How to contact a radar frequency

I see this everytime I’m on Departure, Center, or Approach. 50% of users or more are contacting the frequency in the wrong way. So I thought I would write something on how to contact a radar frequency.

So you have just departed your airfield and your going to another airfield. Upon departure you will either be handed to Departure, Approach, or Center depending on what’s available, once handed off your first contact should be your intentions. “Radar vectors”, “ILS approach”, “Flight following”, and “VFR”. If you are in a commercial airliner please don’t request “Flight following” or “VFR” flight. The best course of action is to request “Radar vectors” to your destination airport. now I say “Radar vectors” because you can request the ILS to the departure frequency but they can’t give you that clearance as its outside of there airspace. Resulting in 1 of 2 commands being sent. 1. “Unable outside of coverage area proceed on course”. I don’t like this as it grants flight following when you say it. Or 2. “Runway is closed expect radar vectors to runway XX at XXXX”. I don’t like this one either because typically it says the runway they asked for is closed which is usually the runway you tell them anyway so it doesn’t sound right. So request “Radar vectors” right out of the gate.

Ok now we move on to the “Check in” message once you have already contacted a Radar frequency and stated your intentions “Radar vectors”. You can now use the “Check in” message since you have already been cleared for radar vectors to where you are going. So upon contact to another frequency such as Center or Approach on your arriving airport. Use the “check in” message and they can see your already cleared for radar vectors and to which airport and further guide you along the way. There is no need to ask for an ILS approach when contacting approach as now they can issue it without you doing anything but checking in. One instance where you will need to re state your intentions is if you have been given vectors and landed at an airport but now want to depart to another airport. Once you depart again you will need to state your new intentions unless you want to be vectored back to the same airport.

Ok now let’s move to “Flight following” and “VFR” flight. These should only be used for general aviation aircraft operating under FL180. So don’t request this if your in a commercial aircraft.

And lastly what is Center used for. This is a big one. Somewhere along the way of IF it has come to be Center is only for aircraft above FL180. I don’t know where that came to be but here is the actual role of the Center fequency. Center controls the entire region from surface level to FL600. So any GA aircraft on flight following from any airfield without approach or departure should contact Center for their “flight following” and “VFR” requests. Now that’s only if you want radar services. At the same time all commercial aircraft in between Departure and Approach should contact Center. Center is the do all for the region no matter the altitude.

Hope this helps when contacting frequency’s and I look forward to an improvement in reguards to this.

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Great post!

I see alot of people (just like you see them) who is doing everything wrong…

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Thanks Brandon!

I must admit I am not always 100% whether I need to call for Flight Following / ILS /Radar Vectors or just Check In when entering a Centre! This has helped to clear it up!

Quick question, if for example I took off from EGLL and had a flight plan to fly all the way around the edge of the region and land again at EGLL (or similar) would “request radar vectors” still be the right call or would I then be directed back around to the holding point before landing?

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@David_Lockwood if you have a flight plan around the region which I see a lot you can request flight following. Then when closer to your destination ask for radar vectors. But if it was me your contacting you can ask for radar vectors and I’ll tell you expect them and then give you a resume own navigation that way you are cleared for radar vectors but can still follow your course. Hope that helps.

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thanks @Brandon_Sandstrom !

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Ohhhhhh! Now I understand. Your second explanation is better than the first for me. It means I have been doing the right thing, then. Thanks.

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To clarify the second explanation to David is only if you have a detailed flight plan that takes you around the region if you just have a 2 point flight plan. Start and end with a straight line. DO NOT request flight following. Also just because you are on flight following doesn’t mean we can’t vector you or give altitude’s. @SAA_A346

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We also need cleared for the visual approach runway XX. Instead of just ILS.

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Thanks Buddha

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What im confused with is if you request radar vectors then you have too go off course from your fligh plan

@Misrael102 that is correct you will deviate from your flight plan and that’s the point. Most flight plans consist of a starting point and an ending point that’s it. If you have 20 or more planes all following there flight plan with no orginization it’s complete chaos. Just like it was before ATC so make your flight plan not very specific when flying a commercial aircraft and request "Radar vectors to your destination. This is the proper procedure.

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Ok thanks!

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So you shouldn’t make a flight plan using the airways?

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I am guilty of doing this. I have never gotten around to learning this. Great post. It helps

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Thanks Rotate took the words right out of my mouth. To build off of your suggestion; in the real world, and in IFR, after being transferred to departure, terminal, etc. The pilot is supposed to say, call sign, the rwy vacating, altitude vacating and to the next cleared altitude. And then ATC is supposed to say either “cleared via flight planned route” or they would vector you accordingly. This would be the most right, I doubt we could get all of that in the sim though.

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You can use the airways in your flight plan just don’t expect to follow it exactly the entire time when your on a radar frequency. We try and let you fly your flight plan as much as possible. But if you have to be vectored due to other aircraft, or to follow another aircraft we are going to do it as it makes approach that much more realistic. And if your already cleared for radar vectors then all you have to do is check in with the next facility your handed off to and they can issue your approach. It makes things run a lot smoother for controllers and pilots.

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So Center is like a Radar which Controls an Aircraft when entering a Region? (Like FIR) Thanks 😉 Just Curious

Ahh haaa! This was the information I was looking for! Thanks for the post. Now I know exactly what to request as an airliner. Thank you!! 👍

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