Welcome! Becoming a registered user of ShortWingPipers.Org is free and easy! Click the "Register" link found in the upper right hand corner of this screen. It's easy and you can then join the fun posting and learning about Short Wing Pipers!

Thanks Thanks:  0
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27

Thread: Flight following question

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    102
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Flight following question

    Steve got me into a writing mood today, so I thought I would post the question I have had bouncing around in my head. I have checked the internet and found some discussion but never a satisfactory answer. So here it goes.

    I flew a flight a few weeks back from my home in Maryland to Marthaís Vineyard. Unfortunately New York airspace gets in the way. I was goaded by another shortwinger to just get flight following to make the flight go easier, which I havenít done since I got my ppl. So, thatís what I did. Called Philly approach got following, and I was fat dumb and happy. My flight path took me through the restricted airspace east of McGuire airfield. I am getting closer and closer and ATC says nothing. I keep watching and waiting to see if ATC will volunteer some advice. It wasnít too congested and I was getting close, so I queried the controller. He says the restrict airspace is hot so I do a rapid turn to avoid and get back on course. Then he terminates flight following when I was like 5 miles from the New York class bravo and told to squawk 1200. I quickly dug out the number and called NY tracon got my bravo clearance and carried on.

    On the way back, I was leaving Brookhaven heading west. Asked for flight following through Ny. The controller comes back with flight following and volunteered the bravo clearance. No muss no fuss.

    So, how is flight following supposed to work? It seems random and I hate that I canít just sit back and trust ATC has got me covered.

    Maybe I am cavalier but nowadays with ads-b I see traffic pretty much as well as ATC does and I have a singular focus: me. They seem very concerned about the ďno factorĒ caravan 3000 feet below me. What I want is for them to keep me out of restricted, prohibited airspace, negotiate B, C, and D clearances. It seems some do without solicitation. Some donít, which makes things worse. I have no idea what to expect and I feel like instead of them helping me I have an extra job to monitor what if anything they are doing for me. And, with NY tracon, I hate trying to jump in the middle of their machine gun directions and have a conversation about air space. But to be honest despite how busy NY was they were efficient each time I called and gave me what I needed.

    I am questioning the real value of using flight following for airspace help. It was still valuable on this trip to know a Controller has me if I have a mechanical issue.

    Some other options:

    I guess I could call flight service and ask them about restricted airspace but they canít give me bravo clearances.

    Another option is give in and just go IFR. My hesitancy is I am a little out of practice so need to up my game a little especially if I am playing over NY. Secondly, maybe it is my skill level but me alone in my pacer is awful light. Trying to hold altitude and heading on a thermally summer day takes work. I was hoping flight following would give me ifr like service but not bust me about my altitudes and headings as I bounce around.

    What do you all think? Is there a better approach to flying vfr and working complex airspace?


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Tnathan; 09-29-2021 at 01:35 PM.

  2. #2
    Troy Hamon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    PAKN
    Posts
    907
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Flight following question

    First off, I would highly recommend you check out the podcast 'Opposing Bases' on whatever podcast platform you have available.

    As to the details of your question, VFR flight following is an as-available service. Which means if they get swamped they can dump you or deny you services at any time. Different facilities have different workload patterns, so whether they are likely to deny services depends on where you are.

    The primary function of flight following is traffic advisories, so you are not going to stop hearing from them about other aircraft, though different controllers might have a different idea of which aircraft represent conflicts and need to be pointed out. The description of the interaction with the first guy sounds like he got overwhelmed and you were the part of his workload he could dump. Your call to him probably reminded him of that, which is why he dumped you then. They often operate on multiple frequencies, so he may have had a lot going on that wasn't coming through on the frequency he had you on.

    For sure, if you want to plan your route, better to call FSS to ask about restricted airspace.

    If you fly in the busy metro zones, getting on flight following helps maintain the radio awareness and skills that you need. Going full IFR instead does the same. Both are good options. Both give you a chance to show effort and intent in working as part of the system, and if something silly like an airspace bust happens, you are at least able to show you were doing your best to make sure you were a participating member and part of the issue is on ATC, not just you. If you are VFR and not in contact with them, then all the grief lands on you.

    But seriously, Opposing Bases, check it out.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    102
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Flight following question

    Thanks. Good comments.

    As for traffic advisories, it is important but I wonder with ads-b if the service will become less necessary and maybe revamped some day. But I know others will disagree.

    As for flight following being on an as able basis, maybe I misunderstood what that meant. I thought that meant they could decide if they want to take me or not. But if they do, I will get service until terminated. Not that they can take me and then not do anything.

    And, as for dumping me, he dumped me when I got to the edge of his airspace. I called up NY and they took me no muss no fuss. I would have thought that NY would be more likely to deny my request. And, could see him dropping me if he knew he couldnít broker the handoff. But, NY was awesome and sounded a lot busier, but like you said he could be working some other frequency too. I thought it seemed nerdy to drop me when he was basically done with me, but I guess he save coordinating with NY.

    And, from what I read if ATC has you on flight following airspace is a joint responsibility. Which again seems like it adds confusion rather than help. I have seen others echo your comment if you bust something while on following you can point to ATC, but that doesnít absolve you and frankly the reason the airspace exist is is to keep me safe. I would rather know they are helping me or know that they arenít.

    One other point I read online, if you believe what you read online, was that ATC can help with B, and C, but that it is even murkier if they can help with a D, since the rule states the pilot needs to be in two way contact with the tower. So, what do if you are flying at 2k and want to go through a D. Expect they will get you the transition? Query ATC? Even if they say they did, did you comply with the rule? Some suggested, Monitor ATC and call the tower to ask for transition. At some point all this stops being helpful.

    Thanks again and I will check out the podcast. Have been trying to push myself lately to up my game.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Tnathan; 09-29-2021 at 02:03 PM.

  4. #4
    grbamford's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Erie, Pa
    Posts
    309
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: Flight following question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tnathan View Post
    Thanks. Good comments.

    As for traffic advisories, it is important but I wonder with ads-b if the service will become less necessary and maybe revamped some day. But I know others will disagree.

    As for flight following being on an as able basis, maybe I misunderstood what that meant. I thought that meant they could decide if they want to take me or not. But if they do, I will get service until terminated. Not that they can take me and then not do anything.

    And, as for dumping me, he dumped me when I got to the edge of his airspace. I called up NY and they took me no muss no fuss. I would have thought that NY would be more likely to deny my request. And, could see him dropping me if he knew he couldnít broker the handoff. But, NY was awesome and sounded a lot busier, but like you said he could be working some other frequency too. I thought it seemed nerdy to drop me when he was basically done with me, but I guess he save coordinating with NY.

    And, from what I read if ATC has you on flight following airspace is a joint responsibility. Which again seems like it adds confusion rather than help. I have seen others echo your comment if you bust something while on following you can point to ATC, but that doesnít absolve you and frankly the reason the airspace exist is is to keep me safe. I would rather know they are helping me or know that they arenít.

    One other point I read online, if you believe what you read online, was that ATC can help with B, and C, but that it is even murkier if they can help with a D, since the rule states the pilot needs to be in two way contact with the tower. So, what do if you are flying at 2k and want to go through a D. Expect they will get you the transition? Query ATC? Even if they say they did, did you comply with the rule? Some suggested, Monitor ATC and call the tower to ask for transition. At some point all this stops being helpful.

    Thanks again and I will check out the podcast. Have been trying to push myself lately to up my game.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Great thread. Airspace always seems like a moving target. I fly around a lot of this airspace for work and recreation in the lower altitudes. By no means do I deal with the high IFR charts or requirements. (Personal caveat!) I do see a lot of MTR both VFR and IFR, MOAs and restricted airspace. My personal rule of thumb is if I am VFR, then I am responsible for contacting FSS and determining the status of each one that I encounter. You may be able to get ATC to give you a status update, but don't count it as gospel. In this case, FSS is your friend. If I am IFR, then ATC is responsible for your routing and clearances through restricted areas. However, this doesn't mean that I won't ask for a restricted area's status. I don't worry about MOAs because those exist to separate military traffic from IFR traffic.

    Typically I have had positive experiences with transiting Class D airspace while using flight following. My experience has been that ATC will coordinate with tower if their volume allows them to. Without being preachy, If you are concerned about approaching Class D while on flight following, go ahead and ask if they would like you to switch to tower. Again, my experience has been that ATC will just keep you with them on frequency. This legal. Playback on tapes is a wonderful thing as well. If they try to say that you blew through Delta Airspace, politely ask for them to review the tapes (don't be confrontational on the radio and say "pull" the tapes!). If they didn't ask you to switch to tower frequency, you have an awfully good case to make, as long as you didn't miss a call to climb above the airspace or make that change to tower.

    Just my two cents worth,
    Greg

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    102
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Flight following question

    Thanks. For Ds,I just climb greater than 3k AGL. Figure it isnít the smartest if I have an engine out to be low, thatís where ATC wants me, ads-b and coms are more reliable and Ds disappear as an airspace issue. Just thought the discussion I read was interesting.

    But, it highlights the issue again. So, here the rule says the aircraft must be in 2way radio contact but sometimes ATC will coordinate is what I read. Why? no one knew some guessed it was a LOA between the D and The tracon. Donít know if that holds up.

    At the end of the day, I was hoping flight following would be ifr-lite. Instead it seems like you draw a better line.: VFR is on me. IFR is on them.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Troy Hamon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    PAKN
    Posts
    907
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Flight following question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tnathan View Post
    As for traffic advisories, it is important but I wonder with ads-b if the service will become less necessary and maybe revamped some day. But I know others will disagree.

    As for flight following being on an as able basis, maybe I misunderstood what that meant. I thought that meant they could decide if they want to take me or not. But if they do, I will get service until terminated. Not that they can take me and then not do anything.

    One other point I read online, if you believe what you read online, was that ATC can help with B, and C, but that it is even murkier if they can help with a D, since the rule states the pilot needs to be in two way contact with the tower. So, what do if you are flying at 2k and want to go through a D. Expect they will get you the transition? Query ATC? Even if they say they did, did you comply with the rule? Some suggested, Monitor ATC and call the tower to ask for transition. At some point all this stops being helpful.
    Okay, in order of the parts I clipped above:

    1. ADSB is certainly improving awareness of traffic in the cockpit in many cases. However, the requirement is for ADSB-out, there is no requirement for ADSB-in. And since you are specifically in and around a Bravo, we can at least side step the issue of unequipped aircraft since that isn't as relevant to your specific situation as presented. But ATC has no way of knowing that you have a device or a screen that shows traffic, let alone whether it is working properly. So I don't see this changing, at least not anytime remotely soon.

    2. As able means if they can provide flight following, they will do so. Your assumption is partially correct, if they give you a code they take you on and will provide those services. Until they can't, at which point they may unceremoniously dump you, or may hand you off. Their reason may be related to workload, frequency congestion, or who knows what all. Usually, they try to do the best they can to carry you through to the most helpful conclusion, such as, in your case, a handoff, but sometimes the situation or the particular person dictates otherwise. The podcast I mentioned, Opposing Bases, is two air traffic controllers, who are also both pilots, discussing issues such as these at great length and depth. They work both tower and approach/departure and are trainers for the facility they work in. They have extensive discussions regarding flight following and how it works and the kinds of wonky things that can happen. For your specific questions, they are probably the best resource out there, and they answer specific questions regarding scenarios such as yours during their weekly podcast.

    3. The rule does not state that you need to be in two way contact with the tower. It says: "Each person must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility (including foreign ATC in the case of foreign airspace designated in the United States) providing air traffic services prior to entering that airspace and thereafter maintain those communications while within that airspace." So if the approach/departure facility is also providing services for the class D airspace, they can fulfill that role. Not sure how common it is in the case of a D, but if you are staying clear of the traffic pattern and the approach controller has authority for services in the airspace, it is possible you would not get a handoff, and still be covered.

  7. #7
    Administrator Steve Pierce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Graham, Texas, United States
    Posts
    13,848
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Flight following question

    I use to use flight following to navigate the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro mess. The only issue I had was ATC couldn't see the clouds and I had to call them and tell them I was deviating to stay clear of clouds. We transitioned Ft. Worth to Addison which is north of Dallas recently in a friends Baron for a steak dinner. He is a professional corporate pilot and I was totally lost. I guess I have been flying in the sticks and around the airspace way to much.

  8. #8
    Old3pacer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    532
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Flight following question

    I have a friend who requested and received VFR flight folllowing. He also got busted for entering the SFRA [around DC]
    He thought flight following was going to get him through but it did not.

    I have used FF quite a bit and been unceremoniously dumped often. I don't use it as much now. When used in proximity to bravo, I find
    them sending me the long way about often

  9. #9
    grbamford's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Erie, Pa
    Posts
    309
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: Flight following question

    Let me add to my last post quickly, I think the best thing you can do is ask yourself what are you using Flight Following for? I am flying down to Cape Fear Regional this afternoon in NC. I'm going to use FF along my route of flight. It is for my personal peace of mind. As a VFR pilot I am still responsible for see and avoid, airspace mitigation and ultimately opening and closing my flight plan. Flight following allows for ATC to help you along the way. In no way are they obligated too. That is why we get this phenomenon of being unceremoniously dumped by ATC. It is a frustrating experience when it happens and has no rhyme or reason. Unfortunately it is not a cure all for preventing airspace violations. It truly is a service of convenience provided by ATC. I have had very helpful controllers, who have vectored me around airspace, well ahead of me entering it and were very courteous when they did it. I have had ATC almost fly me through and active air drop, even when they said I was clear to enter the airspace, as I was watching C-17s line up drops. I elected to go the long way around. All of this said, If you are VFR and using FF you are still responsible for your separation, from aircraft and airspace.

    Greg

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Frederick MD
    Posts
    1,381
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Flight following question

    With all the discussion of flight following and ADSB, I would like to remind everyone that there are still tens of thousands of aircraft that donít have electrical systems, and even under Class D and C airspace, they are exempt from the transponder and ADSB requirements. Flight following may provide a modest sense of security, but ATC can only tell you about participating aircraft. More often than not, the gain on their scopes are turned down so they canít see primary only returns.

    For me, Iíve enjoyed flying coast to coast on multiple occasions without ever interacting with anyone on the radio! Thatís the way I prefer it. Iíll look out the windows, thank you very much!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •