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IFR Tip: Ready to copy?

Picking up an IFR clearance at a nontowered airport

You’ve filed your IFR flight plan, preflighted the airplane, and are ready to go. You’re just missing one thing: a clearance. You’re used to picking up clearances easily from ground control at your towered home airport, but how should you do so here?
Advanced Pilot October 2019
Check the current chart supplement for clearance delivery phone numbers at nontowered airports.
Courtesy The FAA

Some airports have clearance delivery frequencies listed in the chart supplement, but not this one. You try reaching approach control from the ground, but get no response. The ceilings are high enough that you could pick up a clearance in the air, but you don’t dare climb into the Class B shelf above you. Now what?

Formerly, you might contact flight service at 800-WX-BRIEF and have the briefer relay a frequency to you from air traffic control. But that practice is ending, and an increasing number of airports now have a simpler option: Call ATC directly.

The June 20 issue of the chart supplement includes a new batch of phone numbers pilots can use to receive or cancel IFR clearances directly with the appropriate ATC facility. This addition, which includes numbers for 27 approach/departure control facilities and 20 air route traffic control centers, is part of a modernization effort that the FAA says is meant to streamline the process and reduce the risk of error in clearance delivery. Phone numbers have been added to entries for hundreds of public-use airports since the program began in 2017.

This gives pilots three main ways to obtain a clearance at a nontowered airport:

  • Check for a dedicated frequency in the chart supplement for ATC or for flight service, which might be over a remote communications outlet or ground communications outlet.
  • Check for a phone number in the chart supplement that can be used for clearance delivery.
  • Airborne. Weather permitting, you can depart VFR and contact ATC in the air or flight service on 122.2 MHz or a local frequency that can be found on an IFR or VFR chart.

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Beginning in October, the chart supplement also will include backup clearance delivery phone numbers for all airports with a remote communications outlet, ground communication outlet, or remote transmitter/receiver to use if the radio communications become unavailable—per AOPA’s request.

Sarah Deener

Sarah Deener

Managing Editor, 'AOPA Pilot' and 'Flight Training'
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Managing Editor Sarah Deener is an instrument-rated commercial pilot and has worked for AOPA since 2009.

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