View From the Tower: Best Rate Through Eight!

Editor’s Note: This story was submitted by our friend Bill Fauth.  It really gives you an appreciation for what the old F-4 can do!  Thanks Bill!

When working as an Air Traffic Controller at O’Hare, our standard phraseology for departures was, “(callsign) climb and maintain FL240; give me your best rate through eight.”  We had inbounds streaming in level at 7,000’ MSL and instead of tunneling under the inbounds, we’d turn the departure loose if they’d hurry through 8,000’; top the inbounds. Every day, just about every departure got the “…best rate through eight” request.

So one day, while working East Departure Sector, I got a release request from Navy Glenview Tower, one of our satellite airports just a few miles north of O’Hare. They had a VV F4 wanting to go eastbound and had to coordinate with us for an IFR release. The SID at Glenview stopped everyone at 3,000’ MSL.

When the F4 contacted me, without a whole lot of thought, I gave him a 090 heading, climb to FL240 and then added, “Give me your best rate through eight.” Instead of the rapid-fire response that O’Hare pilots and controllers practice with each transmission, there was a slight pause before the F4 confirmed his clearance. He came back with, “…roger 090, climb to FL240 …and departure, I’ll give you a good rate through 8; you don’t need my BEST rate.”

And with that I watched his Mode C give about 2 or 3 updates and he was not only level at FL240, but also showed a ground speed of about 500 knots. He was probably only about five miles from where he took off. He was right, of course, if that was the good rate, I certainly did not need his best rate.