Understanding Departure

When being switched from radar frequency to radar frequency, you can check in for the purpose of advising a radar controller that you are on their frequency after being switched by a previous radar controller.

It is important to note that once you check in with the latter frequency, the service from the previous controller will continue, however if you would like a different kind of service, you must request it.

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While this has been bounced back up, allow me to reiterate a point or two:

It’s perfectly fine for you to fly your flight plan without the input of departure via Radar Vectors. However, you still need to remain on the frequency while in the airspace, in case vectors become a necessity. (Plus, you should never switch from any frequency without express permission. This isn’t a special case.)

If you request Radar Vectors, there’s a possibility that you wil diverge for a moment from your intended direction, due to traffic flow or terrain. If you’re just going to ignore these vectors, don’t ask for them in the first place.

Finally, again, cruising altitudes vary based on the direction of travel. If you are flying east and request a westerly flight level, I’m going to give you a correct one for traveling east. You don’t need to re-request the incorrect one. I heard you just fine. Please learn the correct flight levels. (360-179: odd; 180-359: even)


What if I announce I am flying VFR, they then say roger proceed on course, and then start giving me radar vectors? Am I still obliged to follow the vectors even though they’ve already said proceed on course?

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It depends, are you actually flying VFR or is that just your way of saying I want to do what I want?

If you’re in a commercial airliner with a flight plan, you’re not flying VFR. If you’re FF, then traffic advisories are part of that. If you’re truly VFR in a GA with no flight plan, you shouldn’t receive vectors, but separation is on you and if you fail to maintain it, you’re responsible.

The main thing I see on departure is aircraft request flight following then think “weee, I can fly anywhere” and then head directly for the nearest collision. And, yes, they can vector you away.

I always say flying VFR with a flight plan. Not sure if that’s technically correct or the only option based on the limitations of the communication options.

IF doesn’t have something that exactly corellates to real world.

Checking in and saying nothing after is your best bet in IF. This means you want to follow your flight plan. Departure still will vector for moments if they need to but otherwise allow you on your way.

VFR has no flight plan. If you’re a commercial jet, and you have a flight plan, you’re not VFR.

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Great reminders and learn some new things. I saw some places where I can clean up my comms. Always appreciate hearing how us pilots and interact with ATC more efficiently.

how abt the dialogue in approach frequency?

If you are referring to vectors from approach, you just want to make sure that you set your heading and altitude to the set vectors that you received.

Also a side note, it’s always best to change your heading first then your altitude as when you are giving a new heading by ATC, it could be to avoid conflict with another aircraft.

All of the requests are the same, except you can add on requesting ILS/GPS or Visual to a specific runway, something you cannot do of departure. (Well, you can, but you’ll be told it’s outside of coverage area.)

I have seen some people say to start with Radar Vectors to the field, then when closer, switch to ILS/GPS/VIS. Don’t do that. Start with what you intend to finish. If you’re eventually going to want an ILS Approach, just start with that. The vectors won’t be any different from RV for the most part, so it’s entirely superfluous to begin with RV then switch, and it’s just plain annnoying.

Quick Rundown of Approach Requests:

Check In

Either remain with something already given by a previous controller or, baring any further requests, fly your flight plan to the field. (This only applies if you have an actual flight plan. If your flight plan is WPT-ICAO, expect to get vectors because that FP gives no indication of your intentions and often a straight shot to the tower is a terrible idea in relation to traffic avoidance.)

The former situation happens to me quite a bit when someone departs, then decides to turn around. On departure, I will give them the vectors or Approach they requested, give them a heading and altitude, then send them to Approach. When sent to Approach, a check in is all that is required. The heading and altitude still apply, and I don’t need a new request for the Approach, as I have it from the departure frequency.

This is inapplicable in IMC.

Flight Following

This applies only to IF, as in RWA, FF means something different. But, essentially it’s asking to fly your flight plan to the field. Again, in IF. If traffic allows, we can let you do this, but again the flight plan needs to be an actual plan.

We always reserve the right to vector you for traffic avoidance if you seem unwilling to do it yourself. If a pilot refuses to slow down or descend, I will also switch them over. Pilots in IF seem to think they can dive from 10100 feet to 3k in one nm, but they can’t, and the silly loops at the top of the cone after they realize this interfere with others, so if you want to stay FF, descend responsibly.

FF is inapplicable in IMC.

Radar Vectors

Approach will direct you to the field and generally set you up for a pattern entry or put you on a pattern leg then hand you off to tower. You call “inbound for landing,” not “inbound on the ILS” or “inbound on the visual.” Because you aren’t either of those last two.

RV is inapplicable in IMC.

ILS/GLS Approach

The difference between these is simply the type of approach for the runway. Some seem to think GPS is the same as visual. It is not. An ILS Approach has guaranteed terrain clearance, a GPS does not. Nothing changes with regard to how you are vectored, which is used is determined by whether the runway has an ILS (red cone) or GPS approach (white cone).

Approach will vector you to an intercept no more than 30 degrees off runway heading at an altitude below the glidescope. From there, you should remain on the Approach frequency until you have fully intercepted the localizer and are flying runway heading. Approach will then, and only then, hand you to tower. You will not be handed of, nor should you switch on your own, to tower before you have intercepted the correct localizer. There is no reason to request a frequency change before, during or after. Approach knows you need to go to tower and will do so when you’ve illustrated you’ve intercepted properly. A request is entirely superfluous. An unapproved early frequency change is never okay.

Note, in IF, we do not do straight in approaches. Many times, we may have you flying runway heading, but it will be abeam the localizer, not on it. You should not make adjustments to put yourself on the localizer. The offset is intentional. The intercept heading in these cases may be less than 30 degrees, 10 or 20 at times, depending on the offset distance.

When you have been actively vectored for an ILS/GPS Approach is the only time you should announce “inbound on the ILS/GPS” to tower.


Similar to RV, except you choose when Approach hands you off to tower. From that point, you make a visual approach to the runway as VFR traffic.

There are some common misconceptions about reporting airport in sight. You should not report until you have been asked. As soon as you report, you will receive clearance. Because of this, if you are not in a position to make the approach, the controller will hold off on requesting that you report. This is for a variety of reasons, but it’s intentional. So wait until asked. Airport in sight means that you can visually see the airport with your “eyes” from the cockpit. It does not mean you can see the dot on the map at 10k feet. A visual approach is the only time “airport in sight” should be used. It should not be used on any other approach type. It is also the only time you should report “inbound on the visual” to tower.

Visual is inapplicable in IMC.

Random notes:

Approach airspace is a 50 nm radius from surface to FL180.

If you call in at an extremely high altitude, do not be surprised with a hold. We have no way of knowing whether you’re going to descend at 1200 FPM or 3500. Better still, just don’t be insanely high at that point in the flight anyway. It’s only going to cause you a delay, so whatever GS benefits you think you’re getting will be lost to your wasted time losing altitude.

If you are put in a hold, do not keep checking in. You put yourself in that situation. When I have a slot available, you’ll get it. Again, this can be avoided by being at a responsible altitude to begin with. (Last flight I saw between LAX and SAN in RWA cruised at 13k. In IF, pilots want to fly this route at FL340. Why?)

Do not check in the moment your nose is a mm past the ILS cone. We know you’re there. The cone is a visual aid. It is not the beginning and end of the localizer.

Intercept speeds generally have to be given because many think 249 KIAS is appropriate. It isn’t. You should intercept in one turn, not by flying past and swinging back. Speed has a lot to do with this, especially if you’re turning with AP. You are never unable to fly an appropriate intercept speed, no matter the plane. You’re not landing at 250 KIAS, so you have to slow below it some time, may as well be while you’re making the most important turn of the flight.

Check in is for when you initially tune in, and then only. It is not a “hey, I’m still here” message. That is spam.

One more time for good measure: Approach will keep you until you have actually intercepted the correct localizer. There is no need for a change request, nor should you ever change on your own. You will be sent back.


This is one of the things which infuriates me the most about other pilots behind me during approach or ILS. They have to get everywhere as fast as possible within the speed restrictions without being aware of traffic in front of them travelling at a realistic/considerate speed. Slow down.

Another issue I have seen is that when there is “straight out departures only”, pilots like to engage their NAV as soon as they become airborne. I’ve seen them cross over other flight paths because they don’t realize that their NAV is not taking them “straight out”.

Tim’s addressed this many times. It’s the same issue, people wanting to be part of the community on the expert server but paying little to no attention to traffic around them.

This may sound boring to all the cockpit push button pilots but since you have NAV and other bells and whistles that were not around in IF’s infancy so to speak IMHO you should learn to fly as manually as possible once you get below about 4K as most IRL pilots do…that is the only way you learn what real aviating is and the thrill of it for for those of us who truly appreciate it albeit in this sim or not !

Right. Do not turn on your A/P as soon as you become airborne. I only turn the “Autopilot” on when I reach 10,000 AGL. You should fly it manually until you reach that level, with the exception of auto throttle.

Apparently something I failed to cover:

I’m not sure why pilots think departure is different than approach, but vectors are not optional on departure, either.

I have no idea why there is this idea that departure vectors are just for fun, but if you decide you’d rather switch off the freq, or stay on and ignore, and run into the plane you’re being vectored away from, don’t expect to make it to your destination.

And, one more time, departure airspace ends at FL180. Not 500 feet. Not after you hear “proceed on course.” Not at the end of the cone. Not when you just feel like switching off. FL180.


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