Episode 12: Flying into Cairns and flight following

Flight following is a service that helps pilots with their situational awareness and is useful when you are not familiar with the airspace.

This service has helped many pilots avoid collisions with other aircraft. It is also helpful for when you need to know your exact location or heading in unfamiliar territory.

Flight following is available on request but always subject to how busy the air traffic control staff are.

Using flight following

During our flight into Cairns in the Airvan, our pilot Dan requested a flight following service. Dan was unfamiliar with the area and thought the best way to fly in safely into Cairns using the service.

Our radar has limited coverage, it's all line of sight, so the terrain plays a big part here in Cairns… We're relying on you and your knowledge and your skill to keep yourself in the western VFR corridor.

Alan Faggotter from Cairns Air Traffic Control

Flight following is a VFR service offered by Airservices Australia. Airservices suggests using flight following when navigating around controlled or restricted airspace. Even if you are familiar with the area, it's a great way to see your location.

When operating on flight following you will receive:

  • traffic information
  • position information (on request)
  • navigation assistance (on request)
  • SAR alerting.

To request flight following you must be always in direct VHF communications with ATC.

You must remain within surveillance system coverage and either have a:

  • serviceable SSR transponder
  • ADS-B transmitter.

While receiving flight following you must:

  • maintain a continuous listening watch with ATC
  • advise when you are leaving the frequency - such as when changing to a CTA
  • tell ATC prior to changing track or level.

Just remember that a controller can end your service at any stage. The controller will generally let you know.

Published date: 18 October 2022
Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//resources-and-education/education-and-training/out-n-back/episode-12-flying-cairns-and-flight-following
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