Just wondering - what's the correct ATC phraseology for a takeoff where a plane does not stop first after lining up with the runway centerline before starting their takeoff roll?

  • Redwood five-two-six-three, runway three-zero cleared for takeoff, no delay.
  • Redwood five-two-six-three, runway three-zero cleared for immediate takeoff.
  • $\begingroup$ Just got one yesterday. Not sure of the exact wording but I think it was. Cherokee N9999 cleared for takeoff Runway 29, Cessna on 1 mile final. no delay. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 18:22

5 Answers 5


The FAA AIM and ATC (7110.65) documents don't mention the ICAO equivalent. But I found it in the US AIP:

34.1 (...) At times a clearance may include the word “IMMEDIATE.” For example: “CLEARED FOR IMMEDIATE TAKEOFF.” In such cases “IMMEDIATE” is used for purposes of air traffic separation. It is up to the pilot to refuse the clearance if, in the pilot’s opinion, compliance would adversely affect the operation.

  • $\begingroup$ I was actually giving up and checking the AIP to see any listed ICAO deviation :) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is THE correct answer; this is how it is done at busy U.S. airports every day. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 22:54

Assuming US/FAA:

The Pilot/Controller Glossary only has one instance of "no delay":

MINIMUM FUEL − Indicates that an aircraft’s fuel supply has reached a state where, upon reaching the destination, it can accept little or no delay. This is not an emergency situation but merely indicates an emergency situation is possible should any undue delay occur.

"Immediate takeoff" doesn't exist, either, but we do get

IMMEDIATELY − Used by ATC or pilots when such action compliance is required to avoid an imminent situation.

We can cross-reference this with the Skybrary entry for Immediate Takeoff:

When given the instruction ‘cleared for immediate takeoff’, the pilot is expected to act as follows:

  • At the holding point: taxi immediately on to the runway and begin a rolling take off without stopping the aircraft. If it is not possible to begin taxiing onto the runway at once or if take off performance calculations mean that a standing start is necessary, then the clearance must be declined
  • If already lined-up on the runway: commence take-off without any delay. If this is not possible for any reason, the pilot must advise the controller immediately.

So that suggests that "immediate takeoff" is more standard. My experience has always had the clearance be "no delays".

If the P/CG doesn't technically define either phrase then I can suppose that they use "no delays" to avoid the knee-jerk "I must do something" to "immediately". For "no delays" you can always easily respond "unable" and wait until the next plane lands.

  • $\begingroup$ I have heard both, with the "immediate takeoff" probably being a little more frequent. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 22:08

According to the ICAO Doc 4444 14th ed. (Procedures for Air Navigation Services - Air Traffic Management )

They mention a clearance for "immediate take-off" in section

In the interest of expediting traffic, a clearance for immediate take-off may be issued to an aircraft before it enters the runway. On acceptance of such clearance the aircraft shall taxi out to the runway and take off in one continuous movement.

I don't see any reference to "take-off, no delay" or "cleared for immediate take-off" in the FAA ORDER JO 7110.65W (air traffic control procedures and phraseology).

I believe both are correct with ATC opting to use "Cleared for take-off, no delay." to shorten their transmission to save time.

  • $\begingroup$ Phraseology is a PROCEDURE, so, we should follow what is written on manuals. ‘Cleared for immediate takeoff’ is the right way to say. $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2018 at 21:45

There's also the option of expedite.

EXPEDITE− Used by ATC when prompt compliance is required to avoid the development of an imminent situation.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd personally advise against expedite in this situation, don't put a plane that might need extra time on the runway then tell it to expedite because of "imminent" danger. The pilot needs to be asked, not told, beforehand. That's why in ICAO Doc 4444 it's in the form of a question: "Are you ready for immediate departure?" or "Line up. Be ready for immediate departure." Both can be answered with "unable" and not occupy the runway (page 12-24). $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:32

Here's one from the field,

TOWER: Southwest 3828, Midway tower, runway 31C, line up and wait. Don't plan on stopping.

SWA3828: 31C line up and wait, Southwest 3828.

TOWER: Southwest 3828, traffic holding in position on the crossed runway, traffic on 3-mile final for the crossed runway, no delay please. Turn left heading 250, Runway 31C, cleared for takeoff. The wind 060 at 9.

SWA3828 and DELTA1328: Heterodyne

What follows the heterodyne is what makes this one famous, but the answer to your question as plays out here, is the controller intentionally used informal language in his advisory "don't plan on stopping" and the admonishment "no delay please".

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, a real world example. Is the "turn left heading 250" an instruction for after takeoff? $\endgroup$
    – slantalpha
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jeff0000 yes, the controller was really putting a lot of message in a few words because he didn't want the time delay of 3828 stopping motion and restarting... $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2018 at 0:20

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