Section 9, Lesson 1
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Flight Following & En-Route

Flight Following and En-Route Operations

This topic discusses a voluntary ATC service called flight following. We highly recommend pilots become comfortable with flight following and ask for it often, even during lessons in the maneuvering area.


Lesson Notes

Once you’ve departed an airport, who do you talk to while you fly to your destination? You may not be required to talk to anybody… but it’s usually a good idea to. Approach/Departure controllers (in busy airspace) and Center controllers (less-busy airspace) can provide en-route services including monitoring your location on radar and providing traffic advisories.

A traffic advisory sounds something like this: “Cessna 123FA, traffic ten o’clock, five miles, four thousand feet, opposite direction, Boeing 737, report them in sight.” Traffic advisories can be very helpful in avoiding other traffic, especially small or fast moving traffic that is difficult to see.

This service, called “Flight Following” works like this: You tell the controller you want Flight Following and, if they have time, they’ll provide it. They give you a squawk code for your transponder, which they use to keep tabs on you. Then, as you fly they’ll keep a casual eye out for you. If you need any services you’ll have someone almost immediately ready to talk to you, who already knows your aircraft type, location and destination. Flight Following is a great tool to have with you in case you are lost, forced to land off airport, or need priority to the nearest airport.

Although ATC’s primary responsibility en-route is maintaining separation between IFR traffic, they are almost always willing to assist VFR pilots.

Here are a few scenarios when you may consider asking for Flight Following:

  • Cross country flights
  • While practicing maneuvers
  • While doing a scenic tour of your local area, especially if it’s busy

Flashcard Questions

What is flight following?

Is flight following a mandatory service?

Is ATC required to provide pilots with flight following?

What is the advantage of using flight following?

What is a squawk code?

You call ATC requesting flight following and they tell you to ident. What does that mean?

You depart a non-towered airport and, once in range, call center requesting flight following. Your first call to center is the following: “Center, Cessna 123FA, 10 miles north Georgetown, 3 thousand climbing niner thousand request flight following to Lincoln.” What mistake did you make?