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

Jay Honeck June 20th 05 05:55 PM

VFR Flight Following -- What's going on here?
 
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
clouds.

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
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"


Bob Gardner June 20th 05 06:08 PM

The controller had every right to expect notification of some kind that you
were no longer on frequency. Can't blame him/her for wondering what happened
to you. Easiest solution is to call any FSS on 122.2, tell them that you
were on FF and lost comms with ATC. They will notify ATC by landline and all
will be well. IMHO the flight plan/no flight plan is a red herring. Center
obviously can't open a flight plan in your behalf (they can unilaterally
declare an emergency in your behalf, but let's hope that the occasion never
occurs). My first priority after getting on the ground would have been to
call ATC/FSS, not cab companies.

Don't pout, just be happy that they were concerned about your well-being.

Sorry to hear that you have had bad experiences with FF in your area...it is
a valuable tool that should be used by everyone.

Bob Gardner

"Jay Honeck" wrote in message
ups.com...
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
clouds.

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
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"




Jay Honeck June 20th 05 06:59 PM

Don't pout, just be happy that they were concerned about your well-being.

If that's all there is to it, I am, indeed, happy that they are
watching out for us! Quite frankly I'm surprised.

Sorry to hear that you have had bad experiences with FF in your area...it is
a valuable tool that should be used by everyone.


We use flight following on most flights in our area. The only time
it's ever a problem is around (the very busy airspace of) Chicago,
where (ironically) we could most use FF.

Usually Chicago won't accept a hand-off from adjacent controllers, and
if we try to request FF they will reply "unable." Not that it really
matters -- I have had airliners pop in front of me so close that I
could read their logo, without Chicago ATC ever saying "boo" about it.


Really, the only time we ever use FF around Chicago is on those rare
occasions where they *will* accept a hand-off from an adjacent
controller, as they did on this flight. Usually they just "cut us
loose" as we approach Chicago and we just fly through the area
(obviously outside the Class Bravo) using our "Mark One" eyeballs.

Thanks for your response, Bob.
--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"


kontiki June 20th 05 07:01 PM

Many times I have been specifically asked to report altitude changes
when in the system for flight following. Even if they don't, I still
report my altitude changes.

My feeling is that if you are assigned a squwak code you should
check out with them at some point. The advice about passing the
info along to Flight Service will cover all the bases if you lose
communications.


Ron Natalie June 20th 05 07:09 PM

Jay Honeck wrote:

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.

First, Chicago Center doesn't give a crap what happens in the Chicago
Class B.

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.

tom pettit June 20th 05 07:19 PM

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.

tom pettit


"Bob Gardner" wrote in message
...
Sorry to hear that you have had bad experiences with FF in your area...it
is a valuable tool that should be used by everyone.

Bob Gardner




Guy Elden Jr June 20th 05 08:00 PM

We use flight following on most flights in our area. The only time
it's ever a problem is around (the very busy airspace of) Chicago,
where (ironically) we could most use FF.

Usually Chicago won't accept a hand-off from adjacent controllers, and
if we try to request FF they will reply "unable." Not that it really


They can't drop you if you're IFR. :-) (hint hint)

of course, there's no guarantee that you'll get a clearance either...

--
Guy


Guy Elden Jr June 20th 05 08:06 PM

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.


I think that you can have an IFR clearance and at points along the
route not be in radar coverage. In those cases you get a much larger
zone of protected airspace around you, and you have to radio in your
position at compulsory reporting points.

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.

--
Guy


Nathan Young June 20th 05 08:12 PM

On 20 Jun 2005 10:59:18 -0700, "Jay Honeck"
wrote:

Don't pout, just be happy that they were concerned about your well-being.


If that's all there is to it, I am, indeed, happy that they are
watching out for us! Quite frankly I'm surprised.


Did you keep the FF squawk code or go back to 1200?

Usually Chicago won't accept a hand-off from adjacent controllers,


Chicago center will accept handoffs, but Chicago approach probably
will not. Having said that, even if Center cancels your FF because of
no handoff, once you get near Approach's airspace, you can call
Approach and they will almost always provide flight following through
the area.

Dave Butler June 20th 05 08:38 PM

Jay Honeck wrote:

snipola

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.


sniparoni

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.


snipitty


How would *you* have handled it?


I would have probably handled it IFR, but if VFR, exactly the way you did. But
based on your story, next time that happens to me I'll try a little harder to
get the message through that I'm leaving the freq. Thanks for the education.

DGB

Jay Honeck June 20th 05 08:39 PM

Did you keep the FF squawk code or go back to 1200?

Ah, good point. We kept squawking the code we were given till we
landed. I wonder if we had switched to 1200, if Chicago would have
seen that and figured out that we were landing (rather than crashing?)
in Rantoul?

Usually Chicago won't accept a hand-off from adjacent controllers,


Chicago center will accept handoffs, but Chicago approach probably
will not. Having said that, even if Center cancels your FF because of
no handoff, once you get near Approach's airspace, you can call
Approach and they will almost always provide flight following through
the area.


It seems like lately no one is accepting hand-offs from anyone along
the Lake Michigan shoreline. We flew to Wisconsin yesterday, and
Rockford wasn't able to hand us off to Milwaukee on the flight inbound.

On the flight westbound, later in the day, Milwaukee handed us off to
Rockford without difficulty, but they, in turn, cut us loose before we
even hit the Mississipi, which was very unusual -- especially on a
sleepy Sunday evening. (I swear, we were the only plane he was
handling.)

Usually RFD will seamlessly hand us off to Quad Cities approach. We
called up QC once we hit the Big Muddy, and they were able to handle us
without difficulty.
--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"


Jay Honeck June 20th 05 09:07 PM

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.

First, Chicago Center doesn't give a crap what happens in the Chicago
Class B.


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.
--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City


Chris G. June 20th 05 09:30 PM

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. It goes something like this:

1) They attempt to establish radio contact.
2) They contact the FSS and the FAA issues an INREQ
3) After 15/30 mins (my memory fails me as to which # that is), an ALNOT
is issued. At this time, the FAA starts calling around to airports and
doing ramp checks. They also (if a flight plan was entered into the
system) will start making calls to the locations listed in your flight plan.
4) If you still cannot be located, SAR agencies, such as the Civil Air
Patrol, Sheriff's Office SAR teams, etc are activated. The process goes
on from there.

You got caught in Step 3, for which they're actually glad to catch you,
even if they don't always sound it. It's much better than the alternative.

Chris


Jay Honeck wrote:
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.


First, Chicago Center doesn't give a crap what happens in the Chicago
Class B.



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.


Ben Hallert June 20th 05 09:40 PM

Good story, and some valuable information there and in the responses.

Flight Following is a great service, and I'll do everything I can to
make Joe Controller's day easier when he's giving me this. I had a
thread a couple weeks ago asking about what to do if you go NORDO when
on FF, and the general consensus was to squawk 1200. Very compatible
with what people have suggested here, even thought I know it would eat
at me the whole time until I got down that the controller might think I
just 'dissed' him by dropping off frequency and FF. :) I figure that
the more pleasant experiences Joe Controller has with us VFR weenies,
the more likely he'll be to accept FF handoffs and keep an eye on us.
The traffic watch is really only a fraction of the value I get out of
it: knowing that I've got someone on-frequency who knows exactly where
I am already if I have to declare an emergency means that I can spend
just that much more time troubleshooting my problem instead of trying
to give an intelligible location for SAR to use when they're trying to
find my flaming wreckage.

Using fligh****ch to get a message to those guys sounds like another
good tip to add to the book, I'll have to remember that.


[email protected] June 20th 05 09:47 PM

Jay,

You got good service from a controller who got worried about you.

Now, quit messing around; with that very capable airplane and all the
flying you do, get your instrument rating. It'll also help your VFR
travel and dealing with ATC. Besides, the workload IFR is much, much
less than VFR when you're dealing with weather such as you had and also
having to figure out airspace and so forth.

I've had a controller get hold of a small airport when I had a total
electrical failure on an IFR flight plan. In and out of the clouds,
saw an airport below me, spiraled down and landed. As I parked, the
airport manager came out to make sure I was okay and said CVG approach
had called and was concerned. I called the controller back, told him
what was going on and thanked him for making the call to have someone
looking out for me. It was a very nice feeling on an afternoon when
the airplane was in the midst of what turned out to be a reaction to a
stupid wiring job done by someone years before that was finally coming
due as insulation was scraping off of poorly routed wires. (In fact,
it was the only good thing that happened that afternoon-figuring out
the problem and repairing it wasn't cheap.)

Warmest regards,
Rick


Ron Natalie June 20th 05 10:05 PM

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.


Jay Honeck June 20th 05 10:22 PM


The traffic watch is really only a fraction of the value I get out of
it: knowing that I've got someone on-frequency who knows exactly where
I am already if I have to declare an emergency means that I can spend
just that much more time troubleshooting my problem instead of trying
to give an intelligible location for SAR to use when they're trying to
find my flaming wreckage.


This is precisely why we use FF on pretty much every flight outside the
pattern, especially in winter.

After reading that the AVERAGE length of time between search & rescue
notification and location was 18 hours (!), we realized that we
probably wouldn't survive an accident here in the Midwest between
November and March without the advantage of having ATC know PRECISELY
where we were when we went down.

Of course this is all presuming that we had enough time to broadcast a
"Mayday!" call before the wing came off, or whatever.

This whole thing has been an excellent learning experience, and is both
funny and kinda sad. After ten years of flying around their airspace,
I've grown so used to Chicago Approach sounding ****ed (or indifferent
-- or refusing altogether) about providing flight following -- and
then, if they DID provide flight following, having them do such an
incredibly ****-poor job of traffic notification -- that it simply
never occurred to either of us that they might give a damn if we
dropped off their radar screens.
--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"


Peter Duniho June 20th 05 10:31 PM

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


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 flights.

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)?

Thanks,
Pete



Gig 601XL Builder June 20th 05 10:37 PM


"Jay Honeck" wrote in message
ps.com...
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.

First, Chicago Center doesn't give a crap what happens in the Chicago
Class B.


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.
--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City




Jay, you've got the plane and you travel in it enough.

Break down and get your IFR ticket.


GigG



Chris G. June 20th 05 11:21 PM

I have placed a call to the local FSDO for the exact regulations
governing this, but I speak from experience, having been a State SAR
Coordinator backup for the State of Oregon a few years ago.

Chris


Peter Duniho wrote:
"Chris G." [email protected] wrote in message
eenews.net...

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.



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 flights.

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)?

Thanks,
Pete



Chris G. June 20th 05 11:28 PM

Without wanting to generate a whole different thread, since it sounds
like my issue was probably discussed, but if I went NORDO while
utilizing ATC services, the first thing I would do (per AIM) is squawk
7600. If not under ATC surveillance and not in contact with them, then
I'd likely leave it at 1200, unless I needed to land at a controlled
field somewhere.

Aside from that, I totally agree with what you say!

Chris


Ben Hallert wrote:
Good story, and some valuable information there and in the responses.

Flight Following is a great service, and I'll do everything I can to
make Joe Controller's day easier when he's giving me this. I had a
thread a couple weeks ago asking about what to do if you go NORDO when
on FF, and the general consensus was to squawk 1200. Very compatible
with what people have suggested here, even thought I know it would eat
at me the whole time until I got down that the controller might think I
just 'dissed' him by dropping off frequency and FF. :) I figure that
the more pleasant experiences Joe Controller has with us VFR weenies,
the more likely he'll be to accept FF handoffs and keep an eye on us.
The traffic watch is really only a fraction of the value I get out of
it: knowing that I've got someone on-frequency who knows exactly where
I am already if I have to declare an emergency means that I can spend
just that much more time troubleshooting my problem instead of trying
to give an intelligible location for SAR to use when they're trying to
find my flaming wreckage.

Using fligh****ch to get a message to those guys sounds like another
good tip to add to the book, I'll have to remember that.


Margy June 20th 05 11:51 PM

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
clouds.

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
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"

I would send cookies to Chicago Center and a "Thanks for keeping an eye
on us". Most likely a really good controller got concerned because of
the weather and the zigzag and just wanted to make sure you were there.
We once flew out of range and Washington relayed to other aircraft to
look call for us. We managed a relay back.

Margy

Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:14 AM


"Jay Honeck" wrote in message
ups.com...

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
clouds.

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?


The closest ARSR is some 80 miles WNW near Peoria. It's possible they were
getting a feed on the CMI ASR which is about 16 miles WSW.



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?


You'd have to ask the people involved for specifics. ATC is required to
initiate a search when there is an unexpected loss of radar contact and
radio communications with any IFR or VFR aircraft.



Did something get scrambled in their
computers, making them believe that we had filed a flight plan?


ATC wouldn't know if you had filed a flight plan, that's strictly FSS turf.



Is there an FAR requiring us to cancel flight following?


No.



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.


Chicago Center doesn't have any Class B airspace.



How would *you* have handled it?


When I couldn't raise them I'd squawk 1200 and forget about it.



Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:17 AM


"Bob Gardner" wrote in message
...

The controller had every right to expect notification of some kind that
you were no longer on frequency.


If the reason he's no longer on the frequency is because he's descended too
low, just how is he supposed to get that notification to the controller?



Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:20 AM


"Jay Honeck" wrote in message
oups.com...

We use flight following on most flights in our area. The only time
it's ever a problem is around (the very busy airspace of) Chicago,
where (ironically) we could most use FF.

Usually Chicago won't accept a hand-off from adjacent controllers, and
if we try to request FF they will reply "unable." Not that it really
matters -- I have had airliners pop in front of me so close that I
could read their logo, without Chicago ATC ever saying "boo" about it.


What Chicago are you talking about? Your initial message dealt with Chicago
Center, now it sounds like you're talking about Chicago Approach.



Peter Clark June 21st 05 12:21 AM

On Mon, 20 Jun 2005 10:08:03 -0700, "Bob Gardner"
wrote:

The controller had every right to expect notification of some kind that you
were no longer on frequency.


They already told the controller they were going off-freq: " 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."

Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:23 AM


"Ron Natalie" wrote in message
...

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's not necessarily an extra service. If radio and radar contact is lost
in an area where ATC would expect to have both, then ATC is supposed to
chase you down.

http://www.faa.gov/atpubs/ATC/Chp10/atc1002.html#10-2-5



John Galban June 21st 05 12:23 AM



Chris G. wrote:
snip
the first thing I would do (per AIM) is squawk
7600. If not under ATC surveillance and not in contact with them, then
I'd likely leave it at 1200, unless I needed to land at a controlled
field somewhere.


You'd better need to land at that controlled field pretty badly
because you'll be busting the regs if you do that. Squawking 7600
doesn't relieve you of the requirement to establish two-way
communictions prior to entering a class D. Of course, if you're low
on fuel or there are no non-towered fields you could divert to, then
you can probably get away with it. If there are alternate airports,
the best thing to do is to land at one, call the towered airport and
get a clearance from them to enter the class D, then expect light
signals. If you're already in the class D when the radio dies, you're
OK. Just proceed and look for the lights.

John Galban=====N4BQ (PA28-180)


Steven P. McNicoll June 21st 05 12:25 AM


"tom pettit peak.org" tompetat wrote in message
...

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.


Possible, but not practical. Some ARSR sites have only beacon
interrogators.



John Galban June 21st 05 12:29 AM



Jay Honeck wrote:
snippage
How would *you* have handled it?



What I do when this happens is to stay on the freq. an wait until
some airliner overhead talks to the controller (be it Center or
Approach). Then I ask him to relay a msg. to the controller that I'm
out of radio range and will squawk VFR. Wherever there's Center or
Approach coverage, I'm usually within line of sight of an airliner
overhead that is already talking to them.

If I get no luck on the relay, I'll squawk 1200 and call FSS on the
ground and ask them to pass the word that I dropped below radio range.

John Galban=====N4BQ (PA28-180)




--
Jay Honeck
Iowa City, IA
Pathfinder N56993
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"Your Aviation Destination"



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


"Jay Honeck" wrote in message
ps.com...

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
eenews.net...

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
flights.

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)?


http://www.faa.gov/atpubs/ATC/Chp10/atc1002.html#10-2-5

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
anything.



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
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"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.

tom


"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
ink.net...
http://www.faa.gov/atpubs/ATC/Chp10/atc1002.html#10-2-5

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
anything.


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?

Pete



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

--

Tony Roberts
PP-ASEL
VFR OTT
Night
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
clouds.

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
www.AlexisParkInn.com
"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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