Flight Following Made Easy – ATC Radio


Flight following is one of those things
that sometimes gets glossed over during training. VRF radar services are
included in the Private Pilot ACS. So if you’re preparing for your check ride
make sure your instructor has covered this. Hopefully you’ll be using it on all your
VFR cross-country flights. Flight following requires either a Mode C or a Mode S transponder. These have the ability to report your altitude to ATC.
Since they are going to be tracking your flight on radar, they need to know both
your altitude and where you are over the surface. Remember that flight following is
available from ATC on a workload permitting basis. They’re happy to
provide this service but if they’re too busy, they may tell you they are unable. We’ve already got Atlanta approach
dialed into the radio here. So we’re gonna give them a call tell them who we
are and where we are including our altitude to see if we can pick up flight follow
to Chattanooga. Atlanta approach skyline 42742 VFR advisories. 42742 42742 we’re 9 miles northwest of Peachtree Dekalb 4,300 climbing 4,500. I’d like to get flight
following to Charlie Hotel Alpha 30.10 and will stand by for the
Squawk 42742 Alright, he’s working some traffic. We’re waiting for him to get back with that Squawk code. 5274 and ident for 42742. Here’s our squawk code. We got it right here in the transponder that’s what he’s gonna be looking for. 42742 Alright he’s busy so we’re gonna turn the
radio down in here a little bit. The controller responded with the phrase
“Radar Contact” so he’s got us in the system now, we’re on our way to
Chattanooga and he’s gonna be following us. As you saw picking up flight
following is a pretty simple procedure. You call the local ATC frequency on the
radio give them your callsign and your location
and your request for flight following to some destination. They respond with a
four-digit squawk code for your transponder. Once they see that on the
radar they confirm that you are in the system by saying the words “radar contact”. While enroute to your destination you will probably fly through multiple ATC
sectors, when this happens the controller will give you a new frequency for the
new sector controller. This is called the handoff. You’re being handed off from one
controller to a new controller. All you have to do is change to the new
frequency, call the new controller, and provide your callsign, and your altitude.
The new controller will respond with a new altimeter setting and you just
continue motoring along. Flight following is a really useful service that ATC
provides to VFR pilots. The main function is to provide an extra set of eyes to
watch for traffic in your proximity. Now there is a little caveat here. They will
attempt to let you know about traffic but this isn’t 100% foolproof, the
controller may be busy and fail to inform you of nearby traffic. So he’s
there to help, but you still have to keep eyes outside and watch for other
aircraft. The ultimate responsibility to see and avoid remains with you. Ok let’s
get back to that trip we started with and take it from the beginning. Here’s
how it works. Here we see our aircraft leaving PDK in the complex airspace on
Atlanta’s north side. We depart the airport’s Class D to the north-northwest
before making our first call to Atlanta approach to request flight following.
Safely outside the class Delta, we make our initial call to let them know we
have a request for VFR services. When the controller answers we’ll give our full
request. (Pilot): Atlanta approach skyline 42742 VFR advisories. (ATC): Skylane 42742
Atlanta approach go ahead with your request. (Pilot): 42742 9 miles north of DeKalb-Peachtree at 4,500 request flight following to Charlie Hotel Alpha. (ATC):
42742 squawk 3217. (Pilot): 3217 squawk 42742. In a few
moments the controller lets us know that he has us on radar. We must get this
“Radar Contact” acknowledgment to confirm that we are on flight following. (ATC): Skylane 42742 radar contact 10 miles north of Papa Delta Kilo. Remain clear of the Class Bravo and report any altitude changes. (Pilot): 42742 Wilco. Now further down the road we’re leaving the ATC sector we’ve been flying
in. Essentially we’re about to fly off of one controller’s radar screen on to
another. The controller calls us up with instructions to contact the next
controller, this is called the handoff. (ATC): Skyline 42742 contact
Atlanta center on 125.2 (Pilot): 125.2 for 42742 so long. We check in with the new controller by merely reciting
our call sign in our altitude. He’s expecting us. (Pilot): Atlanta center 42742 4,500. (ATC): Skylane 42742 good afternoon Atlanta altimeter is 30.11. (Pilot): 42742. As we continue along our route the controller may give us traffic alerts. We must respond to these with either a negative
contact or traffic in sight. When we get within 30 or 35 miles of our destination,
we need to listen to the current weather report. We may be able to pick it up on
our second radio while we continue to listen on the ATC frequency or we can
ask the controller to let us leave the frequency long enough to get the weather.
Getting closer to our destination we get handed off to the final ATC enroute
facility. In this case it’s Chattanooga approach. (ATC): November 42742 contact Chattanooga approached on 125.1 good day.
(Pilot): 125.1 skylane 42743 so long. This time when we check in we’ll let the
controller know that we have the current ATIS broadcast. (Pilot): Chattanooga approach 42742 at 4,500 with tango. (ATC): Skyline 42742 Chattanooga begin your VFR descent
at your discretion. Report the airport. (Pilot): VFR descent report the airport 42742. We continue inbound looking for the airport in the distance. When we’re
sure we see it we make the call to report it. (Pilot): Chattanooga approach 42742 has the airport. (ATC): Roger 42742 remain on that beacon code and contact
Chattanooga tower at 118.3 (Pilot): 42742 going to tower. From there on in we’re talking to the tower and it’s just like any other landing. Ok guys, thanks
for coming along with us today on this trip to Chattanooga where we discussed
the basics of flight following. If you want to learn more about flight
following as well as cross country flight planning and navigation visit the
internets number one ranked online ground school
at Gold Seal. we’re looking forward to seeing you there at groundschool.com


10 Responses

  1. Wolfgang M.

    July 3, 2019 6:04 pm

    great Video
    my Q?: Lets say you fly in an unfamiliar area and you decide to get flight following. How do you find the right ATC frequency for that area???

    Thanks in advance


    July 3, 2019 8:25 pm

    BIG Q- can flight following clear us into class B/C/D or we need separate clearance using second radio

  3. Jack Grady

    August 29, 2019 7:50 pm

    I fly out of Cincinnati. I always ask for flight following, as I am under the class B veil. However, It almost always happens that as soon as I am out of the veil, they terminate the flight following and advise me to squak VFR 1200. If I am not near a controlled airspace, I am left on my own. My question: why can't we contact Center of FSS when we are out of a controled airspace? It seems the controllers really don't want anything to do with VFR enroute if you are out of their airspace. Flight watch is gone and so even if I file a VFR flight plan (for emergency ) there really is no radar or communications out in class E airspace.

  4. Jim Brown

    October 11, 2019 1:24 pm

    Great stuff. But your target audience doesn't know where to find the ATC frequency or which one to use.

  5. Jeffrey Bridgman

    October 21, 2019 5:54 pm

    I'm a bit surprised you wouldn't request VFR flight following on the ground at PDK. Was that just to illustrate how to pick up flight following once you're in the air?


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