Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Initial Contact - VFR Flight Following

This question has cropped up for me a number of times in the three years I've been writing publicly. "When I want to call up for VFR flight following, do you want me to just check in, first, or just say everything?" There are a few different ways to look at it.

Some say if they blurt everything out at once, there are fewer transmissions and things can go quicker. Others say that there should be an "attention getting" call made first and give ATC a chance to get ready for you. Here's my take on it.

Often in a call for flight following, there is a fair bit of information to get out there from the pilot and be picked up on by ATC. Just because the radio may be quiet doesn't mean the controller isn't busy. A pilot's radio being quiet, in the same sense, doesn't mean he isn't busy, either. We have many hotlines, phonelines and adjacent controllers to coordinate flight data with, as well as keeping up on changing conditions such as traffic patterns and weather conditions.

If you call up and spit everything out at once, there remains the possibility of having to say it all again if the controller misses it for being busy doing something else when you call. Often, even if I'm on the phone when you call, I find that I can catch your callsign, or at least know that someone called and I can answer you when I get a chance. Also, I've zinged more than one IFR aircraft through a localizer on a radar vector because someone tied up my frequency at an inoppotune moment with a call like, "Moncton Center, this is Cessna Golf Romeo India November. I'm over Grand Lake at 3,500, VFR, heading for Moncton along the highway. It looks like there are some clouds up ahead so I might have to descend a little bit. Requesting flight following." If he simply called up with his callsign and let me answer him, I could either issue my turn to final or at least say, "standby," without having to issue a correcting vector later.

The initial call of, "Moncton Center, Cessna Foxtrot Romeo Oscar Golf," gives me as a controller a chance to get my pen and paper handy to copy the information I want when I'm ready to answer you. It does mean, as some point out, an extra transmission or two, but in my eyes, it's worth the extra radio traffic. And I'm firmly one for clear and concise communications over the radio as anyone who has read my writing before can attest. I believe firmly in saying everything needed in as few words as practical to save air time. The more we all talk, the more chances of tying up a frequency for someone who really needs it.