By BILL GUNN
The June 20, 2019, publication of the FAA Chart Supplement — formerly known as the Airport Facility Directory or the “Green Book” — will complete a welcome change: Publication of telephone numbers directly to the ATC controlling agency for clearances to depart non-towered airports or those with limited tower hours that do not have a Remote Communication Outlet (RCO) or Ground Communications Outlet (GCO).
Departing IFR when the weather is decidedly IMC at a non-towered location has always been awkward in the past.
The PIC could call the FSS (or sometimes a nearby ATC tower) and coordinate a departure time/runway/altitude/heading. This then required the PIC to make the slot time or start all over again.
Mobile phones vastly improved the process, permitting the call from the cockpit when ready to depart.
Still, the infrastructure was not the best and sometimes long delays to relay to ATC and back kept the aircraft idling at the hold line burning needed fuel.
The other option was to depart VFR in clear weather below the clouds, often at very low altitude and perhaps questionable visibility, and pick up the IFR clearance inflight. Unfortunately, there have been many tragic accidents stemming from this practice.
An effort was sponsored by the Texas Aviation Association and the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division some years ago to get direct telephone numbers published just for this purpose. Unfortunately, the FAA communications structure at the time was changing and apparently could not support the change then. However, the seed was planted.
In the latest Chart Supplement, in the communication paragraph listed for each airport, an ATC agency and telephone number will be given.
As an example, see the April 25, 2019, Chart Supplement entry for Fort Worth Spinks (KFWS): “CLEARANCE DELIVERY PHONE – For CD when ATCT is clsd ctc Regional Approach at 972-615-2799.”
Note this is for clearance only. File or modify the flight plan electronically or through FSS.
Be ready to go when you call. ATC may offer an immediate departure if the airspace is congested and a hole is available. And, comply with the heading/ altitude/frequency/squawk clearance issued.
Bill Gunn is the former Director for Systems and Training for the Texas Department of Transportation, Aviation Division. He retired from TxDOT Aviation in August, 2016. He is an Airline Transport Pilot, Flight Instructor, Airman’s Certificate Review Authority and an FAA Safety Councilor. He has approximately 7,000 hours in a wide variety of military and civil business, corporate, and general aviation planes. Bill own a Vans RV-7 and flies regularly for work and pleasure.