App promises smarter clearances

Mitre’s mobile IFR clearance prototype | Mitre Corporation

Fumbling with a pencil and paper to write down IFR clearances in a general aviation cockpit could eventually become a thing of the past, if a US-developed smartphone and tablet application goes into production

Aviation Today reports engineers at the not-for-profit Mitre Corporation have developed a prototype which delivers in text form ATC clearances, including route data, altitudes, radio frequencies and transponder codes.

The system uses information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) System Wide Information Management publication service. The Aviation Today report says the application would allow pilots to retrieve IFR departure clearances in near real time.

While the pilot would still be required to read back the clearance via radio, the system has the potential to significantly reduce radio clutter and pilot workload.

Mitre says that the system has safety benefits. For example, it would avoid the need for pilots to take off in marginal VFR conditions at a non-towered airport and then obtain an IFR clearance in the air.

The system has had a positive response from the FAA, pilot organisations and air traffic controllers, and the development team hopes to conduct a field demonstration at a GA airport next year.


  1. If you’re fumbling for a pencil in a general aviation cockpit, then you shouldn’t be there to start with. When you request an airways clearance, a pilot should be ready to write the thing down. If not, then he/she is not organised and shouldn’t be in the cockpit.

    • Good point (re: “funbling…”) I’ve run into more than one ground/clearance delivery controller who talked faster than I could think when giving me a long instruction set, let alone record the clearance as spoken. Of course, there’s always the opportunity to key the mike and speak “Say again all after…”. That usually slows the delivery to a manageable fire hose pace. Organized or not isn’t the question. It’s safety.

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