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Clearances and Communications


From the AIM
"Air Traffic Clearance - An authorization by air traffic control for the purpose of preventing collision between known aircraft, for an aircraft to proceed under specified traffic conditions within controlled airspace. The pilot-in-command of an aircraft may not deviate from the provisions of a clearance except in an emergency or unless an amended clearance has been obtained."
When ATC issues an IFR clearance to pilots of airborne aircraft, pilots must respond by reading back those parts containing altitude assignments or vectors and any part requiring verification. This is mandatory.

An abbreviated IFR departure clearance will include at least the destination airport, altitude, along with DP Name, Number, and/or Transition, if appropriate. The abbreviated departure clearance "...CLEARED AS FILED..." will always contain the name of the destination airport filed in the flight plan.

When departing from an airport not served by a control tower, the issuance of a clearance containing a void time indicates that the pilot must advise ATC as soon as possible, but no later than 30 minutes, of his intentions if not off by the void time.

Following a takeoff on an IFR flight plan, you should contact departure control when instructed by the tower controller to do so.

Unless requested by ATC, a Mode C transponder should be operating at all times during an IFR flight. The recommended climb procedure when a non-radar departure control instructs a pilot to climb to the assigned altitude is this: Maintain an optimum climb on the centerline of the airway without intermediate level-offs until 1,000 feet below assigned altitude, then 500 to 1,500 feet per minute.

During the en route phase of an IFR flight, if the pilot is advised "Radar service terminated” by ATC, the pilot should resume normal position reporting.

If, after being vectored to an airway, ATC advises “Resume own navigation”, the pilot should maintain the airway using his own navigation equipment. This indicates that ATC has stopped vectoring.

“Minimum fuel” is a pilot advisory to ATC indicating that an emergency situation is possible should an undue delay occur.

In the event of two-way radio communications failure while operating on an IFR clearance in VFR conditions, the pilot should continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable.

When not in radar contact (and without a specific request), the pilot should report to ATC when leaving the final approach fix inbound on final approach.

From the Instrument Flying Handbook

In case of a two-way radio communications failure, if operating in VFR conditions at the time of the failure, the pilot should continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable. If the failure occurs in IFR conditions, or if VFR conditions cannot be maintained, the pilot must continue the flight:

1. Along the route assigned in the last ATC clearance received;
2. If being radar vectored, by the direct route from the point of radio failure to the fix, route, or airway specified in the vector clearance;
3. In the absence of an assigned route, by the route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance; or
4. In the absence of an assigned route or a route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance, by the route filed in the flight plan.

The pilot should maintain the highest of the following altitudes or flight levels for the route segment being flown:

1. The altitude or flight level assigned in the last ATC clearance received;
2. The minimum altitude (converted, if appropriate, to minimum flight level as prescribed in 14 CFR, part 91 for IFR operations); or
3. The altitude or flight level ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance.