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When asking for taxi clearance, a pilot must include his location when contacting ATC. However, I'm not quite sure exactly how to state your position in the airport.

For example, I've heard some pilots say something such as "Ground, N123DB is southside by the tower, requesting taxi clearance," but I've also heard something like "Ground, N123DB is at transient parking, requesting taxi clearance." How do you know your location in the airport?

Obviously, I can look at an airport diagram and find out where I am, but how do I communicate this using proper terminology to ATC? Is it standardized?

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    $\begingroup$ If you're based at the airport, you should know which FBO you pay, no? If you landed there, the tower would have directed you to an FBO or transient parking. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Apr 20 at 17:16
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There isn't really an official protocol, beyond the conventions everybody uses out of habit. Just pick the most prominent landmark, building or chart-labeled zone you can find or think of. The controller knows all of them so as long as it's not something like "next to a light pole", he/she will figure it out, and if not, they'll ask for clarification.

If the airport has an area designated "transient parking" on the airport chart, use that. If you're on a ramp area close to the entrance to taxiway Alpha, you could say "xxxx on the ramp near Alpha". If you're on a ramp in the hinterland somewhere near some hangars, pick the nearest building with a business name associated with it, like "xxxx by Standard Aviation...", or "xxxx by the Shell fuel pumps", whatever. Use common sense and don't overthink it.

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As a matter of course, I make it a habit to wait to call for taxi clearance until I am in view of the tower, facing the movement area, with my beacon and taxi lights on, and my engine running. If I can see the tower, more than likely they can see me. Being in a position and condition to taxi will make it easier for ATC to distinguish my plane from the others. If they still have issues distinguishing the plane, giving ATC the aircraft’s current cardinal direction heading may help.

Another good habit to make it easier for ATC (and any other pilots and personnel moving around the ramp) is to replace the country of registration designation with your plane model. Instead of saying “N”, say “Skyhawk”, “Archer”, or whatever model you are flying. According to AC 90-66B:

Paint schemes and color or style descriptions may be added to the use of the aircraft call sign and type, but should not replace type or call sign. For example, “MIDWEST TRAFFIC, TWIN COMMANDER FIVE ONE ROMEO FOXTROT TEN MILES NORTHEAST” or “MIDWEST TRAFFIC, FIVE ONE ROMEO FOXTROT TWIN COMMANDER TEN MILES NORTHEAST.

And, just because it is an airfield without ATC, doesn’t mean it is not a safe general practice to announce your movement in the movement area over CTAF.

In general, you are allowed to move the plane up to the point right before entering the movement area in the GA designated area of the airport prior to getting your clearance. Then, give ATC your position as a general landmark. If there is only one FBO, you can just say the “FBO ramp”. If the FBO has a name, use the name in place of “FBO”. If your position is at the fuel farm, say the “fuel farm ramp”. If you are at a school, use the school name. Same with a mechanic/technician shop. In place of knowing your exact position on an airport diagram, these are the places you will most frequently visit as a transient GA pilot. You can also use the closest taxiway intersection.

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    $\begingroup$ "Then, replace the entire tail-number with the model and color." The FAA says not to do this. See 10.3.1 in AC 90-66B $\endgroup$ – reirab Apr 20 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab - Thanks for the correction. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Apr 20 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ Just for completeness, there are airfields which require permission to start. $\endgroup$ – Dan Apr 20 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Dan - Interesting point, Dan. I’ve never had that issue in the Class Ds that I’ve been to. None of the very few Class B or C’s I’ve been to required it either for GA piston-powered prop planes. Although, I know it may be standard for turbine-powered aircraft at the commercial terminals. I would be curious to know which airports require it for my kind of traffic. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Apr 20 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @DeanF. Permission to start is standard ICAO; the FAA grants it by default unless the ATIS (or ramp owner) says otherwise. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Apr 20 at 20:13

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