Routes without SID's: Procedures

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I have a question regarding flying in the USA. I take my routes from Flightaware. Sometimes, there is no SID to the first waypoint. I assume you would fly runway heading and get a direct by ATC, in real life. However, I am wondering how you find out about initial climb, frequencies etc. Ok, in real world, you probably would receive this information with your initial IFR clearance. Do you rely only to that? So you only need your taxi charts for departure? What when you want to have any information about terrain or obstacles. You could consider looking at other charts, but what would real world pilots do at such a situation in the USA?

I am flying in the EU, we often have SID.

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You will receive an IFR clearance from clearance delivery that will include your initial instructions upon departure including departure frequency, headings, altitudes, fixes, a SID or DP if applicable and time to expect further instructions from ATC along with the next altitude to climb to.

The instrument procedures for many airports will include details such as climb gradients and notable obstacles in the DPs.

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You will always get some sort of departure at a large airport. For example, in Denver, you will get the DEN9, which is a radar vectors departure. So, they'll tell you something like "Cleared to X via the DEN9 departure, radar vectors GLL, then as filed. Climb and maintain 10,000, expect FL250 after 10 minutes". One getting clearance for takeoff, the controller will give you an assigned heading to fly. The radar vectors departures will never show on Flightaware. They'll only show the first fix you're going to fly to


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In the U.S., there are a number of options for departing an airport IFR.  Many airports have SIDs, these include large air carrier airports and general aviation airports. If there is a SID published, you're expected to use the SID as it is a system enhancement tool to streamline air traffic control clearances and routings.

At airports without a SID, it depends on the air traffic control services available.  If the airport has an operating control tower, the tower gets your ATC clearance from the air route traffic control center (ARTCC) and relays it to you.  The instruction may include a heading to fly on departure when ATC can expect to pick the aircraft up on radar shortly after takeoff.  That heading will ensure obstacle clearance based the standard 200 feet per NM climb gradient.  

If the tower does not provide the departing IFR aircraft with a heading, or the airport is uncontrolled, the FAA may have an Obstacle Departure Procedure (ODP) published for the takeoff runway.  The pilot may fly this procedure without specific ATC clearance to avoid obstacles on takeoff.  in many cases, the ODP merely specifies an altitude to climb to before beginning turning to certain direction (e.g., climb heading 360 to 1800' MSL before turning east).  In other cases, the ODP may contain detailed departure route instructions to include a climb-in-hold to reach the enroute environment.  A climb gradient may be published with the ODP or higher than standard takeoff minimums may be published allowing the pilot to "see and avoid" a close by obstacle.  if the obstacle is more than 3 miles from the airport, a Visual Climb Over Airport (VOCA) procedure is published allowing a climb out over the airport until reaching an altitude where you can depart in any direction. 

If there is no ODP published for the takeoff runway and ATC has not assigned any instructions for your takeoff, you may begin your turn towards your first enroute fix once you've climbed above 400' above the runway elevation. You need to ensure that you are above with minimum IFR altitude (i.e., on an airway above the MEA or MOCA) for enroute operations no more 25 miles from the airport in nonmountainous areas or 48 miles in mountainous areas. 

If you're taking off from an uncontrolled field, you can obtain your IFR clearance a number of ways.  There may be a remote communications outlet (RCO) on the airport that allows you to speak directly to ATC for your clearance or to the Flight Service Station (FSS) responsible for that airport. The FSS can obtain the clearance from ATC.  If there is no RCO, FAA publishes a phone number that will connect you with the serving FSS where you can obtain your clearance.  Some airports also have a clearance delivery phone number directly to the serving ATC facility where you can get your clearance. 

At uncontrolled airports, the IFR clearance usually comes with a release time (i.e., takeoff time) and a void time (i.e., latest time you can be airborne).  These times ensure clearance from other air traffic until ATC picks you up on radar.  There is a also a notification time where you must call FSS or ATC and let them know that you did not takeoff, otherwise they will begin SAR procedures assuming that you are down. 

I believe that I have covered all the options.  More information can be found in the FAA's Aeronautical Information Manual.  A Google will link you to the latest version.

Hope this helps,

Rich Boll







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