Are you required to report leaving an altitude if you have been given a crossing restriction?

Lnafziger
  • Are you required to report leaving an altitude if you have been given a crossing restriction? Lnafziger

    If ATC gives me a clearance to cross a fix at a specific altitude or a descent at pilot's discretion and I read back the clearance, is my readback considered the report specified in the AIM, or do I have to inform them when I actually start down?

    AIM 5-3-3. Additional Reports

    a. The following reports should be made to ATC or FSS facilities without a specific ATC request:

    1. At all times.

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

    ...

    An Example - Say that a pilot is flying at flight level 340 100 NM from Wilmington VOR and gets the following clearance:

    ATC: N1234, cross Wilmington VOR at flight level 240
    Pilot: Cross Wilmington VOR at flight level 240, N1234

    or

    ATC: N1234, descend at pilot's discretion to flight level 240
    Pilot: Descend at pilot's discretion to flight level 240

    It's a little early to start down since we want to stay high for fuel efficiency, so the pilot decides to wait until 30 NM from the VOR to start down. When they reach that point, are they required to inform ATC before starting the descent or are they considered to have reported the descent earlier?

    I hear pilots that do it both ways and each camp is pretty emphatic about it....

  • AIM 5-3-3. Additional Reports

    a. The following reports should be made to ATC or FSS facilities without a specific ATC request:

    1. At all times.

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

    Emphasis mine. The phrase 'when vacating' is pretty unambiguous.

    Edited answer to better respond to your comment. Previous answer below.


    The AIM explains the purpose of readbacks in 4-4-7b:

    ATC Clearance/Instruction Readback. Pilots of airborne aircraft should read back those parts of ATC clearances and instructions containing altitude assignments, vectors, or runway assignments as a means of mutual verification. The read back of the “numbers" serves as a double check between pilots and controllers and reduces the kinds of communications errors that occur when a number is either “misheard" or is incorrect.

    Although this is stretching, I find it easier to believe that a readback does not qualify and you should call again when you actually start down.

    Furthermore, the AIM references FAR 91.183, which says that the pilot of an aircraft operating under IFR must report as soon as possible

    (c) Any other information relating to the safety of flight.

    If you figure altitude changes qualify as safety of flight information, it's probably not a bad idea to make a second radio call.

  • Absolutely report leaving the previously assigned altitude. And this applies equally when receiving a clearance "cleared for the approach." I recall once being cleared for an approach from a holding pattern. Planes were stacked above me. I wanted to maintain my holding altitude until over the holding fix. Thus I did not say, "Leaving 2000 feet." I left that altitude quickly when approach control told the plane above me to descend to 2,000 feet.

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