ATC’s Expect to Cross an Intersection

I was sitting on the jumpseat in the cockpit of another airline yesterday and I heard a radio exchange between ATC and the pilot working the radio for the crew. It sounded like this. (The aircraft call sign, altitudes and the named intersection are fictitious.)

ATC: “Airliner 167, at pilot’s discretion, descend and maintain Flight Level 190. Expect to cross Fuzzy at 8,000.”

Pilot: “Pilot’s discretion, descend and maintain Flight Level 190. Fuzzy at 8,000, Airliner 167.”

Do you have any heartburn with the pilot’s read back in this situation?

You know I wouldn’t ask that question if I thought his read back was perfect.

There’s a critical word missing in the pilot’s read back. It’s the word, “expect”. If I were the controller and I heard that read back, I’d immediately question whether the pilot might initiate a descent to 8,000 before I had authorized him to do so.

I don’t blame the pilot for how he crafted his read back. If you look in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) you’ll find zip regarding how to specifically read back an advisory message such as “Expect Fuzzy at 8,000”.

Let there be no doubt, “Expect Fuzzy at 8,000” is advisory only in nature. It is not a clearance.

A clearance from ATC requires you to change your aircraft’s flight path.

An advisory is information from ATC that helps you to build situational awareness and/or plan ahead. An advisory does not require you to take action, though you may choose to take action after further coordination with ATC.

When our pilot said, “Fuzzy at 8,000” it sounded like a readback, implying the crew would be taking action to comply with a clearance to 8,000.

Here’s how I would have read back that clearance and advisory. “Airliner 167, at pilot’s discretion, descend and maintain Flight Level 190. We’ll expect to cross Fuzzy at 8,000.” Including “expect” in my read back tells the controller I’ve received the advisory but will not act on the information until I hear a specific clearance from him to descend lower than Flight Level 190.

In summary, when ATC advises you to expect an altitude crossing restriction, be sure to include the word “expect” in your readback. That’s not in the AIM. It’s a solid technique that helps you and your controller stay in synch.

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

2 thoughts on “ATC’s Expect to Cross an Intersection”

    1. Putting a call sign at the end is only required in countries that operate using ICAO rules. When flying in the United States, you may state your call sign at the beginning or at the end of any transmission.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

On Key

Related Posts

New Day, New Jet

"New day, new jet." That is an Air Force Instructor Pilot's standard statement that means the current training scenario is over, and a new one has begun. It is a line of demarcation that reminds student pilots it is time to move on to the next challenging scenario. It's a new day here at ATCcommunication.com,

Flying into Class B for the First Time

If you are anticipating flying into Class B airspace for the first time, not to worry. The procedures ATC uses inside of Class B are nearly identical to those used in other classes of airspace. The subtle variations in procedure will most likely be unnoticeable to you. What may jump out at you is the

Pilot’s Discretion Descents

As you approach your destination, ATC will clear you to begin a descent from your enroute altitude to some lower altitude. Often descent clearances will come in a series of lower altitudes. This series of step-down clearances is issued to allow you to descend without conflicting with other traffic at lower altitudes. Occasionally, and in

I Hate Holding

No one likes to have their forward progress stopped. You know what I mean. When you are stuck in a traffic jam on the road, it’s very aggravating. Waiting at a long red stoplight when you need to be somewhere can raise your blood pressure. Similarly, when ATC says, “Expect holding at [a navigation fix],”

Coping with Busy Airspace

The time between ATC’s radio transmissions differs depending on the amount of traffic in a controller’s airspace. The more traffic in a section of airspace, the less time between ATC transmissions. Take comfort in the fact that no matter how busy the radio seems, the words and phrases ATC uses remain exactly the same words

Scroll to Top