IFR flight plans with GPS direct

We’ve done the same. Changed many of the fields on the second Garmin to provide better information at a glance.

In reply to:

I also fly out of the DC area. My experience was to file direct EVERYWHERE, because I would get a different departure no matter what I filed and would usually get direct as soon as I got out of DC, regardless of what I filed.

Dave & Derek,

I don’t know how you do it – when I’ve tried to file direct out of Gaithersburg before, Baltimore clearance said (nastily!) “there’s no way you can expect to go direct from here” and proceded to give me a full route clearance. And I was going to Cleveland, not up toward NY/Boston or anything.

So now I typically file airways, wait until I get handed off to center, and then start negotiating for direct.


Steve, the flight strip that the controller has will see that your routing is not what you filed. Often, they’ll look, see the /g and just give it to you. However, in your cases of flying in the very congested NE corridor, this technique is of little value since you won’t receive it anyway.


So now I typically file airways, wait until I get handed off to center, and then start negotiating for direct.


To clear up a possible misunderstanding of the ATC system: A specific controller may or may not know what you filed…only what you were issued. I’ll spare everyone the long & boring complete explanation and give the “Reader’s Digest” version here.

Various equipment interfaces (FDIO, DSR, Host to ARTS, etc) and space limitations/lack of need to know cause filed routes to be truncated, Preferential Departure Routes (PDRs) and Preferential Arrival Routes (PARs) to be inserted, and whole routes to be deleted and replaced by Preferential Departure/Arrival Routes (PDARs). If the controller has a Full Route strip on you, AND the routing changes take place within the boundries of their area, AND your original routing is sufficiently short enough to allow printing of that route and all the PDRs/PARs/PDARs, AND you haven’t flown enough of the route that the computer decides to truncate the portion already flown…then and only then will the controller know what your original route was. In fact, unless field 11 of your NAS flight plan data contains “FRC”, the controller probably won’t know whether you were cleared “as filed” or given a full route clearance (FRC). Lots of reasons behind all this…e-mail me if you want the full explanation.

Bottom line is this: There is no “one right way” to get the most direct route. What I usually do is to file the Preferred Route (airways/radials) in congested areas to the first intersection just outside the terminal area…then file direct to the first intersection just outside the terminal area at the destination. The best time to ask a controller for direct is shortly after entering their airspace (keeping in mind that you are usually a few miles outside their airspace when you are handed off). This gives them the most opportunity to be flexible without having to coordinate on a landline with an adjacent/subsequent sector. I don’t hesitate to ask a departure controller to go direct when I think he/she isn’t completely down the tubes. I don’t hesitate to ask an arrival controller to go direct the airport in the same situation. Believe it or not, the vast majority of controllers really do want to get you where you’re going quickly.

Why do PDRs/PARs/PDARs/STARs/Departure procedures exist? Picture cars all entering different driveways around the perimeter of a Wal-Mart parking lot, and each car wants to get to somewhere else in the lot. If everyone headed directly where they want to go it would frequently be a mess. But if everyone PLANS to drive down the aisles and only takes a shortcut after seeing that no conflicting traffic exists, then things still move smoothly without adding too much extra distance. On Christmas Eve, when the parking lot is packed, you can probably forget about cutting diagonally across the lot. Airspace is similar, but you can’t see all the other conflicting aircraft. And it is harder to miss the light poles and shopping carts.

Kelly Rudy

Thanks for the post. Operating in the NY Metro area and relatively new to the IFR environment there is a lot that is useful here

Thanks for your explanation. Do you work a particular ATC position, or do something else for the FAA (or both)?

In reply to:

And it is harder to miss the light poles and shopping carts

Geesh… I hadn’t even been looking out for those things! [;)]

Seriously… thanks, Kelly… your expert insight makes things much easier to understand. I’ll tuck this away along with other the tips you’ve given me… some of which I use practically every time I fly.

  • Mike.

I usually tell my flying buddies that I’m unemployed.

Short resume: I presently work in FAA headquarters Air Traffic Training Division (ATX-100). In past lives I’ve been Tower Manager (SEE); Ops Mgr & Ops Sup (SoCal TRACON); Airpace & Procedures (yes, I used to come up with the stupid intersection names…ask Mike Radomsky); Controller at SoCal TRACON, Coast TRACON, ICT Tower…all told, 15 years. Oh, and proud owner of SR22 #0179, N224KR, born 3/28/02, 3400 lbs, 312 inches.

Kelly Rudy

I am casting my vote to have you on our ATC Board, or whatever COPA has.