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Why You Should Memorize 'CRAFT' Before You Start Instrument Training

Ready to start instrument training? Every instrument flight starts with a clearance from ATC. And to help you understand your clearance, you should be memorize "CRAFT." Here's what you need to know...

C: Clearance Limit

Your clearance limit is typically your destination airport. But if traffic is backed up from weather or delays, you might be cleared to an intermediate fix, and then to your destination airport once you're airborne.

You'll usually hear something like "Cleared to the Greensboro Airport..." in an ATC clearance.


R: Route

The route is often times the route you filed in your flight plan. When that happens, ATC will tell you that you're cleared "as filed." If there are changes to your route, they'll give you your new route over the radio.

Confirm your route with your filed flight plan and the route you have programmed into your navigation systems.

A: Altitude(s)

The altitude is the initial altitude you should climb to after takeoff. You'll often times be given a second altitude to expect later in your flight as well. For instance "maintain 8,000', expect 17,000' 10 minutes after departure."

If you're flying a departure procedure, you also might hear "Climb via the SID," in which case you'll need to know applicable crossing restrictions and the top altitude for the instrument departure in use.

F: Frequency

Frequency is the frequency you'll use once you're airborne. In most cases at non-towered fields, this will be a Center or Approach controller you'll contact once airborne.

If you're flying out of tower-controlled field, you'll talk to the tower for your takeoff clearance first. Then, when you're airborne, they'll switch you over to a departure or center controller.

Tower controllers will often tell you to "contact departure" without reading you the departure frequency. Before takeoff, you should set the applicable departure frequency into your COM1 standby frequency, or your COM2 active frequency, so you can easily switch to departure without typing the frequency in flight.


T: Transponder Code

Finally, transponder code. This one is pretty simple: ATC will give you a 4-digit code to squawk, like "2727". This lets them identify you on their radar screen.


Need A Quick Reference Card?

Save or print this image as a quick reference card for your first few IFR lessons...

Did "CRAFT" help your instrument training? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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