VFR Flight Following, Distant Scenic Flight

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by JonL62021, Sep 19, 2021.

  1. JonL62021

    JonL62021 Filing Flight Plan

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    I thought I would share my experience today for any other low time pilots or students that might have communication questions performing a scenic flight away from their local area. Also, I am fully open to suggestions from more experienced pilots on ways to make my comms with ATC more concise.

    So I wanted to fly from Western Mass to the RI coast and just do a scenic flight along the shoreline. I knew this involved changing ATC facilities 3 times, once at my Class D, the BDL TRACON, and the PVD TRACON. When I left my Class D (KBAF) I requested FF to an airport near my scenic route, Westerly RI (KWST). I assumed it would be tough to have all my scenic route info passed along the way.

    Me: "(taxi info), Request VFR Flight Following, Destination Westerly, WST, type C172, Altitude 5,500"

    Got the squawk code, and was transfered to BDL Departure after takeoff. I checked in with BDL, and was transfered to one other BDL sector before being handed off to PVD Approach. Here was were I changed things up on Check-in.

    Me: "Providence Approach, Skyhawk 123, 5,500 with request"

    PVD: "N123, Altimeter 30.17, Radar contact, say request"

    Me: "Skyhawk 123 would like to continue as a Scenic flight, overflying Westerly, then East along the coast to Point Judith before returning to Westfield"

    PVD: "Roger"

    I was pretty relieved at the "Roger". Scenic flight following never came up in training, as we really only focused on XCs and maneuvering. I continued, and was handed to another sector, which I wasn't anticipating. I checked in with the new controller, but didn't say anything about the scenic flight. After a few mins, I started to wonder if the new controller knew what I was doing, so I keyed up and asked.

    Me: "Providence Approach, skyhawk 123, Do you have our scenic flight intentions?"

    PVD: "Overfly Westerly, fly along sea coast to Point Judith, is that correct?"

    Me: "Affirmative"

    So from there my nerves were completely cooled, and my passenger and I enjoyed some beautiful views along the ocean, and I enjoyed my first scenic flight as a private pilot.

    After reaching my turn point, I called PVD to update my flight following:

    Me: "Providence Approach, Skyhawk 123, Request"

    PVD: "N123 say request"

    Me: "Could you ammend our flight following, destination Westfield, that's BAF, altitude 4,500"

    PVD: "N123 Roger, maintain VFR and (something I forgot about following own navigation)"

    The rest of the flight was normal comms for a XC all the way home. Pretty busy on frequency this morning, but made it back no issues and even had a great landing despite the gusty conditions.

    So I do have some questions if anyone knows and wants to answer:

    The second PVD controller had the scenic flight info. How early could I have told them this and it gotten passed to the sector that needed it? Seems like too much detail for the Delta controller, as I used VFR waypoints that they would not be familiar with.

    ----- side note -----
    Radio communications did not come easy to me. When I first learned how much radio work was involved with aviation, I almost chickened out. I found that "Say Again, Please" book by Bob Gardner and read it twice before my first real lesson, and another couple times in training just to capture all the jargon. I was a little nervous going into this flight as I wanted to instill faith in my passenger (my father-in-law) that I did know what I was doing. He said he felt comfortable the whole time and had fun. It was really fun though to step a little out of my comfort zone and do something new. Anyway, I hope this write-up (and any associated discussion) helps someone else like myself someday, and appreciate if anyone has any other insight I might be missing. I know I was probably overthinking it, but maybe I'm not alone.
     
  2. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    You're VFR, so you're in charge. The departure controllers probably don't care about your scenic air work; they just want to know which way you're going and who to hand you off to. You could just as easy let the departing controller know you'd like to go 5,500 to westerly. When you get handed off to PVD, just let them know you're not actually Landing at westerly but doing coastal sightseeing from point a to point b (or whatever). When you're do, let them know you'd like to go home to BAF at 4,500.

    edit: re-read your original post. Looks like you essentially did just that. Good job. Regarding when to let them know your scenic plans...basically on initial call up if don't really know how the sectors are subdivided. With a smaller Tracon like PVD there's no issue letting them know ASAP. But if you were planning to do sightseeing along the coast Of Portsmouth New Hampshire, you probably wouldn't burden a BOS approach controller with the details over Martha's Vineyard.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
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  3. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    You requested traffic advisories. Unless you are issued headings and altitudes, stay out of the Delta and Bravo and do what you want.
     
  4. asicer

    asicer Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Only thing I would have done different is instead of "destination Westerly" say "airwork over Westerly" (so as to avoid PVD Appproach from giving you a "switch to advisory frequency, squawk VFR"). Otherwise, good job!
     
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  5. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I could see that from your description and concerns. You described it as something complicated and treated it very formally but, as a number of folks -and ATC - pointed out, it was actually pretty simple.

    Nothing wrong with it but just as an example, I would not have bothered with the term "Scenic flight" as though it were some formal P/CG phraseology. When I think of that term I think of "the San Francisco Bay Tour," or another commonly used plan.

    Here, my initial call to PVD would have been more like, "Skyhawk 123. We're doing a bit of sight seeing. Gonna overfly Westerly, then along to coast toward Point Judith."

    I wouldn't have even bothered mentioning the return to Westfield until nearing Point Judith - they really don't care until then - a simple, "after circling around Point Judith, we're heading northwest direct to Westfield" would have covered it.

    We all tend to overthink this stuff but when we are talking to ATC, they will accommodate us if they can. They just want to have some idea what we are doing, and that can be simple plain English. That's even true in the more formal IFR world. I've been on IFR flights where part of it was visually meandering along the coast rather than waypoint to waypoint.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
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  6. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I was departing RIC (class C airport) one day. I told them while I was heading to IAD, I would decline flight following once clear of the class C as we wanted to make some passes over the (closed) Kings Dominion theme park (had the kids in the back. When switched to departure after takeoff, I was told "Report Kings Dominion in sight." I did and told that I should just tell them when I was ready to proceed. Never terminated services.

    I've done this lots of times since. You really don't need to tell them, but it can stem off some curiosity about what you were doing.

    I remember this exchange,

    PCT: Cessna 3AB, are you having problems there?
    3AB: Uh, no. We're taking pictures of our house.
    PCT: Oh, OK. I thought maybe you were flying a triangular pattern or something.
    27K (me): You're dating yourself. I could never remember if I was supposed to go clockwise for no receiver or counter clockwise.
     
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  7. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I used to be a Controller and have worked many hundreds of these scenarios. I can think of things I might have done differently but the details are not worth going into in detail. Ya done good as far as I’m concerned. You used some thought in not getting into a long, frequency tying up, nails screeching on a chalk board, Controller banging his head in the scope type dissertation. All of the above comments, while differing some, are all good stuff. FWIW I’ve known Controllers to turn into babbling idiots on the radio. Get tongue tied and freeze up. Yeah, they get over it a little quicker than pilots, but that’s a result of the sheer number of transmissions they make in a day and their instructors can slap them upside the head without fear of them going outta control and crashing the Tower. Last parts just a punchline of course.
     
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  8. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That used to be a test question. The gouge is R ight turns R iecever only. L eft turns nothing L eft.
     
  9. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Flight following is not a clearance, restriction, limitation, etc. Even when flying IFR, I have found ATC to be very accommodating of what I want to do. Go 90 miles out of the way to sneak between two lines of storms visually? No problem! Just let us know when you are ready to go back on course.

    With flight following, you don’t have to tell them anything or fly any specific route or altitude. It’s a good idea to let them know your plan, but don’t get lost in formalities because, frankly, there are no formalities. You did well and the best way to do better is to relax, don’t worry, and go flying.
     
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  10. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Leave out the word “scenic” would be my only suggestion. You mentioned the controller was busy. If the controller hasn’t said anything to anyone in a while ie, NOT busy then don’t give them the “(call sign) request “ thing; just ask for what you want in one transmission. Why make 4 or 5 transmissions when 2 or 3 will do? That’s when I bang my head as a controller when aircraft give me an unnecessary wake up call.
     
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  11. JonL62021

    JonL62021 Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for all the perspectives on this. I'm glad I wasn't way off and will definitely use this feedback in the future to make my calls a little more effectively. It does get busy around here sometimes so I certainly don't want to be clogging the frequency.
     
  12. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    I absolutely believe you. However, 2 years ago at a controller presentation locally, this specific question came up and their request was for GA pilots to make the initial transmission as short as possible. "Albany Approach Skylane 23433". Then they'll get back to you when they have time. We get different best guidance from different places. They did agree on not saying "request", though. The thought there was "why would you be calling us if you didn't want something?"
     
  13. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I think there are almost as many controller opinions on this as controllers :D. As a pilot, I listen and try to get a sense of whether I need to do an "Approach, Cessna 1234X for flight following" or similar type of heads-up. But I try my best to never make it more than two transmissions.
     
  14. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    Not sure, it helps, but I cringe at a lot of what I hear on frequencies today too, it isn't just controllers. I'm not an expert, but there are times I have to turn it down because it's so annoying.

    BTW, the way I was taught to request flight following was 2 calls

    1) Raleigh approach, N12345
    2) Raleigh approach, N12345 is a Cessna 172, 5 miles west of Raleigh Exec at 4500, request flight following to Davidson County.

    They should respond with a squawk code and altimeter, you confirm them. They'll tell you you've been identified on radar, you say position checks.

    That's longer that I just heard from Mark, but I've never gotten a complaint about it.
     
  15. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I never say "position checks." I just say my tail number back. It would be unusual for the position not to check, so that's the situation I think they want to hear details on. I try hard to omit needless words on the radio, despite what people may think from reading my paid-by-the-word posts here. :)
     
  16. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I don't even know where it came from. It doesn't appear in any FAA guide, glossary, handbook, guidance, AC, Order SAFO or document I am aware of. I know how it spread - YouTubers - but have no idea where it originally came from. Maybe one of the more popular YouTubers who uses it made it up.

    "Radar contact" is ATC verifying my position based on a combination of my call, my ADS-B report, and the transponder code they just gave me. I don't even say my tail number in response to ATC verifying my position unless, of course, there was some anomaly and I am not where they think. "Position checks" strikes me as just another "with you." Harmless but, y'know just some y'know unnecessary y'know verbiage to fill a y'know silence gap. Y'know?
     
  17. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I wonder if it came from one or more of the big flight schools. My first CFII was a somewhat recent UND alumni and I've heard him say it.

    This does raise the eternal question: What is the most efficient, ATC-approved way to acknowledge things that don't need to be read back? Things like "radar contact," altimeter settings, and so on. You're in two-way radio contact for all those already, so maybe you don't even have to click the mic in response.
     
  18. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You shouldn't. First of all it was fine. Second of all, unless you go to a presentation where controllers talk about it, a controller would have to have a pretty bad day to call out a pilot about it. If it's too much information that day, you'll know because the controller will ask you for the information you just gave.

    BTW, I really should have included the missing four minutes because I think it actually explains the compliment. There was another flight following call after mine. The controller was playing dentist trying to get type, location, destination, and requested altitude from the pilot. No, the controller didn't complain.
     
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  19. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If it doesn't need to be read back, silence is golden.

    I'm only half joking about filling space. Investigators know an extremely effective technique is silence. People do have a need to fill it. The other part is we get into the habit of reading back things whether we need to or not. Maybe a little fear of hearing, "Hey Bozo! Didn't you hear that altimeter setting I just gave you?" Or forgetting to read back something we should have.
     
  20. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Whenever I am preparing someone to testify, I tell them that they are going to just have to let the awkward silence be awkward. The human need to fill a perfectly good silence with verbal diarrhea is intense and even being conscious of it won't cure a person.

    The fear of "Experimental moron, I SAID altimeter setting 29.99, do you want me to declare an emergency for you or what?" is definitely what drives me to want to respond. But at least I don't start the transmission with "AAAAANNNND." :)
     
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  21. jordane93

    jordane93 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I’ve heard a few YouTube pilots say it. Probably where people are getting it from.
     
  22. asicer

    asicer Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Probably the same place that spread "last call".
     
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