Departure Procedures


All diagrams were taken from FAA publications for the purpose of learning
Specific procedures found in diagrams may have since changed and therefore you should NEVER use any graphics on this website for navigation
Instead, ensure you have the most up-to-date FAA publications when looking up or following any procedure

Departure Procedure Development:

  • Development:

    • When an instrument approach is initially developed for an airport, the need for DPs is assessed
      • If an aircraft may turn in any direction from a runway within the limits of the assessment area (see paragraph 5-2-8b3) and remain clear of obstacles, that runway passes what is called a diverse departure assessment and no ODP will be published
      • A SID may be published if needed for air traffic control purposes
      • However, if an obstacle penetrates what is called the 40:1 obstacle identification surface, then the procedure designer chooses whether to:
        • Establish a steeper than normal climb gradient;
        • Establish a steeper than normal climb gradient with an alternative that increases takeoff minima to allow the pilot to visually remain clear of the obstacle(s);
        • Design and publish a specific departure route; or
        • A combination or all of the above
  • Criteria:

    • Unless specified otherwise, required obstacle clearance for all departures, including diverse, is based on:
      • The pilot crossing the departure end of the runway at least 35 feet above the departure end of runway elevation
      • The pilot climbing to 400 feet above the departure end of runway elevation before making the initial turn, and
      • The pilot maintaining a minimum climb gradient of 200 feet per nautical mile (FPNM), unless required to level off by a crossing restriction, until the minimum IFR altitude
      • The assumption of normal aircraft performance, and that all engines are operating
    • Ensure to read and comply with all notes/ATC instructions regarding the departure procedure as not every location is alike
  • Mitigation:

    • Diverse Departure Obstacle Assessment
      Diverse Departure Obstacle Assessment
    • An initial turn may be specified in the DP (or by ATC) to clear obstacles:
      • If an initial turn higher than 400 feet above the departure end of runway elevation is specified in the DP, the turn should be commenced at the higher altitude
      • Example DP:
      • ATC Clearance: "Climb to 1200 before commencing a turn on course"
    • A greater climb gradient may be specified in the DP (or by ATC) to clear obstacles:
      • Example DP:
      • ATC Clearance: "Minimum climb 340 FPNM to ALPHA"
    • A fix may have minimum and/or maximum crossing altitudes that must be adhered to prior to passing the fix:
      • If a turn is specified at a fix, the turn must be made at that fix
      • Example DP:
      • ATC Clearance: "Cross ALPHA intersection at or above 4000; maintain 6000"
    • An obstacle on extended runway centerline may require an early turn:
      • The published departure instructions will include the language "turn left(right) as soon as practicable" though, "practical" or "feasible" may exist in some existing departure text
      • Example DP:
      • ATC Clearance: "turn left as soon as practicable"
    • Note that compliance with climb gradients is mandatory when the procedure is part of the ATC clearance
    • Departures may have visibility minimums of at least 300 and 1
    • The 40:1 obstacle identification surface (OIS) begins at the departure end of runway (DER) and slopes upward at 152 FPNM until reaching the minimum IFR altitude or entering the en route structure. This assessment area is normally limited to:
      • 25 NM from the airport in non-mountainous areas and 46 NM in designated mountainous areas
      • Beyond this distance, the pilot is responsible for obstacle clearance if not operating on a published route, if below (having not reached) the MEA or MOCA of a published route, or an ATC assigned altitude
      • ODPs are normally designed to terminate within these distance limitations, however, some ODPs will contain routes that may exceed 25/46 NM; these routes will ensure obstacle protection until reaching the end of the ODP
    • Obstacles that are located within 1 NM of the DER and penetrate the 40:1 OCS are referred to as "low, close-in obstacles"
    • The standard required obstacle clearance (ROC) of 48 feet per NM to clear these obstacles would require a climb gradient greater than 200 feet per NM for a very short distance, only until the aircraft was 200 feet above the DER
    • To eliminate publishing an excessive climb gradient, the obstacle AGL/MSL height and location relative to the DER is noted in the "Take-off Minimums and (OBSTACLE) Departure Procedures" section of a given Terminal Procedures Publication (TPP) booklet
      • The purpose of this note is to identify the obstacle(s) and alert the pilot to the height and location of the obstacle(s) so they can be avoided
    • Climb gradients greater than 200 FPNM are specified when required to support procedure design constraints, obstacle clearance, and/or airspace restrictions
      • Compliance with a climb gradient for these purposes is mandatory when the procedure is part of the ATC clearance, unless increased takeoff minimums are provided and weather conditions allow compliance with these minimums
      • "Cross ALPHA intersection at or below 4000; maintain 6000." The pilot climbs at least 200 FPNM to 6000. If 4000 is reached before ALPHA, the pilot levels off at 4000 until passing ALPHA; then immediately resumes at least 200 FPNM climb"
      • "TAKEOFF MINIMUMS: RWY 27, Standard with a minimum climb of 280' per NM to 2500
      • A climb of at least 280 FPNM is required to 2500 and is mandatory when the departure procedure is included in the ATC clearance
      • Some SIDs still retain labeled "ATC" climb gradients published or have climb gradients that are established to meet a published altitude restriction that is not required for obstacle clearance or procedure design criteria
        • These procedures will be revised in the course of the normal procedure amendment process
    • Climb gradients may be specified only to an altitude/fix, above which the normal gradient applies
      • An ATC-required altitude restriction published at a fix, will not have an associated climb gradient published with that restriction. Pilots are expected to determine if crossing altitudes can be met, based on the performance capability of the aircraft they are operating
      • "Minimum climb 340 FPNM to ALPHA"
      • The pilot climbs at least 340 FPNM to ALPHA, then at least 200 FPNM to MIA
Rate of Climb Table
Rate of Climb Table

Terminal Instrument Procedures:

  • There are multiple ways to define a safe area from the runway up to the airway/enroute structure
  • DPs may be designated using either ODP, SID, RNAV or Radar criteria
  • Pilot Navigation Departure:

    • Consists of pre-published routes that supply headings, altitudes, and reporting points for the transition from takeoff to the en-route structure
    • Required a minimum of controller time and sorts departing aircraft by initial route
      • Initial vectoring may be required
      • Leave departure (heavy line) route at assigned transition points
      • Departure transitions (lighter line) at assigned route
    • The DP must be discontinued to accommodate weather or traffic conditions
    • Amendments may be issued as required
    • Card is divided into a pictorial section and a text description
    • Obstacle Departure Procedures:

      • ODPs provide obstruction clearance via the least onerous route from the terminal area to the appropriate enroute structure
      • ODPs are recommended for obstruction clearance and may be flown without an ATC clearance unless an alternate departure procedure (SID/Radar Vectors) has been specifically assigned by ATC
      • ODPs are printed textually or graphically
      • Graphic ODPs will have (OBSTACLE) printed in the procedure [Figure 3]
    • Standard Instrument Departures:

      • Standard Instrument Departures are air traffic control (ATC) procedures printed for pilot/controller use in graphic form to provide obstruction clearance and a transition from the terminal area to the appropriate en route structure
      • SIDs are primarily designed for system enhancement and to reduce pilot/controller workload but also support noise abatement procedures
      • ATC clearance must be received prior to flying a SID
    • RNAV Procedures:

      • RNAV procedures will have RNAV printed in the title [Figure 4]
      • All public RNAV SIDs and graphic ODPs are RNAV 1
        • These procedures generally start with an initial RNAV or heading leg near the departure end of runway (DER)
        • In addition, these procedures require system performance currently met by GPS or DME/ DME/IRU RNAV systems that satisfy the criteria discussed in AC 90-100A, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations
        • RNAV 1 procedures must maintain a total system error of not more than 1 NM for 95% of the total flight time
  • Diverse Vector Area (DVA):

    • A Diverse Vector Area (DVA) is an area in which ATC may provide random radar vectors during an uninterrupted climb from the departure runway until above the MVA/MIA, established in accordance with the TERPS criteria for diverse departures
    • The DVA provides obstacle and terrain avoidance in lieu of taking off from the runway under IFR using an ODP or SID
DP Chart legend
Instrument Flying Handbook, ODPs and SIDs
Takeoff Minimums and Obstacle Departure Procedure
Instrument Flying Handbook, ODPs and SIDs
Citrus Five Departure
Instrument Flying Handbook, ODPs and SIDs

Obstacle Protection:

  • DPs are designed so that adherence to the procedure by the pilot will ensure obstacle protection
    • Obstacle clearance responsibility rests with the pilot when he/she chooses to climb in visual conditions in lieu of flying a DP and/or depart under increased takeoff minima rather than fly the climb gradient
    • Standard takeoff minima are one statute mile for aircraft having two engines or less and one-half statute mile for aircraft having more than two engines
    • Specified ceiling and visibility minima (VCOA or increased takeoff minima) will allow visual avoidance of obstacles until the pilot enters the standard obstacle protection area
    • Obstacle avoidance is not guaranteed if the pilot maneuvers farther from the airport than the specified visibility minimum prior to reaching the specified altitude
    • DPs may also contain what are called Low Close in Obstacles
    • These obstacles are less than 200 feet above the departure end of runway elevation and within one NM of the runway end, and do not require increased takeoff minimums
    • These obstacles are identified on the SID chart or in the Take-off Minimums and (Obstacle) Departure Procedures section of the U. S. Terminal Procedure booklet [Figure 3]
    • These obstacles are especially critical to aircraft that do not lift off until close to the departure end of the runway or which climb at the minimum rate
    • Pilots should also consider drift following lift-off to ensure sufficient clearance from these obstacles
    • That segment of the procedure that requires the pilot to see and avoid obstacles ends when the aircraft crosses the specified point at the required altitude
    • In all cases continued obstacle clearance is based on having climbed a minimum of 200 feet per nautical mile to the specified point and then continuing to climb at least 200 foot per nautical mile during the departure until reaching the minimum enroute altitude, unless specified otherwise
  • ATC may vector the aircraft beginning with an ATC-assigned heading issued with the initial or takeoff clearance followed by subsequent vectors, if required, until reaching the minimum vectoring altitude by using a published Diverse Vector Area (DVA)
    • The DVA may be established below the Minimum Vectoring Altitude (MVA) or Minimum IFR Altitude (MIA) in a radar environment at the request of Air Traffic
      • This type of DP meets the TERPS criteria for diverse departures, obstacles, and terrain avoidance in which random radar vectors below the MVA/MIA may be issued to departing aircraft
      • The DVA has been assessed for departures which do not follow a specific ground track, but will remain within the specified area
      • Use of a DVA is valid only when aircraft are permitted to climb uninterrupted from the departure runway to the MVA/MIA (or higher)
      • ATC will not assign an altitude below the MVA/MIA within a DVA
    • The existence of a DVA will be noted in the Takeoff Minimums and Obstacle Departure Procedure section of the U.S. Terminal Procedures Publication (TPP)
    • The Takeoff Departure procedure will be listed first, followed by any applicable DVA [figure PDF pg 33 of NE1, Boston, MA (CON'T)]
    • Pilots should be aware that Air Traffic facilities may utilize a climb gradient greater than the standard 200 FPNM in a DVA
      • Pilots should note that the DVA has been assessed for departures which do not follow a specific ground track
    • ATC may also vector an aircraft off a previously assigned DP
      • If the aircraft is airborne and established on a SID or ODP and subsequently vectored off, ATC is responsible for terrain and obstruction clearance
      • In all cases, the minimum 200 FPNM climb gradient is assumed
      • As is always the case, when used by the controller during departure, the term "radar contact" should not be interpreted as relieving pilots of their responsibility to maintain appropriate terrain and obstruction clearance, which may include flying the obstacle DP
    • Pilots must pre-plan to determine if the aircraft can meet the climb gradient (expressed in feet per nautical mile) required by the departure procedure, and be aware that flying at a higher than anticipated ground speed increases the climb rate requirement in feet per minute
      • Higher than standard climb gradients are specified by a note on the departure procedure chart for graphic DPs, or in the Take-Off Minimums and (Obstacle) Departure Procedures section of the U.S. Terminal Procedures booklet for textual ODPs
    • The required climb gradient, or higher, must be maintained to the specified altitude or fix, then the standard climb gradient of 200 ft/NM can be resumed
    • A table for the conversion of climb gradient (feet per nautical mile) to climb rate (feet per minute), at a given ground speed, is included on the inside of the back cover of the U.S. Terminal Procedures booklets [Figure 1]

Departure Control:

  • Departure Control is an approach control function responsible for ensuring separation between departures
    • So as to expedite the handling of departures, Departure Control may suggest a takeoff direction other than that which may normally have been used under VFR handling
    • Many times it is preferred to offer the pilot a runway that will require the fewest turns after takeoff to place the pilot on course or selected departure route as quickly as possible. At many locations particular attention is paid to the use of preferential runways for local noise abatement programs, and route departures away from congested areas
  • When directed, contact departure control for handling out of the terminal area
    • Controllers may omit the departure control frequency if a DP has or will be assigned and the departure control frequency is published on the DP
  • Pilots will be advised to follow their clearance or maneuver for vectors:
    • Departure Control utilizing radar will normally clear aircraft out of the terminal area using DPs via radio navigation aids
      • When a departure is to be vectored immediately following takeoff, the pilot will be advised prior to takeoff of the initial heading to be flown but may not be advised of the purpose of the heading
      • When initial heading will take the aircraft off an assigned procedure (for example, an RNAV SID with a published lateral path to a waypoint and crossing restrictions from the departure end of runway), the controller will assign an altitude to maintain with the initial heading
    • At some airports when a departure will fly an RNAV SID that begins at the runway, ATC may advise aircraft of the initial fix/waypoint on the RNAV route
      • The purpose of the advisory is to remind pilots to verify the correct procedure is programmed in the FMS before takeoff
      • Pilots must immediately advise ATC if a different RNAV SID is entered in the aircraft's FMS
      • When this advisory is absent, pilots are still required to fly the assigned SID as published
        • ATC: "Delta 345 RNAV to MPASS, Runway 26L, cleared for takeoff"
        • The SID transition is not restated as it is contained in the ATC clearance
        • Aircraft cleared via RNAV SIDs designed to begin with a vector to the initial waypoint are assigned a heading before departure
    • Pilots operating in a radar environment are expected to associate departure headings or an RNAV departure advisory with vectors or the flight path to their planned route or flight
      • When given a vector taking the aircraft off a previously assigned non-radar route, the pilot will be advised briefly what the vector is to achieve
      • Thereafter, radar service will be provided until the aircraft has been reestablished "on-course" using an appropriate navigation aid and the pilot has been advised of the aircraft's position or a handoff is made to another radar controller with further surveillance capabilities
  • Controllers will inform pilots of the departure control frequencies and, if appropriate, the transponder code before takeoff
    • Pilots must ensure their transponder is adjusted to the "on" or normal operating position as soon as practical and remain on during all operations unless otherwise requested to change to "standby" by ATC
    • Pilots should not change to the departure control frequency until requested
    • Controllers may omit the departure control frequency if a DP has or will be assigned and the departure control frequency is published on the DP

Departure Clearances:

  • Departure clearances are typically assigned with your initial contact with clearance delivery
  • If you accept a SID as part of your clearance, comply with all specified routings, altitudes, and specific restrictions
    • SIDs must be followed regardless of weather conditions, unless a deviation is approved by ATC
  • Consider SID canceled if aircraft is vectored or cleared off SID-specified course, unless ATC adds "expect to resume SID" or otherwise indicates the deviation is temporary
  • If ATC desires to reinstate a canceled SID, departure must state the portion of routing that applies and restate altitude restrictions
  • If an altitude to maintain is changed or restated, either prior to or after departure, you can climb immediately to that altitude unless ATC states that altitude restriction remains in effect
    • The SID path-over-the-ground must still be followed even though a climb to higher altitude has commenced
  • If canceled, departure control must indicate portion of SID that still applies and must restate altitude restrictions

Departure Restrictions:

  • ATC may assign departure restrictions, clearance void times, hold for release, and release times, when necessary, to separate departures from other traffic or to restrict or regulate the departure flow
  • Clearance Void Times:

    • A pilot may receive a clearance, when operating from an airport without a control tower, which contains a provision for the clearance to be void if not airborne by a specific time
    • A pilot who does not depart prior to the clearance void time must advise ATC as soon as possible of their intentions
    • ATC will normally advise the pilot of the time allotted to notify ATC that the aircraft did not depart prior to the clearance void time
    • This time cannot exceed 30 minutes
    • Failure of an aircraft to contact ATC within 30 minutes after the clearance void time will result in the aircraft being considered overdue and search and rescue procedures initiated
      • Other IFR traffic for the airport where the clearance is issued is suspended until the aircraft has contacted ATC or until 30 minutes after the clearance void time or 30 minutes after the clearance release time if no clearance void time is issued
      • Pilots who depart at or after their clearance void time are not afforded IFR separation and may be in violation of 14 CFR Section 91.173 which requires that pilots receive an appropriate ATC clearance before operating IFR in controlled airspace
      • ATC: "Clearance void if not off by [clearance void time] and, if required, if not off by [clearance void time] advise [facility] not later than [time] of intentions"
      • Do not confuse this with the 30 minute restriction when filing a flight plan
  • Hold for Release:

    • ATC may issue "hold for release" instructions in a clearance to delay an aircraft's departure for traffic management reasons (i.e., weather, traffic volume, etc.)
    • The pilot may not depart utilizing that IFR clearance until a release time or additional instructions are issued by ATC
    • In addition, ATC will include departure delay information in conjunction with "hold for release" instructions
    • The ATC instruction, "hold for release," applies to the IFR clearance and does not prevent the pilot from departing under VFR
      • This means a pilot may cancel their IFR flight plan and proceed VFR, if conditions allow
      • The reason for the hold likely still remains and it is therefore possible that an IFR clearance may not be available after departure
        • ATC: "[Aircraft identification] cleared to [destination] airport as filed, maintain [altitude], and, if required [additional instructions or information], hold for release, expect [time in hours and/or minutes] departure delay"
  • Release Times:

    • A "release time" is a departure restriction issued to a pilot by ATC, specifying the earliest time an aircraft may depart
    • ATC will use "release times" in conjunction with traffic management procedures and/or to separate a departing aircraft from other traffic
      • ATC: "[Aircraft identification] released for departure at [time in hours and/or minutes]"
  • Expect Departure Clearance Time:

    • The Expect Departure Clearance Time (EDCT) is the expected runway release time assigned to an aircraft included in traffic management programs
    • Pilots may hear clearance delivery/ground control state: "[Callsign] you have an EDCT time of 1356, acknowledge"
    • You may still receive your clearance early, but you are expected to depart no earlier than 5 minutes before, and no later than 5 minutes after the EDCT
    • If practical, pilots departing uncontrolled airports should obtain IFR clearances prior to becoming airborne when two-way communications with the controlling ATC facility is available
    • The FAA recommends pilots check to confirm an EDCT within 45 minutes of departure

Additional Restrictions/Limitations:

  • Departure Procedures assume the pilot will cross the departure end of the runway at least 35' above the runway and climbing to 400' above the departure end elevation before making initial turn and then maintaining a standard 200' per NM conforming to the departure altitude limits
    • It is important that you are aware if your aircraft can perform to the restrictions on the DP
    • To calculate climb rate required (feet per minute) to meet or exceed the climb gradient (feet per nautical mile) you can either calculate it manually or use the chart on the back of the terminal approach plate publication
    • Take your ground speed in nautical miles per hour, divide by 60 minutes per hour, and multiply by the climb gradient in feet per nautical mile
  • These procedures are subject to change via the Notice to Airmen system which must always be checked as part of pre-flight
  • Primarily issued to provide guaranteed obstacle clearance, secondary to increase efficiency and reduce communications
  • Responsibility to avoid obstacles rests on the pilot
  • If the pilot does not possess a DP or does not wish to use one (due to gradient, equipment required, or other reason), he/she is expected to advise ATC
    • This may be accomplished by stating "NO DP" in the remarks section of the flight plan or by verbally advising ATC, but will likely result in a delay or deviation for departure
    • Pilots operating under Part 91, whether IFR rated or not, are strongly encouraged to use the ODP system and SIDs in marginal VFR conditions and at night when operating VFR
  • Locations with airport traffic control service, when necessary, specifies direction to take off, turn, or initial heading
  • Locations without airport traffic control service, but within class E surface area, when necessary to specify direction of takeoff, turn, or initial heading to be flown, obtains pilot concurrence that the procedure will allow the pilot to comply with local traffic patterns, terrain, and obstruction avoidance

Pre-taxi Clearance Procedures

  • Certain airports have established pre-taxi clearance programs whereby pilots of departing instrument flight rules (IFR) aircraft may elect to receive their IFR clearances before they start taxiing for takeoff. The following provisions are included in such procedures:
    • Pilot participation is not mandatory
    • Participating pilots call clearance delivery or ground control not more than 10 minutes before proposed taxi time
    • IFR clearance (or delay information, if clearance cannot be obtained) is issued at the time of this initial call-up
    • When the IFR clearance is received on clearance delivery frequency, pilots call ground control when ready to taxi
    • Normally, pilots need not inform ground control that they have received IFR clearance on clearance delivery frequency. Certain locations may,however, require that the pilot inform ground control of a portion of the routing or that the IFR clearance has been received
    • If a pilot cannot establish contact on clearance delivery frequency or has not received an IFR clearance before ready to taxi, the pilot should contact ground control and inform the controller accordingly
  • Locations where these procedures are in effect are indicated in the Chart Supplement U.S.

Abbreviated IFR Departure Clearance Procedures:

  • ATC facilities will issue an abbreviated IFR departure clearance based on the ROUTE of flight filed in the IFR flight plan, provided the filed route can be approved with little or no revision
  • These abbreviated clearance procedures are based on the following conditions:
    • The aircraft is on the ground or it has departed visual flight rules (VFR) and the pilot is requesting IFR clearance while airborne
    • That a pilot will not accept an abbreviated clearance if the route or destination of a flight plan filed with ATC has been changed by the pilot or the company or the operations officer before departure
    • That it is the responsibility of the company or operations office to inform the pilot when they make a change to the filed flight plan
    • That it is the responsibility of the pilot to inform ATC in the initial call-up (for clearance) when the filed flight plan has been either:
      • Amended, or
      • Canceled and replaced with a new filed flight plan
    • Note the facility issuing a clearance may not have received the revised route or the revised flight plan by the time a pilot requests clearance
  • Controllers will issue a detailed clearance when they know that the original filed flight plan has been changed or when the pilot requests a full route clearance
  • The clearance as issued will include the destination airport filed in the flight plan, any DPs flown, and then cleared as filed
  • When no changes are required in the filed route, state the phrase: "Cleared to (destination) airport, (SID and SID transition, as appropriate); then, as filed." If a SID is not assigned, follow with "As filed"
  • STARs, when filed in a flight plan, are considered a part of the filed route of flight and will not normally be stated in an initial departure clearance
    • If the ARTCC's jurisdictional airspace includes both the departure airport and the fix where a STAR or STAR transition begins, the STAR name, the current number and the STAR transition name MAY be stated in the initial clearance
  • "Cleared to (destination) airport as filed" does NOT include the en route altitude filed in a flight plan
    • An en route altitude will be stated in the clearance or the pilot will be advised to expect an assigned or filed altitude within a given time frame or at a certain point after departure
    • This may be done verbally in the departure instructions or stated in the DP
  • In both radar and non-radar environments, the controller will state "Cleared to (destination) airport as filed" or:
    • If a DP or DP transition is to be flown, specify the DP name, the current DP number, the DP transition name, the assigned altitude/flight level, and any additional instructions (departure control frequency, beacon code assignment, etc.) necessary to clear a departing aircraft via the DP or DP transition and the route filed
      • "National Seven Twenty cleared to Miami Airport Intercontinental one departure, Lake Charles transition then as filed, maintain Flight Level two seven zero"
    • When there is no DP or when the pilot cannot accept a DP, the controller will specify the assigned altitude or flight level, and any additional instructions necessary to clear a departing aircraft via an appropriate departure routing and the route filed
      • Note that a detailed departure route description or a radar vector may be used to achieve the desired departure routing
    • If it is necessary to make a minor revision to the filed route, the controller will specify the assigned DP or DP transition (or departure routing), the revision to the filed route, the assigned altitude or flight level and any additional instructions necessary to clear a departing aircraft
      • "Jet Star One Four Two Four cleared to Atlanta Airport, South Boston two departure then as filed except change route to read South Boston Victor 20 Greensboro, maintain one seven thousand"
    • Additionally, in a non-radar environment, the controller will specify one or more fixes, as necessary, to identify the initial route of flight
      • "Cessna Three One Six Zero Foxtrot cleared to Charlotte Airport as filed via Brooke, maintain seven thousand"
  • To ensure success of the program, pilots should:
    • Avoid making changes to a filed flight plan just prior to departure
    • State the following information in the initial call-up to the facility when no change has been made to the filed flight plan: Aircraft call sign, location, type operation (IFR) and the name of the airport (or fix) to which you expect clearance
      • "Washington clearance delivery (or ground control if appropriate) American Seventy Six at gate one, IFR Los Angeles"
  • If the flight plan has been changed, state the change and request a full route clearance
    • "Washington clearance delivery, American Seventy Six at gate one. IFR San Francisco. My flight plan route has been amended (or destination changed). Request full route clearance"
  • Request verification or clarification from ATC if ANY portion of the clearance is not clearly understood
  • When requesting clearance for the IFR portion of a VFR/IFR flight, request such clearance prior to the fix where IFR operation is proposed to commence in sufficient time to avoid delay. Use the following phraseology:
    • "Los Angeles center, Apache Six One Papa, VFR estimating Paso Robles VOR at three two, one thousand five hundred, request IFR to Bakersfield"

Automated Pre-Departure Clearance Procedures:

  • Many airports in the National Airspace System are equipped with the Terminal Data Link System (TDLS) that includes the Pre-Departure Clearance (PDC) and Controller Pilot Data Link Communication–Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL) functions. Both the PDC and CPDLC-DCL functions automate the Clearance Delivery operations in the ATCT for participating users. Both functions display IFR clearances from the ARTCC to the ATCT. The Clearance Delivery controller in the ATCT can append local departure information and transmit the clearance via data link to participating airline/service provider computers for PDC. The airline/service provider will then deliver the clearance via the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) or a similar data link system, or for non-data link equipped aircraft, via a printer located at the departure gate. For CPDLC-DCL, the departure clearance is uplinked from the ATCT via the Future Air Navigation System (FANS) to the aircraft avionics and requires a response from the flight crew. Both PDC and CPDLC-DCL reduce frequency congestion, controller workload, and are intended to mitigate delivery/read back errors
  • Both services are available only to participating aircraft that have subscribed to the service through an approved service provider
  • In all situations, the pilot is encouraged to contact clearance delivery if a question or concern exists regarding an automated clearance. Due to technical reasons, the following limitations/differences exist between the two services:
    • Pre-Departure Clearance:
      • Aircraft filing multiple flight plans are limited to one PDC clearance per departure airport within an 18-hour period. Additional clearances will be delivered verbally
      • If the clearance is revised or modified prior to delivery, it will be rejected from PDC and the clearance will need to be delivered verbally
      • No acknowledgment of receipt or read back is required for a PDC
    • Controller Pilot Data Link Communication–Departure Clearance:
      • No limitation to the number of clearances received
      • Allows delivery of revised flight data, including revised departure clearances
      • A response from the flight crew is required
      • Requires a logon to the FAA National Single Data Authority - KUSA - utilizing the ATC FANS application
      • To be eligible, operators must have received CPDLC/FANS authorization from the responsible civil aviation authority, and file appropriate equipment information in ICAO field 10a and in the ICAO field 18 DAT (Other Data Applications) of the flight plan


  • Each pilot, prior to departing an airport on an IFR flight should:
    • Consider the type of terrain and other obstacles on or in the vicinity of the departure airport;
    • Determine whether an ODP/DP is available;
      • Another option may be a Visual Climb Over Airport (VCOA)
      • Pilots must advise ATC as early as possible of the intent to fly the VCOA prior to departure
    • Determine if obstacle avoidance can be maintained visually or if the ODP should be flown; and
      • At airports where IAPs have not been published, hence no published departure procedure, determines what action will be necessary and takes such action that will assure a safe departure
    • Consider the effect of degraded climb performance and the actions to take in the event of an engine loss during the departure
      • Pilots should notify ATC as soon as possible of reduced climb capability in that circumstance
    • Determine if a DVA is published and whether the aircraft is capable of meeting the published climb gradient. Advise ATC when requesting the IFR clearance, or as soon as possible, if unable to meet the DVA climb gradient
    • Check for Takeoff Obstacle Notes published in the TPP for the takeoff runway
    • Pilots should not exceed a published speed restriction associated with a SID waypoint until passing that waypoint
    • After an aircraft is established on a SID and subsequently vectored or cleared to deviate off of the SID or SID transition, pilots must consider the SID canceled, unless the controller adds "expect to resume SID;" pilots should then be prepared to rejoin the SID at a subsequent fix or procedure leg. If the SID contains published altitude restrictions, pilots should expect the controller to issue an altitude to maintain. ATC may also interrupt the vertical navigation of a SID and provide alternate altitude instructions while the aircraft remains established on the published lateral path. Aircraft may be vectored off of an ODP, or issued an altitude lower than a published altitude on an ODP, at which time the ODP is canceled and ATC is responsible for terrain and obstacle clearance. In all cases, the minimum 200 FPNM climb gradient is assumed
    • Aircraft instructed to resume a SID procedure such as a DP or SID which contains speed and/or altitude restrictions, must be:
      • Issued/reissued all applicable restrictions, or
      • Advised to "climb via" or resume published speed
      • EXAMPLE: "Resume the Solar One departure, climb via SID"
      • EXAMPLE: "Proceed direct CIROS, resume the Solar One departure, comply with restrictions"
    • A clearance for a SID which does not contain published crossing restrictions, and/or is a SID with a Radar Vector segment or a Radar Vector SID, will be issued using the phraseology "Maintain [altitude]"
    • A clearance for a SID which contains published altitude restrictions may be issued using the phraseology "climb via." Climb via is an abbreviated clearance that requires compliance with the procedure lateral path, associated speed and altitude restrictions along the cleared route or procedure. Clearance to "climb via" authorizes the pilot to:
      • When used in the IFR departure clearance, in a PDC, DCL or when cleared to a waypoint depicted on a SID, to join the procedure after departure or to resume the procedure
      • When vertical navigation is interrupted and an altitude is assigned to maintain which is not contained on the published procedure, to climb from that previously-assigned altitude at pilot's discretion to the altitude depicted for the next waypoint
      • Once established on the depicted departure, to navigate laterally and climb to meet all published or assigned altitude and speed restrictions
      • See also: Bold Method - How To Fly An IFR Departure Procedure With 'Climb Via'
    • When otherwise cleared along a route or procedure that contains published speed restrictions, the pilot must comply with those speed restrictions independent of a climb via clearance
    • ATC anticipates pilots will begin adjusting speed the minimum distance necessary prior to a published speed restriction so as to cross the waypoint/fix at the published speed. Once at the published speed ATC expects pilots will maintain the published speed until additional adjustment is required to comply with further published or ATC assigned speed restrictions or as required to ensure compliance with 14 CFR Section 91.117
    • If ATC interrupts lateral/vertical navigation while an aircraft is flying a SID, ATC must ensure obstacle clearance. When issuing a "climb via" clearance to join or resume a procedure ATC must ensure obstacle clearance until the aircraft is established on the lateral and vertical path of the SID
    • ATC will assign an altitude to cross if no altitude is depicted at a waypoint/fix or when otherwise necessary/required, for an aircraft on a direct route to a waypoint/fix where the SID will be joined or resumed
    • SIDs will have a "top altitude;" the "top altitude" is the charted "maintain" altitude contained in the procedure description or assigned by ATC
    • Pilots cleared for vertical navigation using the phraseology "climb via" must inform ATC, upon initial contact, of the altitude leaving and any assigned restrictions not published on the procedure
      • (Cactus 711 is cleared to climb via the Laura Two departure. The Laura Two has a top altitude of FL190): "Cactus Seven Eleven leaving two thousand, climbing via the Laura Two departure"
      • (Cactus 711 is cleared to climb via the Laura Two departure, but ATC changed the top altitude to 16,000): "Cactus Seven Eleven leaving two thousand for one-six thousand, climbing via the Laura Two departure"
    • If prior to or after takeoff an altitude restriction is issued by ATC, all previously issued "ATC" altitude restrictions are canceled including those published on a SID. Pilots must still comply with all speed restrictions and lateral path requirements published on the SID unless canceled by ATC
      • Prior to takeoff or after departure ATC issues an altitude change clearance to an aircraft cleared to climb via a SID but ATC no longer requires compliance with published altitude restrictions:
        • "Climb and maintain flight level two four zero"
        • The published SID altitude restrictions are canceled; The aircraft should comply with the SID lateral path and begin an unrestricted climb to FL240. Compliance with published speed restrictions is still required unless specifically deleted by ATC
    • Altitude restrictions published on an ODP are necessary for obstacle clearance and/or design constraints. Crossing altitudes and speed restrictions on ODPs cannot be or canceled or amended by ATC
  • Controllers will:
    • At locations with airport traffic control service, when necessary, specifies direction of takeoff, turn, or initial heading to be flown after takeoff, consistent with published departure procedures (DP) or diverse vector areas (DVA), where applicable
    • At locations without airport traffic control service but within Class E surface area when necessary to specify direction of takeoff, turn, or initial heading to be flown, obtains pilot's concurrence that the procedure will allow the pilot to comply with local traffic patterns, terrain, and obstruction avoidance
    • When the initial heading will take the aircraft off an assigned procedure (for example, an RNAV SID with a published lateral path to a waypoint and crossing restrictions from the departure end of runway), the controller will assign an altitude to maintain with the initial heading
    • Includes established departure procedures as part of the ATC clearance when pilot compliance is necessary to ensure separation
Takeoff Minimums
Takeoff Minimums
Bennington, VT Textual Departure Procedure
Bennington, VT Textual Departure Procedure

Locating Departure Procedures:

  • Textual departure procedures and diverse vector areas are listed by airport in the IFR Takeoff Minimums and (Obstacle) Departure Procedures, Section L, of the Terminal Procedures Publications (TPP) (textual) while SIDs and complex obstacle departure procedures will be published graphically in the Instrument Approach Procedure Charts
  • They can be found on websites like or in print from vendors such as AeroNav [Figure 5]
  • Terminal Procedures Publication Booklet:

    • The purpose of noting obstacles in the "Take-off Minimums and (OBSTACLE) Departure Procedures" section of the TPP is to identify the obstacle(s) and alert the pilot to the height and location of the obstacle(s) so they can be avoided
      • This can be accomplished in a variety of ways; for example, the pilot may be able to see the obstruction and maneuver around the obstacle(s) if necessary; early liftoff/climb performance may allow the aircraft to cross well above the obstacle(s); or if the obstacle(s) cannot be visually acquired during departure, preflight planning should take into account what turns or other maneuver may be necessary immediately after takeoff to avoid the obstruction(s)
      • EXAMPLE: TAKEOFF OBSTACLE NOTES: Rwy 14, trees 2011' from DER, 29' left of centerline, 100' AGL/3829' MSL. Rwy 32, trees 1009' from DER, 697' left of centerline, 100' AGL/3839' MSL. Tower 4448' from DER, 1036' left of centerline, 165' AGL/3886' MSL
    • Graphic ODPs will also have the term "(OBSTACLE)" printed in the charted procedure title, differentiating them from SIDs [Figure 6]
  • Instrument Approach Charts:

    • An ODP that has been developed solely for obstacle avoidance will be indicated with the symbol "T" on appropriate Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) charts and DP charts for that airport [Figure 7]
    • The "T" symbol will continue to refer users to Section C of the TPP [Figure 4]
    • In the case of a graphic ODP, the TPP Section C will only contain the name of the ODP [Figure 8]
    • Complex Obstacle Departure
      Complex Obstacle Departure
    • Obstacle Departure
      Obstacle Departure
    • T Symbol
      T Symbol
    • Graphic ODP Reference
      Graphic ODP Reference
    • Graphic ODP Reference
      Graphic ODP Reference
    • Since there may be both a textual and a graphic DP, Section C should still be checked for additional information
    • The nonstandard takeoff minimums and minimum climb gradients found in TPP Section C also apply to charted DPs and radar vector departures unless different minimums are specified on the charted DP
    • Takeoff minimums and departure procedures apply to all runways unless otherwise specified
    • New graphic DPs will have all the information printed on the graphic depiction
    • As a general rule, ATC will only assign an ODP from a non-towered airport when compliance with the ODP is necessary for aircraft to aircraft separation
    • Pilots may use the ODP to help ensure separation from terrain and obstacles

Departure Procedure:

  1. File your flight plan
  2. Place your clearance on request with clearance delivery
    • UHF: "[place] clearance delivery, [call sign], IFR to [destination], clearance on request"
  3. SQUAWK assigned code
    • UHF: "[place] clearance, [call sign], ready to copy"
    • UHF: "[place] ground, [call sign] at [parking spot] taxi with [ATIS information]"
  4. TUNE & ID: and ID the required NAVAIDs for the departure if able
  5. TOGGLE & TWIST: the appropriate course and check for VOR/TACAN switch in the appropriate position for departure
  6. Contact tower for takeoff and comply with any special instructions provided by tower
    • UHF: "[place] tower, [call sign], [place] takeoff"
  7. When directed switch to departure control and make the off report
    • UHF: "[place] departure, [call sign], off [place], passing [altitude] for [altitude]"
  8. Comply with radar vector departure or DP instructions as appropriate
    • Accelerate to cruise speed once you level off before you comply with the rest of the DP, unless there is something restricting you from doing so
    • Note that the departure phase is considered complete after joining the air route structure at the completion of the DP or when ATC instructs you to "resume own navigation"
  • Visual Climb Over Airport (VCOA):

    • A VCOA procedure is a departure option for an IFR aircraft, operating in visual meteorological conditions equal to or greater than the specified visibility and ceiling, to visually conduct climbing turns over the airport to the published "climb-to" altitude from which to proceed with the instrument portion of the departure
    • VCOA procedures are developed to avoid obstacles greater than 3 statute miles from the departure end of the runway as an alternative to complying with climb gradients greater than 200 feet per nautical mile
    • Pilots are responsible to advise ATC as early as possible of the intent to fly the VCOA option prior to departure
    • These textual procedures are published in the Take-Off Minimums and (Obstacle) Departure Procedures section of the Terminal Procedures Publications and/or appear as an option on a Graphic ODP [Figure 3]
      • "Climb in visual conditions so as to cross the McElory Airport southbound, at or above 6000, then climb via Keemmling radial zero three three to Keemmling VORTAC"

PBN Departure Procedures:

  • All public PBN SIDs and graphic ODPs are normally designed using RNAV 1, RNP 1, or A-RNP NavSpecs. These procedures generally start with an initial track or heading leg near the departure end of runway (DER). In addition, these procedures require system performance currently met by GPS or DME/DME/IRU PBN systems that satisfy the criteria discussed in the latest AC 90-100, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations. RNAV 1 and RNP 1 procedures must maintain a total system error of not more than 1 NM for 95 percent of the total flight time. Minimum values for A-RNP procedures will be charted in the PBN box (for example, 1.00 or 0.30)
  • In the U.S., a specific procedure's PBN requirements will be prominently displayed in separate, standardized notes boxes. For procedures with PBN elements, the "PBN box" will contain the procedure's NavSpec(s); and, if required: specific sensors or infrastructure needed for the navigation solution, any additional or advanced functional requirements, the minimum RNP value, and any amplifying remarks. Items listed in this PBN box are REQUIRED for the procedure's PBN elements

Departure Procedure Exercises:


  • As part of your preflight planning, always be sure that you can first meet the takeoff minimums
  • Pilots operating under 14 CFR Part 91 are strongly encouraged to file and fly a DP at night, during marginal Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), when one is available
  • Departure procedures may be substituted for Radar Vectors
  • DPs may be assigned by ATC but they can always be requested by the pilot
  • A period (.) after a sentence means you will not proceed any further until you have accomplished that instruction
  • More detailed information on obstacle assessments is available in Advisory Circular AC 120-91, Airport Obstacle Analysis, and in the "Departure Procedures" section of chapter 2 in the Instrument Procedures Handbook
  • When you enter IMC, ensure your scan, and pitch attitude has been established, in order to ensure a smooth transition from visual references to none
    • This is especially true at night
  • All DPs provide the pilot with a way to depart the airport and transition to the en route structure safely