VFR Flight Following

by Josh on February 23, 2012

What is VFR Flight Following? You may have asked that to yourself before and all it is are radar services provided to you as a VFR pilot from ATC. They provide basic radar services. The main radar service they provide is traffic avoidance. But they can also provide limited weather reports.

As a VFR pilot to pick up flight following you will contact the approach controllers. They are not required to give VFR pilots flight following but are required to give it to IFR pilots. So if the controllers are too busy with other pilots, they do not have to give you flight following.

How do you pick up flight following out of uncontrolled airports? First you should make your last call to the CTAF or Unicom just stating what direction you are heading. Then tune into the approach controllers and listen for about 15-30 seconds. Then make a cold call like this. “Jax Approach Cessna 512R.” Then they will reply, and you will make your primary call saying this. “Jax Approach 512R just off of X35 VFR flight following at 3,500ft to ORL.” Then they will reply “512R squawk 3345” you will enter 3345 in the transponder and they will come back saying. “512R, radar contact 10 miles north of Ocala altimeter 29.92.”

Getting it out of a controlled airport is a little different. For this you will contact clearance if the airport has it, or you will contact ground. First you should pick up your ATIS. Then make a cold call. Then, make your primary call sounding like this. “Ground Cessna 512R is at north ramp with information charlie VFR flight following to ORL at 3,500ft.” And they will come back and say, “512R is cleared to ORL fly heading of 360 to 3,500ft, approach on 118.0 squawk 4534.” And you read back just what they said to you. These kinds of read backs are the closest you will get to IFR flying as a VFR pilot.

Handoffs to the next controller are fairly easy. This is when you leave on controller’s airspace and enter another’s. A normal handoff will sound something like this. “Cessna 512R contact Jasonville Approach on 121.3.” and you will come back saying “121.3 for 512R See Ya!” and then switch to 121.3 and make another call.

Flight Following can be a very helpful service to have in busy airspaces, but when you can’t get it, you need to be able to watch out for yourself. Remember to practice your read backs and read back your whole N number. This will help you so much when you’re up there flying. So next time you’re flying, try and pick up flight following. It will make your flight a whole lot easier!

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