Clearance Altitudes Parallel Runways

FYI, when ATC clears you for parallel runways, they may have to consider vertical separation.

For example, if you’re being cleared on 16R at RJAA while another plane is being cleared for 16L, you cannot both be at 3000 feet, as there is a lack of separation. One of you will be sent 1000 feet lower.

However, what I’ve noticed is that as soon as most pilots are handed back to tower, they climb back up to 3000.

Do not do this.

The clearance altitudes from Approach don’t vanish as soon as you’re on tower. Stay at 2000 until you hit the glidescope. That was your clearance altitude. It doesn’t change when you change frequencies.

Side note:

I see this a lot with pilots who aren’t quite aware that they should stay on tower for patterns. If a pilot switches for patterns without asking, and they’ve climbed to some silly height, I send them back down to pattern altitude (yet again: not 3k feet; 1500 AAL for jets, 1000 AAL for GA) before sending back to tower. Next thing I know, there they go climbing back up to 3k. No, the 1500 still applies.

Changing frequencies doesn’t change anything.

  1. It doesn’t erase your clearance altitude
  2. It doesn’t give you back a choice of runway
  3. It doesn’t mean you get to speed back up to 249 knots

Nothing changes.


Great post Tim, serves as a great reminder to everyone! :)


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