121.657 Flight altitude rules.§ 121.657 Flight altitude rules.
(a) General. Notwithstanding § 91.119 or any rule applicable outside the United States, no person may operate an aircraft below the minimums set forth in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, except when necessary for takeoff or landing, or except when, after considering the character of the terrain, the quality and quantity of meteorological services, the navigational facilities available, and other flight conditions, the Administrator prescribes other minimums for any route or part of a route where he finds that the safe conduct of the flight requires other altitudes. Outside of the United States the minimums prescribed in this section are controlling unless higher minimums are prescribed in the certificate holder's operations specifications or by the foreign country over which the aircraft is operating.
(b) Day VFR operations. No certificate holder conducting domestic operations may operate a passenger-carrying aircraft and no certificate holder conducting flag or supplemental operations may operate any aircraft under VFR during the day at an altitude less than 1,000 feet above the surface or less than 1,000 feet from any mountain, hill, or other obstruction to flight.
(c) Night VFR, IFR, and over-the-top operations. No person may operate an aircraft under IFR including over-the-top or at night under VFR at an altitude less than 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of five miles from the center of the intended course, or, in designated mountainous areas, less than 2,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of five miles from the center of the intended course.
(d) Day over-the-top operations below minimum en route altitudes. A person may conduct day over-the-top operations in an airplane at flight altitudes lower than the minimum en route IFR altitudes if -
(1) The operation is conducted at least 1,000 feet above the top of lower broken or overcast cloud cover;
(2) The top of the lower cloud cover is generally uniform and level;
(3) Flight visibility is at least five miles; and
(4) The base of any higher broken or overcast cloud cover is generally uniform and level and is at least 1,000 feet above the minimum en route IFR altitude for that route segment.[Doc. No. 6258, 29 FR 19222, Dec. 31, 1964, as amended by Amdt. 121-144, 43 FR 22649, May 25, 1978; Amdt. 121-206, 54 FR 34331, Aug. 18, 1989; Amdt. 121-253, 61 FR 2615, Jan. 26, 1996]