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Clearance Delivery on Your Smartphone

December 2017 - MITRE Corporation in 2014 began a new exploration project: mobile IFR clearance delivery.

The outcome was the mobile IFR clearance delivery prototype. This mobile device-based idea will allow pilots to acquire a text-based IFR clearance electronically — without verbal communication with ATC.

Currently, pilots flying IFR receive their clearance from the ATC tower, ground, or clearance delivery to take off and proceed. Those who fly out of smaller airports without ATC towers have to obtain their IFR clearance by telephone or via radio to a flight service station or the ATC facility serving the area via remote communication outlet (RCO). These processes are time-consuming and subject to incorrect interpretation.

The idea behind this mobile service is to use flight plan data from the FAA’s System Wide Information Management (SWIM) flight data publication service. It will permit pilots to retrieve flight plans in real time through a mobile app at towered and non-towered airports.

This idea holds the ability to reduce or eliminate the need for verbal communication. It could at the same time improve flight plan accuracy, reduce pilot and controller workload, and reduce delays at non-towered airports.

Initial tests demonstrated that the technology works. It enables a pilot to retrieve an IFR clearance through a mobile app and read it back to air traffic control.

The IFR mobile clearance delivery would consist of two primary components: a pilot app and a back-end server that receives flight plan information from the SWIM.

The pilot begins the process by entering a call sign and departure and arrival airports into the app. The app then taps into the back-end server to retrieve the most relevant up-to-date flight plan information. The app then retrieves departure clearance information from the server and displays it on the pilot’s mobile device. Since the app provides the correct spellings of all airports and other route elements, it helps prevent the read-back and transcription errors that can take place in spoken communications. Besides improving accuracy, this also speeds up the process.

The long-term vision for the concept includes the ability for the pilot to use the app to request an IFR release at non-towered airports and cancel IFR.

Are you ready for your clearance to be copied for you by your smartphone app?

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