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3 Answers

Giving position reports to controller on Flight Following?

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Airspace, FAA Regulations, Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

My new instructor told me that on cross country flights with flight following it's good to give the controller updates on your position as you go. This seemed odd to me because I thought they are already monitoring your position on radar? When I tried it I got sort of an awkward/confused "Ok..?" response from the controller. Is giving position updates on flight following standard practice? It seems unnecessary unless you decide to make a drastic change in your route or something.

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3 Answers



  1. Kris Kortokrax on Apr 13, 2015

    Ask your instructor where he got this idea.

    If you are on a VFR flight plan, it is suggested that you give position reports, but you give these to Flight Service (FSS), not ATC.

    Even under IFR, you don’t give position reports unless requested to do so by ATC.

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  2. Heather McNevin on Apr 13, 2015

    I think your instructor is mixing up several different things. As Kris mentioned, it is not a bad idea to give position updates to FSS to keep your VFR flight plan as accurate as possible during your flight. ATC facilities do not have VFR flight plans, we can’t even access them if we wanted to. So telling ATC where you are doesn’t help anything.
    Secondly, you are right when saying that telling the controller where you are is silly since they can see you on radar. Thus the confused “Ok” you got from the controller. The only time I ever ask a pilot getting VFR flight following for a position report is if I lose them in radar. There are several stretches in my airspace with poor radar coverage, so I may lose people for 30-40 miles but will be able to see them on the other side of the nonradar area. As a service, I keep them on my frequency so they are talking to someone who knows who they are and can help them if they need it. I ask them to report a certain fix because I expect to see them by that point, at which time I will re-radar them.
    There are some busy terminal areas that have VFR waypoints or VFR reporting points (two different things) that are used by ATC. I had to report these when I flew around Oahu VFR. The points are identified by 5 letter designators beginning with VP for VFR waypoints but are usually called by their actual name rather than the fix (such as “turtle rock” or whatever) when using for a reporting point.
    And finally, you are totally correct when you say you would advise ATC of route changes while getting VFR flight following. I want to have the most accurate info in the computer as to where I expect you to be, especially if you disappear and I need to send help for you along a specific route of flight.

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  3. Mark Kolber on Apr 13, 2015

    Kris and Heather are correct. Flight plan position reports go to Flight Service not ATC. You might review this with your instructor, It’s at least as likely you misunderstood him as it is that he is confused.

    BTW, I =have= given position reports to ATC while receiving flight following, but it was because ATC specifically requested it (I was getting into an air with poor radar contact over inhospitable terrain and he was kind enough to want to continue to monitor my progress).

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