Document Information
Version 2
Created 12/31/2015 21:38
Last Updated 11/24/2020 22:29
by Finn Hutter


I. Purpose

This document is a guide to PDX_DEL procedures. This document does not supersede SOP_102, Portland ATCT SOP. SOP_102 must be reviewed, this document is merely a resource.

This document assumes you have already studied the VATUSA S1 CBT: Please refer to those CBTs for more background and guidance about the Clearance Delivery ATC position.

II. Position Description

Clearance Delivery provides weather briefings and VFR/IFR departure clearances. The DEL controller shall also coordinate with the Departure/Approach (APP) controller to issue pilots the preferred routings. Clearance Delivery does not issue instructions to an aircraft that involves any movement. Once the clearance has been issued to the pilot then you instruct them to contact the Ground Controller or the next higher controller.

As a Delivery Controller, it is extremely important to understand all the data in a flight plan. Mistakes must be corrected here before the plane is airborne. If an error is not caught then the workload for other controllers down the line is affected.

Portland Clearance Delivery shall operate under the call sign as PDX_DEL. The frequency to use is 120.120. Radio Callsign shall be "Portland Clearance"

NOTE: In the absence of a PDX_DEL controller, the PDX_GND controller shall perform the duties contained within this document. If there is no PDX_GND controller, then PDX_TWR will perform these duties; and so on.

III. Clearances

All  IFR aircraft will need clearance to depart from any airport. When issuing IFR clearances keep in mind the C.R.A.F.T. acronym.

CRAFT cheat sheet

  • Clearance Limit - This is the farthest point along its route that the aircraft may fly. This is usually the arrival airport, but an aircraft may also be cleared to a fix or navaid pending further clearance.
  • Route - This is the route that aircraft will take to arrive at its destination. This will usually contain a standard instrument departure (SID/DP) and transition (if assigned) followed by "Then as filed" If the filed route must be changed, issue a full route clearance (read each item on the flight plan) up to the point where the change joins the original filed flight plan It is your responsibility as a Clearance Delivery controller to ensure that routes will not affect the expeditious flow of traffic.
  • Altitude - This is the initial altitude the aircraft must maintain after departure. For Portland Intl, the initial altitude depends on the aircraft type. Piston and prop aircraft must maintain 3,000, turboprop aircraft 6,000, and turbojet aircraft 7,000 on RNAV SIDs or 6000 on the PTLD#. Then we need to tell the pilot when to expect their filed altitude. For NO DP aircraft at PDX this will be ten minutes after departure. You may find this information for other fields in the SOP_100 Primary Airports document found in the SOP section of the Training Documents site. All SIDs at PDX tell the pilot the expected altitude information so this part can be omitted.
  • Frequency - This is the frequency for Departure/Approach Control, or if Departure/Approach is not on then Center. The Departure/Approach controller will handle all departures and approaches and operates on a frequency of 124.350 (and/or 118.100 if Portland Approach is operating with North and Hood sub-sectors). Center is on 124.200 (or may be Seattle North or South center if split).
  • Transponder Code - This is the transponder code you assign the aircraft by using your client's "Assign Squawk' function. Make sure you are using the most up-to-date .pof file from the website downloads page. Transponder codes allocated to ZSE can be found in SOP 004 Transponder Procedures. 

Example: "Horizon Air 1221, cleared to Seattle-Tacoma Airport, Portland One Departure, then as filed. Maintain 6,000, Departure frequency 124.35, squawk XXXX".

All VFR aircraft wishing to depart Class B or C airports must contact Clearance Delivery prior to requesting taxi. At Portland, per SOP 102, the aircraft must be given a squawk code, altitude to remain at or below (3,500 [props] or 6000 [jets/turboprops]), and the departure controller's frequency.

Example: "Cessna 145AD, Portland Clearance, Maintain VFR at or below 3,500. Departure frequency 124.35, squawk XXXX".

After a correct read back from the pilot, instruct them to contact the next highest-available controller for taxi and advise them of the current ATIS letter.

At Class D airports, aircraft do not require a VFR clearance and can contact Ground control when ready to taxi.

IV. Departure Procedures (DPs)

Many airports have designated departure procedures or SIDs (Standard Instrument Departures). They can be published charts or simple verbal instructions given by the controller. A DP/SID is a published departure that instructs a pilot on how to exit the terminal area. They were created to relieve the controller's workload. Some contain specified turns and/or altitude restrictions and some don't. A SID transition is an extension beyond the common point of the SID to a waypoint further downrange which will usually join an airway or an arrival into another airport. Some SIDs require a transition assigned, check the routing on the chart. There are four types of Departure Procedures:

  1. Hybrid - These are printed departure procedures of which the pilot is responsible for flying part of the procedure and part of the procedure will be radar vectored. See the Mountain SID at KSEA.
  2. Radar Vector - These are printed procedures of which the controller is responsible for vectoring the pilot to the transition. For example, see the Portland SID.
  3. Pilot Nav - On this type of SID, the pilot is responsible for all navigation. The SID contains a series of intersections, fixes, and VOR's to guide the pilot from the airport to his filed route. An example of this DP would be Seattle's SUMMA1 Departure.  Only minimal navigation equipment is required to fly this procedure (/A).
  4. Area Navigation (RNAV) - This is a special type of DP. The pilot is responsible for all navigation. The aircraft must have GPS/Flight Management Computer on board to fly this departure. In the flight strip, the aircraft will have /I, /G, /Z,  or more commonly /L.

In Portland, Departure Procedures are preferred to be used as much as possible. If the aircraft does not file for the approved Departure Procedure (DP) then issue the appropriate DP for the route of flight. When issuing clearance it is a good practice to have the departure charts printed out and within reach for quick reference.

KPDX Standard Instrument Departures

V. Route Negotiation

There may be times where pilots cannot accept a standard instrument departure due to a factor of reasons, the main being a lack of navigational equipment required for said departure procedure or the inability to fly it due to lack of experience on the aircraft.

If the pilot files remarks of "NO SID" or cannot accept an assigned SID, then they may be cleared via vectors to an airway or the first waypoint on their flight plan.

The Clearance Delivery controller must inform and coordinate with the Departure/Approach or Center controller of any irregular departures in a timely fashion to avoid delays and assure the expeditious flow of traffic.

This is especially true if an aircraft requests direct to a fix, intersection, or NAVAID that is beyond the TRACON/EN-ROUTE airspace or that is known to be an arrival fix (HELNS, VANTZ, HHOOD)

Remember that it is your responsibility to obtain a correct read back from the pilot. If you have made any changes to the flight plan, you must read the entire amended route to the pilot as part of their clearance.

VI. Altitudes Assignments

The Clearance Delivery Controller is required to know the proper altitudes for the direction of flight. The general rule of thumb is NEODD and SWEVEN. Any altitude including and above 18,000 MSL is called a Flight Level. (FL)

NE/ODD - Aircraft flying North or East (0° to 179° magnetic) will be issued odd altitudes up to and including FL410. Above FL410 aircraft will still be given odd altitudes yet at intervals of 4,000 feet (i.e. FL450, FL490, FL530)

SW/EVEN - Aircraft flying South or West (180° to 359° magnetic) will be issued even altitudes up to and including FL400. Above FL400 aircraft will be given odd altitudes yet at intervals of 4,000 ft beginning at FL430 (i.e. FL470, FL510, FL550).

The reason for the increased altitude intervals is due to the fact that all airspace above FL410 is not considered RVSM space, and thus require additional vertical separation according to airspace requirements.

What counts for "north/eastbound" or "south/westbound" is the magnetic course when the plane is up at cruise altitude, which means you don't count the departure procedure if it goes the other way. For instance, the ELMAA SID starts out going west, but most routes then go southeast to California, etc., and by the time the plane is up at cruise altitude, it will be done going west and now is southeast-bound; so the specified cruise altitude should follow the north/eastbound rule.

You'll need to have an IFR en route chart available if you're not sure which magnetic course will be used. As a rule of thumb, every major airport in the lower 48 United States is East of KSEA, even Portland and Eugene; CYVR (Vancouver) is west, as are all airports in Alaska.

One thing to note is the atmospheric pressure affects the usable flight level. For example, an aircraft files for a final altitude of FL180, and the atmospheric pressure is 29.82 inHg. As seen on the chart below, this would violate separation if an aircraft were to operate 500 (VFR) or 1,000 (IFR) feet below the flight level.

In this case, if a pilot requested FL180 with an altimeter setting of 29.91 inHg or below, then the proper phraseology to include requesting the pilot to accept a different altitude, then offer the pilot a range. Example: "CALLSIGN, FL180 unavailable. Can you accept 16,000 or FL200?" assuming the aircraft is on a SW/EVEN altitude.

Altimeter Setting Lowest Usable FL

  1. 29.92" or higher - FL180
  2. 29.91" to 28.92" - FL190
  3. 28.91" to 27.92" - FL200

VI. Research and Reference Material

FAA JO 7110.65X:

Chapter 4 Section 2. 4-2-1 Clearance Items, 4-2-5 Route or Altitude Amendments

Chapter 4 Section 3. 4-3-2 Departure Clearances

Chapter 4 Section 4. 4-4-1 Route Use

Chapter 4 Section 5. 4-5-1 Vertical Separation Minima, 4-5-4 Lowest Usable Flight Level

Chapter 4 Section 6. 4-6-1 Clearance to Holding Fix