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I was recently having a conversation where the term "clearance delivery" popped up, and was talking about his time flying into PHX, but in all of my time flying, I've never heard of the term before! Could someone explain to me what exactly is this for, and where would you find this?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

"Clearance Delivery" is exactly what you've surmised it is - a frequency used on the ground to copy your initial clearance from ATC before you take off.
The idea behind using a dedicated frequency for this is that it avoids tying up the ground control frequency (used for authorizing ground movement on taxiways and such) with long clearances and readbacks.

Clearance Delivery is found at controlled fields. Pilots operating under Instrument Flight Rules will generally use it prior to each flight, and at airfields in class C or class B airspace it's used by VFR pilots as well (since they'll be talking to departure controllers very shortly after take off until clear of the controlled airspace).

At less busy fields Clearance Delivery is often staffed by the same controller working Ground (e.g. at Long Island / Mac Arthur it's usually the same controller working both positions), and at some airports clearances will be read over the ground control frequency when it's not busy. At busier airports clearance is usually its own position - possibly with multiple frequencies (e.g. at La Guardia there is a separate clearance frequency for helicopters).

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At less busy controlled airports, there very often isn't a clearance delivery frequency at all. Only the ground frequency even exists. – Lnafziger Feb 3 '14 at 2:19
@Lnafziger Yup. And at some fields that have both they'll tell you to call on ground instead if it's one person on both positions and they don't feel like dealing with two frequencies. – voretaq7 Feb 3 '14 at 2:31
Yup. Usually in this case, it will say on the ATIS that "clearance delivery and ground control frequencies are combined on xxx.xx". I love the people that call on clearance anyway. Ummm... didn't you listen to the ATIS?? – Lnafziger Feb 3 '14 at 2:35
Take a look at ourairports.com/airports/RJAA/pilot-info.html. I got it from Google checking to see if Narita still had not only a Clear Delivery and ground frequency, but also (at least as I remember it) an engine start frequency. I don't see that there specifically, but they have a separate ramp frequency in addition to clearance delivery and ground frequencies. – Terry Feb 3 '14 at 3:59
Some airports also use clearance delivery for ground metering. At KEWR in particular once you are at the edge of the movement area you call CD and then monitor ground for taxi. This is to prevent the clutter of initial calls on ground as that position can get easily saturated during departure blocks. – casey Apr 6 '14 at 1:14

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