View Full Version : Phraseology Question - Omit "To" and "For"?

16th Jul 2011, 06:02
As a matter of personal technique, I generally read back ATC clearances as close to verbatim as they are issued by the controller, e.g. if Langen Radar tells me:

"Airliner 1234, climb to flight level five zero", I say "Climb to flight level five zero, airliner 1234."

Similarly, if changing frequencies during a climb or descent, I will check on by stating "Langen radar, Airliner 1234, passing flight level five two, climbing to flight level one one zero".

I believe this is correct per the ICAO material I have studied as well as the FAA AIM. However, I was recently reprimanded by a "superior" for using the word "to" in my transmissions because "it can be too easily confused with the number 2" (even if I was separating "to" from the numerical clearance with a word such as "heading" or "flight level" as in "climb to flight level two zero zero"). I was also instructed never to say "for" unless I meant the number "4"(cleared ____ takeoff? Cleared _____ land? :suspect: ).

Is this a generally accepted nugget of wisdom that I've somehow missed? Is it accepted practice to omit the word "to and for" from all transmissions? Or am I getting misguided advice?

One more related question:

Is there a response expected by ATS units after they say to you "identified" or "radar contact"? I have flown in places where it seems to be the the custom for you to respond to these, based upon observation of the locally based carriers, however my colleague again reprimanded me for doing so, in response to "radar contact" even if only responding with "Airliner 1234, roger".

Thanks for the responses.

16th Jul 2011, 08:58
CAP 413 Radiotelephony Manual
Chapter 3 Page 1
Chapter 3
1.2.3 However, care must be taken to ensure that misunderstandings are not generated as
a consequence of the phraseology employed during these phases of flight. For
example, levels may be reported as altitude, height or flight levels according to the
phase of flight and the altimeter setting. Therefore, when passing level messages,
the following conventions apply:
a) The word 'to' is to be omitted from messages relating to FLIGHT LEVELS.
b) All messages relating to an aircraft’s climb or descent to a HEIGHT or ALTITUDE employ the word 'to' followed immediately by the word HEIGHT or ALTITUDE.
Furthermore, the initial message in any such RTF exchange will also include the
appropriate QFE or QNH.

16th Jul 2011, 09:01
The CAP413 applies in UK airspace only.

16th Jul 2011, 09:25
ICAO Phraseology Reference Guide
A Quick Reference Guide for
Commercial Air Transport Pilots

To and For
Use of the word ‘to’ directly before a climb/descent instruction or change of
heading can be confused as ‘two’. Such confusion is avoided by using the
mandatory words ‘flight level’ or ‘heading’ immediately before the numbers.
Big Jet 345, climb to FL180.
Big Jet 345, turn left to heading 310 degrees.
There are also occasions where inappropriate use of the word ‘for’ can introduce
confusion if it is interpreted as the number ‘four’.

16th Jul 2011, 10:08
I suppose my view is that (I thought) you really couldn't go wrong by reading back the controllers clearance verbatim, e.g. they say "climb to 2000", I say "climb to 2000", if they say "climb altitude 2000", I say "climb altitude 2000".

There are enough variations on the planet that this seems to be the only way survive if you operate on 6 continents. On the other hand I could just adopt the policies of my native country's agency and say "climb/descend and maintain" or "turn left/right heading". In the end I guess you can't please everyone, but when you fly with someone who nitpicks you in can get a bit maddening :ok:

Thanks for the responses!

16th Jul 2011, 16:06
How about "turn left 360?"

I heard a genav pilot express confusion whether the command was for a turn left to heading 360, or a 360 degree turn.

I've never seen a heading indicator with 360 numeral on it, just 0 for north. ATC would be better to use 0 for north.


16th Jul 2011, 21:19
I believe the german aip( or equivalent) states specifically to omit the words to and for. At least, that what it says in our route manual.

CJ Driver
17th Jul 2011, 19:20
I have certainly learned to never say "to" - even if the controller said "Climb TO Flight Level 340" I would still read back "Climb Flight Level 340". This strategy avoids my brain cells deciding which version to use, and is completely unambiguous, regardless of the local language.

Come to think of it, I would say "Direct VESAN" as well, never "Direct to VESAN".

17th Jul 2011, 21:59
Thanks for the continued responses!

As a matter of fact, some years ago I did omit saying "to" and "for" whenever possible. Then, a few years back, I mentioned this technique to a controller in an off duty conversation. He cautioned me not to modify clearances in my readback, but do it verbatim. Since I could not produce a reference document to support my technique, I adopted his stance. I suppose that was bad advice! I will revert to my old way of omitting to's and for's! Thanks again!

18th Jul 2011, 03:07
Slightly off topic but another one I wince at is "looking for" ie
"ABC control Hotshot Driver 1234 flight level three three zero
looking for flight level three seven zero."

Since when did "looking for" come into any radio phraseology
book? I feel like quipping if he cares to look outside he'll find
its 4000 ft above him. :rolleyes:

18th Jul 2011, 04:55
I avoid the use of "to" and "for" in any communications with ATC when it relates to altitudes, headings or speeds they expect me to comply with. With everyone tired, government radio equipment that's older than the controllers using them and everyone trying to speak at once, it's a wonder flubbed clearance readback/hearback errors don't cause more problems than they do.

In the off-topic radio pet peeve department, I agree with slasher about "looking for"! I prefer to say "requesting" in it's place, but everyone knows this is only done to pester controllers into clearing you to your desired altitude sooner than they otherwise might. No word on whether this actually works though.

Another pet peeve: "with ya" As in "Hey Denver, Super conglomerated eleven with ya", "checking in" or "on board". No $hit Sherlock! Since you're talking on the freq it's pretty obvious you're here! How about just checking in using the standard format? Not as clever or cute as you think.

Back on topic now...

18th Jul 2011, 11:16
One thing though:

it is EITHER turn LEFT HEADING 360 (or NORTH)

I don't care what they say or do in the UK and their CAP crap, this IS THE ONLY SAFE WAY not to confuse headings-to-fly with amount of CHANGE in heading.

the UK way of saying "turn left heading 360 degrees" is simply dangerous and I refuse and always tell the controllers in UK airspace to choose, either degrees or heading, but not the 2 in one sentence. They need to follow standard ICAO.

As for TO and FOR: I do not use them, neither should you.

ps. One should not repeat verbatim a controllers clearance/request. Follow ICAO.

Agaricus bisporus
19th Jul 2011, 14:12
I cannot for the life of me see why or how that sentence is dangerous, perhaps I'm missing something.
Turn left 360 degrees says to me one orbit to the left...Turn left heading 360 degrees tells me head north.

Anyway, the word to leave out of your RT is the cringe-making nonsense word "fully". WHY do so many people use it?

low n' slow
19th Jul 2011, 14:26
I omit "to" and "for". Doing so reduces the number of words in the readback. All headings and FL clearances are "fly to" instructions, never "fly from". Hence there's no point in stating the obvious...

Whenever numbers are said on the radio I'm very careful to use the appropriate prefix such as "heading", "altitude", "FL" or callsign. Just saying the numbers I find very unprofessional such as: cleared 180, 270, 551.


20th Jul 2011, 12:03
Whenever numbers are said on the radio I'm very careful to use the appropriate prefix such as "heading", "altitude", "FL" or callsign. Just saying the numbers I find very unprofessional such as: cleared 180, 270, 551.

Not only unprofessional but really quite dangerous especially in this part of the world.