Pilot's tip of the week

Changing Altitude with Flight Following

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Subscriber question:

"Do you need to tell ATC when you change altitude if you're getting Flight Following?" — Frank W.

John:

“The short answer is yes.

Guidance is contained in the AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual) under paragraph 4-1-15 (b)(2). It states that when receiving VFR radar advisory service, pilots should inform the controller when changing VFR cruising altitude.

VFR advisories, also known as Flight Following, are a service provided by radar-equipped ATC facilities. Pilots receiving this service are advised of any radar target observed on the radar display which may be in such proximity to the position of their aircraft or its intended route of flight that it warrants their attention. The controller may issue a turn or altitude change to help the pilot avoid conflicting traffic.

The avoidance vector or altitude is based on the current or projected path of both aircraft. It makes sense that the controller must be aware of any altitude changes you plan to make.

The controller may also assign an altitude that is contrary to the normal VFR altitudes for traffic avoidance—especially in Class B or C airspace. ATC is required to advise the aircraft when to resume appropriate VFR altitudes.”

How often do you report altitude changes to ATC when receiving VFR advisories?

(NEW) VFR Mastery scenario #67 “A Swift Decision” is now available. A pre-takeoff briefing exists to remove hesitation and doubt from split-second emergency decisions after takeoff. The problem is that most real-world departures present several opportunities to go off script. Some of those improvisations could turn an off-field crash into an uneventful runway landing—or a disaster. Watch the Intro video.

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