Say intentions while passing through.

I apologize in advance if this has been covered, I have checked quite a few threads and I still have this question unanswered. I’ve filed a flight plan and it crosses over an airspace that I plan on just passing over. Let’s say I cross over KSAN airspace on my way to MMTJ. What is the correct response when KSAN Tower, Approach, Departure, whoever happens to ask me for my intentions when all I want to do is cross over to MMTJ? Or is the correct answer just to never plan a flight over an airspace other than my final destination? Thanks in advance!

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Request a transition is what you are looking for!


If your at or below 5,000 ft contact tower and ask for a transition, unless your with approach then ask for radar vectors to MMTJ.


I check in and then request a transition, is that correct too?

Yes, when the controller says “say intentions” then you go and and say requesting transition.

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The check in is only used if you have been granted something from another radar frequency or you have been silent for some time.

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Technically if you have the flight plan filed and you were above the airports airspace (not always 5,000 ft. but typically a good point to start looking at a chart) you don’t to talk to tower. Tower should be looking at your flight plan and know your altitude.

Any other freq has your flight plan as well. Therefore if your above the airports airspace then you should continue on your filed route and not have to worry about it.

This brings up a great point about ATC. Many times I file a flight plan and check-in with departure / center / approach. Once I check in they ask for intentions, the option on the ATC menu do not reflect any real world comm situation. But thats a topic for another thread.


So I should not check in when I enter the airspace that someone is controlling? Thank you all for answering the correct response question. Perhaps my new question should be a new thread, sorry. I don’t do any other forums other than this one. For instance if I see someone controlling an area on my flight path I’ll wait until I’m in range to select them and then I’ll check in. Basically I try to beat them from telling me “you’re in an active airspace, please contact XXX on XXX”.

I agree, and for lack of a better response I sometimes just don’t respond and continue on my flight plan. I figure it’s better to not clog up the comms than take a guess at responding, after all my flight plan shows my intentions. Then again not everyone files those so I can’t fault ATC.

No first contact should be your intentions. Yes we can see flight plans but if your contacting LAX departure headed to SAN you should state that your headed to SAN. And then once handed over to Center you can check in.


You should state your intentions to the controller. Real life controllers also hate the check in and would prefer a destination and your current altitude and heading as well as general location.

Such as a frequency change from another airport?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it depend on what type of ATC I’m communicating with (Tower, Approach, Center) where stating that I’m headed to a different airport is an option? For instance I don’t think that I can tell a tower controller that I’m on a flight plan to a different airport, but I can request an approach to that airport from center. Does that make sense?

Tower doesn’t have the check in message so if your going from departure to center once on center you can check in. I’ve created this guide to know how to interact with each one.


Yes your right only for certain frequency’s tower you just request departure to the N,S,E,W

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When you check in on a flight plan it would be “Rhody 01 checkin in at FL XXX” thats standard.

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Correct but they also have clearance deliver and a whole slew of other aid’s that we just don’t have.

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If you contact approach and check in then imediatley ask for an approach it kinda defeats the purpose of checking in right? Also approach controllers can’t give you any kind of approach without you stating your intentions first the check in doesn’t cut it

My understanding was always that “check in” was to announce your presence to the controller. I may have been misusing this command the whole time. So if KSAN tower asks me to contact them while I’m en route to MMTJ I can just request departure? Or do I request transition?

Yea…defeats the point. ATC is a work in progress. I’m saying that tower shouldn’t be contacting you if you’re above their airspace and the other freqs should just check the flight plan before they ask for intentions. It’s an imperfect system that is definitely working / changing for the better.

I think we are agreeing in a circle haha