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Class c departures

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General Aviation

Departing class c airport some require contacting clearance delivery for a clearance before taxi some do not. Is this information published anywhere? How can one determine if this is the procedure prior to going there? What are the criteria for this requirement? I realize I can just go and work it out at the time but I find it helpful to be prepared.

2 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Aug 11, 2013

    For better or for worse, Class C airports vary in their requirement for departing VFR aircraft to contact CD rather than ground for departure instructions (technically not a “clearance”). There’s no criteria I know of other than Tower’s decision on how best to divide the time of its personnel. Ideally, who to call for departure instructions would be on the ATIS but often it’s not and, unless you happen to know a pilot or call the Tower, there’s no generally-disseminated information I’m aware of.

    Based on multiple discussions on this subject, most Class C airports want you to call CD for VFR departure instructions. So my simple rule of thumb is this: unless ATIS or the AFD or someone in the know at that airport tells me otherwise, I call CD for VFR departures.

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  2. James L on Aug 11, 2013

    I’m an Air Traffic Controller at a Class C airport and the answer you received from Mark was fairly accurate. It all comes down to the number of personnel and the number of other positions that need to be staffed. Regardless of whether someone is dedicated to only Clearance Delivery (CD), the frequency is always being monitored, so if you call on CD and the position is combined with Ground Control, they will still answer you (they’re just transmitting on both frequencies). That would also explain why you sometimes here the controller giving instructions to a pilot and you don’t hear the pilot respond, you just seem to hear the controller responding to nothing.

    While there’s no real way to know who to call first, it’s safe to say that at busier Class C airports, CD is always staffed separately. There’s no requirement for ATC to indicate in publications or via the ATIS who to contact first, it’s just a good practice.

    I hope this helps! Happy Flying!

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