Is it Ever Okay to Disregard Faulty Instructions?

I had an experience last night:

Taking off 07L from KLAX, enroute to KSAN. I planned on KSAN 27, because that is typically the active runway. However, KSAN was on Unicom, so it was a little chaotic. But, obviously I had some time and distance to figure it out.

Right out of the gate, I was instructed to contact Socal Approach, which doesn’t service KSAN, but I did anyway. The controller vectored me to heading 040 right away (i.e. the opposite direction of KSAN). I complied, trying to be a good boy. Then Approach requested descent and maintain 4000 (166 NM from destination). Hmm, okay, but I did this too.

Next comes the weird stuff. I was not given altitude FL12. Then 8500. Told to resume own navigation. Again vectored to 040. All in quick succession.

It seemed to me that whoever was at the Approach desk wasn’t quite sure what to do.

My question is, while I want to abide instructions, I’m being given conflicting instructions over a frequency that has no jurisdiction over my destination or my location (i.e. LAX Center or Departure). When is it okay for me to presume that the ATC is just a little confused and proceed on a reasonable course (e.g. one altitude would have put me into a mountainside), awaiting coming into range of a jurisdictional frequency? Do I just fly into theach mountain?


By contacting that centre, you’re submitting to their vectors. If you’re flying into a mountain, say unable and pray to Tyler that you’re not ghosted.


What server was this on?


No your not automatically accepting vectors if you contact a frequency don’t give out faulse information.

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Explain, if you’re handed off, you’re in another controller’s airspace. Therefore, shouldn’t you be under their control until they either release you to unicom or hand you off to someone else?

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If I were in your shoes: First, we don’t deviate from ATC commands for any reason unless there’s an immediate emergency such as terrain or a runway incursion, in which case you as the PIC make that decision. If this happened on the training servers then there’s a few thoughts that come to mind. One, those servers are for controllers to learn how to control as well. You could do what you did and play along to see if they figure it out, or you could disconnnect and jump to a different region/server where you can fly on your own if you don’t feel like dealing with that. If this happened on the expert server you would want to note the controller and PM them on here to see what was going on. Never disobey or ignore instructions from ATC in IF unless your flight is in immediate danger.

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Uh…yes it does, If you don’t want to listen you say “Request frequency change”, and when you change you do it either because you want to (when approved or on uncontrolled frequency), or you were told to.

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Yes, it is OK. The safety of your aircraft is paramount.

Just because you are on a radar frequency doesn’t mean your automatically going to receive vectors or altitude. You know the things you request when initiating contact? FF, VFR, RV, ILS, GPS. Those state weather or not we are going to give you vectors not simply contacting the frequency.
I suggest you and @tranquil_skyflyer read up on some tutorials.


Looks like from the OP that we have an aircraft being handed off from tower to approach on departure, so the aircraft states his/her intentions then approach vectored him/her. I don’t see what’s wrong. I suggest that you read the OP before tearing into me.

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Once again it all depends on what you request.

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But it was already stated in the OP that the aircraft stated intentions, which is a departure to KSAN. I don’t understand the confusion. Why would APP vector someone who requested FF? All the information is there, just infer a little.

Right if your on FF your not going to be vectored unless it’s nessecary. So why are you suppose to just expect vectors if you contact them again? Any further comment PM me I’ll continue there since this is highly off topic

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I don’t even know where to begin with that comment.

I wonder why?

From the sound of the vectors you were given, it seems that you have been flying on the training servers. The ATCs there have not been trained and upheld to the kind of quality that IFATCs adhere to on the expert server. It’s all about learning and practice in that environment, and if you want to get service from controllers who know what they’re doing, fly and/or rack up your experience for expert.

Brandon outlined this many times already, and I’ll say it again- the kind of service we give will rely on what you have requested. There are different rules and regulations attached to IFR, VFR, visual, etc.

As PIC, you reserve the right to refuse a command if it puts your aircraft in danger. This doesn’t mean going around replying unable to every command, however. Our role as ATC is to facilitate, expedite, and accommodate traffic around each other without collision. If you seriously are going to hit a mountain or collide with other traffic, then take the appropriate action.


I’ve stressed this many times. As an IFATC, if an aircraft for any other reason then proximity to ground or other aircraft, deviates from instructions, they will be met with a “please follow instructions”. Hopefully we as IFATC don’t ever vector you to that level of danger but it does happen on occasion.
You can do what I do when I fly…follow every single instruction (if you’re on expert) to the letter and if they do something false and you follow it and crash or whatever, you just come back and privately message the controller. But always follow IFATC instructions no matter how bizarre they may seem. 9.5/10 times we have a good reason for issuing the command. The other 0.5 you will be met with the new command “disregard last message” to indicate the previously sent command was faulty.


Before you attempt going further, Brandon is a recruiter for the IFATC team and a respected member of the community. In addition, he is currently in training for his pilot’s license. Respect is a two way street. You’re not going to get it in return if you can’t weigh his extremely valuable inputs to a perfectly valid question.


Just FYI - @Brandon_Sandstrom is an ATC recruiter for the Expert Server. If he got ghosted all the time he wouldn’t be a recruiter, or even ATC. So it kind of seems like you don’t really know what you’re saying.
Cheers! :)


Sir your comment made absolutely no sense what so ever. VFR is what we call free flight. Of course the casual server only has Unicom what’s your point? Since I’m a recruiter for IFATC I’m fairly confident that I know exactly what I’m talking about since I’ve been entrusted to train incoming controllers and test them. You say you have read the tutorials but I think you need to spend a little extra time to re read them. I’ll also say this one more time. What you request dictates the services you will receive. This is obviously a training server complaint. But we also don’t need faulse information being thrown out there. If you have any other questions feel free to PM me.