Watch Out for That First Step

Your IFR clearance may not include a Departure Procedure...

You’re taxiing out for takeoff at an enroute airport, and the controller tells you you’re cleared “as filed.” Hot dog. For once, no worries about reprogramming the GPS before launching into the murk. So you continue on happily with your run-up and other pre-departure chores. But is that enough? Maybe; maybe not.

According to FAA Notice No. NOTC2781, “Some confusion exists as to what a pilot is supposed to do when a “Cleared as Filed” clearance is issued by ATC from an airport, but no Departure Procedure (DP) is assigned in the clearance. ATC at some airports may not issue a Departure Procedure as part of the clearance.” So it’s up to us, as pilots, to determine a safe route to join the “enroute structure” in a safe and prudent manner.

Thanks a lot.

Well, left to our own devices, the first choice for an instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) takeoff would be – fly a published Departure Procedure. You’ll find them in the front of the U.S. Terminal Procedures Publication under “Takeoff Minimums and Obstacle Departure Procedures.” Look for the letter ‘T’ inside a triangle on the regular approach plate to indicate there is a DP for that airport. And if there are more than one – select the one that best expedites your travel plans for this particular trip. If it’s in the book, you can count on the procedure keeping you out of the weeds. Also according to the FAA notice, without any guidance from ATC, the pilot could also elect to “climb on course” if he or she is confident such a strategy is safe for terrain clearance.

Under visual flight rules (VFR) in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), the pilot could request a “VFR climb” for the first portion of the flight. But be aware that such a clearance applies only to the vertical path of flight – and does not permit the pilot to fly a shortcut to cleared route.

The FAA Notice also advises that following a published Departure Procedure is also appropriate and advisable when departing VFR to pick up an IFR clearance en route – especially on a night departure when unlighted terrain surrounding the airport might not be clearly visible.

File Attachment: