‘Climb/Descend via’ Phraseology: What it Really Means

Climb or Descend

Brushing up on SID and STAR ATC Communications

On February 21, 2018, the NBAA posted an article asking operators to pay more attention to SID procedures, particularly those at Teterboro (TEB) and Henderson Executive (HND) airports, When “climb via” and/or “descend via” limitations are exceeded or otherwise not adhered to, unnecessary alarm and miscommunication is created. The NBAA director for air traffic services and infrastructure, Heidi Williams, said, “we’re seeing far too many deviations on these procedures, which points to a lack of full understanding of climb via terminology.” Now, let’s review the use of “climb/descend via” and some things to keep in mind.


“Climb/descend via” is used to abbreviate the speed and altitude restrictions of SIDs/STARs. The abbreviated clearances include the procedure’s lateral path, associated speed restrictions, and altitude restrictions published on the SID/STAR. If necessary, ATC may intervene an aircraft’s lateral or vertical navigation with this phraseology to instruct pilots to resume/rejoin the procedure’s lateral path and to ensure the aircraft’s compliance with published altitude and speed restrictions. The FAA began using the terms in April 2014 across the US, and they were added to the Pilot/Controller Glossary. In November 2016, ICAO incorporated “climb/descend via” into their PANS-OPP 4444 Air Traffic Management. Many countries now have adopted the “climb via” and “descend via” verbiage into their traffic control procedures.

Atc communications

Keep in mind:
  • Pilots MUST adhere to procedural restrictions. If advised by ATC to “climb/descend via,” the pilot must do so if it is within the procedural limitations. Remember: advise ATC of any restrictions issued that are not found on the procedure.
  • Pilots are required to respond to “climb/descend via” clearances by repeating the instructions with “climb/descend via” verbatim to the controller. If the pilot uses abbreviated read backs, the controller will repeat instructions until pilot does so.
  • Always use correct “climb/descend via” phraseology. Avoid using phrases such as “on the” or “descending in.” Using alternate verbiage can result in confusion and extra work for the ATC to verify the clearance for your aircraft.
  • The NBAA has many resources to help you brush up on “climb/descend via” for within U.S. airspace, along with ICAO and Canadian ATC uses.

Creating open and simple communication with ATC can ensure safe separation, but only when effectively implemented and followed within the constraints of SID/STAR. Reviewing proper “climb/descend via” phraseology can help eliminate confusion and improper application of procedure. Communicate and clarify any ambiguous instruction or if unable to meet any procedural limitation. Be sure to check our blog for an upcoming SID and STAR “Climb/Descend via” Phraseology quiz!



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