Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Clearance Questions

Clearance Shorthand
| Questions | Clearance Form

QUESTION:  What if I don’t like a clearance? Tim J.
ANSWER:   FAR 91.123 says…
1.       Follow the clearance, or
2.       Seek an amendment to the clearance, or
3.       Declare an emergency.  If given ATC priority you may be requested to submit a report within 48 hours of the event.

QUESTION:  What if I don’t understand a clearance? 
ANSWER:  FAR 91.123 says…
“No person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction….” So it is incumbent upon the pilot to seek clarification to the clearance.  Once you accept a clearance you are on the hook for following it to the letter. 

QUESTION:  How should I respond to a clearance? 
ANSWER:   You should provide a full readback of all ATC clearances and instructions.  For clearances (CRAFT format), you’ll readback the full clearance in the CRAFT format.  For ATC instruction, you’ll readback in the following format:
o        Headings
o        Altitudes
o        Clearance:   “cleared for….”    The approach.   Takeoff.    Etc.
o        Other relevant numbers, altimeter settings, etc

QUESTION:  My instructor told me I can't use "roger" when the controller told me "cleared for takeoff."  Why isn’t “roger” an acceptable response to an ATC clearance or instruction?   Jeff P. Santa Monica, CA
ANSWER:  Because FAR 91.123 states, “No person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction….”  It means you are fully responsible to follow the clearance even if you did not hear it properly or did not understand it.  Only with a full readback, you and the controller come to a complete understanding of what is to be done.  And if not… you’ll have an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding before it becomes a certificate action.

QUESTION:  Who is responsible for obstacle clearance for any ATC Clearance or Instruction?   My instructor told me I am but I read that its ATC's responsibility since they gave the instruction.  Doug A.
ANSWER:  Unless you are on radar vectors, the PIC is responsible for all obstacle clearance by following MEAs, OROCAs, crossing restrictions, Departure Procedures (DP), Arrivals (STARs), or Instrument Approach Procedures (IAP).  In all cases, it’s in your best interest to know safe altitudes while receiving radar vectors.

QUESTION:  What if I am cleared direct to a navaid that is inoperative?  How can I get there if it doesn't work.  Dave N 
ANSWER:  The first problem is your failure to know all available information about your flight as required by 91.3.  The PIC should have known the navaid outages along the route of his flight and to his alternate by checking the NOTAMs.  When the controller issues a clearance to a navaid that you know is not working, then obviously you can’t accept the clearance. 

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