Whether tuning in to Departure or entering Center’s airspace, you’ve likely found yourself wondering what to request! To simplify and stay true to real world practices, we have now separated the meaning of Check In and Flight Following to communicate intentions of proceeding IFR or VFR. While the IFATC has implemented these procedural changes today, you’ll notice helpful guidance on the pilot communication interface coming in 20.2! Pilots are also encouraged to adopt these changes immediately.
CHECK IN = IFR
Check In is a request for IFR service from ATC. Pilots are expected to follow their filed route in the absence of ATC-assigned headings, altitudes, and speeds. ATC is responsible for aircraft separation from aircraft and terrain.
FLIGHT FOLLOWING = VFR
Flight Following is a VFR service that can be requested by a pilot with or without a flight plan. Pilots are expected to see and avoid other traffic and may be subject to ATC altitude and heading assignments. VFR aircraft with a filed flight plan are expected to follow it.
Effectively immediately the use of Check In will only be for IFR flight and should be used as it previously was with the appropriate radar facility. The Flight Following request will be reserved for VFR flights only. If flying VFR with a flight plan you can request the specific destination that is auto-populated or you can transmit “Flying VFR” if maneuvering without a route or destination.
On initial contact you only need to transmit one or the other. Do not Check In and request Flight Following. Doing so may result in a warning from ATC. This change helps reduce the amount of incorrect Flight Following requests after a Check In and better aligns with real world practices for VFR operations.
For more, check out our Infinite Flight Guides where you’ll find a specific section for both pilot and ATC procedures regarding the use of Check In and Flight Following: