View Full Version : You want us to descend now?

4th Aug 2002, 22:21
Is this an increasing trend? Seems to me to be the case.

Simple ATC Instruction : "Flight 123, Descend FL290"

Likely responses:

"You want us down now ?"
"Is that at pilots discretion ?"

etc. etc.

and only sometimes :) "Roger, descend FL290, Flight 123"

I had a flight today at level 350, following an initial descent due to crossing traffic. I then gave the instruction "Decend FL220" which was duly read back, as I wanted him out of the way of more crossing traffic at 340. Fine. 2 minutes later though, he's still at 350. Why? Because he wasn't sure if the descent was at pilots discretion or not.

I seem to encounter this more and more, where you cannot rely on an aircraft to descend.

Worse is the case where a cruising aircraft requests descent clearance coming up on the TOD, gets it, and then sits there for another minute or so.

For me, and I think most of us, once we give the descent instruction, we 'treat' the aircraft as having left that level (I don't mean in the correct sense, rather in the situational awareness type sense - ie. "That's that problem sorted". If he's still there in 2 or 3 minutes time, it screws up your plans and gives you a mild heart attack on the odd occasion.

I appreciate that pilots don't like to go over the TOD still cruising, and be chasing the correct profile with a higher descent rate, but please:

1. If you request descent, and get it, then leave your level straight away, or within 20-30 seconds at the latest.

2. If you are given a descent clearance, assume it as an instruction to descend, now, at normal rate (say 1000' - 1500' fpm), unless told otherwise, even if the instruction comes a little earier than you plan.

I'd be interested in comments from both sides that might further my understanding of the scenario!



4th Aug 2002, 23:48
Read somewhere else here that some FMS' (757?) prompt for descent clearance 3 minutes before TOD. If you grant it, then the a/c sits level for another 3 mins, that is a breach of 'commence the manouvre within 1 min' but is commonplace.

5th Aug 2002, 07:05
all I can say is CONTROL the situation. Use short unambiguous instructions and if you want something done now, then say so.My favourite response to a pilot query on the type of message you refer to is "which part of the instruction did you not understand?"

5th Aug 2002, 07:30
It's a problem in the approach phase too - I say "descend now to altitude 3000 ft" and they sit there level ar 4000 ft waiting for the glidepath to come in! The reason I say "descend NOW" is because I want you do go down for traffic reasons. We're playing about at min radar separation and if it starts to get tight we need to get some vertical going quickly, otherwise we get suspended and end up doing lots of paperwork, etc. The fact that you can "see it on TCAS" doesn't avoid this.

Early morning at Heathrow with both runways in use for landing it can be a nightmare - we desperately need those low altitudes for traffic crossing above to the other runway - Jumbo pilots don't like being turned on at 10 miles at 6000 ft - so PLEASE descend when we instruct you to. Thanks..

5th Aug 2002, 10:21
There is a definite trend.

Pilots becoming loathe to interfere with the automatics?

5th Aug 2002, 10:48
I wonder if that poor Russian captain may have had a similar thought....

Did he say descend, numer one???? But we are in the cruise, he couldn't have meant us could he? Bang!

Point 4

Standard Noise
5th Aug 2002, 11:17
Had one on Saturday afternoon with a pilot from a well known Exeter based clown outfit. He had been a bit high, but when he asked for track mileage, made no adverse comment. I told him to descend to 2300' on base, but got distracted co-ordinating with TWR. Then I turned the hopeless fool onto a closing hdg and told him he had 10.5 nm to touchdown and he whined about still being at 4000'. I reminded him that I'd given him descent already, he came out with this classic -"I think you'll find you didn't and I didn't acknowledge it. I think you should check your tapes!"

Well, Mr "I'm an ex-Jaguar pilot and I know better than anyone on God's green earth!", I did check the tapes, and YOU failed to acknowledge my instruction and act on it you pompous @rse!

Why oh why is it difficult for them to listen to us, especially when we are the only person they should be talking to.:mad:

5th Aug 2002, 14:25
Standard Noise

Just an impartial observation on your last post. If the pilot did not acknowledge your instruction to descend, how do you know he received your transmission?

With the greatest of respect, making a conscious effort to listen for correct read-backs is all part of the job.

Max Angle
5th Aug 2002, 14:32
055166k says:

My favourite response to a pilot query on the type of message you refer to is "which part of the instruction did you not understand?"
In which case you are just the sort of smart alec that that we don't need on the other end of the radio. I would not dream of talking to a controller that way and I don't expect it come the other way thank-you very much.

In situations where "descend when ready" is a common clearance most ATCOs say "Descend now FLxx" or "due traffic, descend now FLxx" which seems a very good way of putting it. In fact if I get a descent clearance a fair way short of the TOD point I just start down at 1000fpm and pick the profile up further down.

Standard Noise:

I think you need to remember matey that when you are talking to me on the radio that YOU are providing ME with a SERVICE. You are there because I am, not the other way around. The tone of your comments does you and your profession no credit at all. You are REQUIRED to get a read back on all executive instructions and if tapes show that you didn't then you are at fault not the pilot. If the intruction is not read back it might just as well not have been given. Sound like you need two weeks leave old son.

5th Aug 2002, 15:10
Max Angle:

"I think you need to remember matey that when you are talking to me on the radio that YOU are providing ME with a SERVICE. You are there because I am, not the other way around"

Are you for real?

If pilots like you are in the majority out there, we are all in serious trouble............

With reference to:
"In situations where "descend when ready" is a common clearance"

If we mean descend when ready we will say it........if we say descend, that means now...............check the AIP.

True arrogance beyond belief.

5th Aug 2002, 15:36
Just a thought,

When I say ''XXX123 climb FL210'' or '' XXX123 turn right heading 090'' or ''XXX123 contact xxx control on 136.555'' i dont include the word NOW yet the pilots do it instantly without question...

So why on earth if i say ''XXX123 descend to FL220'' does it cause so much confusion if I don't say NOW!!!!?????? It's a clear and simple instruction!!!! DESCEND means DESCEND, not descend when ready, or descend when you feel like it or descend when something shows on TCAS!!!

While we're on the subject, I also find it incredibly irritating to hear the classic ''XXX123 still on heading 165'' - Spaghetti Airlines are the worst offenders for this I think!!!

No 1
5th Aug 2002, 15:47
ok Expeditedescent

I used to work with Max Angle, before joining NATS, and he is one of the best pilot's out there.

Standard Noise was at fault for not obtaining a readback.

We have got to stop this them and us attitude, both Pilots and ATC should be working to one goal - SAFETY!!!

Isn't it better for pilots to confirm or clarify an instruction intead of just making an assumption, besides how many times do we say "Say Again"!!

5th Aug 2002, 16:22
To be fair Max Angle, ATC are providing your on board CPUs with a service. You've made it quite obvious that any old prick can fly an airliner!

Max Angle
5th Aug 2002, 19:37
National Air Traffic Services. Face it guys, you provide a service to the aircraft and thier pilots in your sector in the same way I and the cabin crew provide a service to the passengers sitting behind me, anybody who works in the transport sector is doing the same, ATCO's and pilots are no different.

As No.1 says we all have to work together to make the system work well and I am sure that some pilots are far from perfect customers but the last thing we need is the holier-than-thou attitude that a few of you tend to adopt sometimes.

It is not arrogance to plainly state the situation. The fact is that aviation was around for quite a long time before ATC was and lots of flying activities, many of them commercial, take place all over the world quite safely with no ATC at all. It is quite possible for us to start up an airliner up, taxy out, take off, fly to a destination and land in total safety without talking to anyone at all. The fact that hundreds of other aircraft want to do the same thing, at the same time, means that it has to be controlled by someone, and a bloody good job of it you all do. Believe me, I appreciate what you do for us


A little less of the old please!. In fact ATC are ulitimately providing the fare paying public with a service as am I. In years to come the clearances may go direct to the computers on board, not long after that it will be computers who issue the clearances with no human intervention at all. I am willing to bet however that the desks at Swanwick will be empty quite a while before the flightdeck is.

PS. No.1, are you sure you know me, hope my cover isn't blown, think I will return the to safety of the pilots forums!.

Hoover Pilot
5th Aug 2002, 20:48
No problem for me.

If I'm told "descend to FLxx" I descend straightaway. If I wouldn't have chosen that particular point to descend I go down at 500fpm until I intercept my preferred profile.

If ATC aren't happy with my actions they can come back and give "expedite descent..." instructions.

If I am given "descend......your discretion" then I do exactly that. But if I am not given that option then I go down immeadiately.

We have enough hassle in our job without querying ATC instructions which only clutters up the airwaves and causes friction between parties who should be working harmonioulsy.

5th Aug 2002, 21:01

Thank you for bringing some sanity back to this thread.

5th Aug 2002, 21:42

The next time that you have an airliner, let alone anyone who doesn't start their descent in a timely manner especially when you are basing your seperation on their starting down, use this phraselogy,

"acft ID, possible PILOT DEVIATION, please contact, facility name, and phone number, and ask for".

The point is to not argue or get into a discussion on the radio, save it for when the pilot calls. I guarantee that this will cure the problem, and all the other pilots will take note and start down when instructed.

It's one thing to allow a pilot descretion descent, it's another thing for the pilot to ignore the controllers instruction because they don't want to start down.


5th Aug 2002, 21:47
I think AF 1 raises a very good point. Probably best approached from the "how can we sort it" angle than the "how high can we p1ss up against the bog wall" angle.

I rekon the problem has it roots in the increasing prevalence of FMS run profiles. The FMS will ping up a prompt some distance from the computed TOD (about 15nm from memory - I'm personally free of the green godess for a while!!) and it seems de rigeur to ask for descent at that point to reset the alt. alert window and so satisfy the machine, waiting the 2-3mins left in level flight for the A/P to cycle to its vnav profile. So pre-cleared descents have, rightly or wrongly, become the norm. On yer non-FMS jet, you calculate your ideal TOD (using sums), judge R/T traffic load and ask for descent such that you're straight into it. But what price progress?!

So what to do? Well, I can sympathise with the ""descend FLxxx" means just that" school of thought (that's how I'd personally treat it) but it seems that isn't happening. My feeling is that if you ATC chaps/chapesses have a need for a descent, as in AF 1's ""That's that problem sorted". "" scenario above, then "Descend now FLxxx" oughta do it, or if the neck hairs are starting to party then "Due traffic descend now FLxxx" as mentioned above would seem to be clearer. OK OK, it shouldn't be strictly necessary - but surely a syllable or 2 early on is better than frayed nerves later? Also, I think if you ask for descent when the FMS first squeaks, it is only polite to say something along the lines of "Bogbrush123 request descent in 12nms". Helps keep ATC in the loop.

LHR arrivals are another source of confusion. We get this constant descent approach thing rammed down our necks, so if we're on a closing heading with the glide half a dot fly up and we get cleared down to 3000', don't be surprised if we pick a ROD which prevents level-off pre glide capture. If that's not good enough then how about a specified minimum ROD in the clearance, or even "expedite" if you need it. That's the thing - if you need it we'll gladly give it (that's my thinking anyway) but a minor r/t effort early has gotta be better than a bigger effort and frustration later on, no? And low-level altitude capture is still quieter than a mid-air, even to the ears of those weird-beards at HACAN....

But please guys, don't get pissy with us if we ask for confirmation of a descent clearance - the need for us to manage an efficient operation is higher now than ever: even if you consider a syllable or two a waste - it may save the confusion and far greater r/t load of confirmation requests later on which seems to be giving rise to not a little frustration?

5th Aug 2002, 21:57
How's about:
"Descend now, FLxxx" or "Descend, pilots' discretion, FLxxx"? Everyone understands, everyones happy (maybe), and hardly any more RT.

5th Aug 2002, 22:51
This is an interesting one. I work at a reasonably busy airfield in the Scottish TMA.
As an approach radar controller, when I give a descent instruction I would expect the pilot to comply with that instruction within 2 minutes, anything longer than that (unless there was little other traffic about) then I would query the instruction and confirm that the crew had understood.
As for the them and us bit, yes we both provide a service and we are both good at what we do, I for one couldn't fly a 747 (although my trip on the sim at cranebank suggests I can land one ok), but how many pilots could control???
They are completely different jobs, MAX suggests that the desks at Swanwick will be empty b4 the flight deck is, but just how automated is the flight deck compared to ATC???
The counter argument is but when things go wrong!!!
Neither of our jpbs will ever be automated in our lifetimes, the human touch adds safety and when I fly, I'm bloody hapy to know that if the proverbial hits the fan there is a crew up front who know what they are doing and a team on the ground that will do everything in their power to get that aircraft on the ground as safely and expeditiously as possible

6th Aug 2002, 05:30
max angle old chap, thought this would be read mainly by atco types , therefore a little tongue in cheek! During 33 operational years I seem to have to use longer and longer and more and more complex message formats,courtesy of our regulator friends,to the effect that the actual executive instruction element of the message is buried. I still use dinosaur -speak short R/T calls which seem to work OK, but I do not like a straightforward and short unambiguous correctly formatted instruction to be either questioned or ignored without good reason. After your [hopefully] short readback I am on my next concentration task within a nanosecond. This really is not a job to be done by negotiation. I have enough problems with the Swanwick wonderkit and so I want to maintain good relations with pilot types,I once got a flight deck ride on a pink BAC 1-11 so I know how busy you chaps can be. Actually that is the only free flight I have ever had///come back Court line!

6th Aug 2002, 08:04
As pilots, we want to stay at cruise altitude and descend with the ideal profile.

All of the above debate seems to spring from one annoyance: If ATC give us a descent instruction, in the form 'Descend FL330', we reply, 'Roger descend FL330, is that pilot's discretion?, and ATC say 'Affirm, that's when ready'... then we're not being provided the SERVICE that we should be, in the first place.

In a nutshell, the controller should ALWAYS specify 'when ready' when it applies. Not to do so costs us money.

Because they don't, we ask. If they did, we wouldn't ask. The majority of descent instructions, in AC at least, should be 'when ready', if the controller is planning properly and has good understanding of aircraft performance and profiles.

On similar lines, I'm a little fed up of asking for directs - and getting them! If we can go direct, why weren't we cleared direct before we asked?

That said, the service in the UK is still superior to that anyhere else in my experience, and (especially at the moment) it is remarkable how the service is bearing up.

Guy D'ageradar
6th Aug 2002, 10:49

I think you'll find that the original source of this thread was not the querying of an instruction, ie "is that when ready?" but the acceptance and readback but non compliance with an instruction to decend. Sure it can be annoying if you query something but if I mean descend when ready, I'll say descend when ready. That is why we have standard phraseology.

As for "The majority of descent instructions, in AC at least, should be 'when ready', if the controller is planning properly and has good understanding of aircraft performance and profiles." it shows your ignrance of what we do. Just try figuring in two or three minutes of "compliance time" on every descent clearance, coupled with normal jet cruise speeds and calculate the distance involved. Now try to fit a significant number of aircraft into a restricted amount of airspace containing numerous crossing (and conflicting) routes, everyone asking for direct routeings, a few active danger areas and maybe some weather for a bit of spice! Then throw in the wildcard - the non-responding crew or worse, the non compliance with a clearance (be it speed control, descent or whatever) and our separation minima are long gone. Most of the time, we let it go. Occasionally, after several "hairy moments" caused by any combination of the above, we get a it antsy. At times, we have a very hard job to do and the last thing we need is the "artistic interpretation" of a clear and concise instruction to throw a spanner in the works.

On to your complaint about direct routeings. How direct is direct? Next waypoint? International FIR boundary? Commencement of STAR? Destination? How the hell are we supposed to know where you want to go direct to if you don't ask? I for one am more than happy to clear you direct to wherever I can - but I cannot read your mind, almost certainly cannot clear you direct to destination, so which intemediate point am I supposed to pick?:rolleyes:

ATC is a service industry. We know that. Some of us pride ourselves on trying to give the best quality of service that we can. We also try to do so as courteously as possible. At times that becomes very difficult when the guy at the other end of the link doesn't keep his part of the bargain.

6th Aug 2002, 11:05
28L - nice and simple and 'on the button'! Is there no CAP guidance on the R/T format?

A lot of the problems, in my opinion, come from the 'secret' - i.e. often not published on flight crew documentation, altitude 'targets' such as 'MARGO 260'. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it is not, and how long has THAT taken to get into the Thales book for EDI/GLA? It happens a lot outside UK at national handover points, completely unknown to crews unless they 'remember' it from before.

28L' s idea would be easy to follow. FMC is not an issue then. Descend now=descend now. Very simple.

6th Aug 2002, 11:50
This "us and them stuff" is pathetic.
Agree some of you guys sound like you need a holiday. If you are not enjoying it- get out. Life's too short.

As for the 'if direct tracking is available, why weren't we given it without asking?'etc- there could be lots of reasons. ie.
1. priorities. The main thing I am doing is making sure people aren't crashing. Thereafter comes a list of things which I might be doing, depending on the situation. Things like coord, planning, monitoring plans to ensure they work, jamming more aeroplanes into the small sky etc etc. Somewhere near the bottom of that list are the nice things, like direct tracking (which in itself may create coord, plan revision etc).
2. We, here, work under edicts which say "no direct tracking, unless due traffic" ie. it will help with our sep. These edicts were issued due to incidents caused by direct tracking subverting the inbuilt safety design of the airways, SIDs/ STARS etc, or the inherent increase in controller workload.
3. In some places, going off the airways can be a health hazard (ask Iran Air).
4. Various other less important reasons.

So please, don't get raggy if you suggest something that is then granted.

I was always taught it is part of your professionalism to offer EXPEDITION when able. All part of the service!

Standard Noise
6th Aug 2002, 12:20
Pilots and ATCOs miss readbacks every day, but thankfully most of these are sorted out. What I don't expect however, is for the pilot to be so pompous about it, as if it's my fault that he did not hear the instruction. Let's not forget, you guys should be maintaining a listening watch on the frequency at all times . That should not be beyond any of you, if it is, then a change of career surely beckons!
Had the pilot involved just said "Sorry, we must have missed that", or something similar, then no problem, it wasn't the end of the world.

I'll admit to assuming that a readback had been given on this occasion and while that is uncharactaristic of me, I do not expect to be spoken to like that by any pilot. If there is to be mutual respect and understanding, then a bit of decency in the way you speak to the ATCO is needed. This whole "I'm perfect because I'm a pilot" attitude does not help anyone.

Thankfully, the incident I am talking about is uncommon among the flight crews who frequent the airport at which I work. We have a reasonably relaxed and friendly atmosphere created by both ATCOs and crews. It would be a shame to see it affected by one idiot.

6th Aug 2002, 12:21
As My northern neighbour has eloquently stated...our job as ATC's is the Safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic through our "patch".

It may or may not need to be pointed out that it goes in that particular order too, ie direct tracking gets last priority unless it helps with an immediate traffic confliction.

Back to the subject, the thing that really irritates me, especially when busy (and when isn't it here?) is having pilots nag for descent, be given "xxx descend to Fl200..." and have them then sit there for up to 30 odd miles before deciding to tip it over! (Airbus pilots in particular take note)

Yes I know that those glass cockpit thingies are hassling you but if you are not prepared to go now, don't ask, or do as some do, "request descent in 20 miles", don't know about anyone else but I am perfectly happy with that.

ps most of us issue "when ready" or "pilot discretion" when we mean just that...if we DON'T say it we don't mean it.

Captain Stable
6th Aug 2002, 13:05
Standard Noise, as you rightly point out, it is important to keep a professional attitude to the guy on the other end at all times, if for no other reason, that if he is having a hard time, to add to his sense of pressure reduces safety.

Are you quite sure that your reminder to the pilot in your incident had not the least overtone of demanding to know what he was still doing there? I'm not trying to apportion blame - I'm just suggesting that it sounds as if there might have been a steady escalation of verbal tension on the RT that day...

You don't know what pressures we may be under at any particular given moment, just as we don't know what's going on in your world at that time. Important, therefore, I would suggest, to make a conscious effort to de-escalate any tension.

I agree with BOAC and 28L that the two phrases should be "Descend now FLnnn" or "Descend when ready FLnnn". Very little more RT and much clearer.

6th Aug 2002, 14:36
Thank you all for your very valuable input into the thread; some very interesting replies.

Standard Noise - somewhat off topic, but I think its an interesting situation you describe; your comments really do smack of a 'them and us' situation. When I started out I thought along the same lines. Pilots should do everything we tell them, should always listen out on frequency, and respond immediately to any instruction.

Simple fact is, it doesn't work like that. Whats funny, is that both of us (ATCOs and pilots) often have the same impression of the other side - that is to say, that when not talking on the RT, no-one is doing anything else !

ACTOs should remember that pilots often have a high workload, especially in the descent & approach phase of the flight. Whether its the approach briefing, calling ops, getting the ATIS etc. there is often only one pair of ears on the RT and a call or two may be missed. Its human nature, and it doesn't do either side any favours to berate them for missing a call. However, I would say in your case that the pilot's response was OTT as well.

Pilots should perhaps also consider that just because we ain't on the radio, don't mean we're not working either! There is often a lot of work in co-ordination, 'scanning and planning', etc. And there's the gossip to catch up on at shift-change :D

Max Angle is correct. We are here to provide a service. We are not deities that sit back and decide the fate of a flights progress at our whim. We work within our guidelines, to the best of our abilities, and provide the best service that we can. Well, most of us do, anyhow. The tone of your comment could be a little more gentle though!

FWA NATCA - that's one way of sorting it all right! I have only ever had a situation once where I would have liked to do this, but didn't, and it was the reverse - an aircraft, who had been given a descent clearance, subsequently refused to stop descending until the third time of asking, basing his logic on the fact that descent had previously been given!

Problem with the situation I referred to initially though, is that Im not talking about the situation where I need the aircraft to descend right NOW, as in 20 miles to a cross I've seen late or something. Its a normal, planned, control instruction. I have crossing traffic in say, 4-5 minutes, so I take positive action and sort it now with a normal, "unhurried" descent. So throwing the book at him for not descending immediately is not fair.

The issue, at the end of it all, is that the control instruction "descend", which is very simple, is now, apparently, ambiguous. It shouldn't be.

I should not need to say "Descend NOW", because then what do I say when I really want him to go down NOW ?

There is a kind of 'ranking' for urgency, in the phraseology that I use ...

1. Descend when ready
2. Descend
3. Descend now
4. Descend now, expedite through FLxxx
5. Descend immediately FLxxx, due traffic (avoiding action)

Hope that makes our perspective a bit clearer.

NW1 - very valid points. As an aside, if you "request descent in 12 miles", guaranteed some smart ar$e controller will come back and say "Roger, do that" - ie. call me when you want descent, not before. I promise you!

Personally I'd be happy with that advance warning, but would still prefer a request at the TOD only. Keeps it simpler.

Is it not possible that you just say nothing until say 3 miles to TOD, then request it. If RT is busy, or you get a "stand by" ie. - let me check my scope cause I wasn't planning ahead your descent, then what's the worst case scenario? You're chasing the profile for a few thousand feet - so what? And how often will this happen? Very rarely ... and its much safer

NorthernSky - a most interesting perspective on how ATC should operate.

On the descend when ready bit ...

In my airspace, "Descend when ready" will only be heard when the controller is bored out of his brains and has sod all else to do. Its an unnecessary transmission. You request descent, you get it. Easy.

You say if ATC comes back and says "affirm, pilots discretion" after issuing a descent clearance, that you're not getting the service. Rubbish. Here's how it works.

I plan ahead, and I know I need to have you at say 260 crossing x point for the next sector. I give you a decent to 260, and you say "is that pilots discretion"? I then have a look at it, and agree to make it pilots discretion, but be level 15 before x point. What happens then? I sit there watching you approach x point and then perform an airshow dive to 260 just making it in time. All my time has been spent worrying whether you are going to remember to descend or not, whether I should ring the next sector to co-ordinate just in case etc. So its easier just to say "Descend FL260", and see you on your way.

That's not lack of service, that's safe service.

Re. direct routings

I wouldn't expect you to appreciate the problem in issuing long directs as regards co-ordination. Before I sign off, here's an example.

:cool: "Flight 123, request direct ABC"

:rolleyes: "Roger, 123, standby"

Phone call 1.
"Hello Sector 1, did you get the estimate on FLT123?
"123, em, yes. I think so, hang on, oh yes have him now. Through XYZ at 37?"
"Yes, great, he's looking to go direct to ABC, that would take him about 20miles north of XYZ."
"Eh, yeah, that should be ok, check it with Sector 2 though will you"
"No problem"

Phone call 2.
"Hello Sector 2, you won't have details, but Im working a FLT123 that wants a direct clearance to ABC, he'll just cut the edge of your airspace near XYZ"
"FLT123 you say, yeah no details, hang on. (Muttering in the background to radar controller ... )
"Eh, where's he through? "
"Well hes planned though XYZ at 370, but the direct will take him through your airspace about 20 north of that"
"Ok, hang on ... yes, that should be ok, and do Sector 3 know?"
"I'll call them, and do you want to work him"
"No, no need, give him straight to 1"
"Thanks a lot"

Phone call 3.
"Hello Sector 3, do you have details on FLT123"
"Eh, no, no details"
"OK hes wanting to route via about 20 north of XYZ and going to ABC direct, he'll cross over x at 370, is that ok?"
"How soon?"
"Eh, hang on ... oh, about 12 minutes or so"
"Yeah that's ok

:rolleyes: "FLT123, cleared direct ABC"

:cool: "Direct ABC, Flt 123"

And you want us to do this for every flight?

:D :D :D

6th Aug 2002, 19:18
Same Vein, [slightly] off topic
BCAL inbound to MAN/EGCC lands and 'phones the APC.
"We wanted a 6 mile final"
Reply...... "We have a Cat3 ILS, a brand new SMR, an ACR4000, 264, SSR and an IRVR.
What we do not have is A CHUFFIN' CRYSTAL BALL. YOU WANT 6 miles? Then ASK
we aim to please, it keeps the cleaners happy

6th Aug 2002, 19:24

I should have said most initial descent clearances in AC...

With regard to starting down on your word of command, we are likely to use the 'capture' feature on the FMS, which does mean we will vacate the level now, but we will only do 1000fpm until we establish on the ideal profile, when we commence the idle thrust descent. Thus, it only works when you need us to vacate, not when you want us down to the cleared level right away.

As to the 'direct to where' question, the centre-fix would be fine. If you can't give us that, then whatever you can will do very well. Leaving us on the full route when it's quiet only burns fuel.

Captain Stable,

Your suggested phraseology is ideal. However, whilst the present standard phraseology is not used to best effect (APR controllers take note) there's little point in attempting to achieve change.


In your post, there's an element of ATC flying the aircraft for us, instead of issuing timely clearances. Meantime we'll be wondering when the descent clearance is coming. This style of controlling all too often leads to missed clearances, as, whilst forward planning is fine, this relies upon jobs being done 'just in time'. Other things frequently intervene and that which should have been done' just in time' ends up late. That's what causes the last-minute death dive for the level.

Also, see above regarding to 'getting us on our way'. We don't use open descent/VNAV speed/level change if something else wil do a better job.

On the 'direct' issue, I know all about the co-ordination issue (I used to do it). That's why it's especially galling when there's no 'standby', just an 'approved'. I wouldn't ask for something which I knew would cause a significant increase in your workload.

All the above said in a brotherly spirit - we may fly the aircraft, but you're on our team.

NorthernSky (ex-ATCO btw)

Max Angle
7th Aug 2002, 11:25

Apology accepted, I think the same is due from me in fact for flying off the handle a bit, I guess the moral is don't sit down and start banging away on prune when you are tired and hacked off at the of a long day. Come to think of it I am always tired and hacked off nowadays.......

7th Aug 2002, 22:05
A small point on the direct routeings issue.

When you are given direct routeings without first requesting them, in my experience 90%+ are purely to shorten your routeing and not help us resolve conflictions. How about some gratitude, it is certainly an increasing trend that it is taken for granted. We do not have to do it and offer it on the whole as a 'polish' to what I believe is already an excellent service - a thankyou would not go a miss.

To expand this, in our ever increasingly flowed environmaent at LACC, when we get you up from your capped FL180 to as high as FL400 (if you have an orange tail) we are not doing it to make our lives easier. We are taking on extra work that the powers at be tell us not to do. It does however get you there quicker and with more fuel remaining - so the previous point also applies.

If you take us for granted and believe it is your right, it aint going to happen as often as you would like. I know that if I give a late descent or let an a/c level off, or have to vector them half way around the sky - I thank them or apologise accordingly unless that is I am nearly going under.

I believe our relationship to be a good one, don't let it deteriorate. How about some more of you pay us a visit to sunny swanick and see what its really like now that your doors are locked firmly shut to us!!!!

7th Aug 2002, 23:53
shouldnt this thread be in teh reporting points forum where more pilots can see it as well, mr. moderator??

Captain Stable
8th Aug 2002, 02:07
That's such a good idea that I've placed a link to this thread in the Safety Forum :)

8th Aug 2002, 16:55
"I think you need to remember matey that when you are talking to me on the radio that YOU are providing ME with a SERVICE. You are there because I am, not the other way around"

The REALITY is that both pilot's and ATC's are providing a service to the fare paying passengers, who, for the most part, play a big role in paying our salaries.

The sooner we colectively realise this and strive toward working together on common issues, the better off we will ALL be.

On the other issue: "XYZ123 descend to 4000'" (or whatever) is an instruction, not traffic information, request or anything else, AN INSTRUCTION, and as such should be effected with the minimum of delay. I like to think that the inclusion of the word "now" is used on occasions when I would like to alert the pilot to move the control column in the appropriate direction without any delay, and then adjust the rest of the profile to fit in.


8th Aug 2002, 21:28
Quiet right.There is a lack of appreciation of each others working environments in this thread.Also,I am sad to say,an associated attitude problem with some of my pilot peers.
Let me assure you this group are very much in the minority and tend to have CRM problems with other flight crew.They tend to be
1.Old captains (who are not aware of the effect they have on other people)
2.Flying since school types (with a remarkable lack of understanding for any job outside flying)
On long turnarounds more pilots should make the effort to see what you guys actually do.On the other side of the coin I have only ever had one controller on a famil flight ...such a waste of an empty seat.

9th Aug 2002, 02:08
Perhaps a reason for pilots querying these instructions is that there seems to be an increasing trend to descend a/c early due to standard handover procedures - nothing to do with traffic on the day. We are all flying around with the minimum fuel consistent with a safe operation, and having to start descent 50 or more miles earlier than expected takes a big slice out of fuel at a time when there's no opportunity to remedy the situation. Once one is familiar with the route it is possible to anticipate such early descents and plan accordingly. When we do get an early descent the majority of pilots will descend at the minimum rate of descent, in an effort to save as much fuel as possible, but probably negating the reason for being given the descent in the first place.

If ATC are going to operate these standard descent procedures, they should be published to the airlines. Pilots would then be expecting the early descent and could plan their fuel accordingly. If we make the effort to work together, misunderstandings can be avoided, and the ritual trading of insults could be reduced, although I suspect never avoided altogether.

9th Aug 2002, 11:30
Pom reinforces my comment on page 2 - our 'reluctance' to descend EARLY is reinforced by all the unknown 'secret' altitudes en-route. How long has it taken to get the Willo2B printed correctly? The '20 before Trent at 200' inbound Manchester. Etc. Etc. It seems that going into Italy from the north, inbound northern Italian airfields, there is some sort of 'hand-over' gate (FL270?) at or around the boundary - again, not published to flight crew and only 'acquired' through experience and WAY too early sometimes for economy.

Places like Frankfurt are generally good with these, they specify in the descent clearance and/or give required rates of descent. Maastricht too. Perhaps a bit more liaison between the ATC 'masters' and the chart publishers would be the answer? Modern airline PLOGS are MORE than able as POM says to include these altitude restrictions in the route/fuel.

As far as the 'I REALLY want you down NOW' bit goes, I did ask if someone could publish the (UK) ATC bible on these transmissions.
The addition of 'now' or 'leave now' (common on some UK south sectors) is fine - and unambiguous -and I'm SURE pilots will comply!

ATC please note - this is not a criticism - we are trying here to 'get it together'.

9th Aug 2002, 20:45
If I say descend, I mean descend. I thought the old BOAC( the company, not the poster) attitude had gone forever. I do say "when ready" if I`m not too bothered when it happens and I`m not (usually) too disgruntled if the instruction is queried unless RT loading is high. The word "now" is useful, but I reserve that for occasions when stressing it is a good idea. "Immediately" is reserved for very unpleasant situations.

A colleague (since retired) was once heard to reply to the query "do you mean descend now?" with "No, I meant then"

9th Aug 2002, 21:11
I am quite happy as a ATCO to say its ATC providing pilots with a service, however, what a crutial service it is.

On a slightly different edge, and one thats been here before, is including the 'expect FL*** by ***' I have had far too many experiences to now have to reinforce this to some, but time and again have to clarify its only an 'expect ' level. We need this read back on the tapes, otherwise we are in deep sh!te should a level bust occur. When levels are known by me to be published in the STAR charts, I feel the whole transmission to be a total waste of time, but when they aren't reitterated by me, at least half check what to expect. Its a case of either "why print them" or "why have to reitterate them".

So to all pilots out there, do you expect to be given the restriction eventually and ALWAYS plan descent for them, or are you one of those that will only get there if told to do so at top of descent??????

9th Aug 2002, 22:10
Loki - because we fly in lots of different ATC sectors we often get 'descend FLxxx' which on query turns out to be 'when ready' or 'at pilot's discretion'. Not everyone is like you and says 'when ready'. This probably makes us wary!

BTW Any chance of the CAP 'guidance'?

5miles- all modern FMCs can (should) be programmed with the published altitude restrictions. There is NO excuse! I agree with you, it is a pain to have to read back 'level 75 before MID' when you and I know it is in the STAR!

Lieutenant Dan
10th Aug 2002, 02:53
I find that 'descend now' doesn't use nearly as much R/T time as responding to the query "Is that descend now, or pilot's discretion, London?"

One thing I've noticed, though. Why do some crews request descent, then not leave the level for several minutes? Seems to be a charter airline peculiarity.

Also, in the recent months of excessive delays, level restrictions, etc etc, I've found flight crews to be tolerant, friendly and uncomplaining.
So to pilots using UK airspace these days, thanks.


Scott Voigt
10th Aug 2002, 03:57
Been away for awhile <G>....

Over here, one reason you don't hear to many folks say descend now is because that isn't the proper phraseology. Descend and maintain means descend now... What you will usually hear over here is either descend at pilots discresion or cross XXX at and maintain... Do we sometimes just say descend and maintain when we don't need you to go down right now? Sure, but that was already explained rather well by AF-1.

As to the direct thing... We have been briefed by the companies that they have spent quite a few bits of money investing in flight planning software that looks into the most beneficial route of flight ( unless of course we have a traffic flow management route in effect due to weather ). When we up and give someone direct that then takes them out of the most beneficial wind component, the pilot flying is happy, but then the company is unhappy and sometimes actually makes a call to either us, or an acars to the flight deck when the dispatcher figures out they aren't on the flight planned route and has them get back on it. Thus making the workload even more for someone else a hundred miles away.


Lieutenant Dan
10th Aug 2002, 04:33
Scott, you're right that 'descend now' isn't correct phraseology, but, hey, if it works...

Out of interest, do you ever have problems with the term 'maintain'? If you clear an aircraft to a level without using that word, what will he do when he gets there?

In the UK, maintain is generally used to advise a pilot not to expect continuous climb, and caution therefore is used when talking to American pilots.

Hope things are sweet in Tx!:)

11th Aug 2002, 00:29
5milesbaby. Interesting question. Ay my home base the arrivals all have several descent restrictions but I have never once had to comply with them all. In fact I have never seen most of them imposed. There is usually only one of the restrictions which applies and from local knowlage thats what I "plan"my descent on. Several of the arrivals have very "Draggy" restrictions which force an early descent but are only enforced in busy periods or when there is a full moon or something. Some have "Secret" restrictions which force a screaming jeesus descent to satisfy if not planned on. Confused? You should be.
While we are on the subject of wasted atc transmission time ,why do ATC insist on all these (unpublished and secret) "Twenty before Trents" and "Ten before Monty" things when the FIR is festooned with waypoints that nobody EVER uses?
Question-"Is that at our discretion?"
Answer-"Affirm" or "Negative" That wasn't really too difficult or long winded was it?

Scott Voigt
11th Aug 2002, 01:37
The maintain part is just another thing in our verbage in our ATC bible... <shrug> I understand that if all is done right, you are going to maintain that altitude <G>...


11th Aug 2002, 15:51
Homer, I can answer one of your questions. FL200 lvl 10nm b4 Monty is the Standing Agreement between London Sector 5 (Brecon) and Manchester West Sector. Manchester West have to then get you below FL195 BY Monty, otherwise you enter another Sectors airspace (S29). It keeps everyone happy the way its done, and as the STAR chart starts at Monty, the restriction to expect before it aint written on. However, in my mind and many others, it should be for the whole descent to keep everyone in the picture.

If people feel having them all on the plates is useful, how about getting together to get them changed??? There must be a division in NATS that could help out, although new centre = new division = new name !!!!!!!!

11th Aug 2002, 20:27
Come on - someone must have the ATC bible in the attic! What DOES 'descend' mean in the UK? Can it be expanded to 'now'/'when ready'/'pilots' discretion'/etc within the CAP terminology?

Knowing this will help us IN THE UK at least - we will still have to juggle the foreign 'balls' though, but maybe we can take a bit of steam out of the kettle here?

Any gurus know from where Jepps and Thales get their info for airfield plates?

11th Aug 2002, 20:50
Just dusted off my very old Mats Part 1. It`s not very forthcoming.

11th Aug 2002, 21:16
OK - how about the ATC PPruners spread the word?

How about we trial, say ?a couple of months?, using the differentiators 'now' and 'when ready' - with any 'gates' you want us to achieve - for descent clearances in the UK? (Hoping your managers don't throw a 'wobbly' of course!).

Let's have a 'debrief' on how it went, here, then?


Bern Oulli
13th Aug 2002, 18:23
I'm afraid that I am struggling to work out what it is about the word "Descend" that people don't understand. It is an instruction, a command even. It doesn't mean "when you feel like it" or "when your on board computer feels like it" or when you've finished your coffee and the crossword. It means "DO IT". NOW would be nice. After all, if I say "turn left heading 290, closing from the left report established", pilots don't ask if they should do it now or at their discretion. Why should "Descend" be any different?

Rightly or wrongly I teach trainee controllers that when they instruct an aircraft to descend, it will, plus or minus the "wake-up-was-that-for-us" scenario and the inevitable short delay actually getting the thing to come down. But to all intents and purposes read "immediately".

There is nothing (that's ZERO) in the MATS Pt1 about "Descend when ready" or any equivalent. Descend IMMEDIATELY (my caps) is to be used only to resolve an urgent situation. The only bit that looks remotely useful is "Descend to reach (level) at/by (time/significant point).

For the curious or bored the MATS can be read at


then go to Section E (Attach) Page 3 and look for the Climbing & Descending bit.

Controllers do appreciate the economics of commercial aircraft operation and try to take that into account BUT there has to be a trade off with other requirements such as other traffic, sequencing, standing agreements with other units ad nauseum. With the best will in the world your ideal descent profile is going to be bent a bit. Don't add to it by causing controllers to mutter "Of course I mean bloody now!"

13th Aug 2002, 19:10
From this thread, it seems that many ATCOs are uncertain of the method of navigating, vertically, in modern (FMS-equipped) aircraft. In a couple of weeks' time, I would be willing to start an 'FMS Q and A' thread, and to do my best to answer any queries ATCOs have about these matters. Would this be a help? Are there any other experienced jet pilots out there willing to pitch in with answers, too? (I'm currently on Boeings - and mahogany bombers, so not a sharp as once was - but with previous 'bus technology experience. Is there a currect 'bus driver who might give that persepective?)

Or am I miles off?

13th Aug 2002, 19:14
Well, Bern has made his point fairly clearly! All we flight crew need to do now is to clarify the rest of the world's R/T procedures outside Bern's sector. I shall now TRY to remember not to ask 'is that when.............." - in the UK.

Next 'Q': Is 500'/min an acceptable minimun rate if we are not actually ready for descent?

NS - happy to help (Boeing again) if you need it.

Guy D'ageradar
13th Aug 2002, 19:15
Sorry to drag you all back to the direct thing but Scott's comments rang another bell. He's not the only one to get in trouble for offering direct routeings - some of us actually have direct (written) instructions FORBIDDING us from offering them (apparrently, as Scott said, at the airlines' request) and risk getting into all kinds of smelly stuff for doing the sensible thing and making all our lives' easier. Funny , I thought ATC was all about providing a service!!!:confused:

13th Aug 2002, 23:39
You've actually raised another point that while (briefly) blip driving at LATCC didn't quite get resolved. "xxx123 Descend FL70 to be level 10 miles before DAYNE/TNT etc."
Now......two schools of thought here
1. Descend at standard expected rate (1500 fpm) which could level out well before the 10 mile minimum, ie level out early
2.Descend at a computed rate to achieve level exactly at 10 miles before which could be a descent rate of anything from 500 - 2500 fpm.
There could be potential conflicts with either of these.

Another option which was dismissed was achieving a 1500 fpm descent to achieve level exactly 10 miles before, which meant delaying the start of descent.

We were told categorically that "Descend" meant now. "At your discretion" whenever, there wasn't anything in between. Why should there be? You don't qualify "Turn" "Climb" so why "Descend"?

14th Aug 2002, 05:58
Hi Jane,

See me earlier reply.

'Turn' - by the very nature of vectoring, is given at an appropriate time, and does not delay our progress (unless it's one of those French 60degree jobbies to allow Air France to carry on without changing course).

'Climb' - well, we're not going to say no! You will know that our engines are most efficient at altitude, so we always want to be as high as we can (weight plays a small part here, as may very strong winds).

'Descend' - equivalent to 'get there later and burn more fuel'. In the circumstances you describe, we'll either use Vertical Speed mode to achieve 500fpm until on the desired profile to just make the restriction,followed by idle power descent, or use VNAV in 'Capture' mode, which will give a 1000fpm descent until on the profile, then ide power descent, or use level change/open descent to give the least efficient idle power descent to the cleared level. Most pilots will not do this last one. 1500fpm is not stated anywhere as a standard rate of descent.

14th Aug 2002, 10:44
By forcing a/c to leave a level earlier than they want, I understand that the initial rate of descent won't be that high. However, at least they are going down. Being told to leave early means that normally something is in the way, or the one in front is descending and we want you in similar levels to speed effectively. Expediting an a/c already in the descent gives a more immediate resolution than one told 'start descent now, expedite' due to the delay in initial downward movement. In the ideal world, (like the sims) getting an a/c to leave and giving the restriction, I would like to see the rate of descent adjusted to give a constant rate of descent to hit the restriction, but I know in the real world this'll never happen.

I've started on a couple of my sectors now to give intermediate restrictions to ensure that an a/c is at the level I want it to be at to able separation in the awkward corners. It works well and creates none of the problems in this thread.

PPRuNe Radar
14th Aug 2002, 12:19
Remember the MATS Part 1 is NOT the sole document which ATC have to abide by. We also have the AIP and the CAP 413. Seems black and white to me from those other documents what to expect. But then I always was a simpleton and liked the easy way out in life ;)


Chapter 3 Page 3 Paragraph 2.3.4

Pilots are expected to comply with ATC Instructions as soon as they are issued. However, when a climb/descent is left to the discretion of the pilot, the words 'when ready' shall be used; in these circumstances the pilot will report 'leaving' his present level. Should pilots be instructed to report leaving a level, they should inform ATC that they have left an assigned level only when the aircrafts altimeter indicates that the aircraft has actually departed from that level and is maintaining a positive rate of climb or descent, in accordance with published procedures.


ENR 1-1-3-1 Paragraph 2.2

2.2.1 In order to ensure that controllers can accurately predict flight profiles to maintain standard vertical separation between aircraft, pilots of aircraft commencing climb or descent in accordance with an ATC clearance should inform the controller if they anticipate their rate of climb or descent during the level change will be less than 500 feet per minute, or if at any time during such a climb or descent their vertical speed is, in fact, less than 500 feet per minute.

2.2.2 This requirement applies to both the en route phase of flight and to terminal holding above the Transition Altitude.

Note: This is not a prohibition on the use of rates of climb or descent of less than 500 feet per minute where necessary to comply with other operating procedures.

Do we really need to reinvent the wheel ???

15th Aug 2002, 12:42
Don't know if it was as a result of this thread, but inbound this AM on a Willo3B to LGW, and a very clear 'Descend Now' from the controller. Great!

It may not be 'kosher', but by 'eck, it is clear! Is there really a problem with this?

"Pilots are expected to comply with ATC Instructions as soon as they are issued. However, when a climb/descent is left to the discretion of the pilot, the words 'when ready' shall be used; in these circumstances the pilot will report 'leaving' his present level. "

I think, PPR, most of us appreciate this, but as we have tried to explain, this is an international forum, we fly internationally, so it is not just a UK thing. Not normally a problem for UK pilots in UK airspace as we generally know and are ready for all the arcane descent restrictions, but maybe for visting crews.......?

Scott Voigt
15th Aug 2002, 13:09

Just out of curiousity, what is ambiguous about descend level XXX? Or in our case, descend and maintain XXX. If you don't hear pilots discression it means only one thing and is less verbage..


PPRuNe Radar
15th Aug 2002, 14:06
Don't have the book at hand to check but I think the ICAO 'pilots discretion' phrase is exactly the same as the UK one.

So, as Scott alludes, it should be clear that an instruction without either 'when ready' in most of the world, or 'pilots discretion' in the USA means that we want you to do it now.

I don't think we should have to spoon feed pilots in these busy times, it wastes our time and yours. And time is becoming a rare commodity both on the flight deck and in the ATC facility.

15th Aug 2002, 15:57
I tried to explain a while back - in Europe, (my area) 'Descend xxx', when queried, is often found to be 'at pilot's discretion'; I am reluctant to point at any particular countries, but there are a few where this is more often than not the case when a 'early' descent clearance is given for no APPARENT reason, and nearly always for some inter-area hand-over agreement. This is NOT a 'pop' at ATC, but an attempt, as I judge from other posts, to reduce R/T loading (OK - pilot generated!), and does NOT refer to UK ATC. The only criticism there is a systemic one where the descent 'restrictions' are sometimes 'known' only to the controller.

I think from all the posts, NorthernSky's (6/8) sums it up best:

"As pilots, we want to stay at cruise altitude and descend with the ideal profile.

All of the above debate seems to spring from one annoyance: If ATC give us a descent instruction, in the form 'Descend FL330', we reply, 'Roger descend FL330, is that pilot's discretion?, and ATC say 'Affirm, that's when ready'... then we're not being provided the SERVICE that we should be, in the first place.

In a nutshell, the controller should ALWAYS specify 'when ready' when it applies. Not to do so costs us money.

Because they don't, we ask. If they did, we wouldn't ask. "

It is because there are quite a few who do not say 'when ready' when it is relevant. I have NO issue with your NEEDING me to descend. I will. Maybe it is a training thing in those areas where it happens more? It appears that ALL ATC people on this thread DO say 'when ready' where it can be given. Good. The problem lies with those who don't.

It SHOULD be abundantly clear to all pilots reading this thread that 'DESCEND XXX' means now. That is what I have always assumed it to mean. It is just that after a few hundred descents where it was not necessary THEN, we become a bit inquisitive!

Can I also take it from the lack of comment that 500fpm is OK with ATC for an 'early' descent (unless other rates specified)?

The original thread post raised another issue - that of pilot awareness of/ and interaction with/ FMC programmes. There is an obvious gap there in the way the FMC works v the ATC 'picture' of what we will do, and we need to close that gap.

PPRuNe Radar
15th Aug 2002, 16:27
Fair points on 'When ready' BOAC. And let's hope that they are taken on board and the word spread so that the service improves for all concerned.

On the other hand, I have had some (very very small %) pilots query the 'when ready' part with 'do you want us to descend now ??'. My normal reply is something like 'Negative, the clue was when ready'. Must try and curb that kind of reply ;)

The 500fpm is laid down as the minimum in the national document in the UK (AIP) so I don't think anyone in ATC can argue they expect otherwise. It actually raises an interesting point, which has appeared in a few threads. And that is that quite often we see ATC people claiming they expect to see different things from the standards notified in the relevant ATC and pilot documentation. For example people saying they expect to see a standard rate of 1500fpm (whose standard ?? it's not a published one). Or people saying that they are aware that a new level clearance cancels a previous restriction, but they expect the pilot still to do it. If they are basing separation on things they expect to see, rather than on the things which the regulations and procedures mandate, then I fear their technique is setting them up for a fall one day. There is only one way to be sure and that is to know what the procedures say, and if you require something different then positively specify it.

I agree wholeheartedly about the FMC gap. It is something I was looking at a while back but the project was overtaken by events. Perhaps it is well worth dusting off and resurrecting again.

Viscount Sussex
16th Aug 2002, 06:57
Excuse me if anybody said anything similar to what I am about to say, but I couldn't stomach much more than a page and a bit of this. I started reading this thread with great interest, but I was sadden by some of the comments I've read from both sides.
As a pilot, I have great respect for ATC.
Funny old world...
I've learnt a bit today.

Scott Voigt
17th Aug 2002, 01:59

I understand your frustration. But I think that most of us do give when ready <G>, when we can and it is minority who do not.

As to the descent. If I give you lower. I consider 500 fpm a float down. When I give a descent, I and many of us expect an aircraft to come down like it was the crews decision to come down <G>.

If I am getting you down, it is either for traffic, to miss some other airspace, procedural, or just trying to get you down where a 250 knot speed restriction means something <G>.


17th Aug 2002, 11:54
Not really frustration, Scott, consider it 'eagerness' to get both sides of the microphone understanding each other's problems. We had a fair bit of success a while back with the 'LGW arrivals' thread in learning such (not so much with 'LGW departures') and I hope this will do the same with 'descents'. In conversation in the pub last night it seems there may be more queries from UK pilots on US descent profiles which I hope they will raise here (my horizons are short-haul Europe only).

PPR (3 above) highlights discrepancies on expected descent profiles which should be explored too?

17th Aug 2002, 14:16
Just my tuppenceworth:
"Descend" means NOW;
"Descend when ready" means just that!

It is also worth reiterating an early point which got swallowed up:

If you ask for descent and are given it, then DESCEND. Don't sit there for another 10 miles waiting for the FMS to reach TOD and then wander down. In many of the busy sectors such as Clacton, your request for descent will mean that the ATCO will make a plan for you and the other aircraft based upon you descending when you ask for it, maybe ducking under another aircraft which was borderline for descent before you but now will be subject to your descent. If you mean "We would like descent clearance to start down in 15 miles" then make that clear. You are pilots, not computer operators, after all!! Fly the aircraft, not the computer.

With regard to the "Can we descend at 500 FPM if you give us early descent until we reach the profile" question: Well the minimum ROC/ROD in the UK AIP is 500 FPM so of course the answer is YES. Bear in mind, however, that if you are asked to descend early it is probably because we want you down so that we can also start descending other aircraft who need to be at the same level at the same point as you. If you all did it on the ideal profile then you would all reach the same point at the same time at the same level, and this is generally considered to be a BAD idea in ATC circles! Look at it another way: If you are given descent early, it is likely that you are being put ahead of other traffic, so it's GOOD thing!

17th Aug 2002, 15:54
Hardly ever see pilots. The fam flight scheme seems to be dead for now. Borrow a minibus and pop down to Swanwick, there are a few real operational controllers on duty most days, aswell as 753 support and management staff. Speaking for myself you would be very welcome.

17th Aug 2002, 16:12
Hoover Pilot, I think you have it by George (sorry George). Here in sunny Scotland we sometimes have the capability for short routings, good constant climb and descent and, dare I say it, some chat but listen to how the freq is. AIP does say 500ft/m but if we are quiet, ask and you may help us figure out where your top of descent point is but be aware, we deal with multitypes. If the freq is busy though, do us a favour and listen out and act. We are, in my view, working about as well as we can in the present circumstances and thats good enough for me!

Just one grumble, seen notice of no jumpseats unless Company employees or Family unless written auth secured from senior company source. If we do not get to meet, learn, watch and understand the great toys you fly in. how can we help. No controller ever tried to hammer a captain to death but a Fedex employee managed it!!!!!!!!!!!:confused:

Scott Voigt
17th Aug 2002, 23:56

Fair enough <G>... Just got done teaching a pilot class today. Rather fun too. Great class with a wide range of students. Some 100 hour newbies, some multi hour with fresh instrument ratings. Some who are instructors and one who works at SimuFlite and teaches the bigger corporate stuff. The one really fun one was a check airman for a B777 for American. Wish that all of my classes had that much diversity... Really wish that we would see more part 135 and part 121 crews here...

Full day with a half of day of classroom, then half a day on the controlroom floor and in the simulator letting all the pilots take there chance with a headset and try to pry the aircraft apart. Lots of fun <G>...


19th Aug 2002, 08:01
I just wanted to hear a really straight and easy answer from an ATC guy or girl! May sound like a really silly question! If I am told to

"descend FL200 level 45 miles before Bovvingdon"

Does this mean:

a) Start descent NOW and there is a level restriction to be met so adjust rate of descent accordingly. But actuall strt descent now to avacate that level. or.......

b) Descend when I am ready to meet that level restriction. Eg maybe 5 mins or so!

Hope this can be answered straight - just ATC guys please as I'm really not interested in a hundred pilots own "opinions"!!


19th Aug 2002, 09:54
Flymeboy, as answered in your other thread, its a), descend NOW. If it was at your descretion, you would have been told 'descend when ready FL200'. The level restriction is given as it has to be, and then fully complied with for noise abaitment (big bang) procedures. It doesn't mean level off exactly 45nm b4 BNN (although thats fine), but you must be level by 45nm b4 BNN.

21st Aug 2002, 11:03
"Scandis at nemos, FL200, 300 indicated for straight in 23"

As I say, it is a while since I went to GVA (sadly!) and I'm not sure where Nemos is as we don't go that way. It could be that they can keep a higher rate of descent longer than BA can?

"I've also on several occasions had BA RJs refuse to turn over the Jura until out of FL80"

Again, rusty on 23 SIDS, but there is a restriction (FL70+ at PAS before setting course, from memory?) Maybe this is the problem? Perhaps the RJs could help?

Guy D'ageradar
21st Aug 2002, 19:40

Ref the Scandis - simply a comment that they always arrive very hot and very high - I actually meant to say Vadar - which is around 35nm final for 23 (only used for arrivals from Zurich direction) but always seem to get it down. Of course, we won't bring "stabilised approach" into it!!!:eek:

Ref: the SIDS, you're absolutely correct, "Right turn after passing PAS but not before 7000ft QNH to intercept....." pretty much the same off 05 - the thing is that again, the only company that regularly refuses to turn before 80 is BA (RJ's only, in my experience). It's not really a complaint, more a comment on an apparrent difference in SOPs.

Thanks again for the replies - you really should try to get back to this part of the world now and agin - the Guinness is not bad at all !!:D :

22nd Aug 2002, 11:16
Dear Colleagues,
I would have thought that "descend now" or "descend at pilot's discretion" would be less ambiguous than "descend". Given the latter instruction in UK airspace, I always query it if I (or aircraft) do not wish to descend straight away. Most Continental ATC centres however do mean descend now when they say descend, so I don't even bother asking.
In my experience a few pilots I have flown with have a poor attitude to ATC and treat them as subordinates. A good example is weather avoidance, where these guys will Tell ATC they are going right 10 degrees" rather than asking or even offering a choice of turn as I always do if I can.
UK ATC are the best in the world in my opinion, nobody else can shift as many aircraft through such crowded airspace.
Keep up the good work guys,

Capt Pit Bull
22nd Aug 2002, 18:19
Haven't had much of a chance to look in lately (all these tours :( ).

A few observations:

As far as I'm concerned, 'Descend' means 'Now' unless stated otherwise. So I won't be querying it automatically (in the same way that I don't habitually ask if standard speeds apply, see earlier thread!).

However, if it is a route that I am very familiar with, and experience suggests that the clearance is always "When Ready" then I will query it unless (a) Controller workload is obviously high or (b) I'm planning on descend pretty soon anyway.

Almost invariably, when I've asked, the response has been "When ready".

Thinking about it, I guess the quickest way to query is to modify the readback.

Instead of saying:

"Descend FL XX, - is that now or at our discretion?"

or just "Descend FL XX" and wondering,

How about "Descend now FL XX"

That way it only adds one short word to the readback. In effect the crew would be saying "We think you mean now, and are acting on that basis, if you don't then let us know."

The controller can ignore the extra word if workload does not permit, but at the same time it is a small prompt if the controller intended, but neglected for whatever reason, to say "When Ready".

As far as RODs, then I would try and use as low a rate of descent as possible, i.e. 500 fpm, any time I'm being forced below the ideal profile. However, airmanship suggests that there is a reason you have asked for the descent. So, in the absence of any qualifiers like "Good rate through FL XX" or "Expedite through FL XX" I use a reasonable rate for the first 1,000 feet and then slacken it off.

On the GVA SIDs, I'm not aware of any reason to refuse to turn once that 7,000 feet condition is met. However, when we used to fly the noise profile reaching 7,000 by PAS wasn't really a problem (since V2+10 to something like 4,700' ???) but now that we accelerate at 1,000 AGL then you seem to arrive at PAS below 7,000' and are therefore constrained. (I'm no performance guru, thats just the way it seems to work out).