Using VFR Flight Following?

What is to be expected when using flight following on a VFR cross country? I've been told you will be handed off from one ATC to another as you progress along your route of flight but does every new ATC you are handed off to know where you are and where you are going or will you have to let them know? Also, if you want info on weather that may impact your flight and possibly a vector around it, will they be able to provide the information or would you have to contact a Flight Service Station?

7 Answers

  • Kevin
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Great question. First off you may or may not be handed off. As a controller I can handle you in one of several ways. I can tell you radar service terminated and leave it up to you to find the next controller's frequency and tell them again where what who you are and where you're going. Personally do that 99% of the time and if I do that I will at least give you the next frequency to use. If a pilot seems nervous, new or asks for it I'll do one of the other two options.

    I can spend the time to input your flight plan and have issue a new squawk code (I'm an approach controller, I believe if you are recieving following from a center the initial squawk will be good the entire trip). The first code you get from an approach is what we call a local code. Good only in our airspace. Adjacent approach controlls or centers don't get any info based on our local codes. If I'm not busy I MIGHT do this. For me, I tend not to. The reason is if you suddenly decide to divert and not tell anyone (yeah rare but it happens) I get a call when you're overdue or go off radar and my tapes get pulled because I initiated your flight plan. Suddenly I'm subject to close scruitiny and possible reprimand because of it. The other reason I don't normally is because most VFR flight following will only go as far as the next approach controls airspace and it is less time consuming to just do the 3rd way of handling it. I can simply tell the next controller where you are and all your info. You call them and maybe get a new code.

    In the last 2 ways I'll tell you to contact XYZ approach or center on xxx.xx frequency and they should know your info. They'll know your destination, type, callsign, altitude and any special requests you've made with me.

    As far as weather. Our scopes only show percipitation. We don't see clouds which may affect VFR flight. We can tell you what percipitation in your way we depict and if you ask we can vector you around it. If you ask we'll give you the ATIS readout at the nearest towered airport (technology dependant, my approach shows all our satalite weather) or even solicit a PIREP for you.

    If you are a newer pilot, don't hesitate to tell the controller. VFR aircraft don't have the same priority if you will as IFR , but we'll make time to be extra vigilant if you let us know.

    Source(s): Air Traffic Controller
  • 4 years ago

    Flight Following Canada

  • Karen
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    VFR Flight Following is intended for use during cross-country operations only. Using it for local flights or while practicing maneuvers is a waste of Air Traffic Control's time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. Using VFR flight following, even during a cross-country flight does NOTHING to relieve you from maintaining your own scanning and observation of other air traffic in your area.

  • 1 decade ago

    All of the other answers cover the VFR flight following (which, even with Orlando's busy airspace, has never been turned down for me). But, I generally file a VFR flight plan whenever I expect to use flight following.

    As for weather, I don't think anybody mentioned EFAS on 122.0 MHZ, they can give you wx info along the way (although I usually fly G1000 with XM, so I just pull up what I need).

    Also, thanks for the in-depth answer Bizjet Flyer, I've never had difficulties getting handed off (knock on wood), but it was a good refresher to realize the different situations that might happen.

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  • 1 decade ago

    All VFR ATC services are on a time- and workload-permitting basis. It is rare to ever have VFR flight following denied, but it does happen occasionally, usually in the busier terminal areas.

    One thing to remember with flight following is that you aren't in the national ATC system computers that are used for IFR flights. The handoffs take more coordination. Again, handoffs are workload permitting, but the controller will tell you what you need to do.


    -N1234C, radar service terminated, squawk 1200. For further flight following, try Atlanta Center on 132.62. [This means there has been no hand-off. You can call Atlanta Center and request VFR flight following like you did the first time]

    -N1234C, contact Fort Wayne Approach on 127.6. Advise them of your type aircraft and destination. [When you check in, say "Fort Wayne Approach, N1234C, a C-172, VFR KSBN 4,500." They should then come back with something like "N1234C, Fort Wayne Approach, radar contact. Fort Wayne altimeter 29.84. Advise prior to any altitude changes." This is the type of handoff I have heard most often.

    -N1234C, contact Podunk Approach on 118.95. They have your information and are waiting for your call. [You're in luck - it's a slow day in ATC-land. All you have to do is check in with "Podunk Approach, N1234C VFR 4,500."]

    As for weather information, again, it is all workload permitting. They can certainly help steer you around weather, but don't expect them to look up the latest METAR at your destination.

    EDIT - Thanks for the input, Kevin! I didn't know that we had any controllers amongst us!

  • 1 decade ago

    Flight following is a great thing to use. It keeps you clear of ifr traffic and all known vfr traffic. You're always in contact with someone if you get yourself into trouble, and if you really get into trouble and end up in a field your exact location is known, no guessing about it.

    You should expect to have a slightly difficult time with it at first. I learned to fly at a controlled field so atc was no big deal for me, but my first time on flight following was very different. I found the hardest thing about it was listening for your tail number, it comes with time but at first it is easy to tune it out.

    Aside from that its pretty easy to use, just call up departure when you leave the pattern (the frequency can be found on IFR approach plates, which are free here : tell them who you are including type, where you are, and what you want (vfr flight following to XYZ) they may ask you a few questions, they may say they can't help you. Have a pen and paper ready to write down a squawk code or a different frequency. From there you just fly as you normally would, they may give you an altitude or heading to keep you clear of traffic; you aren't legally required to follow their directions but if you want to keep flight following and stay safe do as they ask. Every now and then they will hand you off to a new controller, just call up the new one with the frequency they give you, "cessna 12AB with you 8,000" that's all there is to it really.

    They can vector you around weather they can see on their radar scopes, which means they can vector you around rain or snow. They are there for IFR traffic so they don't have information about clouds at their finger tips, so you will need to contact FSS for that. Just call up atc, tell them you'd like to contact flight watch and they will tell you to report back within a few minutes time.

    I always fly with flight following when I can. Its great having the traffic advisories and help if you need it. Plus, if you catch them on a slow time, usually at night, you can have someone to chat with about last nights game or whatever.

  • Paul M
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I cannot add to the previous great answers to your intelligent question.

    Especially from ' Kevin '

    Just want to say thanks to all for keeping it real here. In my opinion there should be more Q/As like this. While also making room for the lighter side of aviation for all enthusiasts but always based in reality, and less of the fantasy and B/S often posted here.

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