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I was next in line (making IFR departure) just after a Bonanza departed, with about a dozen aircraft behind me. Tower called my number and said "pull up and be ready". I'm accustomed to "line up and wait", changed from the old "position and hold", so I was expecting "line up and wait". We're always taught to get clarification if we don't understand, but the tower guy seemed disgusted with me for asking, as if "pull up and be ready" is "duh"... standard phraseology. I've never heard it before, or since, so am I needing to study the AIM a little bit more?

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    $\begingroup$ It isn't standard phraseology, and a controller should never use the words "pull up" when directing traffic unless they are trying to avoid a collision. I don't think you were in the wrong here. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 7 '18 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ Probably that guy doesn't know standard phraseology. A Google search of pull up only brings up an exercise adults do or a training toddlers do. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Feb 7 '18 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ Imagine pull up your pants and ready.... $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Feb 7 '18 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ You might consider submitting a NASA ASRS report on this (I assume from your mention of the AIM that this happened in the US). Not necessarily for your own protection - asking for clarification was the right thing to do, IMO - but because it seems like egregiously poor phraseology on the controller's part. I'd listen to the recording on liveatc.net first, if it's available, just to make sure that you really heard what you think you did. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 7 '18 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Farhan it's also something that automatic cockpit warnings say, isn't it? Or used to say at least. $\endgroup$ – AakashM Feb 8 '18 at 15:58
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After the fact, I can guess that he meant, "Pull up to the runway hold short line, staying on the taxiway, and be ready for immediate takeoff when cleared".

But his phrasing was non-standard, and definitely confusing.

I think the proper way to say it would have been, "N12345: Hold Short; You are #1 for departure; be prepared to go without delay."

The key parts being:

  • "Hold Short" is an unambiguous instruction
  • Informing you that you are next in line.
  • Informing you what is expected, using the official term "without delay"

Even that is slightly risky, as the "without delay" could be misinterpreted if the pilot misses the initial "hold short" instruction.

I think the proper responses available to the pilot are one of:

  • "Holding short. Ready to go without delay"
  • "Unable" (I'm not ready yet, perhaps in part because I don't understand)
  • "Please Clarify" (You used confusing terms; Spell it out for me like I'm 5)
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    $\begingroup$ What is not standard phraseology but is somewhat common is an instruction to "pull up to the hold bars and hold short runway 11, be ready to go" -- sometimes followed up with "... I'm going to get you out after the 737 on 2 mile final". That happens in a situation where you may have more than 1 aircraft waiting, none right at the hold bars, without a clear picture of "who's next". The Tower controller is telling the aircraft that IS next, to pull up to the hold line, be ready, because here's my plan. Sounds like the OP got a shortened & less clear version of that instruction. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Feb 8 '18 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ "You are #1 for takeoff;" should not that be "You are #1 for departure" since this is not a clearance? $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Feb 8 '18 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @vasin1987: That may be correct, since "takeoff" could be misinterpreted. That just illustrates the difficulty in picking terms correctly if a controller strays even a little bit from standard phrasing. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Feb 8 '18 at 21:56
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You’re right, it is neither standard phraseology nor clear what the controller intended (though I agree with others suspecting he wanted you to be ready for a departure without delay).

This is an ideal example of why standard phraseology should be used. Pull up to what? Be ready for what? I could see this easily being mistaken for a LUAW by a less vigilant pilot. You were right to question the controller; good job. As a former tower controller, this makes my skin crawl.

A better choice, among many, would have been something along the lines of, “N123, expect to depart without delay, continue holding short of runway ##.” It is clearer, it does not use words in a standard takeoff clearance (namely “cleared” or “takeoff”), and it emphasizes the need to continue holding short.

I agree that an ASRS report would be useful, if you have the time.

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That does not sound like standard phraseology is I’ve never heard the phrase “pull up and be ready“. If this was a busy airport, the tower may – and I do say may - request an aircraft pull up to the runway hold line and expect an expedited takeoff clearance for traffic separation. That was a bad job on the part of the tower; the guy should never have said that, as it’s a great way to cause runway incursion.

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  • $\begingroup$ The busier times at my local Class-C, they usually say "N12345 hold short 24, traffic on short final", or if they are trying to sneak me in: "N12345 cleared 24 no delay, traffic on 2 mile final". Usually I tell them that I'm "holding short" and if I see the traffic they are talking about I'll also say "traffic in sight" so they know I'm looking. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 8 '18 at 5:02

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