I had an interesting occurrence at the start of a recent flying lesson, at an aerodrome with ATC service. We were holding at A and completed our power checks. We hadn't requested nor been offered an intersection departure, and that is not a usual procedure at this aerodrome.

"G-AB ready for departure"
"G-AB via A line up and wait runway 23"
"Via A, line up and wait, runway 23, G-AB"

Following this, I entered the runway and turned to backtrack to the threshold. At this point my instructor said I should have turned the other way to line up at the intersection, because they didn't clear us to backtrack. Was he right to complain, or was I correct to use the full runway length?


A is only about 20 m from the runway threshold, and this runway is huge, so it makes little practical difference in this case.

At this aerodrome, they usually give LUAW instructions as "via [point], enter, backtrack, line up and wait runway 23". I checked CAP 413, and it doesn't mention "enter, backtrack, line up and wait" as phraseology, so I'd expect a clearance to LUAW entitles you to the whole runway unless you've already agreed an intersection departure. However, it's CAP 413 section 4.24 that introduces the "via A" phrase, and it has this to say:

When line-up will take place at a position other than for a full-length runway departure the intermediate 'Holding Point' designator shall be included in the line-up instruction. Controllers may include the runway 'Holding Point' designator in any other line-up instruction when considered necessary.

It gives an example, and the only other example with "via" is in the context of an intersection departure. As I said, at this aerodrome they usually include the "via"; maybe they just always consider it necessary. Is not saying "backtrack" here significant, even though it's not a standard part of a LUAW instruction?

  • $\begingroup$ If in doubt, ask the controller. For what it's worth, if I were the controller in this situation, I would not have expected you to backtrack. But I don't work in the UK, so your rules may be different. $\endgroup$ – J. Hougaard Aug 12 '18 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Good question and I am interested in an authoritative answer. I don't have a reference but I seem to remember the FAA in the US gives explicit permission for back tracking - mainly because of the extra time involved. ATC uses the words "permission granted" or back taxiing "approved" which implies they have and enforce authority to do it. $\endgroup$ – jwzumwalt Aug 12 '18 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ I suspect if you had asked to backtaxi to use the full runway, tower would have come back with "Nxxxxx, cleared to backtaxi runway xx" or "Nxxxxx, negative, hold for traffic on base" (with the plane type called out), or perhaps "Nxxxxx, cleared to backtaxi runway xx, expedite for traffic on base (or final)" with the plane type called out". And you would read back the clearance, and then backtaxi or wait. Otherwise you might expect to be scolded by the tower, especially if you caused a go-around situation for another plane. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Aug 13 '18 at 0:10

Your instructor was correct. According to the CAA Radiotelephony Manual[pdf], since the clearance you received included "via A" your clearance was not for a full length takeoff.

From the Radiotelephony Manual, chapter 4:

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  • $\begingroup$ That's the same section I quoted in the question, and it doesn't clearly imply what you claim. It says that if it's an intersection departure, they must say "via A", and in any other line-up instruction, they may say "via A". $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Aug 13 '18 at 16:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But in your question you indicated that they did say "via A," so that indicates that is was an intersection departure. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Aug 13 '18 at 16:25

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