It’s been nearly four years since the FAA first implemented “climb via” phraseology intended to simplify assignment of SID and RNAV SID procedures with speed and altitude restrictions. Persistent issues with those clearances at two busy airports utilized by business aircraft operators recently spurred actions to remind pilots of the correct procedures.
At New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (TEB), pilots flying the RUUDY 6 RNAV departure from Runway 24 must cross the WENTZ waypoint at 1,500 feet MSL to avoid conflicting with overhead traffic into Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) before initiating a climb to the procedure’s top altitude of 2,000 feet. However, pilots have occasionally exceeded that altitude restriction.
“We encourage pilots [using Teterboro] to conduct a thorough preflight briefing on departure procedures,” said David Belastock, president of the Teterboro Users Group, whose organization worked closely with the FAA to issue a recent letter to airmen (LTA) clarifying the procedure. “We are also coordinating with Jeppesen to expedite the publication of charting enhancements that more vividly denote altitude and speed constraints.”
Across the country at Henderson Executive Airport (HND) near Las Vegas, NV, ongoing altitude busts on SIDs from Runway 35L not only prompted a similar LTA, but also resulted in the issuance of a temporary procedure in which tower controllers will ask pilots to verify their awareness of the mandatory 6,000-foot MSL crossing restriction at
the KITTE waypoint.
“Pilots are interpreting their clearance to mean the higher assigned altitude or are simply not setting up their autopilots and flight directors to capture published altitude restrictions,” explained NBAA Access Committee member Keith Gordon, who participated on the team that led to climb via implementation. “RNAV restrictions can be a matter of life or death. Blowing through the KITTE altitude restriction puts you in the path of traffic landing at McCarran International Airport, and that makes controllers understandably nervous.”
Similar issues at other airports have led to controller instructions that deviate from standard procedures, a practice Gordon noted could lead to pilot confusion and pose safety and liability concerns.
“We can’t have different facilities issuing ad hoc instructions,” said Gordon. “Verification of the altitude restriction seems the purest way to maintain the sanctity of climb via phraseology while keeping the responsibility for flying it correctly in the cockpit.”
Heidi Williams, NBAA director for air traffic services and infrastructure, emphasized the need for business aircraft flight crews to apply proper due diligence to all departures. “We’re seeing far too many deviations on these procedures, which points to a lack of full understanding of climb via terminology,” she said.