Confusing ATC Clearances

On a flight a couple of weeks ago from Ft. Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) to Fort Myers, Page Field (KFMY), Clearance Delivery issued a clear, concise, straight-forward IFR clearance before taxi.

The clearance read as follows: “Radar vectors to V97, WINCO, LBV, direct FMY”.  I was not issued a departure procedure by ATC as part of this clearance.


After departing RWY 31 at Exec, the tower handed me off to Miami departure, who promptly radar identified me. I was cleared to climb to 3,000 feet and they turned me to a heading of 270.

A few minutes later, on that heading, the controller said to join the “WINCO transition”.

Um, the what? When receiving radar vectors, the controller simply says fly heading XXX, join Victor XX, resume own nav. If they give you a transition route, it’s already part of a previously issued departure procedure. You know it’s coming and are expecting it.

I quickly checked the FXE DP’s. Nothing about a WINCO transition. There was nothing in the Garmin 430 database either.

I then queried the departure controller and asked for clarification. She was a bit exasperated and said the transition route was defined by the DHP 322 radial. Sure enough, a check of the low enroute chart showed the Dolphin 322 radial IS V97, the same as my original clearance. So I asked for present heading to join the airway, and my request was approved.

I was a little frustrated at ATCs annoyance at me. Single Pilot IFR is challenging enough without a confusing clearance thrown in. After I landed at Ft. Myers, I did some research. There is only one departure procedure at KFXE, the Ft. Lauderdale Three. That procedure lists 6 transition routes, but none reference WINCO.

Further research showed that there are three DPs that do reference the WINCO transition, but all of those DPs are out of KMIA, Miami International, 30 miles to the south of Ft. Lauderdale Exec.

So it seems that the Miami controller issued me a transition route to a departure procedure from a completely different airport, despite the fact that no DP was ever issued as part of my original clearance from Ft. Lauderdale.

Confused? So was I. So I called Miami Tracon and spoke with a supervisor. He immediately knew what the problem was, took ownership of it, and apologized.

So the next time you get a confusing clearance, or non-standard phraseology from ATC, speak up. Ask for clarification if you do not understand the clearance. It just might save you a deviation, and your ticket.


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