Class C Nightmare - Clearance Delivery Simplified - C.R.A.F.T.

C172 — N54538 — Santa Ana > (practice area) — Performance T/O, Basics, Assisted Landing — 1.2hrs

Check it, SNA is probably the worst Class C nightmare in the world. Busy with big jets liners coming and going, gotta get Clearance to come and go, and constant crazy radio traffic, you really need to stay frosty here, or you're for it.

But that's the virtue, because if you can deal with SNA, then the rest is cake. And so I embrace my opportunity to train at one of busiest Class C airports in the world.

  • Departing outbound you'll need Clearance (covered below).
  • Approaching inbound you gotta first contact Approach surrounding the area, they'll give you a squawk, radio contact confirmation, and then hand you off to the inbound Tower. 

That being the simple version, let's amplify the departing Clearance Delivery procedure. Here are excerpts (slightly revised) from an article I found helpful to make it really simple.

If you're flying out of a Class-C airport (or Class B, for that matter), you just call up Clearance Delivery after getting the ATIS and give them the usual 3-W routine -- who you are, where you are, and what you want to do:

"John Wayne Clearance, Cessna 123XY, with Bravo, VFR to the northeast at 5500".

They'll come back with something like this:

"Cessna 3XY, John Wayne Clearance, fly runway heading until 1000 feet [MSL is implied here], then proceed on course. Maintain at or below 2500 until advised, departure frequency will be 123.45, squawk 4003, contact ground 120.8 when ready to taxi"

There may be a lot of stuff to copy, but if you know what to expect, it'll be easier to understand. Basically, you're copying a watered-down IFR clearance, and they always have the following components, always in the following order:

- Clearance Limit
- Route
- Altitude
- Frequency
- Transponder

The acronym to remember this being CRAFT. You won't have a clearance limit (that's strictly an IFR thing), so maybe you better make it RAFT (like in life raft).

A trick to copying clearances is that they all follow the same pattern:
Clearance Limit, Route, Altitude, Frequency, Transponder. The acronym to remember this is CRAFT (for a VFR clearance out of a Class C airport, you won't have a clearance limit, but the other parts will still be there in the right order). What I like to do when copying a clearance is to write on a piece of paper:

- C
- R
- A
- F
- T

Just like that down the left-hand margin. Then, as the clearance is read to me, I fill in the blanks. You can write it out in full, or use shorthand, or whatever, as long as you can figure out what you wrote. In your case, I'd end up with something that looked like:

- C
- R rwy hdg
- A =< 2000
- F xxx.xx
- T yyyy

After my takeoff I'm handed off to Departure, and away I go.