Tips for flying while on Center frequency
Center ATC provides services in two ways: (1) helping to ensure separation in the skies and (2) assisting Approach and Departure ATCs. The tips you see below are based on common mistakes and great practices we see happening in IF and I hope they contribute to provide some more clarity.
Pilots, please do
- File a flight plan. It’s a good practice when you’re flying an airliner on a normal route.
- Check the D-ATIS of your destination airport to see airport and runway info and verify if there are STARs preferred by the ATC. Amend flight plan and add the ATC preferred STAR.
- Check out if your destination airport has an Approach controller present. He will assist you with your (final) approach.
- flight following to your destination airport when first contacting Center (see also point 5)
- check-in when contacting Center after being handed over by another ATC.
- Climb to cruise without requesting altitude changes
- Request descent via your STAR at your top-of-descent (TOD) (about 1 – 2 minutes before it’s time to descent).
- Keep checking your radar screen. Does the aircraft in front of you approach via the same STAR? Then adjust your speed to follow and avoid conflicts.
- Be prepared to receive and follow instructions with vectors and altitude from your controller.
- do a check-in AND a request for flight following . See points 4 and 5 above.
- request your climb to cruise altitude. Just climb and follow your flight plan. See here.
- deviate from your flight plan unless instructed by the ATC
- respond with ‘unable’ when instructed with headings or altitude that deviate you from your flight plan.
- Change frequency to Approach, Tower, without permission of Center ATC. Wait to be transferred.
- Press VNAV somewhere at cruise altitude and go to bed.
- Request an ILS approach for an airport outside Center’s area.
It’s quite ok to
- request an ILS or Visual approach, especially if the destination airport does not have an Approach controller.
- wait with requesting an approach for your destination airport, until handed over to Approach controller.
- request Radar Vectors to your destination airport, but most likely the ATC will just let you ‘continue as filed’
When departing and being handed to Center ATC from Tower or Departure controller you will:
- check-in and receive ‘Radar Contact’
- Fly your flight plan, climb to cruise
- Receive any vectors or speed instructions from Center to avoid possible conflicts
- After ‘Continue as filed’, go back to your flight plan and on your way
- after leaving Center’s airspace wait to be released from Center’s frequency or handed over to another area.
When inbound, entering the Center ATC’s airspace you would typically:
- request flight following to your destination airport
- Follow your flight plan
- At Top Of Descent request descent via the STAR; start your descent
- Wait until being handed over to Approach
- Request your ILS or Visual approach
OR (other inbound example)
- request ILS or Visual approach to your destination airport/runway
- Wait for ‘Continue as filed, expect ILS/Visual approach for runway xx’
- Follow your flight plan, descent as needed (no need to file a descent request)
- Either receive final vectors for the ILS clearance, or just receive clearance (depends on how well you can intercept the localizer with your flight plan)
- Wait until being handed over to Tower
- Report inbound on the ILS/Visual
Hope the info and the examples come to good use.