SERA is the transposition into law of ICAO Annex 2 (Rules of the Air) and parts of ICAO Annex 3 (Meteorology), Annex 10 (Communication Procedures), Annex 11 (Air Traffic Services) and Doc 4444 (PANS-ATM). Pilots, air traffic controllers, flight information service officers, aerodrome operators and anyone else involved in the operation of aircraft need to understand the rules.
UK SERA (UK Reg (EU) No 923/2012 (as amended)) applies to every aircraft operating in UK airspace regardless of type or state of registration. Note that references to EU regulations on this webpage are to those regulations as retained and amended in UK domestic law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
As these rules do not cover all aspects of the Rules of the Air, the UK maintains supplementary rules that complement UK SERA, permit routine operations such as VFR flight at night, and grant exemptions from UK SERA’s requirements.
The UK publishes its supplementary rules in the form of The Rules of the Air Regulations 2015. They took effect on 30 April 2015 and are supported by permissions and general exemptions that preserve certain legacy operational flexibilities to the greatest possible degree.
The Air Navigation Order is aligned with UK SERA.
We publish consolidated versions of the Air Navigation Order and other legislation made under it, including the Rules of the Air on the CAA website Regulations.
The Rules of the Air are reflected in the United Kingdom Aeronautical Information Publication and its supporting Aeronautical Information Circulars, available here.
Flight planning requirements
While UK SERA stipulates when a flight plan is required (e.g. SERA.5005(c) for VFR flight at night leaving the vicinity of an aerodrome) it is important to note that it does not prescribe the means by which a flight plan is to be submitted. In this respect there is no change to the current guidance in The UK Flight Planning Guide (CAP 694) or the UK AIP (although that guidance will be reviewed). So, for example, abbreviated/air-filed flight plans will continue to apply in certain circumstances, a 'paper' flight plan is not always required, and UK SERA does not affect how a flight plan may be filed.
You can read more detail on how CAP 694's guidance continues to apply, together with indications as to where CAP 694 is likely to evolve to better reflect UK SERA content.
See and be seen, and avoid
See-and-avoid serves three functions in UK airspace:
- Self-separation of both IFR and VFR aircraft outside controlled airspace
- As a separation procedure for VFR aircraft flying in Class C and D airspace:
- Class C, where VFR is separated from IFR traffic, and provided with traffic information;
- Class D (for example, the UK’s CTRs and CTAs) where VFR traffic is not separated from other traffic but is passed traffic information on it; or
- Separation between IFR and VFR traffic in Class E airspace, where IFR traffic is only passed traffic information about VFR flights and where VFR may operate without being in receipt of an air traffic service and must self-separate from all other traffic.
- Last resort separation if other methods fail to prevent a confliction, regardless of the nature of the airspace.
It is important to distinguish between 'unalerted' and 'alerted' see-and-avoid. In alerted see-and avoid, the pilot of an aircraft in controlled airspace is assisted by means of traffic information to sight the traffic. Unalerted see-and-avoid, on the other hand, relies entirely on the ability of the pilot to sight other aircraft.
Effective see and avoid requires the application of:
- Effective visual scanning
- The ability to gather information from radio transmissions from ground stations and other aircraft
- Creating a mental picture of the traffic situation
- The development of 'good airmanship'
Links to further reading related to both see and avoid plus collision avoidance are included under Related Information at the foot of this page.
Class D, F and G VMC requirements
Through the Aviation Safety (Amendment) Regulations 2021, on 20 May 2021 the UK implemented an amendment to SERA.5001 Table S5-1 that modified the VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima in airspace Classes D, F and G. From 20 May 2021, pilots will be deemed to have complied with the requirements of SERA.5001 when operating at or below 3,000 ft AMSL, or 1,000 ft above terrain, whichever is the higher, if they are flying:
Within Class D airspace:
- During day only;
- Indicated airspeed of 140 kts or less;
- Remains clear of cloud with the surface in sight and;
- For aircraft other than helicopters, with a flight visibility of at least 5 km;
- For helicopters, with a flight visibility of at least 1,500 m.
Within Class F and G airspace:
- During day only;
- Indicated airspeed of 140 kts or less;
- For all aircraft, remains clear of cloud with the surface in sight and with a flight visibility of at least 1,500 m.
Impacts of the revised VMC minima
On behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), the CAA identified and evaluated the impacts of the revised VMC minima on the safe and efficient operation of UK class D airspace. Our analysis of these impacts was recorded in CAA Impact Analysis – Changes to VMC Minima in UK Class D Airspace (CAP2093).
This analysis, represents a marker in time, analysing and reporting on the impacts of the revised minima at the time of publication and was accepted by the DfT. In it, we concluded that, subject to the satisfactory resolution of our concerns regarding the operation of helicopters in the Manchester Low-Level Route, on balance, the impact of the change was neutral.
Manchester Low-Level Route (LLR)
Procedures applicable to the Manchester LLR are being reviewed in light of the amendment to SERA.5001 Table S5-1 and the modification to the VMC visibility and distance from cloud minima in class D airspace. Manchester’s entry in the Aeronautical Information Publication (EGCC AD2.22) may be subject to amendment and details will be available at www.ais.org.uk under ‘News’.
Further SERA Development
The CAA intends to take the opportunity to streamline the ruleset, consolidating the Rules of the Air Regulations 2015 and SERA into a single piece of legislation (the Rules of the Air (ROTA)), regularising a number of the long-standing exemptions against SERA into the law and introducing further enhancements to deliver the Airspace Modernisation Strategy and align, where appropriate, with ICAO SARPs and PANS (Rulemaking task 0131 refers).
More detail concerning the work that the CAA is undertaking in relation to EU withdrawal can be found here.
- CAA Safety Sense Leaflet 1 Good Airmanship Guide
- CAA Safety Sense Leaflet 13 Collision Avoidance
- EGAST Leaflet GA 1 Collision Avoidance
- EGAST Leaflet GA 3 Weather Anticipation
- EHEST Leaflet HE 13 Weather Threat For VMC Flight
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Limitations of the See-and-Avoid Principle