Operations resources


Controlled airspace

After take-off

Airborne report – Class C control zones AIP ENR 1.1

In Class C and Class D control zones where an ATS surveillance service is provided, on first contact with centre, approach or departures, a pilot must report:

  • if assigned an initial heading – the direction of turn and assigned heading
  • the altitude passing, to nearest 100 ft 
  • the last assigned level.

Departure report – certain Class D aerodromes

At certain Class D aerodromes where the tower also provides a procedural approach control service (see ERSA), a pilot must report on the tower frequency after take-off:

  • tracking information
  • the last assigned altitude.

However, this report is not required:

  • for VFR aircraft departing the control zone directly into Class G airspace or
  • for aircraft that have been instructed to contact centre, approach or departures once airborne – in which case an airborne report will be made on the relevant frequency.

The departure time must be calculated as follows:

  • current time minus an adjustment for the distance from the aerodrome, or
  • when over or abeam the aerodrome.

Frequency change

When frequency change instructions are issued immediately preceding the take-off clearance, pilots must change frequency automatically from tower as soon as practicable after take-off, preferably within one nm of becoming airborne.

In all other situations, pilots of departing aircraft must remain on tower frequency until specific frequency change instructions are issued. Pilots can generally expect an instruction to contact departures control before reaching 2000 ft and should, when advised, effect the change as soon as possible.

When contacting area control, pilots must advise the last assigned level and, if not maintaining the assigned level, the level maintaining or last vacated level.

Establishment on track

Unless otherwise instructed by ATC, a pilot in command must remain within 5 nm of the departure aerodrome to establish flight on the departure track as soon as practicable after take-off.


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New rules come into effect from 2 December 2021 that cover the general operating and flight rules. We are currently updating this guide to reflect the new rules. A new version will be available to download from 2 December.
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