Answer to a question posted on

Pat O`Connor writes:

Subject: Flight following

I've returned to more active flying after getting my private license. I`ve just recently started flying cross country & I'm not clear on how to initiate Flight Following out of different class airports. I start out in class C and know I initiate with clearance control. How do I initiate it en route or in class D or E airports?

Answer from Malcolm Dickinson:

Good question Pat.

I have written a short article on this subject which you can see on the web at

Regarding your question of which facility to contact to initiate radar advisories ("flight following"): If you buy a copy of the "JeppGuide" which I have found invaluable for VFR flying, then you can find a frequency for the appropriate ATC facility in the upper right corner of each page. For instance, it might say "Boston Center 135.77" in which case you would take off, climb towards your cruising altitude, and then tune that frequency.

After listening for a break in the conversation you would then make your initial call up like this:

"Boston Center, Cherokee 1234R"

When the controller replies, give him the full info:

"Boston, 1234R is a PA-28, 20 miles west of Chester VOR, requesting advisories en route to Bravo Delta Romeo at four thousand fife hundred."

That's all the information he needs: where you are, what type of aircraft you are (just the basic identifier, no "slant uniform" or anything else), where you are (in relation to the nearest VOR, please) and where you are headed. He will assign you a squawk code, or if you are not in his sector, he will give you the correct frequency to contact.

Good luck, and by the way, good for you for using traffic advisories! This service is very valuable particularly if something were to go wrong, because someone would already know where you are and what type of airplane.

As an aside: you learned during your training that in the case of an emergency you should squawk 7700. This is true EXCEPT if you are already on an assigned (discrete) squawk code. In that case you should remain on your code, hit "IDENT," and give your "MAYDAY" call to the controller who is handling you. Why? Because he already knows what type of airplane you are and where you are.