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VFR flight following + PIREPs

Old 17th Aug 2022, 04:23
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Question VFR flight following + PIREPs

I have a friend that flies in the USA, and I also listen to many American podcasts on GA flying. It seems that requesting (and usually receiving) VFR flight following is strongly encouraged over there.

As a lowly PPL weekend warrior here in Australia, I think I could count of one hand the amount of times I have heard VFR traffic request flight following. Is this frowned upon in Australia? Or is it often denied and hence people don't ask? I'm going to request on my next jaunt but keen to hear about other experiences.

Secondly, I note that the USA has made a big push via AOPA etc to encourage more PIREPs. It has been so successful in some areas, that the US NOAA are using PIREPs to alter forecasts.

If you make a PIREP here in Australia, do BOM do anything with that data? Or is it just passed to other pilots via ML/BN CEN?
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 06:06
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As a controller I've always wondered why so few pilots request it. Just remember to advise changes of level and if you decide to change route. You're not likely to get knocked back unless the controller is very busy, of course subject to radar coverage.

PIREPs get passed onto the BOM and generally seem to result in amendments if they're significant.
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 06:09
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Flight following is limited by controller workload and radar coverage. The natural habitat for most VFR aircraft is low down where the radar coverage is generally poor in my experience.

The general flying experience in the USA (especially ga) looks vastly different to Australia mostly due to the population density which provides the necessary infrastructure almost country wide.
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 07:19
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Radar coverage is pretty good around the "J-curve" (east and south east coast) and I know student pilots around here (YMMB) are encouraged to request it from ATC on their long navs, if only to stop them (a) getting lost and (b) busting the Class Charlie on the way back in.. but IMHO if it isn't on the syllabus/flight test it isn't going to be something an instructor wants to waste precious time on, especially if the student's english proficiency is less than perfect. (I mean, how many student pilots actually know where they ARE at all times?)

I'm currently doing a Night VFR rating and VFR Flight Following is one of the tools I have to use.
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 09:45
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I routinely use it if I'm going on an extended cross-country, but then I have ADS-B so am not reliant on SSR coverage. Hell, I even used it when the RV was registered RAAus and I was going interstate - though the number of times Controllers responded to my call of "Centre, good morning, RV8434" as "Army 8434 good morning, go ahead" was enough for me to revert to Romeo8434 as that's what they saw from my ADS-B squawk.. Now the RV's VH- it doesn't matter.

I cant think of a time I've been knocked back on my initial request, though I've had it cancelled/suspended several times due lack of surveillance coverage however (le P can explain better here) most times the Controller "kept" my plan in the system such that when I showed up on the ASD of the next sector, they called me and we picked up where we left off until I cancelled it on descent.

If you're going XC and going high, you'd be nuts not to use it, it's free, you get traffic, the controllers seem to like being able to talk directly to you (if you're in Class E) and you're already in contact with Centre if you have a problem. There's no downside from what I can see.
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 10:41
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I find it to be a waste of time unless I have a code provided.
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 10:50
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armchair PPL here at the moment and but was just reading about vfr flight following today and this thread comes up!
yeah I wonder why people don't it..
is there a way to find out which airspace has radar coverage?
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 22:51
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See https://www.airservicesaustralia.com...ds-b-coverage/

and https://www.casa.gov.au/search-centr...ance-and-ads-b
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 23:07
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Originally Posted by Squawk7700 View Post
I find it to be a waste of time unless I have a code provided.
Do they do FF without a code? I guess with ADS-B they could, but I've never not been given a discreet code when being approved for FF.

Paging le Pingouin

And apart from having a plan in the system - what else do controller's want from us when requesting FF?
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Old 17th Aug 2022, 23:09
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Originally Posted by KRviator View Post
Do they do FF without a code? I guess with ADS-B they could, but I've never not been given a discreet code when being approved for FF.

Paging le Pingouin

And apart from having a plan in the system - what else do controller's want from us when requesting FF?
Iíve asked for it, not been given a code and when I faded momentarily, I was told it was cancelled, on more than one occasion, so I havenít bothered since.
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Old 18th Aug 2022, 00:07
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Originally Posted by le Pingouin View Post
As a controller I've always wondered why so few pilots request it. Just remember to advise changes of level and if you decide to change route. You're not likely to get knocked back unless the controller is very busy, of course subject to radar coverage.

PIREPs get passed onto the BOM and generally seem to result in amendments if they're significant.
Thanks le P, good to hear that ATCs don't have some secret agenda against VFR flight following! So for instance on the East Coast, within say 50nm of the Pacific, you're likely to have this coverage available the whole way up at lower levels? What if you're Mode S with ADSB-out and out of radar coverage, will they still be able to provide it or not?

One more question for you - I found this fact sheet from Airservices on VFR flight following. I note that they say you need to request at the control area boundary to be handed off to the next controller, otherwise termination results. Is this definitely the case, or are controllers generally obliging and thinking that they will hand you off already?

Originally Posted by KRviator View Post
I routinely use it if I'm going on an extended cross-country, but then I have ADS-B so am not reliant on SSR coverage. Hell, I even used it when the RV was registered RAAus and I was going interstate - though the number of times Controllers responded to my call of "Centre, good morning, RV8434" as "Army 8434 good morning, go ahead" was enough for me to revert to Romeo8434 as that's what they saw from my ADS-B squawk.. Now the RV's VH- it doesn't matter.

I cant think of a time I've been knocked back on my initial request, though I've had it cancelled/suspended several times due lack of surveillance coverage however (le P can explain better here) most times the Controller "kept" my plan in the system such that when I showed up on the ASD of the next sector, they called me and we picked up where we left off until I cancelled it on descent.

If you're going XC and going high, you'd be nuts not to use it, it's free, you get traffic, the controllers seem to like being able to talk directly to you (if you're in Class E) and you're already in contact with Centre if you have a problem. There's no downside from what I can see.
Good to know, and yeah your thoughts are same as mine - why wouldn't you request it to enhance safety?

Originally Posted by PiperCameron View Post
Radar coverage is pretty good around the "J-curve" (east and south east coast) and I know student pilots around here (YMMB) are encouraged to request it from ATC on their long navs, if only to stop them (a) getting lost and (b) busting the Class Charlie on the way back in.. but IMHO if it isn't on the syllabus/flight test it isn't going to be something an instructor wants to waste precious time on, especially if the student's english proficiency is less than perfect. (I mean, how many student pilots actually know where they ARE at all times?)

I'm currently doing a Night VFR rating and VFR Flight Following is one of the tools I have to use.
Interesting. It was never part of training in my RPL/PPL course. Would VFR flight following actually mean that the controller stops you from busting a step or boundary? Another question for Le P!
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Old 18th Aug 2022, 07:41
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Originally Posted by MagnumPI View Post
Interesting. It was never part of training in my RPL/PPL course. Would VFR flight following actually mean that the controller stops you from busting a step or boundary? Another question for Le P!
It wasn't, technically, part of mine either. In my experience, yes. But it's more of a serious hint something like "XYZ, you're approaching controlled airspace. Intentions?"
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Old 18th Aug 2022, 16:52
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KRviator, it's possible to provide FF without assigning a discrete code - "squawk ident" and manually attaching a RADTAG (an ad hoc label that has no associated flight plan) to the relevant SSR return. Usual practice would be to assign the SSR code associated with the RADTAG but it could get forgotten about (as we're seeing a label with your callsign regardless) or the service is terminated before the code is assigned (assigning you a code isn't high on the list of priorities).

A lot of VFR flight plans never make it into TAAATS, the exception being if your tracking and level will mean you potentially require a clearance, so pre-filing is no guarantee we'll know anything about you.

MagnumPI, with respect to requesting a continuation of FF into another sector, I think that needs to be read in conjunction with the previous paragraph where the controller is terminating FF. Normal practice would be to hand you over to the next sector after coordinating your details and gaining their agreement to accept you. The only time I'd usually cancel FF at the boundary is where I expect you to leave radar coverage shortly.

As far as preventing you entering CTA without a clearance we'll do our best, but you have to help by telling us whenever you want to change level or tracking because if we're using a RADTAG we don't get all the alerts for deviations from levels or tracking. You could merrily climb into CTA unannounced and unless we happened to notice at the time we wouldn't stop you, arrange a clearance or provide traffic.
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