Departure and arrival procedures and clearances


The student should gain an understanding of departure and arrival procedures and clearances, as well as a basic ability to read enroute and approach charts.


  • Terminology
  • Charts
    • Enroute
    • NOS approach plates
    • Jepp approach plates
  • Procedures
  • Clearances


Introduction 05
Main body 45
Application 20
Conclusion 05
Total 1 hour 15 minutes


  • pen and paper
  • Instrument Flying Handbook
  • Instrument Flying
  • laptop with internet connection
  • enroute chart and approach plates

Instructor actions

  • Describe the arrival and departure area clearances and why they’re important
  • Evaluate student knowledge with questions emphasizing understanding rather than rote
    • Have the student solve multiple scenarios
  • Conclude with an oral quiz, identifying and correcting errors

Student actions

  • Arrive with completed homework assignment
  • Maintain active involvement by responding to questions and taking notes
  • Practice reading back clearances to ATC in several scenarios
  • Complete an oral quiz and demonstration of the concepts

Completion standards

The lesson will be complete when the student can brief an approach, describe chart elements, and interpret air traffic control clearances with minimal instructor guidance.

Teaching outline

Obstacle departure clearance
  • With standard requirements, aircraft must be able to climb 200 ft/nm, starting from 35 ft above the threshold.
    • no turns before 400 AGL
    • obstacle gradient is 152 ft/nm
Standard Instrument Departure (SID)

Published IFR departure procedure, providing a standard route from the terminal area to the en route system.

  • To accept, the DP must be at least written down, and preferably in chart form.
    • If not in possession, note “NO DP” in the flight plan.
    • ATC might just read the whole thing anyway.
  • Exist in vectored and pilot-navigated versions.
Standard Terminal Arrival (STAR)

Established IFR arrival routes for specific, larger airports, designed to simplify clearance delivery.

  • Some procedures have mandatory speeds or crossing altitudes published, or information on what to expect.
  • Aircraft on a STAR must be cleared to descend; obstacle clearance is the responsibility of ATC.
  • Variations include RNAV and Type B, which use GPS or RNAV technology to attain 2nm and 1nm accuracy respectively.
  • Different instrument approach types exist, with different arrival procedures, as many have multiple initial approach fixes.
Standard departure and terminal arrival charts
  • non-standard take-off minimums (Instrument Flying, 533)
    • NOS – listed in front of the packet
    • Jepp – per-airport
  • SIDs and DPs (536)
    • with the approaches for the airport in NOS and Jepp
    • list requirements
    • illustrate the departure and where it ends (MEAD7.BLD is the Mead Seven departure, BLD transition)
    • transition routes lead to and from the enroute system
    • chart also includes a textual description for each runway
    • symbology is the same as enroute charts
Standard instrument approach procedure charts

NACO and Jeppesen have slightly different formats, but differ only in minor symbology and the depiction of minimums.

  • briefing strip
    • city (how charts are indexed)
    • approach information – nav frequency, course, lengths and altitudes
    • approach name
    • ICAO identifier and airport name
    • requirements, lighting information, missed approach
    • radio frequencies
  • plan view
    • top-down view of the approach
    • ADFDME, or RADAR REQUIRED is printed in the top right corner for some approaches
    • effective date (vertical along the side)
    • minimum safe altitudes (MSA) listed in bottom right corner
    • navaids and frequencies are listed again
  • airport plan
    • shows airport layout
    • FAF to MAP distance and times
  • profile view
    • missed approach instructions, top corner
    • vertical depiction of the approach, from the initial fix on
    • shows glideslope intercept and minimum altitudes for the segment
  • final approach fix depictions:
    • nonprecision:  Maltese cross
    • precision:  glideslope intercept at lightning bolt
  • minimums
    • different minimums for different categories (some overlap)
    • list different approach options – straight-in, circling, etc
Approach briefing

When briefing for an approach, it’s good to quickly read through the pertinentinformation, skipping that which is not relevant for our current approach:

  1. Approach and TDZE (Paine Field ILS to 16R, touchdown elevation 565)
  2. Nav facility and frequency (IPAE, 109.3 – tuned, identified, course twisted, source selected)
  3. Comm frequencies (On approach, 16R tower is 132.95 and in standby)
  4. If major obstacles exist, locate the highest point under the approach and missed (830 MSL tower under the missed approach path)
  5. Minimums (DH is 781 feet / 200 AGLRVR greater than 2,400)
  6. Procedure (We’re northwest and can expect vectors to final at 3,100)
  7. Runway data – landing distance and lighting available (We’re landing 16R, 9000 feet available, lighting is tower controlled, and once we see the rabbit we can descend to 681.)
  8. Missed (If missed, climb to 1,300 followed by a climbing right turn to 3,100 direct to RITTS and hold.) Mentioning fuel available for the hold is also a good idea.
Radar approaches
  • Both types are charted, if available, by Jeppesen and listed in NACO packets
  • Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR), nonprecision
    • range and azimuth (course) information only, no altitude
    • Radar control will give a series of vectors and descents
      • recommended altitude each mile
      • descent to MDA
    • Use a 3° descent path
      • rate of descent approximately equals 5× groundspeed
  • Precision Approach Radar (PAR)
    • slope guidance allows for much greater accuracy
    • Radar control advises MDA, missed approach, and descent points
    • On final, controller provides vectors for the centerline and distance each mile
      • recommended altitudes available on request
    • At glidepath intercept, the controller will instruct “begin descent”, at which point a 3° slope should be maintained
    • At DH, the controller will advise