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My local aerodrome is towered and has parallel hard and grass runways. Simultaneous parallel departures or landings are not normally allowed. On one occasion we had been instructed to "line up and wait" on the grass runway. While I was performing the pre-take-off checks, an arriving aircraft was cleared for touch-and-go on the main runway. I observed it on short final as I completed my checks, and called "ready to depart", even though I knew that we would not be granted take-off clearance until it was well into its climb-out.

My instructor later told me that asking for clearance when you know you can't have it yet is bad form, and that he would have told me not to, if he had seen the traffic (which had been in his blind spot). I can see how it could seem like impatience or poor situational awareness, but it seemed to me like it helps the controller by letting them know they can get me off the runway as soon as they're able. Additionally, I've been taught that in other situations it's good to get a call in as soon as I can and there is clear air (such as downwind and final calls).

I'd like to get some clarification on this. Is it bad form? Why: for one of the reasons I suggested, or because of some other reason? What other situations does this generalise to?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it is. Knowing who's ready and who is clearable is the controller's job. $\endgroup$ Jun 14 '16 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ "Landing traffic in sight, ready to depart" Is also acceptable, but as far as I'm aware, there is no harm in telling the tower that you are ready to go, they will issue clearance when ready. Usually this will be met with a "standby" if they can't do it, but I don't see the harm. Its not your responsibility to know when you can be cleared, only to know that you can't enter protected areas or that you have clearance to perform what you want. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 15 '16 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ In my home airport, Delta calls the tower from the taxiway. Ain't nobody got time to hold short. $\endgroup$
    – RaajTram
    Jun 15 '16 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ As you were already told to line up and wait, tower will assume that you are ready for departure. If you were instructed to line up and wait, but were not yet ready for departure, you should reject the instruction and ask to hold short until you are ready. There is nothing more annoying that just squeezing in a departure before an arrival, only to find out after the departure has lined up that they will be blocking the runway for a few minutes, resulting in a go around ... $\endgroup$ Jun 15 '16 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that point is peripheral: If your airport has local procedures that include doing runup checks on the runway, after a LUAW, then that is specific to your airport (and unusual); we on this board can only answer in a general sense. If you completed your checks at the hold point, called "ready to go", received LUAW, then again calling "ready to go" from the runway is not appropriate (see my answer) $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 16 '16 at 18:08
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Informing the controller that you are ready to depart and requesting a takeoff clearance aren't the same thing.

It isn't bad form to inform the controller when you're ready for the next phase; if the controller isn't ready yet, you won't receive a takeoff clearance, but the good news is that now the controller is ready to get you going as soon as possible since your intentions have been declared, and she also has some time to think about what will happen next.

It opens up time for the controller to plan and coordinate.

Situation A: You wait until the landing traffic is clear of the runway before you state that you're ready for departure, and then the tower clears you; you takeoff.

In this situation, the tower had a short time to react to your request and possibly plan other traffic around you.

Situation B: You state that you're ready for departure, the tower acknowledges and requests for you to hold short for landing traffic. The traffic lands, and then, the tower clears you; you takeoff.

In this situation, the tower could have altered other inbound traffic to provider a bigger safety buffer for you due to the increased time given to asses the current traffic conditions at the airport.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, I respectfully disagree with sit B: If there is time to take off before the incoming traffic, then the situation does not apply to this question ("you know you won't be cleared"). If there isn't time, then tower will not wave a landing to accommodate a t/o. $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jun 15 '16 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ I somewhat agree with @Radu094. As written, it does not really match the situation in question where we know there is an aircraft on final with landing clearance. However the cases still apply to the next approaching aircraft. If the controller knows you are ready soon enough, they may clear you for immediate take-off between the landing aircraft, while if they don't know they would either inquire, or just let you wait for larger slot. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 15 '16 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking that maybe you guys are over thinking this. I'm not talking about waiving landings at all. It's just a matter of providing information sooner to allow for improved coordination. $\endgroup$ Nov 18 '16 at 4:18
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From an ATC perspective - no, reporting ready for departure is not bad form, quite the opposite!

The sooner we know you are ready, the sooner we can start planning other traffic to accommodate your departure. Even if there is another aircraft on final occupying the runway, it doesn't mean we can't start preparing your takeoff. Maybe there is traffic in the departure sector that needs to be moved around a bit, maybe the next inbound needs to get a slightly longer vector to create a gap for your departure, maybe another aircraft can be cleared to taxi a shorter route because we know you will soon be moving away from the holding point, maybe we need to make a telephone coordination with the next sector before you can go - the list goes on!

Besides, having an aircraft on final is just one of many things that can delay your departure. Maybe we have technicians working further down the runway that you can't see, maybe there is traffic overflying the airport blocking departures, maybe there is a flock of birds over the runway that must be scared away, maybe there is traffic operating on the runway handled on a different radio frequency ... what I'm trying to say is, in the cockpit, you don't have the full picture - and you shouldn't have; that's the job of those of us sitting in the tower. So there is no need for you to spend extra energy trying to do our job for us. In essence, we are there to help you, not the other way around. So please, do share any information you have as soon as possible, then it is much easier for us to provide good service.

As a small footnote, if you were not actually ready for departure when you were instructed to line up and wait, I think you should have informed the controller at that point. When we instruct someone to line up and wait, we more or less expect them to be ready. If you tell us you are not yet ready, we have time to change the plan if needed (possibly let you hold short). But if you wait until you are lined up and we clear you for takeoff to say that you are not yet ready, we suddenly have a blocked runway we were not expecting, and that can be a bit of a hassle.

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  • $\begingroup$ From my ATC perspective, yes reporting ready for departure when there is an aircraft on half-mile final is bad form! At my slow airport anyway. In the US we have to respond with either "Cleared for takeoff" or "Hold short of runway xx" and if we issue the hold short we have to make sure it's read back properly, which it often isn't. If the a/c waits until final is clear, more often than not we can issue takeoff clearance immediately and be done with it. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Feb 12 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead For me it depends. For a small training aircraft which has been holding at the holding point for a few minutes doing checklists, engine run-up and what not, I would like them to report ready as soon as they are ready. But I agree with you that for anyone else (aircraft which are generally ready as soon as they reach the holding point), having them report ready is annoying $\endgroup$ Feb 13 at 7:53
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I see a contradiction in your question.

In my experience, you do not receive an instruction to "Line Up and Wait" until after you call "Ready to Go". Once lined up and waiting, you should be doing nothing but waiting for the "Cleared for Takeoff Call". Pre-takeoff runup checks are inappropriate while Waiting at this point, and should have been already completed.

So (within my experience) I think you should have received a LUAW instruction in response to your "Ready to Go" call from the runup area or hold short line, which you should've made after you finished your checks, making another "Ready to go" call while waiting would be inappropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ While run-up should clearly be complete before taxiing to the runway, I believe complex aircraft have pre-take-off checklists that are to be run when holding or lining up (lights, flaps, power setting and such.) and that and that big jets sometimes do stand around the beginning of runway with clearance already for half a minute to minute running this checklist. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 15 '16 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ As I said in the comments, since there are only two aircraft here that regularly use the grass runway, we'll often be instructed to line up and wait as part of the taxi instructions. We complete engine run-up and power checks before taxi-ing, but we also have a short pre-take-off checklist to run after completing taxi-ing. Regardless, I think this point is a red herring: the question is the same if we're doing our pre-take-off at the holding point nearest the runway threshold. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Jun 15 '16 at 13:12
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It obviously depends from case to case, even from airport to airport

As a general rule however I do consider it bad form. Let's tally it up:

Cons:

  • It opens the door for an accident if tower is making a mistake and clears you for T/O (yes, you can still see traffic, but a pilot might attempt the T/O if cleared)
  • Scares the bejesus out of the pilot just attempting to land (because: has he not seen me?)
  • Keeps the frequency busy at a critical time for landing traffic (ie. in case tower needs to wave the landing)

Pros

  • You save about 2 seconds (the time it takes you to inform ATC after the traffic has landed)
  • Tower knows you are ready for take off (which he doesn't care at this point and will ask anyway if he needs to know now)

Just my 2c. Feel free to add to the list if you can think of something else.

PS. Oh, and just wanted to add: Calling ready can be interpreted as a a passive-aggressive way of asking the other traffic to hurry up. Like that time we were being pushed back in front of another a/c, and they called "ready to taxi". Translation: "we could be taxing now if it wasn't for you"

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that the tower does not care about your readiness. Unless there is a lot going on at that moment, informing the tower of your situation should be done IMO, not because you are in a hurry, but so they know the current situation more accurately. $\endgroup$ Jun 15 '16 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ Well, what difference would it make for the tower if the traffic holding short is ready or not? Landing traffic means runway is busy for the next 1 or 2 minutes. If he is actually thinking of squeezing you in between arrivals he might drop a Q: "are you ready for immediate departure?" $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jun 15 '16 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ Be aware there are two runways in this situation. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Jun 15 '16 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ the system isn't set up as controllers polling aircraft for their status. It's set up for pilots notifying the tower when they need something. On a modestly busy airport with multiple runways, there might be 3 or 4 aircraft at different intersections preparing for departure. The controller can't ask each of them in turn. They rely on the pilots to notify them of current needs. This is not even considering ground control which also needs to know this information to determine where to route aircraft that are ready to taxi for departure. $\endgroup$ Jun 16 '16 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ of course it's not a polling system. We are discussing the (very specific) case when you know twr cannot clear you for departure. My point was if they really need to know they will ask you. And what does ground/taxi have to do with anything? we are talking about people holding short (or on the runway in the OP) $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jun 16 '16 at 15:38
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This is one time you should not let an instructors comment damage you for life. Communication and flexibility are cornerstones to making a dangerous job a lot safer.

Rather than hashing through scenario after scenario to try to determine "right" or "wrong", It may be helpful (at the appropriate time) to discuss with your instructor why it is wrong and when it might be better and when not.

The biggest issue is being aware of others around you and their needs. I have to admit, someone calling "ready to depart" while I was on short final would send a chill up my spine, no doubt! (They don't see me!).

So, while communicating readiness to the tower makes a lot of sense, the TIMING of the comment could really mess up the pilot on short.

That is probably what the instructor meant.

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I consider it bad form and poor airmanship to call "Ready for takeoff" when another aircraft is on final and it is obvious you can not be given a takeoff clearance.

This just causes the tower to respond "Hold short due to landing traffic." It adds unnecessary radio congestion and workload when there is no need for it.

I always wait at least until the landing aircraft about to clear the runway so can respond with a takeoff clearance or "Line up and wait".

Tower controllers can see who is ready and will often clear you to position or even clear you for takeoff without you having to call ready.

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    $\begingroup$ A controller cannot/should not clear an aircraft to position or takeoff who has not requested it! Radio traffic is based on a series of Requests and Responses, you cannot have a response without the request, especially for something as important as takeoff. As far as Tower knows, you're still doing your checks, inputting your Flight Plan, and possibly troubleshooting a problem. (since your profile says you're a ATP, I'll give you a big benefit of the doubt, and just say that your answer doesn't make sense from a GA perspective. Commercial may somehow be different) $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 17 '16 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ I should have qualified that statement in regards to busy airports with lots of traffic. At some major airports ground control will often tell an aircraft to just monitor ground control to reduce radio congestion. The tower will then issue a take off clearance without having the aircraft call. If the aircraft is not ready for some reason they simply decline the clearance $\endgroup$ Jun 17 '16 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ I generally agree with the "don't bother if you see someone on short final" idea: Not a great time to tie up the frequency, and you know you're not going anywhere right now. Letting them know you're ready with say a 172 on a 1 or 2 mile final might get you cleared to line up and wait as soon as the Cessna is on the ground so you can be rolling the second the Cessna clears the hold-short line onto the taxiway. That can get you out ahead of another arrival if everyone's on their game. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jun 20 '16 at 20:55
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In the U.S., it is normal/expected to call the tower as soon as you are #1; even if the runway is occupied.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify: when you say "you are #1", it sounds like you're referring to calling final to land. Is that so, or are you talking about departure clearance as well? $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Jun 14 '16 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ @DanHulme you can also be "#1 for departure" when at the hold short line and I think that's what this refers to. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Jun 14 '16 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ It's also (unfortunately) common for some to call that they're #2 for departure, and Tower usually replies for them to call back when they're #1--unless the current #1 is obviously still off to the side for a runup. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Dec 20 '18 at 22:25
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You ask: Is it bad form to call "ready to depart" when you know you won't be cleared yet? Speaking as a controller, my answer is emphatically:

Yes, this is bad form. Do not do it.


When you call ready for departure (and please do say "departure" rather than "takeoff" in all radio calls except reading back "cleared for takeoff" or "cancel takeoff clearance"), I have five options:

  1. Issue a takeoff clearance.
  2. Issue a line-up-and-wait instruction, if LUAW is available to me.
  3. Issue a hold-short instruction.
  4. Respond "Roger."
  5. Ignore you.

If I can't clear you for takeoff because there is an aircraft on short final, I cannot go with option #1 or #2. Then I must choose one of the other three. In order to prevent you from feeling left out, or concerned that I may not have heard you, I should ideally issue a hold-short instruction. This makes it very clear to all involved that you will remain short of the runway (which you were doing before). Unfortunately once I do issue the instruction I now have to make sure you properly read back the full instruction with your correct callsign, and if you don't I'm opening myself up to liability because now it isn't clear that you will remain short of the runway. The same problem exists if I simply respond "Roger," though less so.

So your calling up has not helped me in any way whatsoever. Instead I have to make more radio calls now in addition to the radio call I would have made anyway later once the runway was clear and I could issue the takeoff clearance.


Again, this is predicated on a situation where you see someone on short final and you know that you will not be issued any instruction other than "hold short." If you do a check and do not see anyone on short final, do call—there may be a fast jet on a three-mile final and I can't issue your takeoff, but if you didn't see them I can't hold you responsible for that. Or perhaps you notice them but you think they're still pretty far out and there's a chance I can get you going. Maybe you're correct, maybe not; if I can issue the clearance I will and if I need you to hold short I'll tell you.

But if you look out and see someone on a half-mile final, that is a good time to keep your PTT switch to yourself.


Once you have observed the traffic, I would say a good time to call ready is when they pass off your nose as you're holding short. If the controller is able to use LUAW they can issue that instruction immediately. If not, they can ignore you for the 20-30 seconds it takes to let the arriving aircraft touch down, slow down, and receive runway exit instructions—they're hoping that keeping the frequency busy will prevent you from calling again right away. Then they'll be able to issue the T/O clearance without having to go back-and-forth unnecessarily.


Finally, I would think that you would have completed all of your runup and associated checklists before lining up on the runway. LUAW is supposed to be used in preparation for an "imminent departure" which (our guidance says) means within 90 seconds of you taking the runway—and could be as soon as a second or two after receiving the LUAW instruction, even before you actually reach the runway pavement. I don't know what the standard procedure is at your airport, but if someone was holding in position and called me to say they were ready for departure I would be very confused, because I would have thought that was a given.

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  • $\begingroup$ "If I can't clear you for takeoff because there is an aircraft on short final, I cannot go with option #1 or #2." You're assuming it's the same runway, but the situation in question is actually where there are parallel grass and hard runways. Parallel take-off and landing on the two runways is forbidden in aerodrome SOP, but there's nothing to stop you LUAW on one while the other is occupied. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Oct 19 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Same difference, especially if you were already holding in position. If you know you won't get a takeoff clearance, wait fifteen seconds. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 19 at 14:27
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You always notify the tower of your intentions as soon as you are ready, so long as you are not talking over somebody else.

Portland Tower, Cessna Seven Niner Two Mike Hotel, number one at two eight Lima, departing to the north west.

Say who you are, where you are and what you want to do (depart, remain in the pattern, etc).

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    $\begingroup$ You don't get to say if you are #1, #2, etc. Tower gets to decide that (even if it seems obvious). You can only say if you are ready. (I'd also never call runway 28L "two-eight-Lima"; it should be called "two-eight-Left") $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 16 '16 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky I think the Lima is a reference to the taxiway, not the runway. $\endgroup$ Jun 17 '16 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ @SentryRaven it would still be incorrect, you would say "runway 28 AT Lima". Also, assuming by "Portland Tower" he means KPDX, there is 28L and 28R, no Lima taxiway. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Jun 17 '16 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky You have to say your position at the line, otherwise the tower has no idea which one you are. Like if there are 3 Cessnas at the line the tower needs to know which one you are. All they can see from the tower are 3 white Cessnas, they have no idea which one is which unless you tell them. Its important because otherwise they might clear the wrong one for takeoff. $\endgroup$ Jun 19 '16 at 1:13

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