The helicopter that crashed yesterday in Calabasas, California, was operating under “Special Visual Flight Rules,” according to an air traffic control audio conversation with the pilot, captured by website LiveATC.net.
What that means: A SVFR, Special Visual Flight Rules, clearance is given to pilots to allow them to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for standard Visual Flight Rules (VFR).
The Burbank Airport control tower allowed the helicopter to proceed northeast following the I-5 highway using the SVFR clearance.
“Maintain special VFR at or below 2,500” the pilot confirmed to the controller.
Later in the flight, the pilot apparently asked for “flight following,” a service where controllers are in regular contract with an aircraft. The controller was recorded telling the pilot “2 echo x-ray, you’re still too low level for flight following at this time.” That could mean the helicopter was too low to be seen on Air Traffic Control radar.
Satellite imagery showed the cloud cover at the time of the crash. Below, you can see the flight path in blue: