Sometimes the subtle differences can lead to annoyance, but there is the potential for more serious issues, especially if the pilot doesn’t notice the subtlety. Here’s one example from the newsletter.
“A pet peeve of some ASRS reporters is PDC’s [pre-departure clearances] that contain apparent route revisions (amendments), when the amendment doesn’t actually change the filed routing. We included an example of this in the March 2009 CALLBACK (Clearance Clarity). Here is an excerpt from that report:
…I have many times encountered an ATC clearance problem that just simply does not have to exist. We are often given a clearance that reads something like, ‘You are cleared direct ABCDE intersection, direct FGHIJ intersection, XXX VOR 123 degree radial to KLMNO intersection, then flight plan route.’…We are forced to dig out charts that we might not normally have out, then try to find the VOR in question and trace out the radial, only to find that the given radial is a direct route from FGHIJ to KLMNO. If we have the equipment to proceed direct to the first two intersections, we obviously have the equipment to proceed directly to the third. Why not just give us direct to all three? Why confuse the issue by throwing in a VOR and radial, when both are completely unnecessary and serve only to create confusion?”
ASRS proposes several ways to improve the situation, including one very logical one:
Discontinue the ATC practice of amending the filed route of flight with fixes that do not represent an actual change of routing. It is time-consuming for pilots to verify that a routing “revision” does not change the filed route of flight. In some cases, pilot confusion may result in track deviations and loss of separation events.
ASRS is a terrific safety program administered by NASA on behalf of the FAA. For more on it and to sign up for their free newsletter that compiles pilot and controller safety concerns, see the Web site (http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/).
Meanwhile, listen carefully to those ATC clearances.