Do ATC say "Climb to XXXX on standard" or "Climb to standard XXXX" or something else?

By "standard" I'm referring to altimeter pressure settings (set to standard pressure), but I'm not sure what the conventional phraseology is here for ATC instructions of this sort.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you so much.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That is extremely specific, I'm not going to attempt answering cause I don't have time but I want to include that each individual controller may say that common of a line in their own way. $\endgroup$ Jan 26 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/39092/… $\endgroup$ Jan 27 at 7:37

3 Answers 3


Standard phraseology says that below transition level, the controller may use the phrase "altitude", or omit it completely, but it is still clear - eg/

BigJet 456, Climb and maintain 5000 feet


BigJet 456, Climb and maintain altitude 5000 feet

Of course, "altitude" or the use thereof implies that the controller has communicated (and the pilot has readback) the QNH.

Once above transition level, the phraseology calls for flight levels, and this is always using the standard pressure setting 1013 hPa / 29.92 in Hg

BigJet 456, Climb and maintain flight level 300

Examples inspired by ICAO standard phrasology, however it is important to remember that controllers and pilots quite often stray from exact standard phrasology.


ATC will say “Climb Flight Level xxx”.

There is no need to say “standard” because “Flight Level” is understood to mean standard pressure altimeter setting.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! If for some reason ATC needs to tell the pilot fo set the altimeter to standard pressure, how might they issue such an instruction? $\endgroup$
    – Pearl6527
    Jan 27 at 0:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Pearl6527 They never do that. It's automatic (and required) when climbing above the transition altitude (for example, 18,000' in the U.S.). $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jan 27 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Pearl6527 ATC just specifies a flight level or an altitude. There's a standard protocol for switching to standard pressure and it's up to the pilot. Generally the change is always done on the standard pressure side, before transition alt on the way down, after transition alt on the way up. In the Canadian Arctic, there's an area called the Standard Pressure Region and there is no Transition Altitude at all, and it's Flight Levels right to surface, UNLESS you are departing or arriving at an airport. This is b/c there is no way to get local baro pressure in the middle of nowheresville. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 27 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ I see. Are you never asked to set the altimeter to standard pressure below transition altitude? $\endgroup$
    – Pearl6527
    Jan 27 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Pearl6527 Never. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jan 27 at 3:33

An example of the US phraseology would be, "November one two three four climb and maintain one one thousand. Memphis altimeter three zero zero five."

  • $\begingroup$ How is this an example for standard pressure? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Jan 28 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable, for standard pressure the controller would simply say "Memphis altimeter two niner niner two." Right? ;) $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall No, they would just say "climb flight level xxx" as explained in the other answers. There is no need to tell a pilot what pressure is standard. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Jan 28 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable, but this example uses 11K', that is not a flight level in the US. $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. I know that we three all know how this works, and I am not defending this as the best most complete answer... $\endgroup$ Jan 28 at 18:36

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