Aviation In Canada

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Filing of SIDs in Flight Plans

I know I've already written this in a response to someone, but I feel this is pretty important. Here's why:

SIDs are an ATC procedure used to reduce coordination between ATC units. The concept is that an IFR aircraft has to have an IFR clearance before departure. In the normal process of things, the IFR unit (ACC or TCU) is the one responsible for issuing IFR clearances. But, when a TWR is in operation, a pilot is meant to call Clearance Delivery, or Ground in their absence, for IFR clearance. Since the TWR is not considered an IFR unit, he has to call the IFR unit for each aircraft when they call for clearance. This way, the IFR unit can issue what's appropriate at the time for that aircraft.

This all sounds cumbersome, and indeed is. The solution? Create a standardized departure, so everyone gets the same thing, and both the TWR and the IFR unit know exactly what the aircraft will do. This eliminates the need for coordination between the TWR and the IFR unit on each individual aircraft. Many pilots have commented that they like SID usage since it simplifies the departure briefing -- it's always the same at an airport with only one SID.

SIDs are published for many airports, but this doesn't mean they'll be used every time. An experiment was tried in the Moncton FIR a few years ago attempting to use SIDs with airports served by FSS rather than TWRs. There were innumerable "SID busts", and nobody seems to know why. Every pilot queried about the meaning of the clearance out of the cockpit of the aircraft interprets it correctly -- same as they would at Moncton or Halifax. So why, then, would they bust a SID at Saint John or Fredericton, and the number of SID busts at Moncton and Halifax is almost non-existent? The current belief is related to the fact that these smaller airports are uncontrolled (meaning strictly there is no TWR in operation). There is still a control zone, which extends controlled airspace to the ground. Even funnier about this, if a pilot were given a clearance which included, "maintain 5,000, expect FL200 ten minutes after departure, depart runway 33, climb runway heading for radar vectors," essentially a SID but not stating the SID by name, a pilot has never, in my experience, busted it. I used to use this routinely instead of a SID to accomplish the same thing, and never had an aircraft go astray.

Our systems will normally strip out SIDs in the flight plan route of an IFR aircraft. As such, we will not necessarily know that you or your dispatcher had filed a SID. So if you were to receive a clearance with the phrase "flight plan route", are you supposed to fly the SID? Hard to argue and lose, isn't it? Now if you file this:

CYYG CYYG2 J509 MAIRE MAIRE3 CYUL (SID and STAR numbers not necessarily current)

...and you were cleared, "to the Montreal Trudeau airport via direct Moncton, flight planned route, maintain FL200," would you fly the SID? Effectively, the SID was cut out of your flight plan route by saying "direct Moncton," which is the first point on J509 west of YYG. I've seen it happen on more than one occasion where a pilot in receipt of such a clearance has flown the SID, stating that it was filed as part of their flight plan route. I've also seen more than one pilot fly a SID despite the fact that it wasn't assigned and not filed as part of their route. Some pilots, a very small minority mind you, seem to want to fly them simply because they're published.

So no, SIDs should not be flown unless assigned specifically in the IFR clearance. And SIDs shouldn't be filed as part of the flight plan route.