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Freestyle flight


Joel Semmel
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Hi!  I've been reading the Pilot Resources for filing flight plans.  I want to confirm the following (true or false):

1- it is NOT mandatory to file a VFR flight

2 - if you want to "sightsee" then VFR is the better flight plan choice to file

3 - VFR flight plans can be modified during the flight  

Finally, I'd like to know if VATSIM follows real-life B and C airspace areas (upside down wedding cake) or is it more simplistic (surface to FL100 or FL180 for the entire area)

 

Thank you!

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VATSIM does follow real Class B & C airspace with layered shelves (upside down wedding cake). I fly VFR a lot and fly under the shelves. ATC will ask if you would like "Flight Following" which they will guide you through the protected airspace. You can always refuse their offer and fly around or stay under the shelves. 

VFR is the sight seeing way to go.

 

Edited by John Stockton
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N313GM, P0: XP11.55, Windows 10, Intel I7-5939K 3.5 GHZ, NVIDIA GTX980 4GB, 16GB DDR4 2400 RAM,

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1 - Depends on where you're flying. Some countries do mandate flight plans for VFR, either always or under certain circumstances. On VATSIM, filing a flight plan for VFR is generally recommended, even if it just says your departure airport, the same airport again for your destination, "VFR" for the route, and your further intentions ("sightseeing" or whatever) in the remarks.

2 - Yes, VFR is hands-down better for sightseeing. It allows you to change your flight on a whim (provided you don't bust an airspace, don't run out of fuel, and adhere to other regulations that may be in place), and since the whole point of sightseeing is seeing things on the ground, you will want to stay in VMC anyway, so there isn't really much to gain from flying IFR.

3 - All flight plans, VFR or IFR, can be amended in flight. This may initiated by ATC (e.g. because they want to route you onto a different arrival, or they want you on a different cruise altitude), but it may also be done at pilot's request (e.g., you may want to divert for weather, or simply change your mind); however, under VFR, you can, in principle, change your intentions without amending the flight plan in most cases, because unlike IFR, you are not committed to a particular route.

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11 hours ago, John Stockton said:

ATC will ask if you would like "Flight Following"

I think that "flight following" is US phraseology. Other jurisdictions have different services, eg. the UK has a variety of air traffic services to assist flight outside controlled airspace.

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Alistair Thomson

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Definition: a gentleman is a flying instructor in a Piper Cherokee who can change tanks without getting his face slapped.

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Thank you everyone.  This has cleared up some confusion for myself.  

Regarding VFR flights, is it the pilot's responsibility to contact ATC when they want to enter B,C,D airspace or will ATC contact the pilot by PRIVATE MSG?

If the pilot feels they are under the shelf of an airspace but ATC insists they need to be contacted, would it be proper etiquette to comply with ATC and notify a supervisor of the claim at a later time? 

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It is ALWAYS the pilots responcibility to contact ATC before entering B,C and D airspace. But usually ATC will also send a "contact me" when he/she feels the need. If atc asks me to contact him even if I'm flying vfr below the shelf, I would contact ATC, if he asks, to clearify things with him. Supervisor should not be needed - that would be taking things to a level, which shouldn't be needed in the above scenario. Working WITH atc and WITH the pilots is always the better choice, in my opinion.

 

Edited by Torben Andersen
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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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20 hours ago, Joel Semmel said:

Regarding VFR flights, is it the pilot's responsibility to contact ATC when they want to enter B,C,D airspace or will ATC contact the pilot by PRIVATE MSG?

Fundamentally the pilot's responsibility. Controlled airspace usually requires clearance, or at least two-way comms, before you are allowed to enter, and making sure of it is on you. If you fly into a Bravo without being cleared to, you have busted the airspace. Often ATC will contact you (by private message, or, more commonly, by sending you a "contact-me", when they believe that you are about to enter their airspace, or even just to reach out and let you know that they are there. (This, btw., is no different between VFR and IFR - they will do the same thing if you're IFR and about to enter their airspace).

 

20 hours ago, Joel Semmel said:

If the pilot feels they are under the shelf of an airspace but ATC insists they need to be contacted, would it be proper etiquette to comply with ATC and notify a supervisor of the claim at a later time? 

Ideally, you shouldn't "feel" that you're below the shelf, you should know. ATC can see you on their scopes though, and they usually have a better picture of where you are relative to their airspace, so if they call you up and tell you that you need to contact them, then the first thing I would do is do so. As Torben said, there's no need to contact a supervisor - just call them up, state your intentions, and the two of you should be able to figure it out.

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Mistakes happen, though, and sometimes particularly a less experienced APP controller might insist on contact with a VFR target below their airspace floor.  As suggested, the best course is to comply with the contact request but ask them whether you're reading the sectional correctly indicating you're below their airspace.  If you disagree with the result of the conversation, feedback on the facility's website is usually the way to go.

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Cheers,

-R.

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