Flight Clearance Acronym

Small CRAFT advisory: it doesn't work

Whether you fly IFR or VFR an ATC flight clearance follows a very specific pattern. Some people use the acronym CRAFT to help them remember the pattern of a flight clearance. While this acronym helps, you will see, it doesn’t help enough. Let’s run through an example flight clearance to see why.

Alphabet Slop

The C in CRAFT stands for call sign. That’s very helpful if you have never touched an aircraft radio before. All radio transmissions in the aviation band begin with an aircraft’s call sign.

The R in CRAFT stands for route. I’m not sure how helpful it is to know your cleared route of flight is coming next. A route clearance has so many variables that simply remembering the route is next will not prepare you all those variables.

For example, you route may begin with a heading to fly, an airway to intercept, a fix to fly to, or a standard instrument departure procedure. The route may be “As filed,” or it may contain many amendments. It may end at a fix, at your destination, or, it may end with a standard terminal arrival procedure.


Remembering the R in CRAFT stands for route is about as valuable as remembering you were bit by a snake. Was the snake venomous, or non-venomous? Who cares? It was a snake. Get my point?

The A stands for altitudes. Some people say “altitude,” but it’s really two altitudes. First, you will get an initial altitude to climb to after takeoff. Then you will get an final cruising altitude to expect.

The F stands for frequency, as in radio frequency to contact after takeoff. This is usually the frequency of departure control for the airport from which you are flying. It can also be some other frequency, such as an enroute air traffic control center frequency, or the frequency of a tower control adjacent to your departure airport. It would be nice to write down that additional information, even if the F in CRAFT doesn’t give you a clue it might be coming.

The T stands for transponder. Besides the C in the acronym, this is the only other straight-forward letter. It means your assigned transponder code.

But Wait, There’s More

C-R-A-F-T. All done, right? Not so fast. There may be another T, or an E, in some cases.

The second T is time, as in void time. If you will be taking off from an uncontrolled airport, ATC will issue a void time. The void time is an expiration time. If issued, you must be airborne no later than the void time, otherwise your clearance will no longer be valid.

You might also receive an expected departure clearance time, represented by the E which does not exist in CRAFT. An EDCT is exactly what it sounds like. Air Traffic Control will not accept your airplane into its system prior to the EDCT, if one is issued.

It Really Doesn’t Work

CRAFT doesn’t work for VFR departures into a radar-controlled environment. For VFR departures, the acronym is CFT, with possibly a piece of an R thrown in.

When departing VFR under radar control, after your call sign, you will hear a departure frequency and a transponder code. Your route may simply be an assigned heading to fly after takeoff, or you may receive no routing at all.

The CRAFT acronym is interesting, but its more wordplay than a useful tool. It simply doesn’t adequately prepare you for what is actually coming after you request your clearance from ATC. A fligth clearance does follow a specific pattern, but that pattern is more complicated than a simple acronym.

To get a real handle on clearance, I developed a program called Clearance Magic. Clearance Magic teaches you how to handle anything clearance delivery may throw at you. Go here to check it out.