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Clearance Questions

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Ok, just a quick question regarding altitude clearances. If the controller says, "descend at pilot's discretion..expect to cross xxx at FL100," then they technically haven't given you a cleared to altitude right? This arose the other night when I was given an 'ok' to descend, an expect to cross at, but no altitude in which I am cleared down too? -Obviously this is not a real life occurence because ATC would clear you down to an altitude in which you would be handed off to the next center and then to approach. Since one person often runs all positions on Vatsim this applies more often.ThanksJeff

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As far as I understand that phrase does imply that you are cleared to descend FL100, and you can start the descent whenever you like as long as you cross xxx at FL100.Martin767 fetishistIt's a lot like life and that's what's appealing

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Jeff- this is a real life occurance - and at points you cross ARTCC boundries you would be handed off -to the appropriate personbut online we dont have those staffing levels to have 6 CTRs and 4 approach people usually ( except MAJOR events )Richard GreenVATUSA4Events and VA Director

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Thanks for the reply Richard. I realize that there are not enough people to staff all positions. My question is, does the phrase "expect to cross xxx" imply that we are cleared to that altitude unless otherwise instructed? ThanksJeff

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Actually EXPECT shouldn't be in there the CORRECT phrasing would be something like - "AAL215, Join the XXX ARRIVAL descend pilot's discretion to cross XXX as published ( or to cross xxx at xxx - if needed you at a different alititude for whatever reason )Richard GreenVATUSA4Events and VA Director

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Great! That clears up a lot... I thought that you were always told by ATC "cleared to" do whatever and that anything else (essentially)was just for planning purposes. Thanks for the reply!Jeff

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Join the XXX ARRIVALEven the above phrase is not necessary.You can receive a clearance to descend at pilot's discretion and cross ABC at so-and-so FL or altitude, even if not on a STAR. You can very well be still on an airway or under radar vectors.Example:"Cleared Direct ABC VOR, cross ABC at FL100, descend at pilot's discretion"Stamatis

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And, the "descend at pilot's discretion" is also unnecessary, redundant and good for getting your head smacked in an ATC facility, at least in the US. The phrase "CROSS AT " is, by definition, a pilot's discretion clearance.The place where one uses the words "pilot's discretion" is in a clearance to a specific altitude without a crossing restriction, e.g. "PILOT'S DISCRETION, DESCEND AND MAINTAIN 8000".Edited to regionalize the references, just to be safe.

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Ya know all these years - and I have been doing bad things...But to be honest several times I got pilots flying the wrong STARwhile redundant its not a terrible thing - The majority of it is poor piloting.... as you all know - some pilots would respond 5 miles from the fix there were supposed to be at 8k - and are still at FL350 - "ummm CTR when should I be going down??? "NEVER assume a pilot's skill - let him DEMONSTRATE it in a positive and proficent manner - and that manner will be a guide by which others will be measured... Richard GreenVATUSA4Events and VA Director

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The phrase "CROSS AT " is, by definition, a pilot's discretion clearance.Not where I come from, at least as far as my umderstanding goes. You are not supposed to leave your assigned altitude unless you are expressly cleared to do so.The phrase "CROSS AT " should be linked to a descent clearance, discretionary or immediate.Hey, if we were all the same life would be boring :-)Stamatis

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Stam - thats why he ( CZ ) said edited for/as a US correct version...Just like you won't catch a US controller saying IDENTIFIED.... well unless hes a LIMEY who snuck through INS Richard GreenVATUSA4Events and VA Director

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Too bad we all couldn't reach across the Ocean and give each other a great big hug and agree to standardize all of this stuff..LMAO..I used to say that "pilots discretion" stuff all the time as well. It's flat out wrong. For some reason this was just discussed on our ARTCC forum.For FAA buffs-------------FAA 7110.65Chap 4-5-7EXAMPLE-"United Four Seventeen, cross Lakeview V-O-R at and maintain six thousand." NOTE-The pilot is authorized to conduct descent "at pilot's discretion," but must comply with the clearance provision to cross Lakeview VOR at 6,000 feet. Another that is commonly misunderstood seems to be the issuing of multiple clearances such as.SoCal: ACA301 Cross Santa Monica at 7000.ACA301: Santa Monica at 7, ACA301.SoCal: Departing Santa Monica fly heading 065, descend and maintain 2 thousand 5 hundred, vectors for he ILS 24 right approach.Some pilots descend to 2500 and turn to 065 immediatelySome pilots descend to 2500 and turn to 065 after SMOMost pilots (the good ones) Cross Santa Monica at 7000 and THEN turn to 065 and head for 2500.I've also issued this one to some of the (special) pilots when I'm working center all alone (and I'm in a wierd mood) as something like this heh...ACA301: Center Air Canada 301 checking in 330 over AvenalCTR: ACA301 good evening Los Angeles Center, Cross Symon at 12,000, SADDE at or above 10,000, Bayst at 10,000, Santa Monica at 7000, departing Santa Monica fly heading 065 descned and maintain 2 thousand Five Hundred, vectors for the ILS runway 24 right approach, Los Angeles Altimeter 2982.At this point I dont have to talk to him again for 130nm when he's ready for a turn to final near SAPPI mu hahaha.(I need to get that Zyban dosage reduced)Ian ElchitzZLA ARTCC

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Why don't you just clear him for landing, crossing 24L, and taxiing to the gate while you're at it? :-)Lee Hetherington (KBOS)UAL337

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Ian,"I used to say that "pilots discretion" stuff all the time as well. It's flat out wrong.EXAMPLE-"United Four Seventeen, cross Lakeview V-O-R at and maintain six thousand." NOTE-The pilot is authorized to conduct descent "at pilot's discretion," but must comply with the clearance provision to cross Lakeview VOR at 6,000 feet."I still have a question. Reading the above clearance it is not clear to me whether the controller wants me to start the descent immediately upon receiving the clearance, or whether I (the pilot) may start the descent at my discretion, as long as I make sure I cross Lakeview at 6000.How do you make that differentiation between the two different scenarios, if you do not use the "at pilot's discretion" phrase?Stamatis

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Ian,I have flown in LAX CTR airspace for the last few weeks and love it when your controlling in the CTR position. I always count on you for a laugh when some pilot out there does something screwy.Known on VATSIM as DAL483 or JBU7

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Stamatis,It's my understanding that when you tell a pilot to cross X at Y, that's a clearance for him to descend at a rate that meets the constraints you set forth. I've never heard a controller on VATSIM or in real life give a crossing restriction but then control the descent himself, it's always up to the pilot to determine what he needs to do to make his aircraft meet the restriction.RyanZAB ARTCC

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Ryan,You misunderstood my question. I do not expect the controller to "control my descent", as you write.Please follow me carefully: There are two different cases in such a descent scenario.Case no 1: The controller simply wants you to cross ABC at Y feet and does not care as to when you start your descent. Up to you.Case no 2: The controller wants you to cross ABC at Y feet but also wants you to start your descent immediately upon receiving the clearance because he has other traffic behind you and higher up, that needs to start its descent (or for whatever other reason)How do I interpret the clearance as stated in the example quoted further up in this thread?How would that clearance be phrased in order to mean the other case?I hope I am clear enough now :-)Stamatis

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I'm rusty on this - to be technical I have never even learned it properly. :-) But in case no 2, shouldn't the controller just add "please expedite" to the instruction?Martin767 fetishistIt's a lot like life and that's what's appealing

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Hi Stamatis!I'll see if I can give you the answer you are looking for in terms of FAA procedures.>Case no 1: The controller simply wants you to cross ABC at Y >feet and does not care as to when you start your >descent. Up to you. Phraseology: "STAM1, Cross SYMON at and maintain 12,000"Intent: I could care less when you start down - as long as you cross SYMON at 12.>Case no 2: The controller wants you to cross ABC at Y feet >but also wants you to start your descent >immediately upon receiving the clearance because he >has other traffic behind you and higher up, that needs to >start its descent (or for whatever other reason) This one is a little trickier and I think it really depends on the situation. If you were way up at FL350 say and I needed you to start down NOW I might give you a HARD altitutde followed by pilot's discretion.Phraseology: "Stam1, Descend now to FL240, Cross SYMON at and maintain 12,000"Intent: You must descend to FL240 now - and upon reaching FL240 you can descend at pilot's discretion to cross SYMON at 12,000.Now if there was no intermediate altitude to give - and for some reason stepping you down was not going to work.. then perhaps just a simple - "Stam1, descend and maintain 12,000" would do the trick. I personally would not trust that way out as I can not guarantee that you will cross the SYMON waypoint at 12,000 NOR can I guarantee that you won't plummet out of the sky and be at 12,000 60nm before you get to SYMON.Does that answer the question?If not - let's go around again and see if we can get a better example.Ian ElchitzZLA ARTCC

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Hi Martin,"But in case no 2, shouldn't the controller just add "please expedite" to the instruction?""Expedite" is used when the controller wants you to fly with a higher descent rate than the one currently used, so I do not think it is the correct phraseology for what I'm asking.Thanks for replying,Stamatis

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Hi Ian,Thank you very much for your reply.After getting some additional input from other sources, it seems that what would distinguish the two cases as I have stated them, is the presence or absence of the command "descend" in the phraseology:"Phraseology: "STAM1, Cross SYMON at and maintain 12,000"Intent: I could care less when you start down - as long as you cross SYMON at 12."Fully agreed. As the clearance does not contain the instruction "descend", it is understood that the pilot can start his descent whenever he/she feels appropriate, as long as he crosses SYMON at 12000'."Phraseology: "Stam1, Descend now to FL240, Cross SYMON at and maintain 12,000"Intent: You must descend to FL240 now - and upon reaching FL240 you can descend at pilot's discretion to cross SYMON at 12,000."OK, this is how I was told this clearance should be phrased:"Stam1, Descend to 12,000', cross SYMON at and maintain 12,000"It is the inclusion of the command "Descend to 12,000" that makes the difference. How (with what rate) one descends to 12000' is up to the pilot, he/she will most probably use a rate that will have him/her at 12,000' a few miles before SYMON, but that is up to him. All he has to do is:a) start his descent immediately upon receiving this clearance:( Not descend any lower than 12,000'c) Make sure that when he crosses SYMON he/she is at 12,000'The above makes sense to me.Do you agree?RegardsStamatis

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"Stam1, Descend to 12,000', cross SYMON at and >maintain 12,000"[/b][/i] >>The above makes sense to me. >Do you agree? >>Regards >Stamatis Yes.I find that most often I am just giving the "Cross XXX at YYY" since it I try and get all of that out on initial contact (in fact I find quite often that by giving this info asap - I end up with 10 aircraft and absolute radio silence since we've got nothing to day - which allows me take on another 10 aircraft). Usually the only time I will ask a pilot to start their descent in this sort of situation is because they are getting too close to the crossing restruction or they are tightly spaced withsomeone else, which is easily solved by speed restrictions.Ian.

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I see. Am I correct in that "expedite" can be used not only for climb/descent rates, but for headings too? And maybe even speeds?Martin767 fetishistIt's a lot like life and that's what's appealing

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