The Difference Between ATC Clearances and Advisories

The following transmission from a tower controller has a clearance and an advisory. Can you tell which is which?

ATC says, “Skyhawk 9130 Delta, Runway 16, line up and wait. Traffic will be crossing downfield.”

When the controller said, “Runway 16, line up and wait,” he was directing Skyhawk 9130 Delta to do something. When he said, “Traffic will be crossing downfield,” he was advising the pilot of a circumstance that is relevant to the flight.

When a controller tells you to do something, you are required to read back that information. The readback lets the controller evaluate your understanding of what he just told you to do. If after listening to your readback he feels you did not understand him correctly, he can provide additional information to clarify his meaning.

An advisory message from ATC is designed to make you aware of a circumstance that affects your flight. ATC advisories do not require you to take action. Note in our example, “Traffic crossing downfield” tells you why ATC is directing you to line up and wait. It’s good information but does not require you to do anything directly in response. Lining up and waiting on the runway happens in response to the clearance that came earlier, not in response to the advisory that came after the clearance.

In summary, when ATC tells you to do something, read back what he tells you to. When ATC provides information that does not require you to do anything, there is no requirement to read back the information.

Here’s how you would reply to the example transmission at the beginning of this article. “Skyhawk 9130 Delta, Runway 16, line up and wait.” That’s it. You would note, but not read back the bit about traffic crossing downfield.

One last bit of advice. If ATC gives you advisory information only, acknowledge the advisory with your call sign. For example, if ATC says, “Skyhawk 9130 Delta, traffic your 1 o’clock and 10 miles, westbound, 1,000 above you, no factor.” This advisory is helpful but it does not require you to do something with your aircraft in response. Simply reply, “Skyhawk 9130 Delta.” This tells the controller you heard him. Saying nothing in response to an advisory-only would leave the controller wondering whether you heard him. Absent any acknowledgement from you, he would likely repeat the advisory.

Questions about the distinction between a clearance and an advisory? Comment below or write to me directly at Jeff@ATCcommunication.com.

Before you go

Are you in the market for a new radio headset? I can help with your research.

Check out my Headset Buyer’s Guide for reviews from fellow pilots and some recommendations of my own.

Share:

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

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