Assigned Altitudes and Inactive ATC

Suppose I have filed a flight plan, and I intend to ascend to cruising altitude (e.g. 35000ft). However, ATC first assigns me 22,000ft, and I follow their instructions. If they go offline 5 minutes later, do I have to maintain that altitude the entire flight (e.g. flying over the Atlantic Ocean)? A similar question is when flying with Approach and they assign me an altitude before going offline, and I’m stuck flying at 8,000ft when it’s time to make a final. Are pilots allowed to deviate from ATC instruction in these circumstances?

I’d recommend following their instructions for about 5 min or until ALL possible problems are no longer a threat. If there’s no atc, just make sure to state your intentions through UNICOM and you should be okay. Always stay aware too :)


Real procedure would suggest you follow AVEF. Fly as assigned, then any vectors, then what you were told to expect, then what you filed. In terms of altitudes in that situation, you’re technically expected to fly at the highest altitude of the MEA, what you were told to expect, and then what you were assigned.

To interpret that, look around for traffic, maintain your instructions, and then when safe to do so, I’d go for it. Don’t think anyone can get upset at that process.


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