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Before departing VFR from a class C airport, I contact Clearance Delivery and tell them what I want to do. If I am just looking to stay in the pattern, though, what do I need to tell them?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! Which country or regulations are you asking about? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 3:30

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I would tend to agree with Michael Hall that you probably don't need to contact Clearance Delivery if you are planning on remaining in the pattern. In general you should contact Clearance Delivery (if a frequency is published) if you want to be assigned a discrete squawk code. So:

  • At a Class D, you do not need to contact CD unless you are requesting an IFR clearance or VFR flight following.
  • At a Class C, you do not need to contact CD if you are requesting to remain in the pattern. All other departures, even if you do not want flight following, should contact CD to receive a "local" code out of the Charlie.
  • At a Class B, all departures should contact CD to receive a squawk code, even if you'll just be staying in the pattern. This is because ATC provides radar separation to all aircraft operating in Bravo airspace. (I don't know if you'll get many Bravo towers to approve pattern work though.)

If you just want to remain in the pattern, it would probably be acceptable to contact Ground directly and use the following phraseology:

Ground, N12345 is at the FBO, request taxi to runway 27 for pattern work, we have information Alpha.

But it might be worth a call to your tower to see how they want you to do it. Their procedure might be for the CD controller to prepare all departure strips and hand them to Ground, so they want you to call CD anyway. Or they may have no problem with you calling Ground first. Where I work, we're slow enough that Ground and Clearance are almost always combined anyway so it doesn't matter which one you call.

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There would be no need to contact either clearance delivery or departure control if you intend to remain in the pattern. This presumes that the control tower is operational, because they of course control the Class D airspace that holds the pattern.

I am not aware of any Class C airspace where the primary airport would not have a tower, or that the tower might close while Approach/Departure control remains active. However, if this was the case, or if you were staying in the pattern at a secondary airport underneath or adjacent to the Class C, it certainly wouldn't hurt to give them a quick call and let them know what you are doing.

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Just tell the ground controller that you want to remain in the pattern. If they have any local procedures that would require you to get a transponder code or any other requirements it will be on the ATIS or the ground controller will tell you.

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