Question about Flight Following....

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Rob Schaffer, Apr 19, 2008.

  1. Rob Schaffer

    Rob Schaffer Cleared for Takeoff

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    this may stir debate, at least it did between two instructors. If I am flying from N10-HZL, and request flight following from Allentown's Class C, I receive flight following from ABE, I'm still VFR just with radar advisories. IF, Allentown begins to vector me for their arrival traffic, even though I am outside their airspace, must I comply?

    It is an ATC Instruction, yet I am VFR and not within the Class C rings of airspace, only their radar coverage area.

    Option 1: comply with the instruction, no matter how it may divert my plans because it is an ATC instruction and I am required to follow ATC instructions no matter if I am on Flight Following or if I was within the Airspace Boundary.

    Option 2: cancel Flight Following and go along my course VFR without radar advisories.

    This came up, as it has happened in the past on this route that Allentown may vector traffic if they are having approaches from the West, even though you are out at the East Texas VOR and not directly in the airspace. My instructor has dropped flight following one time with a student while Dual to HZL because they were beginning to vector them back and forth. She and her husband (A commercial helicopter pilot) also disagree on this question.

    Often, they say "Cessna 12345, suggest heading 010 for separation" or "Cessna 12345, suggest climb to 3500" By this, it seems that they are advising of the separation, but it is still the PIC responsibility to make the decision and maintain VFR separations. If something would happen, they (ATC) are not responsible....

    What are the thoughts of those on this board? I've planned my Solo XC to HZL, and may fly one afternoon this week pending work and Wx cooperation.
     

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  2. TMetzinger

    TMetzinger Final Approach

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    If you're given an instruction, i.e. "Bugsmasher 123, turn right heading 030", you must comply with it, though you do have the option of cancelling service if you're outside of airspace where you must be in contact with ATC. But if you build a rep for only using flight following when it's convenient for you, and you don't "play well" with the controllers and other airplanes, you'll soon start getting "unable" when you request services outside the space where they HAVE to provide them. Like everything else in aviation (and in life), you need to go along to get along.

    If you're given a traffic advisory and a suggested heading, your best bet is to find the traffic, call it in sight, and then you'll be told to maintain visual separation, with no need to change your heading. If you CAN'T find the traffic, I strongly suggest following the suggested heading. You'll build more time, and get experience with ATC that will help you learn how they work, and you'll improve at building your mental picture of the traffic situation.
     
  3. Shipoke

    Shipoke Cleared for Takeoff

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    I Agree with Tim. I Use flight following evry time i'm in the plane, I Like having the extra set of eyes watching out for me. And as far as cancelling FF and staying on course VFR i wouldn't do that . But thats my presonal opinion.
    Dave G.
     
  4. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    AFAIK, there is no FAA Legal opinion or NTSB case that deals with instructions given to VFR pilots in Class E airspace. My purely personal opinion is that, if the right (read "very wrong") case came up involving a VFR pilot who caused enough of a problem by refusing to follow an instruction to make it worth the FAA's while to take action, the FAA would interpret the words I bolded in 91.123(b)

    ==============================
    Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised.
    ==============================

    to mean "anywhere in controlled airspace."

    I have heard contrary views that look at the language and say that it means "airspace where ATC normally provides some positive control to all aircraft," or "airspace in which there is a communication requirement for they type of flight being given the instruction."
     
  5. swamppilot

    swamppilot Pre-Flight

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    Mark, your are right on in that "an area in which air traffic control is exercised" means anywhere, including Class E. There have been violations for not following instructions. The only time the NTSB gets involved is after there has been an appeal of a violation before an administrative law judge. With the wording of the FAR, I would think that a compotent lawyer would not advise his/her client to appeal to the NTSB, if they had failed to convince an administrative law judge. For that reason, I would doubt that you will find any NTSB rulings on that matter.
     
  6. RotaryWingBob

    RotaryWingBob En-Route Gone West

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    I agree that you should follow the instruction.

    I will add, however, that Allentown Approach can be a major pain in the butt at times -- there are a couple of controllers there who seem to like to bust your chops any opportunity.
     
  7. TMetzinger

    TMetzinger Final Approach

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    Been there, done that. As a student, I argued with Atlantic City over getting vectors while outside the class C. The controller was very nice, and said that if I couldn't comply with instructions outside the class C I wasn't going to get cleared inside the class C. I complied, and when I landed at ACY (my destination on this XC), there was an Aviation Safety Counselor there who counselled me on the meaning of 91.123. Nobody got angry, my instructor wasn't called, but they made it clear that if I'm talking to ATC, unless I'm in class G, I gotta do what they say if they tell me to do so.
     
  8. Gary

    Gary En-Route

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    Interesting... I've always found ABE Approach to be helpful and accomodating. Perhaps someone there had a bad helo experience? :D

    Gary
     
  9. HPNPilot1200

    HPNPilot1200 En-Route

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    Legally you are required to comply with the controller's instruction (14 CFR §91.123), though JO 7110.65S specifically establishes that radar vectors outside Class B and C airspace may only be issued upon request of the pilot or as a recommended or advisory instruction (ie: "suggest heading 050 for traffic" or "recommend immediate climb for traffic").

    Remember, you're PIC (§91.3) so don't let them talk you into anything. If they're giving you a heading under flight following, it's usually for a good reason. Traffic. If unable to maintain VFR on the assigned heading/altitude then a brief "unable" will do. If the controller is still vectoring you (in violation of 7110.65S), ask for on course or negotiate a course and/or altitude that will eliminate further vectors.
     
  10. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Follow the instruction. Are you really in that much of a hurry that getting turned out of your way a bit is a problem? Besides, if you are getting vectored for traffic, it is really in your best interest. If you cooperate with them, they are more likely to cooperate with you.

    I think the criteria for flight following for me is if the trip is an hour or more, unless I'm in a busy space. Otherwise by the time you've called them, gotten established, etc. you're ready to land. I remember one time my instructor and I flew his Navajo from Williamsport to Wilkes-Barre. Flight time was something like 30 minutes. It was an instrument flight, so we were talking to ATC, but it was so quick it seemed not worth the hassle.

    A few weeks ago, I flew up from IPT to Buffalo to visit a friend. Buffalo has Class C airspace. I did flight following up there. When I got up there, I took my friend for a joyride. Although outside of their airspace, I continued talking to ATC, and listening to their instructions. At one point, I got told to take a 180 heading. About 30 seconds later I saw the Airbus that was coming in that I was heading towards the path of. We wouldn't have hit, but I was very glad to have them telling me what to do.

    To me, ATC is my friend! I play nice and they are nice to me. :)
     
  11. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This one should be fairly straightforward:

    [QUOTE="14 CFR 91.123(b)]91.123(b) Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised.[/QUOTE]

    Of course, FARs can never be easy so I'm sure plenty of people will argue over the interpretation of "in an area in which air traffic control is exercised." However, I'd suggest that the fact they gave you an instruction means that you are in an area where air traffic control is being exercised. :yes:

    I've never heard a controller give the "suggest heading xxx" unless somebody says "negative contact" on a traffic advisory first, or they're helping an IFR aircraft deviate around weather. In either case, and most other cases, you'd best do what the man says. :yes:
     
  12. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'll disagree on that point. There are NTSB rulings on all sorts of matters that you would not expect to be appealed to the full NTSB. And since the ALJ is primarily a fact finder, the purely legal issue of whether ATC has the authority to give a binding instruction in particular airspace, is precisely the type of question that I would expect to go to the full panel.
     
  13. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    To pick a legal nit with Mark, the interpretation of the meaning of 91.123 resides solely with the FAA Chief Counsel (see Administrator v. Merrell and NTSB, 190 F. 3rd 571, 577 (D.C. Cir, 1999)). The NTSB may only determine whether the facts as determined by the ALJ fit the interpretation given by the Chief Counsel -- they may not alter that interpretation. Thus, the Chief Counsel gets to decide whether ATC has that authority, and the NTSB only gets to decide if the ALJ correctly applied that rule in the case at hand.
     
  14. Rob Schaffer

    Rob Schaffer Cleared for Takeoff

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    Thanks guys,... I agree with you, that if I'm on flight following, and they give me some sort of instruction, it is for my good to comply. Not just legally, but they are keeping me away from trouble, or at least informing me of a possible traffic conflict or close spacing.

    I'm going to print this out and give it to my instructor for info. Her husband wins this one.

    Bob: Yesterday I flew into ABE with no troubles. Contact Clearance Delivery, then ground. After taxiing to the end of 24, I called tower. He responded "Cherokee 392, clear for takeoff on 24" I then responded, "Tower, 48392 is a Cessna 152" Tower came back, and said, Cessna 48392, clear for takeoff" I departed, then turned a heading of 210 as instructed. Over the southeast of Queen City, he told me to contact departure and continue on course.

    No problem,.. continuing on course, now at 2500 ft, heading 190. Departure is nice so far, but I hear a Cherokee get called, and respond to him, with the same last three N-numbers. Nearing Quakertown, there was a lot of chatter on the frequency. Somewhere in the chatter, Departure must have called me, but I thought he called the Cherokee. Finally, when the chatter ended, I clearly heard him, and responded. He came back with "Cessna 48392 you need to acknowledge once in a while! (in a sharp pointed voice)." My instructor just took the radio and said "Allentown, I have a student" He comes back, and says "Cessan 48392, Squalk VFR and listen better"
    The rest of the flight to ABE was great, and I was listening intently and have done well at PNE and thru Bravo to ACY the other week. I think having two planes with the same last three numbers just messed me up, and maybe them too a little. My instructor and I talked about it when we got back, and that's how this question came up in the office.

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2008
  15. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This is ALWAYS the case -- whether they say "suggest" or not when you are VFR -- you as PIC are responsible for separation, period.

    Job Number One for any pilot flying in Visual conditions is "see and avoid" -- including IFR flights on IFR flight plans when in visual conditions.

    I've had ATC chirp from time to time -- who hasn't? But keep in mind:

    1. YOU are PIC.
    2. YOU must look for and avoid other stuff in your way (airplanes, birds, clouds, ballons, mystical mother ships) that ATC may or may not see.
    3. YOU are the one sitting in an aluminum can thousands of feet above the ground.
    Also, consider that no matter what you're doing (Hood time, steep turns, dual, solo, bumpy IMC), set aside some brain cycles for listening. If you can't reply immediately, use the perfectly legitimate "Standby" -- you'll hear ATC use it all the time, and it's perfectly acceptable for you to use while you do Rule Number One (Fly the Airplane).

    If you fly a certain area for a while you'll get to know who's who. If you can, have your CFI set up a tower or approach visit. It adds to your available processing cycles when you know those are real people down there talking to you up there.
     
  16. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Picking an even smaller nit right back at you, despite Merrell (which, continuing the nit, so far is only the rule in one of the 12 Circuits) and the statutory deference, there remains the potential for the NTSB full panel and ultimately the US courts, to say that FAA Legal went too far in its interpretation. I'll stick with the way I phrased it.
     
  17. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    I do agree with Tim to a point. If that instruction puts you in a position to affect flight safety you are also allowed to say unable. I live by a big body of water that ATC like to have us fly over at very low altitudes so that we don't get within 20 miles of KORD. Many times I get a vector to head straight out and I reply wuith 'unable over water', they then give me a new way to go. Sometimes circuitous but safer nonetheless.
     
  18. TMetzinger

    TMetzinger Final Approach

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    Good point, Scott - "Unable" is always a good option, especially when you can give the reason. You wouldn't let ATC vector you into a cloud, for instance, while VFR.

    But unable should be used for safety-of-flight issues, NOT because you are inconvenienced.
     
  19. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    Most definitely!!!

    I agree.
     
  20. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    The one thing I hope pilots never do is start trying to discern whether an instruction is reasonable or legitimate. Even if it is apparently unreasonable or even an obvious "penalty vector", while airborne is not the time to argue the matter.

    Flying traffic watch in Atlanta, I wanted traffic advisories badly. I was never be turned out of the way by much but I'd rather be taken out of the way by far than any hint of blind flying. At least I know ATC will not steer me into harm.

    ~~~
    Posted from Meridian, MS :)
     
  21. flyersfan31

    flyersfan31 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah, Bob, you must have pi$$ed someone off!:D

    ABE airspace has always been friendly to me. It's much friendlier than Philly. I tend to follow ATC instructions when under FF because I figure they have a much bigger picture, and helping them helps me (instead of getting 'unable handoff, check your AF/D for next freq', for example).

    Frankly, in Philly's airspace I'm so grateful for FF and Bravo clearance I'd probably land and take their ugly stepsister to dinner if that's what they asked. :cheerswine::blowingkisses::D

    But only if doing so did not present an immediate hazard to me!
     
  22. gprellwitz

    gprellwitz Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well, that should probably read "At least I know ATC will not intentionally steer me into harm." You still need to evaluate what they're telling you to do, because you are PIC.
     
  23. RotaryWingBob

    RotaryWingBob En-Route Gone West

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    They're better than they used to be. There used to be a female controller there who figured that anything more than a few aircraft were too much for her to handle. This was back when I still owned the Cherokee, and I was flying up to MPO to meet another pilot who was flying our R22 up there for service.

    ABE was not at all busy, and I actually got FF from her. But every pilot behind me (including our helo -- being driven by an ATP-RH,AMEL) got "aircraft calling Allentown Approach, remain clear of Class Charlie". When the shift changed, the new guy must have rattled off ten tail numbers that she had blown off.

    While I realize that they're not required to provide VFR separation, I recently had a close call with another helicopter which had just departed KABE. He came up from below (where I couldn't see), and by the time I saw him we were about 500' apart. I said something to approach to that effect and the controller tried to BS me saying that the other helo was 1000' below me and that's why he didn't call out the traffic.

    I'll take Philly over Allentown any day...
     
  24. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    Agreed.
     
  25. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm not sure that's really the issue here. I know that opinions of the smarts of the typical pilot can vary, but I generally try to maintain enough respect that, for example, "is it legal" in the context of whether one "has to" follow and ATC instruction is a completely separate question from "should I follow it?".

    Not only does "legal" have very little to do with "safe", but "having knowledge" has very little to do with how one uses lit.