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Couple of questions

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If you have filed a flight plan and after taking off request flight following are you allowed to then leave the confines of the plan along the way and do some sight seeing or would you tell ATC to cancel flight following for a scenic fly about? How would that call sound?

Are VFR reporting points, those maroon flags on aviation maps, used by controllers so they can concentrate on passenger aircraft and only deal with you when you fly over the requested point and call it in? Are those repointing points used by large and small controlled airports or mostly by one type? I ask this because they would all have you on radar so why the reporting point or are these a thing of the past.

Appreciate any member knowledge.

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My knowledge is pretty dated, Brett, so take it with a  grain of salt.  A lot has probably changed.

For VFR flight plans, you are not bound to follow it.  You can file and then do what you want.  When you arrive, or at some time not too long after you were supposed to arrive, you must close your VFR flight plan.  In my day that was usually done by telephone to the Flight Service Station but could be done by radio if you were somewhere they had a frequency listed.  If you failed to do that, it would (slowly) move toward a search and rescue by Civil Air Patrol, but they did a lot of things first, i.e. checking with the destination airport, asking the FBO or the Sheriff department to walk the ramp and look for your N number, calling your home, etc.  Eventually, if those didn't pan out, CAP would get a call and your plan would give them some info about where to search for your remains, if they chose to.

I think flight following is simply for the controller to inform you of nearby traffic, workload permitting.  Not sure you even have to have a VFR flight plan active, but probably have to tell him what your intentions are at a minimum and he may impose some restrictions on you while you're in his domain.  If I remember correctly, he's under no obligation to provide you with anything but if he's too busy he would/should tell you that.

IFR flight plans, once activated are mandatory, unless or until you cancel or amend it.  Typically you file an hour or more before takeoff, sometimes the day prior.  Then you must "activate" the flight plan at or near the time of departure.  You MAY NOT get the actual route you filed for.  At the time of activation, the controller (typically Clearance Delivery at departure airport) will read you your plan route which may very well be different from what you filed.  The needs of ATC and the whims of the ATC computer take precedence over your desires.

Instrument flight plans at uncontrolled fields in IMC where there's no radio contact with ATC are activated by phone.  The controller will give you a 30 minute window in which to depart and check in with him while climbing out.  He'll keep other IFR traffic away during that window.  He can't do anything about VFR traffic, including scud runners, which he probably can't see anyway.  He can prevent other IFR departures and approaches during your window.  You own the airport (except for legal VFR traffic, in which case "see and avoid" is in force) for a half hour, but your clearance is invalid if you don't take off within the window.

Once airborne you follow the plan, usually handed off from controller to controller enroute.  There are options for amending your plan enroute, changing destination, going direct, skipping waypoints to cut a corner, going to your filed alternate, etc. but all of those are done with the prior concurrence of ATC.  

There is a caveat that in an emergency you can deviate if necessary but you should be talking to a controller about that too.  If you declare an emergency and deviate, even if approved, be prepared for an FAA paper storm upon arrival, including, probably, being met on the ramp by one or more FSDO people whose sense of humor has been surgically removed.

You also have the option to cancel an IFR flight plan in flight but legally you must be in VMC conditions to do that.  It's often done with the destination field in sight, particularly if it is an uncontrolled field, where cancelling would be a pain.

I have no experience with VFR reporting points - that all came along after I stopped RW flying.

It's a mistake to assume you are always on radar, unless he says "radar contact".  Coverage is not total, there are minimum altitudes for it, and dead spots and radar outages.  Not all towered fields have radar - my home field at Ocala is an example.  Instrument approaches are handled by Jacksonville Center, which has radar coverage but not down to pattern altitude.  You talk to him and he vectors you onto your chosen instrument approach until he eventually hands you off to the tower controller, who knows you are coming but does not have any radar.  You fly the approach per the approach plate and either land of go missed.  If the tower is open, he's the one you'll tell "missed approach" and he'll give you a vector and tell you to switch back to Jax Center.  If the tower is closed and you land, you're expected to let Jax Center know.  If the tower is closed and you go missed, you come back up on the Jax center frequency and you report to him.  He'll vector you for another shot at it or you can select another field.

That's about 110% of what I know.


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Thanks John, 

I just figured since a pilot requested flight following and they were following you using your transponder they might get worried if you all of a sudden made a deviation from your path and dipped down lower in a different direction. I know you can cancel flight following at any time and don't even need to give a reason but was really asking if you could stay in flight following while changing from your original voiced intentions of flight and how that controller conversation would go. Sometimes I like to make the calls in my head and try to figure out proper dialog.

I did find a bunch of stuff on reporting points so withdraw that question. Here is just one link for them, https://www.cfinotebook.net/notebook/aircraft-operations/enroute/reporting

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