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What is the difference between a Preferred IFR Route & a TEC Route?

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Airspace, Instrument Rating

Hi all, I am working towards my IR and am having some trouble with this matter. Can someone explain to me the difference between a Preferred IFR Route & a Tower Enroute Control Route? From what I understand, they are both found in the A/FD and are created for flights to/from busy airports. However, TEC Routes allow a pilot to fly IFR without leaving approach control airspace & don't require previous filing. Is this correct? Are preferred routes considered the "main" type of IFR routes, while TEC is more rare? These aren't considered "airways," right? Please explain & thank you!  

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2 Answers



  1. BJ Miller on Oct 28, 2015

    In many respects, they are essentially the same. You are correct about a TEC. They are designed to keep you at the approach level of control in busy airspace. These are named routes that are put on request directly with clearance delivery over the radio (i.e. I would like to put a San Lima 3 on request). You will be cleared specifically for the San Lima 3 and expected to fly the route and altitude published in the A/FD for the SANL 3 to your destination. If you are flying between two airports serviced by a TEC, ATC will more than likely clear you for the TEC whether you ask for it or not.

    A preferred IFR route however, may and likely will, include a handoff to at least one center frequency and requires an IFR flight plan be filed prior to contacting clearance delivery. These are not “canned” or named routes like a TEC, so clearance delivery will read the entire route and altitude in your clearance. If you request a route to a destination that is not in accordance with the preferred routing, your clearance will almost certainly be amended to comply with ATC preference. The difference between the two is subtle, but important.

    Both utilize airways, they simply tell you which ones ATC wants you to use to get to your chosen destination. TEC’s are not used everywhere. Most of the ones I have seen are in southern California. Preferred routing however can be found around just about any major airport.

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  2. Mark Kolber on Oct 29, 2015

    Pretty good explanation by BJ. I’d add two things:

    1. You said “don’t require previous filing.” That is generally true for the way TECs are handled in the SOCAL region but it is not true for the way TECs are handled in the northeast corridor. In the northeast, IFR flight plans using TECs are filed just like any other IFR flight plan.

    That pretty much mirrors something similar that is also different depending on where you fly. In some parts of the country, an unannounced call to CD asking for “local IFR” without having filed a flight plan will get you an immediate clearance; in other parts of the country it will not and you’d better have filed a flight plan first.

    2. If you look at the list in the AFD, y will see that TECs are in the northeast and on the west coast. These are areas in which, not only are there busy individual airspaces, but those airspaces are close enoughto each other that you can fly, for example, from Manchester, NH to Richmond, VA (over 400 MM) in a light piston without ever leaving an area where some TRACON facility is in control. That’s pretty much what TECs are – published preferred IFR routes that are entirely in TRACON airspace.

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