instrument rated is practically a necessity, and not a moment of consideration should be given to flying MVFR without it.

What Does Categorical Outlook MVFR Mean?

Categorical outlook is a term that is used to generally describe ceiling and visibility requirements as part of the Area Forecast (FA).

Conditions are described as they are expected to form or continue, not exactly as they exist. They are also forecast to cover a region, not along a particular route.

Categorical outlook MVFR is the ceiling between 1,000-3,000 feet and/or 3 to 5 miles visibility.


SVFR stands for special visual flight rules.

SVFR differs from MVFR (marginal visual flight rules), in that a pilot can fly within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace to the ground with at least 1 mile of flight visibility and clear of clouds

It can be granted by ATC upon request. If the request is made at night, the pilot in command must be instrument rated and be flying an IFR certified aircraft

Why You Might Want to Avoid Flying MVFR?

The reality is that few pilots are properly prepared and have sufficient training to fly under MVFR.

Properly prepared means you are filed IFR, are current and have the proper equipment.

However, even experienced pilots should think twice when the temperatures are near-freezing and dense air has settled enough to cause concern.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether dense air will linger or not.

No pilot likes to delay a planned flight, but the safety of yourself and your passengers is always the priority.

If you have any reason to doubt takeoff, why risk it when waiting it out probably isn’t going to be the end of the world?

See Also:

John Myers - Flight Instructor

John is a Certified Flight Instructor who teaches students of all ages how to fly and takes enormous pride and satisfaction seeing his students become licensed pilots.