Aviation In Canada

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Clearance Phraseology

For some time now, ATC in Canada have had direction on the books when issuing IFR clearances through FSS or TWR to include the departure aerodrome in the route portion of the clearance. I've always found the wording potentially confusing for a pilot. Here's a case in point.

The filed flight plan route is CYFC > HUL J509 MAIRE MAIRE9 CYUL. The IFR clearance is supposed to be worded like this;

"ATC clears ACA123 to the Montreal airport via Fredericton direct Houlton, flight plan route, maintain..."

It's this wording that, understandably in my view, can lead to some unexpected manoeuvers. For example, the pilot may take the interpretation, "I have to depart, fly direct to the YFC VOR, the turn directly to the HUL VOR, and go on course from there." On a recent issuing of this clearance, the pilot did something a little different. He took off, headed for HUL VOR as the controller intended, and then asked the question of what we wanted him to do.

Now there were two things wrong. First, a potentially confusing clearance, and second, a pilot who asked for clarification after accepting the clearance and departing. Why, if the pilot was confused about his clearance, did he not ask for clarification while still on the ground? At least the other pilots who have taken an interpretation in the past had been sure of their interpretation when doing what they were doing.

I've written yet another letter up the line, citing this example, about this issue. Not to get the pilot in trouble, but to try to get our direction changed. The change entered our books a few years back when a one-in-a-million situation occurred and management did the old "knee-jerk" reaction to try to "fix" the problem. Instead, they created a new problem that's more likely to occur (both points of view on this subject are time-proven when I say more likely to occur). With any luck, that will be removed, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Even if they do see my point, it may take a while.