Flight following departing Class C airspace

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Flight following departing Class C airspace

Postby ftrdoc » Thu Dec 10, 2020 9:56 am

Is it correct that on leaving a Class C airspace you are automatically assigned flight following unless you specifically request not to have it on your initial contact ?

On a recent flight out of KSBA to KSMX I contacted Clearance Delivery giving them required info including VFR destination. I specifically did not ask for flight following. After Departure acknowledged radar contact and cleared own nav and VFR altitude, I heard no more and departed outer ring of the Class C on course to SMX. 8 miles south of SMX I called tower on their freq and was told by SBA Departure that I didn’t properly terminate flight following. I responded that I didn’t ask for FF and they said it comes automatically out of a Class C unless you specifically turn down radar services on initial contact. Have tried unsuccessfully to look it up in regs. I’m a little embarrassed cause as a pilot IRL I was not aware of that rule.

BTW, have been using PE for several months and couldn’t be happier with service and experience. Terrific program.
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Re: Flight following departing Class C airspace

Postby Kyle.Sanders » Thu Dec 10, 2020 10:59 am

Obviously I can’t be for certain because I didn’t listen to the recordings, nor was I there but based on what you have said...

In Class C airspace, you are automatically provided RADAR Services. They will usually terminate you at a certain distance away from the primary field if you didn’t ask for Flight Following. This certain distance is called “the outer area” and in keeping with the way FAA creates legal documents, the definition ends there lol
-Reference the 7110.65 7-8 Class C Service

Seeing how you told the clearance delivery controller your destination airport, they likely assumed you wanted flight following to it. Thinking about it, if you don’t want flight following to your destination airport, why would ATC need to know that? A “VFR Departure to the north east” kind of call is all that is needed if you don’t want FF.

The AIM is not regulatory but really ought to be followed when able.
AIM 4-1-15 b.2: “When receiving VFR radar advisory service, pilots should monitor the assigned frequency at all times... (other stuff here)... When advisory service is no longer desired, advise the controller before changing frequencies and then change your transponder code to 1200, if applicable.”
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Re: Flight following departing Class C airspace

Postby Keith Smith » Thu Dec 10, 2020 12:09 pm

A quick rule of thumb, if you're on a discrete beacon code, then don't change frequencies unless instructed (certainly request it if you like).

As Kyle pointed out, ATC will provide radar service between the primary airport in a Class C and the edge of the Outer Area, which is an uncharted (but very real) 20nm radius around the primary airport within Class C airspace.

That is why you received the radar service. It wasn't because of your destination. However, if you've stated a destination, it can often be construed by ATC as a flight following request (otherwise...why say the destination? I'd suggest only giving a direction of flight if you don't intend to keep the radar service beyond the Outer Area).

Now, if you absolutely want to be dropped ASAP, then the magic words are "NEGATIVE RADAR SERVICE."

This will generally result in you staying with the tower, with an altitude restriction that will keep you BELOW the outer shelf of the Class C (do NOT confuse this with the Outer Area, which is a 20nm radius, well beyond the published Class C shelves, extending well into Class E airspace). Once you hit the edge of the inner core, tower will then drop you and have you squawk VFR, freq change approved.

Hope this helps. And yes, it's poorly taught by most CFI's, near as I can tell, which means that unless private pilot students do a deep(ish) dive on Class C airspace/services, these nuances will be lost without some reinforcement during training. It all gets VERY muddy, and you WILL have mixed results if you state a destination when leaving a Class C without explicitly stating whether you want FF. My suggestion, then, and to be clear, this applies to IRL just as much as here, is to EITHER state a destination with intended cruise altitude and a request for FF, OR you state a direction of flight and specifically say negative FF. That way, there is absolutely no ambiguity.

Per the SBA ATIS on our system...

Since a destination is traditional when receiving FF, that would take care of the on course heading part. However, if you're not requesting FF, as you can see, there's no stated requirement in the ATIS to specify your destination...it actually muddies the water quite as half of the pilot population tends to think that specifying the destination is a proxy for requesting FF, whereas the other half think it's just a proxy for the direction of flight.

Also, be prepared, some socal sectors are so small, and so close to other Class C's that the SOP for the tracon is to drop VFR aircraft by default at the edge of the Class C, prior to the outer area, unless they have actually requested FF. For that reason, if you're not receiving FF, and you're flying within Socal tracon, don't be shocked if they drop you sooner than the Outer Area boundary.
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Re: Flight following departing Class C airspace

Postby ftrdoc » Thu Dec 10, 2020 1:43 pm

Thx guys for your help. So glad I posted this rather than just muddle along. I just learned a ton. This is why PE is so good. As usual Keith very practical explanation of an issue that was not clear to me. Your suggestions are solid and will be incorporated both on PE and IRL.
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