Flight Following / Radar Vectors / ILS approach / Check In What are the differences?

When to request Flight Following / Radar Vectors / Check in / Request ILS approach:

There is a lot of confusion about when to use this option:

First of all it is important to know that “Flight Following” is not allowed in class A airspace! Class A airspace starts at FL180 and above.

Flight following should be only be used when flying VFR and when flying a “general aviation” airplane. You can think of the Cessna 172, 208, and the Cirrus for example. Any airline transport airplane is NOT allowed in real life to fly VFR when carrying passengers. Please refrain from asking FF when flying a jet!!

VFR flying is done by navigating while using the landscape as a reference. You can use landmarks, roads, rivers, lakes etc for this.

Radar vectors: When you get close to your destination or you fly without FPL you can ask for radar vectors to a destination. Depending on the approach controller he might vector you on final of the runway or he can tell you to contact the tower when on downwind.

Check in: When you have a flight plan and when you want to follow this all you have to do is a check in. The controller will reply with “roger” and from that moment you are under control by the ATC. He might give you radar vectors to avoid collision with other traffic but normally the only instruction you will get is an altitude instruction. IE: “climb or descent to XXXX feet or flight level.” You can always request a different altitude or level from atc but he might refuse your request due to conflicting traffic.

Request ILS approach: Whenever possible it’s recommended to request an LS approach when you are in contact with the approach controller. You will get radar vectors and altitude descent and the controller will guide you to the ILS of the runway in use.


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Is radar vectors only requested when there is no ILS?

Yes, then you will get radar vectors for a GPS approach.

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Thanks very helpful. @Aernout

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Absolutely Outstanding…😃

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Nice and simple tutorial. Some controllers should read and follow these as well. Sometimes ‘With You’ leads to asking for intentions even though a FPL is filed.


I never requested for ILS or RV because there are ATC that don’t know what the are doing, but now I just have to trust them and request for RV. The tutorial was VERY helpful!


Hi Jack, great tutorial was helpful. On the advanced server the ATC knows what they are doing so don’t worry about that :)

just want to clarify something. My understanding is that even if you are flying VFR, you are stlil subject to ATC while you are in controlled airpace. ie you can’t just wander into a control zone and refuse all ATC requests because you are VFR. Am I correct about this?
Thanks - good tutorial!

Correct! Even when flying VFR you have to listen to ATC instructions if received.

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Great tutorial Aernout. I would like to add that while VFR flying uses the landscape extensively,it also very commonly involves the employment of VORs (and NDB and GPS) as well.

After I request radar vectors, when should I request the ILS for the runway? Or the runway is given by the ATC too?

You could ask for ils on first contact already instead of radar vectors or at any given time. If you request radar vectors atc can also tell you , expect ils approach, as a reply.


Nice tips!
At what altitude/distance from the airport should I contact Approach and request ILS Approach or Radar Vector?
P.s. Considering a descent from cruise

Can controller overwrite ILS approach when pilots requested Radar Vectors?

yes a controller can override any request you may make.

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OK, thanks for letting me know :)

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Good knowledge sharing. Thank you for putting it up.

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