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



 
 
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  #1  
Old June 20th 05, 05:55 PM
Jay Honeck
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Default 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"

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  #2  
Old June 20th 05, 06:08 PM
Bob Gardner
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Default

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"



  #3  
Old June 20th 05, 06:59 PM
Jay Honeck
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Posts: n/a
Default

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"

  #4  
Old June 20th 05, 07:01 PM
kontiki
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Default

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.

  #5  
Old June 20th 05, 07:09 PM
Ron Natalie
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Default

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.
  #6  
Old June 20th 05, 07:19 PM
tom pettit
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Default

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



  #7  
Old June 20th 05, 08:00 PM
Guy Elden Jr
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Posts: n/a
Default

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

  #8  
Old June 20th 05, 08:06 PM
Guy Elden Jr
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Posts: n/a
Default

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

  #9  
Old June 20th 05, 08:12 PM
Nathan Young
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Posts: n/a
Default

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.
  #10  
Old June 20th 05, 08:38 PM
Dave Butler
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Default

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
 




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