They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I’m about to prove that statement wrong. You’ll be my witness, and I’m sure you’ll also be the person who answers the stupid question with an informed reply. I should also mention this stupid question is a loaded one. Here goes. . .
If you had a choice between freedom to do as you please or doing as directed by a government agency, which would you choose?
Stupid question, right?
Before you answer, let me get to the loaded part of the question. In a previous article, I said there is absolutely no requirement to use Flight Following, or what the government calls Basic Radio Service for VFR Aircraft. (Sorry, no acronym for that one.) So why, oh why, would you want to invite the F.A.A. into your cockpit when you are perfectly legal to aviate through uncontrolled airspace without the help of the feds?
No iPod for You!
The second you link up with air traffic control, even when V.F. and R, you inherit a couple of obligations. ATC gives you a transponder code to squawk, and you must report altitude changes to the controller. You also have to listen to the controller. You don’t necessarily have to take direction from him, because all his radio calls to you are advisory only. But you do have to listen, so no turning down the VHF volume in order to better hear music on your iPod.
That’s the cost of linking up with air traffic control on a Visual Flight Rules jaunt. What do you get in return? You get traffic advisories primarily. Yes, there are other bennies, but the big deal is having ATC call out potential traffic conflicts.
Which brings us to the loaded part of the question:
- How good are you at picking out fast-moving aircraft overtaking you from your four-o’clock to eight-o’clock position?
- How good are you at spotting traffic climbing to and crossing your flight path from underneath your aircraft?
- If you fly a high-winged aircraft, how good are you at seeing aircraft “above” the wing as you make a prolonged turn?
- If you fly a low-winged aircraft, how good are you at seeing traffic “below” the wing as you make a prolonged turn?
Now, please reconsider my stupid loaded question. What do you say?
Next time, we’ll examine a typical Flight Following conversation between pilot and ATC.