Aviation In Canada

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"Descent at your discretion" Revisited

I wrote some time ago about this subject, and was challenged by a reader. So I loaded up the guns with section RAC 8.5.1 out of the AIP Canada, the book which details rules for operating within Canadian airspace. As was was loading the first shell, I read the paragraph looking for quotes. There it was. The one that proved me wrong.

I had said that a pilot in receipt of such a clearance must, upon leaving the previously assigned altitude, make a descent at a rate commensurate with the type of aircraft, excluding the interpretation of clearances for climbs and descents "at pilot's discretion" as authority for a "cruise climb" or "cruise descent." Turns out, I'm flatly wrong.

In days gone by, the Canadian rules regarding the phrase didn't even include authority for a pilot to level off at an intermediate altitude without telling ATC. This change was made a few years back, though I'm not sure when, to include that authority. To my knowledge, the wording hasn't in the paragraph changed since then, so the sentence, "Vertical navigation is at the pilot's discretion," must have been there from the start. This is quite easily interpretted as authority for a cruise descent/climb, so I must stand down from my assertion in the previous post. My beliefs were based on other words in the paragraph, completely missing this statement. I guess it's a good thing I hadn't berated a pilot for doing a cruise descent with a discretionary clearance.

The slap with the wet noodle is deserved. Thank you, sir, may I have another?