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-   -   VFR Flight Following -- What's going on here? (http://www.aviationbanter.com/showthread.php?t=29233)

Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:31 AM

"Jay Honeck" wrote in message

Ah, true enough. I have mistakenly been using the terms "Approach" and
"Center" interchangeably in this thread.

"Chicago Center" is always cooperative and helpful, and will
unfailingly provide flight following all the way to Iowa City (if
we're high enough, which we rarely are) if requested.

"Chicago Approach" is the ATC facility in question here. They are the
ones who called the Rantoul airport manager, and they are the ones who
usually will not provide VFR flight following.

Which is why I was (and am) so surprised that they actually took the
time to call Rantoul when we lost radio contact with them. They are
usually not so helpful.

Ehh? Rantoul is well outside Chicago Approach airspace. Rantoul is in
Champaign Approach airspace which is assumed by Chicago Center when
Champaign closes for the night.

Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:34 AM

"Chris G." [email protected] wrote in message

The way the SAR system works is that once the FAA has radar contact with
you and are providing radar services, they will continue to do so unless
they are unable (due to lack of radar coverage) or you cancel them. If
you fall below their radar coverage while utilizing their services, then
they begin the SAR process.

That's not quite correct. They initiate SAR when there is UNEXPECTED loss
of radar contact and radio communications.

Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:39 AM

"Peter Duniho" wrote in message

I have never seen any documentation of this claim, for VFR aircraft. My
understanding is that the scenario in this thread was motivated solely at
the discretion of the controller, that there is no automatic search and
rescue for abnormally terminated flight following, and that only a VFR
flight plan guarantees a search and rescue attempt for missing VFR

Can you provide a reference to something that supports the idea that
airplanes getting VFR flight following are given automatic search and
rescue if they somehow are "lost" from the controller (either radio or
radar contact lost)?


See subparagraph b.

He didn't get it quite right. ATC must initiate a search when there is an
UNEXPECTED loss of radar contact AND radio communications. If the losses
occur in an area where it's normal to lose them ATC isn't required to do

RomeoMike June 21st 05 02:59 AM

I would have notified them that I was changing altitude before the fact.
I would not have requested FF if I didn't really care that they might be
concerned about me. I would have called them on the phone after landing
if I couldn't have figured out a way to communicate before the landing.

Jay Honeck wrote:

How would *you* have handled it?
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
"Your Aviation Destination"

tom pettit June 21st 05 03:43 AM

That's what I figured. The lack of a squawk code on their screen would mean
they would have to keep on top of my blip, or they wouldn't know it was me.
I also suspect that in mountainous terrain, the return on primary would not
be as strong as from a transponder.


"Ron Natalie" wrote in message
Guy Elden Jr wrote:

As for flight following, I would think the value would be pretty much
useless. The whole point is to gain a second pair of eyes for you on
the ground with the assumption that you are still responsible for
separation from other aircraft. If the folks on the ground can't see
you on their scopes, then there's really no point to flight following.

You will appear on the scopes (provided the primary radar is functional)
but it's probably more trouble than it is worth to the controller to
track you.

Peter Duniho June 21st 05 04:55 AM

"Steven P. McNicoll" wrote in message

See subparagraph b.

He didn't get it quite right. ATC must initiate a search when there is an
UNEXPECTED loss of radar contact AND radio communications. If the losses
occur in an area where it's normal to lose them ATC isn't required to do

Thanks. Interesting. I assume that somewhere buried in the chain of
"inform the/alert the..." there's someone who actually starts the search and
rescue proceedings?

Given that both radar contact and radio communications must be lost, and
given that losing both unexpectedly is sufficient to cause an emergency to
be assumed, what is the maximum amount of time between the two events that
can happen while still defining an emergency?

That is, suppose radio communications are ceased but radar contact is still
present. Suppose further that the pilot eventually lands somewhere, at some
point descending low enough to no longer be on radar. It seems obvious to
me that if the pilot flies out of the controller's sector, or some lengthy
period of time goes by (30 minutes? 60 minutes?), that the controller might
be able to assume there's no emergency, while near-simultaneous loss of
radio and radar would constitute an emergency.

Somewhere in between there must be a point where the assumed emergency is no
longer an assumed emergency. Is that point well-defined, or does the
controller make a judgment call?

Finally, what constitutes radar contact? Is a primary return sufficient?
What about a 1200 transponder return? If a 1200 transponder return is
sufficient, what happens if THAT radar contact is lost within the time limit
I asked about above? Can the controller assume that the pilot switching
from his assigned code to 1200 has terminated flight following? Does the
switch to 1200 make any loss of radio communications and radar contact
"expected", or could the controller be obligated to declare an emergency
even if the transponder has been set to 1200 unexpectedly and then radar
contact is lost altogether?


tony roberts June 21st 05 05:10 AM

Hi Jay
Here in BC Canada in the mountains we use flight following as a safety
net, so if we disappear off the radar and don't contact them we expect
them to start looking. When diverting, I advise them, "India Charlie
Echo is diverting Merritt and request cancel flight following.

This, in addition to a flight plan, which doesn't acticate any action
until 60 minutes after projected termination of flight.



Tony Roberts
Cessna 172H C-GICE

In article . com,
"Jay Honeck" wrote:

On the first leg of our flight to Washington, D.C., we only made it as
far as Rantoul, Illinois, due to thunderstorms. We were utilizing VFR
flight following, starting with Cedar Rapids Approach (CID)and being
progressively handed off until we were talking to Chicago Center.

As we approached Rantoul, we had to divert around a cell. At that
point I told Center I needed to leave the frequency to check with
Flight Watch, which was approved.

While talking with Flight Watch (and getting the bad news that the
weather was falling apart pretty much everywhere) we dropped down to
2500 feet, and then down to 2000 to get beneath a thickening layer of

After completing our weather briefing, we switched back to Chicago's
frequency, but were no longer able to communicate with Chicago Center.
I heard them call me once, but they were unable to hear my response,
probably because we were too low.

We zigged and zagged a bit until we decided to throw in the towel and
land for the night in Rantoul. I tried Chicago Center one more time,
heard no response, and switched to Unicom and landed.

After landing (and finding no one at the airport) we started
fruitlessly calling cab companies (no answer) and hotels (no shuttle
service). About the time we were going to walk to the nearest hotel
(about a mile away) a car pulled around the corner with a flashing
yellow light on top.

It turned out to be the airport manager, who had been called at home by
Chicago Center. They asked him to contact me, so he drove out to the
airport and told me that "Center wants to talk to you."

He was under the impression that I had not closed a flight plan, and
was quite surprised when we told him that we didn't *have* a flight
plan filed. Nevertheless, I called the number, spoke with the Head
Cheese at Chicago Center, and told him what had happened. He fully
understood the situation, and thanked me for calling.

So what's going on here? Usually Chicago Center's version of "Flight
Following" (if you can get it) is so casual, and so begrudgingly
offered, that I hardly consider it to be of any service whatsoever --
yet on this particular flight they were tracking our progress all the
way to the ground?

In the end, it was a terrific turn of events, as the airport manager
opened the FBO and got us the keys to a courtesy car, and then led us
over to the hotel. (He even invited us to stop at a bar with him,
which we declined...) Still, it's had us wondering ever since why
Chicago Center was so concerned that they dispatched the airport
manager to go looking for us.

Were they just concerned with our well-being in the bad weather? Did
our zigging and zagging -- and then dropping off their scopes -- look
like a plane in distress? Did something get scrambled in their
computers, making them believe that we had filed a flight plan? Is
there an FAR requiring us to cancel flight following?

Now that I think about it, I suppose we could have asked Flight Watch
to notify Chicago Center when we could no longer hear them, but frankly
it never dawned on me that Chicago really cared that much about what
happened outside of their Class B airspace.

How would *you* have handled it?
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
"Your Aviation Destination"

Newps June 21st 05 04:34 PM

Ron Natalie wrote:

I've had radar facilities chase me down after I've lost comms with them
during VFR FF. They want to make sure they didn't lose you and
something bad happened to you (like you crashed). Just consider it
an extra service.

It is a required service. If they lose you unexpectedly ATC is required
to start a search. In Jay's case he was cruising merrily along, asked
to switch to Flight Watch and then disappeared. Meanwhile Center is
watching Jay descend and can't get a hold of him. Pretty soon he drops
off radar. So call the most likely spot, the airport. If the manager
wouldn't have found him then SAR would have been started.

Newps June 21st 05 04:34 PM

tom pettit tompet wrote:

Off topic, but related: Can a radar center offer flight following to a
plane not equipped with a transponder? I would guess no, but I'm curious.

Sure they can.

Newps June 21st 05 04:37 PM

Peter Duniho wrote:

I have never seen any documentation of this claim, for VFR aircraft.

Nope, if you are unexpectedly lost then ATC will start a search immediatley.

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