Pilot's tip of the week

Is Flight Following a Clearance?

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Subscriber question:

“Is being on flight following enough to enter Class B, C, and D airspace? Or do I need a clearance?” — Charley V.

John:

Let’s get the two easy ones out of the way first.

A separate and specific clearance is always required for Class B airspace. Even if you are receiving advisories from the Class B controller outside the Bravo, it does not constitute a Class B clearance.

Class C airspace never requires a separate clearance. If you are in two-way communications with the controlling facility, you satisfy the requirements for authorization through Class C airspace.

Class D transitions are the sticky point. Talking to a Center or Approach controller on flight following does not necessarily satisfy the requirement for communication with the controlling agency: the Class D tower.

However, the Controller’s handbook says a pilot is not expected to obtain their own clearance through a Class C or D while receiving advisories. The controller should step up and coordinate for the pilot, and should also let the pilot know this has occurred. Sometimes coordination is unnecessary even though it looks like you’ll pass through the Class D. It’s common for the top 500 feet of Class D airspace to be delegated to an Approach Control.

But the overall responsibility for complying with Class D communications requirements still lies with the pilot. It’s best to speak up and ensure that the Approach or Center controller knows you intend to transition the airspace, and has coordinated with the tower for you if necessary.

Keep in mind that this is an additional service that is workload permitting. If the controller is too busy to coordinate, radar service should be terminated in a timely manner so the pilot is able to contact the Class D facility directly prior to entry.

Do you prefer to go through airspace and talk to ATC, or stay outside so you don't have to communicate?

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