Pilot's tip of the week

Reporting Altitude Changes


Subscriber question:

"I rarely hear pilots report that they are leaving an assigned altitude for a newly assigned altitude while IFR, is this still a requirement?" - Anonymous

Wally Moran:

“You are absolutely correct, the Aeronautical Information Manual chapter 5-3-3 says the following reports should be made to ATC or FSS without a specific request:

When vacating any previously assigned altitude or flight level for a newly assigned altitude or flight level.

Altitude change reportingWhile the AIM is not regulation, it certainly is considered best practice and should be complied with.

Here is what the pre-amble to this section of the AIM says: The safety and effectiveness of traffic control depends to a large extent on accurate position reporting. That’s good enough for me.

Making timely and correct reports not only help the controllers do their job, it also helps other pilots maintain situational awareness. Experienced IFR pilots listen not only for their call sign but they are listening to the other traffic as well, this helps them keep track of the bigger picture.

Here are some other reports that I find pilots have overlooked or forgotten about:

When unable to climb/descend at a rate of at least 500 FPM a report is required. Obviously the controllers need this information for their planning and to maintain separation. If you tell them early they can make accommodations for you, but if you don’t, that’s when an unexpected conflict can occur. Failing to make this report could be the causal factor in a serious accident.

Another is: The time and altitude upon reaching a holding fix or point to which cleared and when leaving any assigned holding fix. If I check in on a new frequency and hear pilots reporting entering or leaving a hold, I can guess that I am probably going to get a hold as well. Hearing this information early gives me time to plan my entry and to anticipate fuel requirements.”

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