When you're departing from an airport within controlled airspace, when should you contact ATC? This is when the airport you were departing from is non-towered.

Scenario: I am departing a non-towered airport in class Charlie airspace. I need to request VFR flight following to another airport. When do I contact ATC?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you can't contact them on the ground, as soon as practicable after take-off. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ Be sure to contact them though, this is not optional... You are flying in Class C airspace which requires you to maintain two-way radio communication (§91.130(c), check it out in Ron Beyers answer). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ This is another one of those questions where I would be interested to know exactly how many uncontrolled fields underly Class C, and which don't have an RCO. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ More than likely, the best answer is going to be talk to other people at the airport and find out what they do. There is probably an RCO or the telephone number to the tower is posted in the FBO. Of course, if you don't do that, you are 100% allowed to take off and establish contact "as soon as practicable", and the tower is also allowed to tell you to exit the class charlie to the south and remain clear. In the real world, I'm betting that there is a charted exclusion for the satellite airport in question. $\endgroup$
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


This is spelled out clearly in CFR 91.130:

(c) Communications. Each person operating an aircraft in Class C airspace must meet the following two-way radio communications requirements:

(1) Arrival or through flight. Each person must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility (including foreign ATC in the case of foreign airspace designated in the United States) providing air traffic services prior to entering that airspace and thereafter maintain those communications while within that airspace.

(2) Departing flight. Each person—

      (i) From the primary airport or satellite airport with an operating control tower must establish and maintain two-way radio communications with the control tower, and thereafter as instructed by ATC while operating in the Class C airspace area; or

      (ii) From a satellite airport without an operating control tower, must establish and maintain two-way radio communications with the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the Class C airspace area as soon as practicable after departing.

You can try contacting them while on the ground, but if you can't raise them, you have to do it as soon as you can after take-off.


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