CFI Instrument Practical Test Standards, FAA-S-8081-9B, June 2001

V. Air Traffic Control Clearances and Procedures

A. Air Traffic Control Clearances

To determine that the applicant exhibits instructional knowledge of air traffic control clearances by describing
  1. Pilot and controller responsibilities to include tower en route control, and clearance void times
      a. ATC clearance
        1) Authorization by ATC, for the purpose of preventing collision between known aircraft, for the aircraft to proceed under specified conditions within controlled airspace
        2) Not an authorization for a pilot to deviate from any rule, regulation or minimum altitude nor to conduct any unsafe operation of the aircraft
      b. Pilot responsibilities
        1) PIC is directly responsible for and the final authority as to the operation of the aircraft (14 CFR Sec. 91.3)
        2) In emergencies, PIC may deviate from 14 CFR to the extent necessary to maintain safety and then, if requested, send a written report to the Administrator
        3) Pilot is always responsible to see and avoid traffic when operating in VMC
        4) To operate under IFR in controlled airspace (Sec. 91.173)
          1) File an IFR flight plan
          2) Obtain an ATC clearance
      c. Controller responsibilities
        1) Issuing appropriate clearances
        2) In IFR clearances, assigning altitudes above the minimum IFR altitudes in controlled airspace
        3) Ensuring pilot aknowledgement of clearances
        4) Help ensure that readbacks are correct, or make appropriate corrections as needed
      d. Tower en route control (TEC)
        1) ATC program to provide an overflow resource in the low altitude system for aircraft proceeding from one metropolitan area to another
        2) TEC flights are entirely within the approach control airspace of multiple terminal areas
        3) Some TEC routes are published in the AFD
        4) Generally for nonturbojet aircraft operating below 10,000 feet on short flights with ETE < 2 hours
        5) Enter "TEC" in flight plan remarks section
      e. Clearance void time
        1) Provision in a clearance for that clearance to be void (automatically cancelled) if aircraft not airborne by a specified time, the clearance void time
        2) May be received when operating from an airport without a control tower
        3) If not airborne prior to the clearance void time, advise ATC as soon as possible
          a) ATC normally advises pilot of time allotted to notify ATC in this event (cannot exceed 30 minutes)
          b) If ATC in not notified within 30 mintues after aircraft misses clearance void time, then aircraft is considered overdue and search and rescue procedures are begun
        4) Other IFR operations are suspended until aircraft contacts ATC or until 30 minutes after clearance void time
  2. Correct and timely copying of an ATC clearance
      a. Be ready to copy, pencil and paper in hand, when requesting clearance
      b. Copy clearance as it is being read by controller
      c. Use clearance shorthand
      d. Elements of an IFR clearance (ATC clearance to operate under IFR) to expect to hear and copy
        1) Aircaft ID
        2) Clearance limit
          a) Usually the destination airport
          b) Occasionally ATC issues short-range clearance to fix within or just outside the terminal area and provides frequency on which the long-range clearance will be received
        3) Departure procedure
        4) Route of flight
          a) Normally "as filed," but may be changed by ATC to comply with established flow patterns or preferred routes
          b) Pilot responsibility to notify ATC if unable to comply with clearance (e.g., radio equipment unable to receive necessary signals)
        5) Altitude data
          a) Normally an altitude to maintain
          b) Cruise instead of maintain assigns a block of airspace from minimum IFR altitude to the specified cruise altitude
            i) Within this block climb, descent and level-off are at pilot's discretion
            ii) Once pilot begins descent and verbally reports leaving an altitude, s/he may not climb back to that altitude without further clearance
        6) Holding instructions
          a) ATC controller responsibility if clearance is not to destination airport and delay expected
          b) If no instruction and holding pattern charted, then hold as charted
          c) If unclear, ask ATC for holding instructions prior to reaching fix
          d) If unable to ask ATC, then fly standard holding pattern on course on which fix approached
          e) Report time/altitude reaching clearance limit and report leaving clearance limit
        7) Additional information if necessary to facilitate understanding IFR clearance
        8) Departure frequency
        9) Transponder code
  3. Correct and timely read-back of an ATC clearance, using standard terminology
      a. Promptly read back the clearance you just copied
      b. Inform ATC of any items you missed
      c. Correct any errors and readback those items again for confirmation
      d. Note "readback correct" from controller confirming correctness
      e. Reading back of initial clearance does not imply acceptance
      f. Study pilot/controller glossary for standard terminology
  4. Correct interpretation of an ATC clearance and, when necessary, request for clarification, verification or change
      a. Study each clearance element
        1) If in doubt, request clarification
        2) If unable, request amendment
      b. It is the pilot's responsibility to request an amended clearance if the pilot decides that the clearance ATC issued would cause deviation from a rule or regulation or place the aircraft in jeopardy
  5. Setting of communication and navigation frequencies in compliance with an ATC clearance
      a. Good cockpit resource management includes proper set-up of all communication and navigation equipment prior to takeoff
      b. Recommend left-to-right top-to-bottom approach for complete set up
        1) Set HI bug on initial assigned departure heading
        2) Set top, primary, COMM radio to tower or UNICOM frequency and set departure frequency in standby position
        3) Enter and check assigned route, all waypoints, including DP, in GPS and activate flight plan (e.g., GNS530)
        4) Using primary navigation system (e.g., GPS): enter, check frequency and ID (if in range) of first enroute station, and set OBS to initial assigned course
        5) Set secondary COMM radio to departure frequency
        6) Set secondary NAV radio to the frequency of the approach facility (e.g., ILS) that would be used in case of emergent return to departure airport in IMC
        7) Check transponder set to assigned code and on standby mode until ready for takeoff, then switch to ALT mode
        8) Recommend: turn rotatable ADF card to set initial assigned altitude at top as reminder

14 CFR Part 91
Instrument Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-15, 1999
Instrument Rating PTS, FAA-S-8081-4D, April 2004

Greg Gordon MD, CFII