When the ceiling is under 1,000 feet or the visibility is less than three miles, it’s not possible to fly an air show legally. Period.
As soon as the weather goes below 1000/3, the field is operating under instrument flight rules (IFR) and the air show waiver becomes null and void. It doesn’t matter how desperate the event organizer may be to put airplanes in the air. It doesn’t matter that the inspector-in-charge is willing to look the other way. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying an airplane that can perform aerobatics with less than a 1,000 foot ceiling. The air show is over.
If the airport where the air show is being held has air traffic control (ATC) facilities, ATC can approval special visual flight rules (SVFR) operations, but don’t let that be a temptation to put airplanes in the air. Neither the air boss nor the Inspector-in-Charge (IIC) can approve SVFR operations. And, when flying under SVFR, performers cannot deviate from normal FARs. That means no aerobatics. No high speed passes. No low-altitude flying. The only maneuvers that can be accomplished within SVFR with ATC approval are normal flight, touch and goes, and low passes.
If you’re a pilot, decide now – before the season begins – that you will not be talked into flying when the weather goes below 1000/3. If you’re an event organizer, recognize that asking – or even allowing — your pilots to fly in these conditions is irresponsible and illegal. And if you’re an air boss, please remember that you are expected to make the hard decisions in these situations and that you are expected to err on the side of increased safety. Everyone wants the show to go on, but not at the risk of an accident or FAR violation.