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When climbing or descending in a multi-crew cockpit, most SOP's require a verbal callout at 1,000 ft. prior to the assigned altitude.

I typically hear different callouts by different people:

  • "One to go"
  • "Six thousand for seven thousand"
  • "Six thousand climbing seven thousand"
  • "Six for seven"

Is this just a personal preference kind of thing or is there an actual safety benefit to one or the other?

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    $\begingroup$ I prefer "6,000 climbing 7,000" I don't like using "for" over the radio because it sounds like a number. (or the intercom) $\endgroup$ – p1l0t Feb 12 '14 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @p1l0t: I do the same over the radio, but not sure how much that really matters in this situation. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 12 '14 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah it doesn't really matter over the intercom except it forms bad habits sometimes. $\endgroup$ – p1l0t Feb 12 '14 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ @casey Yeah, that's the question. I'm hoping that there was a study or an FAA recommendation on it though! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 12 '14 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ I was trained to say "one thousand to [climb|descend]" or "five hundred to [MDA|threshold|etc]", but I haven't seen a study on it... favoriting this so I can! Over the radio, I always use "six thousand climbing seven thousand" because it's the most specific and fairly concise. $\endgroup$ – egid Feb 12 '14 at 22:28
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As Ralgha stated, this kind of callout would be included in the SOP. A couple I found in searching were the NBAA (same in their helicopter procedures by the way) and Angel Flight NE, as well as some generic CRM guides. The FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook also mentions altitude callouts, suggesting something like "two to go" and "one to go" (in thousands).

The NBAA includes this specific phrasing:

The callout is to include the altitude vacating and the assigned altitude i.e. “Six thousand for seven thousand” or “Flight level three-zero-zero for two-niner-zero”. After the PF makes this call, the PNF will verify and validate the call by stating “check”.

This Flight Safety Digest mentions that USAir used to use the "two to go" and "one to go" phrasing, but opted to change this for the same that the NBAA uses. The new policy has the pilot flying make this call, since they are in control of the climb, and makes it more clear what the final altitude will be.

The Flight Safety Foundation went in to a bit more detail about the "why" behind the callout. They mentioned that in their observations, the callout was sometimes not done due to workload of other more important things going on in approach/descent. They explain the benefit:

This is not to suggest that the 1,000-ft callout is trivial. On the contrary, it ensures that both pilots concur about the altitude target, directs the attention of a flying pilot who might be distracted back to the impending level-off and draws both pilots’ attention to what the autopilot is supposed to be doing.

Another resource that suggests the important is a report of an aircraft overshooting its altitude by 600 feet because the callout was missed. This report is in the ASRS database, report number 317750.

I also found it referenced in this book about communication. They didn't really comment on it specifically, but used it as an example of how communication is critical. Specifically, the more exactly the terminology is defined, the more clear the communication will be.

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As far as I know, there are no published FAA guidelines on it. An operator develops their SOP, and the FAA approves it, so whatever the SOP says is approved by the FAA.

Ours is, "one thousand to go," by the pilot flying, and then, "nine thousand for ten thousand," responded by the pilot monitoring.

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While I don't fly in a plane requiring more than one person, when there happens to be two pilots, such as one flying safety so the other can fly under the hood, I prefer the "1,000 feet remaining" or "1,000 remaining" call out. I don't really have some scientific reason for it, but it just seems more logical to me and easier to interpret.

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Our SOPs require Altitude leaving (climbing/descending ) to assigned altitude. This verifies again that the proper altitude is set and correct. One to go has too many meanings. 100/10000/1 mile/ one leg/ one minute/?? It’s ambiguous and has too many casual meanings and doesn’t verify altitude set. Easy to ignor the verification.

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  • $\begingroup$ If the only time the SOP uses the callout "one to go" is in reference to altitude, it's hardly ambiguous or confusable for one mile/minute/etc. That said, driving the crews to reference the altimeter rather than enforcing a Pavlovian responseto the alerter horn probably IS a good thing. Welcome to Av.SE! $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Mar 29 at 19:20

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