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Do pilots of modern high-end aircraft ever verbally communicate their destination to ATC? My understanding is clearance delivery is done electronically and when listening to ATC I haven't heard any instance where the pilot stated the destination to ATC (either on takeoff or en-route).

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    $\begingroup$ You have to listen to Clearance Delivery not Tower or Center $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    May 13 at 3:48

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In the , yes, the destination airport is transmitted verbally over the radio by many pilots at many airports.

As you say, at certain airports and for certain operators the IFR clearance may be issued non-verbally. In the USA there are two options: the Pre-Departure Clearance program (PDC) and the Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications — Departure Clearance program (CPDLC-DCL).

PDC clearances are issued by ATC "in the blind" without waiting for a request from the pilot,1 and so the departure airport is never confirmed; it is incumbent on the pilot to read their issued clearance and verify that the clearance limit is correct. CPDLC-DCL clearances require that the pilot be "logged on" to the CPDLC system, but once they are connected to that system, the clearance is again issued automatically without a specific request by the pilot.2 When using CPDLC the pilot will confirm receipt of the clearance. In neither case will the destination airport be mentioned over a radio frequency.

However, if there is a problem with the clearance, or if either the ATC facility or the pilot does not have the equipment necessary to utilize PDC/CPDLC, the pilot will have to radio the Clearance Delivery controller and verbally request a clearance.

From the Aeronautical Information Manual 5–2–6h2, when calling on the radio to copy their IFR clearance, the pilot is expected to:

State the following information in the initial call‐up to the facility when no change has been made to the filed flight plan: Aircraft call sign, location, type operation (IFR) and the name of the airport (or fix) to which you expect clearance.

In my experience almost every pilot—Part 91, Part 135, and Part 121—will follow the above recommendation. They will verbally transmit their intended destination airport to the Clearance Delivery controller, despite the filed flight plan including that clearance limit already.


1 AC 90-117 Table 2-1
2 AC 90–117 2.10.3.2

Further reading:

AIM 5–2–2 Automated Pre-Departure Clearance Procedures
Advisory Circular 90-117 (thanks @ymb1)
ForeFlight: PDC FAQs
BoldMethod: Pre-Departure Clearance: What Is It?

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    $\begingroup$ PDC does require an action from the pilot. Either it is actively requested or - in case of the United States - it is sent after pilots log on to the ATC network (ie. make a "notification") before departure. $\endgroup$
    – busdriver
    May 13 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ @busdriver: see my edited answer, which now specifies that it is correct for the USA only—I should have said that in the first place. PDC never requires a specific request from the pilot, and I clarified that CPDLC-DCL also does not require a specific request but does require the pilot to log on to the CPDLC system. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    May 13 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, but "according to FAA-Regulations..." - what regulation are you referring to? $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    May 13 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify whether your comment that most pilots will verbally transmit their intended destination applies to those using PDC/CPDLC? I have been listening to KAUS "clearance delivery" on liveatc and it seems virtually no one is requesting clearance over that channel. $\endgroup$
    – flopper
    May 13 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ @757toga, I am referring to the AIM specifically, which is (as we all know) not regulatory. But tag:FAA would not apply and IMO tag:USA would be too broad—though I am open to persuasion on that point. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    May 13 at 17:18
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The flight plan contains the desired route and destination. Ot is communicated prior to the first radio call with clearance delivery.

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Communicate - yes ; Verbally - mostly ; Digitally - sometimes

As stated above, anything but a simple VFR-Flight will require a flightplan, which noch only states the destination and the route. This flightplan is mostly filed in written (or via computer) (though sometimes this can also be done via audio)

Next, the pilot will request a clearance, which states the destination again - this is normally done via voice-radio, though sometimes digitally transmissions is being used.

=> ATC is aware of your destination

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Every flight that intends to fly in controlled airspace needs to make a flight plan in advance that includes destination and intended route. In case of airlines, the flight plan is submitted by the dispatch office prior to flight.

Before departing, the flight needs a clearance that is merely a confirmation of the flight plan. In theory the clearance could include changes in filed route but that is rarely case in these days as any conflicts are in practice handled by the airline. In countries where the flight plan is required to include local departure procedures those are sometimes altered by the requirements of the departure airport.

The destination and route is confirmed (an thus communicated) when pilots request a route clearance. At major airports the clearance is issued usually by datalink so no verbal communication is required and even if voice procedures are used, the ATC already knows the destination of the flight as it is included in the flight plan.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that a clearance is "merely a confirmation of the flight plan." The clearance is the clearance and the flight plan is nothing but a plan. Just filing a flight plan is not sufficient to fly IFR in controlled airspace; the flight plan means nothing, the clearance means everything. And at least in the USA, ATC-issued reroutes are far from rare. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    May 13 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead: Those that fly long-haul to/from the coasts (international flights) rarely go through those domestic issues. // @ busdriver: please consider editing to clarify based on what (and where) conflicts are rare, it may help get your point across more clearly. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    May 13 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Also a flight plan is not required for every flight in controlled airspace- consider a VFR flight. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    May 13 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ "Every flight that intends to fly in controlled airspace needs to make a flight plan in advance" HAH! Tell that to my C-172. I frequently take off without even knowing where I'm going, I can make it up along the way. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    May 13 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @DaveGremlin “Controlled Airspace” includes class E, which only requires a clearance if you’re IFR. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    May 13 at 19:34

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