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5 Answers

Radar Departure

Asked by: 2784 views Airspace, FAA Regulations

For a IFR departure and the departure is radar vectors (No SID or ODP) and ATC issues a turn to heading as part of the takeooff clearance, do you not make the turn until 400 AGL unless ATC specifies otherwise? Thank you for the feedback.

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5 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Aug 27, 2013

    Dan, I hope it’s ok if I start answering your questions with a question (or two) 🙂

    1. What is the 400 AGL for?

    2. Since you mentioned no ODP, what if there is one but ATC says nothing about it as part of your clearance and ATC issues a turn to heading as part of the takeoff clearance?

    I bet you know the answer to both your question and mine.

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  2. Dan Chitty on Aug 27, 2013

    1. What is the 400 AGL for?

    Per the AIM for IFR departures, a turn should not commence until at least 400 AGL for a SID or ODP. If a turn altitude is published on a SID or ODP then comply with the instructions on the SID or ODP.

    I have not seen any specific turn altitude for a radar vectored departure.

    2. Since you mentioned no ODP, what if there is one but ATC says nothing about it as part of your clearance and ATC issues a turn to heading as part of the takeoff clearance?

    If ATC is providing a radar vector departure, you turn once reaching 400 AGL unless ATC states otherwise.

    I guess I have answered my initial question. Let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you Mark.

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  3. Mark Kolber on Aug 28, 2013

    By, “what is the 400 AGL for” I meant what is its purpose? That’s described (among other places) in AIM 5-2-8. To put it simply, the 400 AGL before the turn (with a minimum 200 FPNM climb after) is, just like an ODP, to keep you from hitting something on an IFR departure (let’s call it the default departure profile).

    “After takeoff, fly heading 220 tells me that, once I reach 400 AGL, I make a turn to a heading 220° Not to make the turn 10′ above the runway as soon as the wheels leave the ground. No matter what other instructions are issued. It’s a safety issue in pilot control, not ATC’s.

    An ODP, whether text or charted is simply a set of instructions for those situations in which the default departure profile won’t keep you from hitting rocks or instructions.

    The important thing about the ODP is, it may be flown without ATC clearance unless you receive a SID or radar vectors (which are also designed to provide obstacle clearance).

    Last year, there was a letter written by a pilot into IFR Magazine. The pilot complained that, flying from Ashville to Chattanooga, ATC would “vector” her into the ridge. I’d be very, very surprised if that were the case. Rather, I suspect she received the common IFR clearance, KAVL HRS GQO KCHA and took that to mean she was turn turn on course immediately after departure, rather than fly the ODP. Look at the chart for that clearance and then look at the ODP and you’ll see that the clearance makes no sense at all for a small piston, unless you also fly the ODP.

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  4. Dan Chitty on Aug 28, 2013

    Thank you Mark.

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  5. Jay on Sep 03, 2013

    With regards to radar departures, there is a note in FAA Order 7110.65 (the ATC bible) which states: “FAAO 8260.19, Flight Procedures and Airspace, establishes guidelines for IFR departure turning procedures which assumes a climb to 400 feet above the airport elevation before a turn is commenced.”

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