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Does A 'Climb And Maintain' Clearance Delete Your Crossing Restrictions On A SID?

You're departing from Houston on the RITAA Six Departure, which has five altitude crossing restrictions. ATC tells you to "climb and maintain 15,000." What now?

Live from the Flight Deck

Review: Standard Instrument Departures

If ATC wants you to fly a departure procedure, they'll usually assign it in your initial departure clearance. Sometimes, ATC only wants you to fly the lateral course and will assign you a specific altitude to climb to.

Other times, they'll ask you to "climb via" the SID instead of "climb and maintain". When ATC gives you a "climb via", you need to meet every altitude restriction along the route until you reach the SID's top altitude. And that's where our RITAA Six departure comes in.

Click here to learn how to fly IFR Departure Procedures.

The Phrase "Climb And Maintain" Cancels Your Altitude Restrictions

On your initial clearance, you were given "climb via the RITAA Six Departure." After a short vector, you were given direct to the TTAPS waypoint. Your initial altitude restrictions are: TTAPS at or below 4,000 feet, BOTLL at or below 5,000 feet, and FLYZA at or above 7,000 feet.

As you approach TTAPs, ATC instructs you to "climb and maintain 15,000 feet." Because of this instruction, you're allowed to initiate an unrestricted climb to 15,000 feet.

The FAA provides a simple answer to clarify confusion in a Climb Via/Descend Via Q&A Document published online. It reads...

#9 Question: What if I depart on a climb via clearance and later given a clearance to "Climb and Maintain" an altitude; should I comply with any published altitude restrictions?

#9 Answer: NO. Unlike a "Climb Via" clearance, when cleared to "Climb and Maintain," you are expected to vacate your current altitude and commence an unrestricted climb to comply with the clearance. For aircraft already climbing via a SID, published altitude restrictions are deleted unless re-issued by ATC. Speed restrictions remain in effect unless the controller explicitly cancels or amends the speed restrictions. (remember, speeds are part of the lateral portion of a SID)

Easy enough, right? As long as you meet published speed restrictions, you can climb as fast or slow as you'd like. Keep in mind, you must always climb at a rate of at least 500 FPM, or you'll need to notify ATC that you're unable to.

Boldmethod

"Below/Above" Crossings Don't Matter - Accelerate When You're Ready

On some SIDs, you'll climb at a steeper angle and slower speed to meet crossing restrictions. A good example of this is the O'Hare Six Departure, which can be tough for some aircraft taking off of Runway 22L on hot days. If you've been given a "climb and maintain" clearance, you can start cleaning up the airplane and accelerating to the published SID speed restriction or your normal climb speed as soon as you'd like. There's no need to climb slowly, make the crossing, and then accelerate.

What Other Questions Do You Have?

Instrument arrival and departure procedures can be complex. Do you have any more questions about SIDs and STARs? 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 swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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