PIREP: IFR Clearances at Uncontrolled Airports

There is great news coming for all IFR pilots who utilize the multitude of uncontrolled airports across the US. From the beginning of aviation time, the process of getting an IFR clearance at an uncontrolled airport has been arduous. For airports under Center controlled airspace, you had to dial the Clearance Delivery line, which ported […]

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There is great news coming for all IFR pilots who utilize the multitude of uncontrolled airports across the US.

From the beginning of aviation time, the process of getting an IFR clearance at an uncontrolled airport has been arduous. For airports under Center controlled airspace, you had to dial the Clearance Delivery line, which ported you to Flight Service. Then you sat on hold till someone picked up, gave them your information, then sat on hold again while they called the Center. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the briefer came back with your clearance and departure instructions.

On a busy day, this could take ten to fifteen minutes, which can be really annoying when a pilot is trying to take off and get somewhere.

In my opinion, this also led to a lot of unsafe (and probably illegal) VFR departures when conditions were either clearly IFR or unsafe if buzzing around at low altitudes and high speeds in Class G airspace.

RCO’s (Remote Communications Outlet, 2nd column, halfway down) and Clearance Delivery Frequencies are in place at some airports, but by and large, the above process was how you got your clearance.

Departing from a TRACON controlled airport usually was easier and quicker. The TRACON has a direct line that is available for pilots to call to speak directly with a controller, but not all these phone numbers are published.

As of June 20th, the FAA is implementing this at all uncontrolled airports. On the chart supplement for all IFR charts across the US (not including Alaska), the FAA will publish the Center phone numbers and remaining TRACON phone numbers for pilots to call directly to receive their IFR clearances and departure instructions, and to cancel their IFR flight plans (A lot of TRACONs already have their phone number published).

Flight Service will no longer be taking IFR flight plan cancellations. Pilots will still be able to cancel with Center or TRACON in the air, but will now need to call the number on the chart supplement on the ground for cancellation.

Now that the FAA is modernizing this process, hopefully more pilots will decide to call on the ground for their clearance on a MVFR or IFR day instead of taking off and trying to pick it up in the air.

Finding the Chart Supplement on Foreflight

Where is the Chart Supplement? I’m so glad you asked.

Before iPads, everyone carried around the green book, officially known as the Airport/Facilities Directory, or A/FD. With the advent of Foreflight & Garmin Pilot & others, all the information in the A/FD is now easily accessible in each of the Apps.

Foreflight may integrate the clearance delivery phone number for each airport into their airport information page, but in the meantime, here is how to find the Chart Supplement.

On Foreflight, go to Documents along the bottom of the App. In the Catalog on the left, tap FAA. Chart Supplement will be about 1/3 of the way down the page. Tap that, then tap the region you need and it will download into your Documents Library.

Once it is downloaded, check the Table of Contents for FAA Telephone Numbers and NWS. Go to that page and scroll through to find the Center or TRACON you are needing, then dial the number.

Happy Flying!

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