Thursday, May 06, 2010

Clearance, Clarance

a great blog I like to read, Ask My Sky Mom,  posted this entry today and I thought I would share it with you. Thanks Sky Mom!

Cleared For The WHAT?!? Clarifying Clearances When Leaving the Bliss of the Uncontrolled Field For Those 3 Takeoffs and Landings

Hiya SkyMom,
I am a student pilot who has been learning to fly at a really beautiful little airport in Nebraska for the last couple of years. I’m not in a big hurry to get my private license. I really enjoy the process more than I like flying alone. Be that as it may, I should mention that my beautiful little airport does not have a control tower, which is one of the many things I like about it. I’ll admit that the idea of air traffic controllers telling me where to go when and a lot of traffic is stressful for me and that just isn’t why I fly. I enjoy it because it is relaxing and when I am a private pilot, I don’t ever intend to fly to an airport where I’ll have to deal with a tower. I just don’t need the stress. My question is about a clearance I heard on, which I’ve been listening to while I get ready for my first flight into a class D airport. What is “cleared for the option” about? I could just ask my flight instructor, but I thought it might be fun to see if you’ll answer my question in your blog because I really enjoy reading it.
Thanks you for writing the blog even if you don’t answer my question there,
Wait Now, I’m Cleared for the WHAT?!?
Hold short, My Clearance Averse Friend, and lets talk about this-
Before you touch your wheels to terra firma at your destination airport, you’ll need to have obtained a clearance of some description. “Cleared to land” is exactly what it sounds like, though it never precludes a go around if that strikes you as more appropriate. Just make sure you clue the controllers in just as soon as you’ve got the airplane under control. Aviate, navigate, communicate saves the day again. “Cleared for touch ‘n go” is also pretty straightforward-and again, if you need to make it a full stop landing or a go around, let your pals upstairs know as soon as you safely can. Unless it’s a real safety issue though, please do your best to follow the instruction they issued, k? “Cleared for the option” means the people in the tower are fine with a go around, touch n’ go, stop n’ go, full stop landing, or anything else you want to attempt, without your needing to fill them in on the specifics ahead of time. Often, they’ll offer you the option if there’s so little traffic you couldn’t possibly interfere with anybody else’s pattern.
While we’re talking clearances, let’s remind you of the difference between “position and hold,” and “hold short”. Position and hold means to taxi out onto the runway and stay there, ready to go. It is not a takeoff clearance. Not at all. “Hold short” tells you to stay parked on the solid side of those ever important 2 solid and 2 dashed lines delineating the end of the taxiway and beginning of the runway. “Dash across the dashed side, and when you’re on the solid side, you’re solid,” is one way to keep track of it. Never go crossing hold short lines without absolute certainty that this is what those vigilant air traffic controllers had in mind. If required to “hold short of the ILS critical area,” look for a sign and a line that look like this: (and make sure to stop short of ‘em).
A clearance to taxi to a runway is, of course, a clearance to cross any other runway but NOT to taxi across or onto the runway you were cleared to. Got that? And don’t forget that every landing strip has two names, depending on which way you happen to be headed…being told to taxi to 36 will not allow you to cross 18. Confused yet? Anytime you are, “progressive taxi” is the name of the game. If you ever find yourself unsure of where you are or where you might be going, hit the brakes and ask for progressive taxi. The controllers will get very specific with you about where to go, when to turn, and where to stop. “Student pilot progressive taxi” will normally get you truly stellar service, indeed. I know at least one pilot who holds a commercial pilot certificate but plays the student card whenever he wants the controllers to make his life just a little easier…
Don’t like the clearance you were offered? Then don’t accept it! Negotiate. If they clear you to land, you’re welcome to request the option (or any other variation that pleases you) instead. Don’t ever accept a clearance if you don’t know for sure that you can comply with it. This goes for land and hold short clearances, as well. As a student pilot, LAHSO operations are off the table for you. Tell ‘em, “unable, student pilot,” if you find yourself cleared to land and hold short of anything, anywhere. As a private pilot, unless you’re absotively posolutely sure you know which line to stop short of and there’s no doubt in your mind that under today’s conditions, you can make that happen, YOU MAY NOT accept that clearance. Just because the controller wants to give you that clearance does not mean you have to accept it.
One more word of advice: while those uncontrolled fields sure can be blissfully quiet, that’s not always a good thing. The extra safety gained from that extra set of eyes and ears on the ground can be worth an awful lot, particularly when radar is involved. While some pilots whose formative flight experience was gained at a field where verbage is optional honestly prefer it, sometimes it’s just a matter of fear of the unknown. If there’s a kernel of truth in that for you, you may find it helpful to take a few lessons at a controlled field just for the sake of getting really comfortable with the procedures. The 3 required takeoffs and landings at a field with an operating control tower that are required for private pilot certification are not nearly enough to make a pilot confident and competent under those circumstances. Don’t be shy about filling in that gap to give yourself as many tools as possible. Just because the feds don’t require it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t require it for yourself.
Cleared for the option, and don’t forget to read that back,