How to Request Takeoff Clearance

Cessna 527 Tango Mike, ready at Runway 23

When you are ready to depart the airport, how do you request a takeoff clearance? Here is what the Aeronautical Information Manual has to say about requesting a takeoff clearance:

4−3−14. Communications
a. Pilots of departing aircraft should communicate with the control tower on the appropriate ground control/clearance delivery frequency prior to starting engines to receive engine start time, taxi and/or clearance information. Unless otherwise advised by the tower, remain on that frequency during taxiing and runup, then change to local control frequency when ready to request takeoff clearance.
Pilots are encouraged to monitor the local tower frequency as soon as practical consistent with other ATC requirements.


There is one gotcha in this passage: “request takeoff clearance.” Think of the word “takeoff” as you would think of a loaded gun. Don’t pick it up and handle it unless you absolutely intend to shoot. Saying the word “takeoff” means you intend to enter the runway and shove the power up to depart. If you have no intention of doing that at the moment, then don’t say “takeoff.”

For a bone-chilling story that explains why you should never say “Takeoff” unless you have been cleared for takeoff, click this link.

Here’s a better approach

1. Monitor the local ground frequency while taxiing to the runway.
2. Stay on the local ground frequency while performing your engine run-up and pre-takeoff checklist.
3. Switch to the local tower frequency and say either

“Tower, (your call sign,) ready at Runway XX.” Example: “Columbus Tower, Cessna 527 Tango Mike, ready at Runway 23.” Or,

“Tower, (your call sign,) holding short of Runway XX.”

4. Comply with tower’s instructions.

Simple enough. Do you have any other techniques?

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3 thoughts on “How to Request Takeoff Clearance”

  1. Yes, I know the photo of the Cessna in this article shows a cover over the pitot tube. How can the pilot of this aircraft be ready for takeoff if the pitot tube is still covered? And the prop isn’t even turning!


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