Turn, Climb or 360?

Justin M

Line Up and Wait
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JM
I was flying VFR with flight following Saturday and the Washington Center controller says "advise of any altitude deviations" (which is normal in my neck of the woods).

A few minutes later, I need to deviate because of a cloud is at my altitude. It was pretty hazy and the sun was blocked by the weather to the west of my path.

The controller is having a lengthy back-and-forth discussion with Delta about weather south and east of Washington that is causing a lot of re-routes.

I wanted to climb, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise to let Washington Center know I needed to climb.

What would you do? Climb and let them know once the radio is clear? Turn 360 to wait out the conversation? Or turn 90 to avoid the cloud?
 
One of the first things I learned when learning to fly was aviate, navigate, communicate. So even without atc saying you can deviate not going inadvertent imc takes precedence. A few years ago I was. Departing ksav and found myself dodging clouds. Was on vfr flight following. ATC questioned what I was doing, and when I was finally done with avoiding imc(BTW I am instrumented rated but at the time was not current) I communicated and they could not be more understanding. At the end of the day you got to do what is necessary to be safe, and flying the plane is first. So do what is safest to avoid other aircraft and stay out of imc and once you are safe communicate.
 
I rarely use flight following for a number of reasons, but what I would do is climb. Advise once frequency is clear or he calls me, whichever comes first. I have even done this under IFR.
 
I would do whatever made the most sense to me and required the least change at the time to avoid the cloud. How much of a climb do I need? Is there a reasonable lateral deviation choice? How long of a deviation? Permanent or shortly back on course? Given the instruction, I'd tend to favor lateral over vertical if the choices were otherwise equal. Then, as @FORANE said, advise when you have a chance.

360 would be at the very bottom of my list.
 
I’d stay home or get my instrument rating if I want to fly on days like that.
I’d file IFR or just get in and go without talking to atc if I want to fly on days like that.
 
I was flying VFR with flight following Saturday and the Washington Center controller says "advise of any altitude deviations" (which is normal in my neck of the woods).

First priority is VFR. Remain safe and legal away from clouds. To navigate around the clouds, whether left/right or up/down - depends on the clouds and what seems the easiest.

Advise ATC as they requested when you are safely able to do so. But do not let that in any way impact your priority of remaining safe and legal VFR.
 
What did you do?

i turned 90 for 3 miles. When there was a break and I could speak with ATC, I asked for lower.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with Philadelphia approach. I had planned to fly at 6500 but I found that the cloud tops were rising so I announced I was climbing.

A few minutes later atc, called, complained about my altitude and canceled my vfr services.

i was definitely gun shy about aviate , navigate , communicate since I had been been unfairly scolded ( since I had communicated before changing) 9 hours prior.
 
If the frequency was super busy I might have descended and hit squawk on my assigned code, then called when able. It at least alerts the controller, which I contend would be a form of "advising" even if it wasn't the first choice.
 
i was definitely gun shy about aviate , navigate , communicate since I had been been unfairly scolded ( since I had communicated before changing) 9 hours prior.
ATC being nasty is on them. I understand the reluctance but preventing the entrance into potentially unsafe conditions is always the primary mission goal. The worse that can happen if ATC gets mad at you for "not following their instructions" is a phone call and possibly though in these circumstance I would think unlikely disciplinary action. The consequences of entering an unsafe condition is potentially a lot worse.

BTW how long were you flying that day?
 
I was flying VFR with flight following Saturday and the Washington Center controller says "advise of any altitude deviations" (which is normal in my neck of the woods).

A few minutes later, I need to deviate because of a cloud is at my altitude. It was pretty hazy and the sun was blocked by the weather to the west of my path.

The controller is having a lengthy back-and-forth discussion with Delta about weather south and east of Washington that is causing a lot of re-routes.

I wanted to climb, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise to let Washington Center know I needed to climb.

What would you do? Climb and let them know once the radio is clear? Turn 360 to wait out the conversation? Or turn 90 to avoid the cloud?

Are we talking about a puffy cloud, or a front that is blocking your entire path? If it is the former, then just veer around it. You are at a VFR altitude, so separation should not become an issue. If it is a front, then you have to climb, but because you have to climb through IFR altitudes, that would be my second choice. Then the question is why did you not see this cloud front long before you got so close to it?
 
This is flight following. You do not need a clearance to do anything unless you are in Bravo or Charlie airspace. If the frequency is so congested that you can’t get a word in, so what? Do what you need to do and call when you can. Aviate, Navigate,THEN communicate when able. Pretty much that simple. Don’t make it harder than it is.
 
ATC being nasty is on them. I understand the reluctance but preventing the entrance into potentially unsafe conditions is always the primary mission goal. The worse that can happen if ATC gets mad at you for "not following their instructions" is a phone call and possibly though in these circumstance I would think unlikely disciplinary action. The consequences of entering an unsafe condition is potentially a lot worse.

I found this heartening. I appreciate the reminder.

BTW how long were you flying that day?

6 hours total time. 3 hours south, stay for 5 hours and then 3 hours north.
 
Are we talking about a puffy cloud, or a front that is blocking your entire path?

It was a stratus cloud stretching from west to east across my path, like a long finger extended from the hand of the main weather system.

Then the question is why did you not see this cloud front long before you got so close to it?

Maybe I saw that the cloud would be an issue from 25 miles away? The conversation between ATC and Delta was lengthy with several back and forth question and answer.
 
i turned 90 for 3 miles. When there was a break and I could speak with ATC, I asked for lower.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with Philadelphia approach. I had planned to fly at 6500 but I found that the cloud tops were rising so I announced I was climbing.

A few minutes later atc, called, complained about my altitude and canceled my vfr services.

i was definitely gun shy about aviate , navigate , communicate since I had been been unfairly scolded ( since I had communicated before changing) 9 hours prior.
Ok, that works.
As far as being gun shy, I always remember that ATC works for me...that doesn't mean I have an excuse to be impolite, but I expect them to be cordial and do their job/work with me. What was their complaint about your altitude?
 
i turned 90 for 3 miles. When there was a break and I could speak with ATC, I asked for lower.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with Philadelphia approach. I had planned to fly at 6500 but I found that the cloud tops were rising so I announced I was climbing.

A few minutes later atc, called, complained about my altitude and canceled my vfr services.
That doesn't seem to make much sense from an ATC standpoint. Requesting we advise of changes is for traffic management. Cancelling you so you can do whatever you want, even fly 360s in the middle of their approach/departure corridor gives the much less.
 
You are VFR. The controller should have said "Maintain VFR" as part of his spiel on Flight Following.

If you can tell them about the altitude change before, great. If not, oh well. If they cancel FF, oh well.
 
I would lean towards a right or left turn. On a busier frequency, start getting the allowance earlier, even if you hardly use it.

At times there are known reasons why they want you to advise, Class C below, whatever. If known, that could go into the mix.

Just one buildup, not really a biggie. Say you had a full blown T-Storm in front, get that early word in. They usually tell you to ‘maintain VFR’, that would trump most.
 
Just today I had similar scenario to the OP. I did what had to to stay VFR, then I told ATC what I was doing, and why. The controller actually became very helpful in getting me around the mess. And would periodically check to see how I was doing. It was way cool, to have the controller be so helpful.
 
That doesn't seem to make much sense from an ATC standpoint. Requesting we advise of changes is for traffic management. Cancelling you so you can do whatever you want, even fly 360s in the middle of their approach/departure corridor gives the much less.

I know, right? I didn’t make sense to me either.
 
At times there are known reasons why they want you to advise, Class C below, whatever. If known, that could go into the mix.

There was a class b below after I made the climb. I actually choose to climb in part because I was approaching the bravo and hasn’t been cleared in yet.
 
Here's a question. Whether you share it or not, have you looked for the communications on Live ATC to hear if something was missed?
 
Here's a question. Whether you share it or not, have you looked for the communications on Live ATC to hear if something was missed?
I listened to Philly approach, my announcement was clear as day, no other juxtaposed comms ( neither before nor after) that would indicate my announcement was between another conversation.
 
If they asked you to advise of altitude changes that probably means they were blocking for IFR traffic above or below you and needed a heads up if you were going to potentially conflict. So first choice would be lateral deviation until you could notify them but of course remaining in VMC is first priority. Now as to whether you are “required” to maintain an altitude “assigned” on FF while outside of C or B is a whole other discussion that I’ll leave to the trolls.
 
Fly the airplane first is number 1.

If you are deviating, it’s due to something (typically getting behind the airplane or an increase in workload), fly the airplane and after you get ahead of the airplane then you can communicate.

Now if you are IFR, you’d be expected to go into the clouds, but if there was lightning or a storm, I’d be deviating. Even faster so if I was VFR.

If you are VFR you are expected to maintain visual conditions over any instructions but you are expected to report this to ATC as well.
 
There is no deviation. This was not a requirement to remain at any altitude. ATC did not assign any altitude. ATC could have used different words but chose not to. Therefore, there is no need for the OP to make any request to ATC for anything different.
... Washington Center controller says "advise of any altitude deviations" ...

This very specifically means to continue to fly VFR how and where you need to fly. ATC is simply asking for the pilot to give them an FYI (ie - advise) of altitude changes.

ATC could have told the pilot to "advise prior to any altitude changes" and if ATC really wanted to keep the pilot at a given altitude, ATC could have told the pilot to "maintain 5500". ATC did neither.

Earlier in the day, I was talking with Philadelphia approach. I had planned to fly at 6500 but I found that the cloud tops were rising so I announced I was climbing.
A few minutes later atc, called, complained about my altitude and canceled my vfr services.
i was definitely gun shy about aviate , navigate , communicate since I had been been unfairly scolded ( since I had communicated before changing) 9 hours prior.

OP, try hard not to let one bad encounter with ATC lead you to change your behavior later with another ATC controller.

On my first long solo XC flight, I was dropped by NYC ATC. No reason stated. I continued along my path, waited 30 mins, looked up the freq for ATC where I was at that point and just called back to initiate a new flight following.
 
Now as to whether you are “required” to maintain an altitude “assigned” on FF while outside of C or B is a whole other discussion that I’ll leave to the trolls.
No need. It was discussed eons ago here. Some are happy with the rule; others reject it.
 
I'm curious to hear your reasons, mostly because I pretty much always use flight following for anything beyond my local area...
This subject could make for a thread of it's own.

I know many pilots who, like you, use flight following routinely. For me, it is like IFR with most of its hassle and little of it's benefits. Gotta advise when wanting to change altitude. Gotta follow detours when instructed to make the route longer. Gotta talk with ATC instead of simply getting in and going.

My home base is inside a TRSA. I used to call them whenever arriving or departing; I viewed that as a courtesy to ATC moreso than a service received from ATC. Then one day I didn't hear them call me. Perhaps he was stepped on or my radio just didn't receive him. He complained that if I couldn't hear him he couldn't help me. I was simply trying to advise him that I was within his airspace and departing it. I didn't view it as getting his help and certainly didn't like what felt like a scolding.
 
To be honest I’m split with flight following also. On a longer flight I get it about 1/2 the time, it all depends. It helps a lot with real time info on special use airspace, MOAs & restricted areas.

Times without it I fly my VFR altitude, watch for traffic, then often dial up a frequency to listen up.
 
In terms of Flight Following, being able to just key the mike and call out an emergency and having ATC already dialed in and already know who I am and where I am is enough benefit for me personally even without any of the other reasons to use FF.

It is nice that FF is a choice that each VFR pilot gets to decide for themselves what works best.
 
I rarely use flight following for a number of reasons, but . . .
No need to (at least for traffic avoidance) - as long as everyone ELSE is using it. :cool:

Can you imagine the poor controller watching two aircraft squawking VFR slowly merge until they hit each other ?????
 
Asking a pilot to advise of altitude changes does a couple of things. First, a revised altitude should be entered into the computer to ensure proper flight plan processing. It may make a difference as to the airspace you are flying through, and by extension, the next controller you will talk to. Second, VFR traffic advisories are an additional service. If you are flying at VFR/075 with head-on traffic at 080, the controller will call that traffic based on sector workload and complexity. If you're 3 miles away from the 080 traffic and advise you've started a climb, then it probably will put you in unsafe proximity with the IFR traffic, and it becomes a first-priority duty to issue a safety alert.

The OP question has been answered by many, but my two cents is your first duty is to maintain VFR. If there are no breaks on the frequency, start your maneuver and advise later. If you include something like, "I couldn't break in earlier to tell you, but I'm climbing to avoid clouds" the controller will know you weren't just ignoring the previous request.
 
7700 and do what you need to do to maintain VFR. (But for Bravo work, stay if you can at same altitude).
 
7700 and do what you need to do to maintain VFR. (But for Bravo work, stay if you can at same altitude).

Interesting perspective. I’d not thought to squawk 7700 when I can’t get a word in edge wise. A saturated frequency is a common issue in the NYC metro region.

I now know if I can’t check in because the controller / frequency is super busy to just wait until they get to me.

Once, I was brusquely told after checking in, ( to my later amusement ) “I do the talking here!”

I’m not sure it would constitute an emergency, but maybe 7600 would be more applicable.

But I wonder if I am doing something that materially affects safety, and I can’t communicate, if I will feel comfortable to squawk 7600 to get their attention until I could clarify.
 
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