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Just wondering if ATC can do this or not. I'd also appreciate input on whether it's useful or a good idea, and how it looks in the real world.

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  • $\begingroup$ We already have several questions on flight following that may (mostly) answer this: here, here, here, here $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jun 14 '18 at 2:11
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They can. I often pick it up here in the Northeast since the airspace is fairly busy. Generally speaking I was taught that flight following is always a good idea. It is a useful tool to you in the cockpit and can provide advisories of fast moving hard to see aircraft as well as those that may be approaching to overtake you. Generally it helps to improve your radio skills and may reduce your work load ultimately.

As for who to contact, that can change. I had this very question during my training (asked here) and you can find the answer here. If you are departing from a controlled field you can sometimes ask the tower to set it up which they may or may not do. The Airport Facility Directory will have an "approach" and/or "departure" frequency listed for most fields which is generally who you call. If you are in the wrong area they generally send you over to the right controller.

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  • $\begingroup$ Who do you contact to receive the service in class E? Does it depend on where you are? I'm assuming if the class E (or class E surface) is an extension of a class D airspace, you'd pick it up from the tower. And maybe if you're outside of a TRACON, you'd get it from a center controller? $\endgroup$ – slantalpha Jun 13 '18 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jeff0000 I have added a bit to cover that, comment if it does not answer the extension of the question. $\endgroup$ – Dave Jun 14 '18 at 1:11
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Yes, you can request VFR flight following in Class E airspace and 90% of the time you will be flying in Class E airspace. There’s nothing unusual or difficult about it; you simply request flight following and ATC will usually approve it unless traffic congestion, emergencies, etc consume all available ATC resources for this.

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  • $\begingroup$ Typically its the different Approaches that provide flight following, not Center, unless you are at higher altitudes. For example, east coast of MA, you will talk to Boston Approach most of the time. Once you climb higher, like above 5000 ft and start heading westward, they will then hand off to NY Center. And even, you might get handed back to Bradley Approach, Albany Approach, etc. if you are not up in NY Center's airspace. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Sep 12 '18 at 12:22
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Yes, as far as I know the entire US Airspace is covered by one center or another. It is the centers which provide flight following. For example on a recent flight from CYKZ ( Toronto Buttonville ) to KFRG (Farmingdale Republic on Long Island , NY), I asked CYKZ controller for flight following ( on the ground ) and she handed me off to Toronto Center. I again requested flight following and the request was granted. Toronto Center handed me off to Buffalo Center, then to Rochester center, Binghamton Center, Wilkes Barre Center, Boston Center, New York Center and finally to KFRG Tower. I believe if I didn't pick up flight following with Toronto, then I could have picked it up with any of the other centers mentioned above. In the JFK area I have picked up flight following with New York approach ( there are different frequencies depending upon whether you are going East or not). On a recent approach NY approach frequency was very busy and I ended up picking up flight following from Albany approach on my way to Montreal. These rules apply in US only. Canadian rules are different and I am still trying to figure them out.

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  • $\begingroup$ The real limit to flight following is radar coverage at lower altitudes. If Center can't pick you up on radar, they can't provide flight following. If you're getting flight following and you drop off the scope, you'll hear "radar contact lost, flight following terminated." $\endgroup$ – Gerry Jun 13 '18 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ *"It is the centers which provide flight following" This is incorrect, for example I can pick up flight following with my local airport and fly 60 or more miles under their radar services before they hand me off to center or another airport. Center does not always provide Flight Following services, just about any ATC radar area with a controller can do it. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jun 14 '18 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ ok. My airport - KFRG - is a class D airport and they do have radar coverage but they do not provide flight following as far as I know. OTOH I have always received my flight following from a center along the route. So maybe it is correct to say that all centers provide flight following and some other airports with radar may also provide flight following. $\endgroup$ – Prashant Saraswat Jun 14 '18 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ @PrashantSaraswat is correct. The local airport does not provide flight following. However, if the airport is in the coverage area of an approach control then they will hand you off to them. If there is no approach coverage then you are handed off to center. I fly out of KSBP and will get flight following on the ground. I get handed off to Santa Barbara approach and if I stay low I will be handed off to a bunch of different approach controllers all the way to southern California. If I fly north, I will get handed off to Oakland center and don”t get handed off to approach until in the Bay Area. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Sep 12 '18 at 14:32

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