Document Information
Version 1
Created 01/09/2023 03:32
Last Updated 01/10/2023 05:11
by Matthew Woerly

This document is intended to list the most important information that new students should know for earning their S1. This is not exhaustive and only a brief list of the most common things that new students need work on. Refer to the referenced documents for more information. References such as 4-5-2 refer to the latest 7110.65.

Checking the Flight Plan

Don't worry about giving quick clearances right away. Focus on getting everything right, and then you can work on speed.

Key phrases when pilots call for clearance and you won't give it fairly quickly:

Clearance on request (number X), stand by.

Clearance available, advise ready to copy.

Clearances should generally be worked on a first come, first served basis.

Check the aircraft type and equipment code.

  • For general type and engine info, VRC procides: .typeinfo <class>
  • For weights, ceiling, and other info, see sources like Wikipedia.
  • Equipment code should match the aircraft type and route. (RVSM, RNAV, etc.)
    • Most airliners will be /L - you can usually just use that if needed
    • You can ask the pilot but they might not be very familiar
  • RVSM starts with FL290 inclusive, through FL410 inclusive.
    • Within this, aircraft should have RVSM capability
    • Above this, usable flight levels are every 2k feet instead of 1k
    • This means FL430 is west, FL450 is east, and so on

If you have to change part of the flight plan, let the pilot know what you're changing and why.

  • You may also ask the pilot what they would like instead: "FL340 not valid for direction of flight, can you accept FL330 or FL350?"

Use magnetic headings and the NEODD/SWEVEN rule to determine valid cruise altitudes. (ref 4-5-2) Most of the US is east of PDX, including SFO bay area. SEA and YVR are west.

Check that routes make sense. Tools like Skyvector are helpful for checking and visualizing. Perfection is not required, but should be good within ZSE and be reasonable outside. Preferred routes are not necessarily required; use these in case the pilot needs a good route.

Make sure you've reviewed the whole flight plan and have resolved all issues before continuing with a clearance.

There is a lot that goes into this step and it takes practice: use our practice system and monitor real world data or observe on VATSIM to gain experience with various flight plans.

Giving the Clearance

Practice good clearances per CRAFT, including parts like "and then as filed." Avoid adding extra words; e.g., say "cleared to," not "you are cleared to."

  • VFR departures at PDX only need the AFT part per the SOP - no clearance unless class B or Special VFR

For the destination, be specific; "Seattle-Tacoma Airport" is better than "Seattle Airport."

Include the departure information in the clearance: radar vectors, or SID and optional transition. (ref 4-3-2)

VUO clearances are slightly different: see the reference document and SOP.

Minimum readback is the squawk, and anything that was changed from what they filed.

Listen to the readback to make sure they include everything required and that it is all correct.

Aircraft that need to push onto a taxiway from the terminal must call GND for push. If they will remain in the non-movement area, push is at their discretion.

Pushback and Taxi

For Ground you should only be "clearing" aircraft on IFR plans, SVFR, or in the class B airspace, otherwise avoid saying "cleared." When aircraft should not be "cleared:" pushback, taxi, runway crossing.

Example of pushback: "Push onto T approved, face west, expect 10L at E, advise when ready for taxi."

Before giving taxi instructions, check they are squawking mode C with the right code.

  • In VRC, Mode C should be a small asterisk (left), standby is a small diamond/triangle (right):

    Due to VRC peculiarities these might not look the same for everyone.
  • If using Settings > Radar Mode > Ground, the speed in their data tag will also flash with the code they're squawking if it's different from their assigned code.

    CLX4230 is squawking 7175 mode C but that's not their assigned code. They'll need a sorting.

Practice good taxi phraseology:

Runway (at intersection), taxi via (route), (cross/hold short runway), (altimeter). (ref 3-7-2)

Taxi to (parking location) via (route)

For intersection departures, always say: "(runway) at (intersection)." Issue distance remaining only if the pilot asks for it, or to military aircraft. (ref 3-7-1)

Include either a crossing or hold short instruction for every runway along the route. Pilots must read back all hold short instructions. (ref 3-7-2)

Runway 21 at PDX is rarely used but considered open. Coordinate with TWR - blanket crossing permission is often given, but still include "cross runway 21" as needed. (including on taxiway K for 10L full length)

Pilots may switch to TWR on their own upon reaching the runway, but you can also send them over as soon as they'll be clear of any conflicts.

General Phraseology

Always start transmissions with the callsign you're calling (ref 2-4-8), and if it's your first transmission to them, identify yourself after that.

Add heavy or super after the callsigns of aircraft in those wake turbulence categories. (ref 2-4-14)

When giving a frequency, only include the first two digits after the decimal, leaving off the 5 that some have. (ref 2-4-17)

When giving runways, say each digit separately. (ref 2-4-17)

Talking to other controllers can sometimes be more informal but it's good to follow the right protocol. (ref 2-4-12)

Take time to check everything and know what you're going to say before you start a transmission.