In today’s environment, General Aviation (GA) pilots at non-towered airports must obtain their Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) clearance and release through a variety of voice-based methods, including a telephone or radio call to a Flight Service Station (FSS) or to the controlling Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility. These methods are time-consuming and subject to read back errors and incorrect interpretations of clearances.
The FAA has already implemented a data comm pre-departure clearance (PDC) system at the larger airports served by the airlines, but this requires a sophisticated FMS and avionics with an integrated datalink connection. There are third-party options to retrieve a PDC via email or text message through companies like FltPlan.com, but this too is only available at the major airports in the U.S.
The folks at the MITRE Corporation think there is a better way for ATC to deliver IFR clearances to pilots using mobile devices, and have been researching the concept for several years now. MITRE is a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. Here’s a look at their prototype, which was specifically for iPhone/iPad:
This is just a proof of concept at this point but provides some insight into how we might interact with ATC using our iPads in the years ahead.