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Pilots Urged to Review Climb Via Procedures

It’s important to have a full understanding of the terminology in order to avoid pilot deviations.

Ongoing confusion over “climb via” phraseology has led to pilot deviations from those traffic procedures at some airports, posing significant safety and liability concerns.

“Business aircraft flight crews must apply proper due diligence to all departures,” noted Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infra-structure. “We’re seeing far too many deviations on these procedures, which points to a lack of full understanding of ‘climb via’ terminology.”

Enacted four years ago to simplify assignment of SID and RNAV SID procedures, a “climb via” instruction often includes numerous crossing and speed restrictions in short order.

For example, the RUUDY 6 RNAV departure from Runway 24 at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (TEB) requires crossing the WENTZ waypoint at 1,500 feet MSL before initiating a climb to the procedure’s top altitude of 2,000 feet. That restriction is in place to avoid conflicts between TEB departures and traffic into Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). However, operators not fully versed in the complete procedure – or who may be overly reliant on their air-craft’s FMS to sort out these intricacies – may inadvertently violate the altitude restriction.

The Teterboro Users Group worked with the FAA earlier this year to issue a letter to airmen (LTA) addressing pilot deviations on RUUDY 6.

“We encourage pilots [flying from Teterboro] to conduct a thorough pre-flight briefing on departure procedures,” said Teterboro Users Group President David Belastock. “We’re also coordinating with Jeppesen to expedite the publication of charting enhancements that more vividly denote altitude and speed constraints.”

At Nevada’s Henderson Executive Airport (HND), ongoing altitude busts on SIDs from Runway 35L not only prompted a similar LTA, but also a temporary procedure in which tower controllers asked pilots to verify their awareness of the mandatory 6,000-foot MSL crossing restriction at the KITTE waypoint.

“RNAV restrictions can be a matter of life or death,” noted HND-based Keith Gordon, who was on the team that led to climb via implementation. “Blowing through the KITTE altitude restriction puts you in the path of traffic landing at McCarran International Airport.”

According to Gordon, these deviations frequently involve transient aircraft. “Simply stated, the crew heard ‘climb via’ yet didn’t,” he continued. “Pilots are interpreting their clearance to mean the higher assigned altitude, or are simply not setting up their autopilots and flight directors to capture altitude restrictions.”

While acknowledging that verification of the altitude restriction seems reasonable, Gordon noted such “ad-libbed” clearances defy the intent behind climb via to simplify complex instructions and reduce frequency congestion.

“Controllers really shouldn’t need to say anything else, [and] we really shouldn’t have different facilities issuing ad hoc instructions. In that regard, pilots are failing climb via. We need to do better.”




This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Business Aviation Insider. Download the magazine app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.