Simple Class D Departure Made Complicated

Departed VFR from KEGE this morning, with Denver Center controlling the airport (Class D). I call for taxi “VFR departure to the southwest”, and get asked my aircraft type, destination, and cruising altitude.

Aircraft type I can possibly understand, although I prefaced my callsign with Twin Cessna. What was the point of destination and altitude just to clear the Delta? Honestly, it wouldn’t have surprised me if I had been issued a discreet transponder code.

Is this just another case of Vatsim controllers being so geared towards IFR tubeliners? (Not you, Boston, you guys rock with VFR traffic.)

A lot of times ATC is so used to IFR that VFR is sometimes overlooked. If ATC knew you were VFR then maybe “Are you requesting flight following” should have been asked before all the other info.

Agreed. And as a matter of fact, after supplying the requested information, I said “negative flight following” just to make sure. That seemed to kickstart the VFR process in the controller.

I’m one of those Charlie/Delta tower controllers in ZBW (and pretty happy about your comment :).

I’d say, yes… controllers are generally geared toward IFR traffic, and for a couple of reasons. One is that the training is set up, understandably so, starting with DEL/GND, then TWR, APP, CTR. There’s a natural desire to move to the next level as soon as you can, so, IMO, there’s not a lot of time spent at a Delta or Charlie perfecting VFR operations. Also, the nature of the top-down environment… if you’re controlling a center position, you have an enormous amount to know about every airport below, and handling a VFR flight out of Delta amidst all the other aircraft is quite a feat, and takes many iterations to nail down.

A few suggestions:

First, file a flight plan even for VFR neg FF flights. Of course it’s not required, but it helps a higher up controller immensely. You can still make your calls to ATC as if you didn’t file it, and If they’re good about it, to maintain realism, they’ll still ask you for all that info, even if they’re just reading along with the flight plan you filed. But not having to key in a flight plan for you does take some stress away, and they can focus more on your particular request and the local airport.

Second, fly the flight again in the same session. Most controllers are learning just as much as the pilots are. So many times I’ve made a mistake and thought, “If I could just have that back so I could get it right”. Well… maybe go back and give the controller the same scenario; maybe they’ll do it better the second or even third time around. That repetition should help things stick, and everyone will be better for it.

And third, if you run into a controller who does a good job, note their name and then keep an eye out for them on their ARTCC’s ATC schedule (if they have one). You can also ask them via chat, or even on frequency (“Denver Center, Cessna 1234, Question when you have a moment”) and ask them when they expect to be on again. I know I’d feel more obligated to put up and stick to a schedule if I knew pilots were out there looking for me.


Excellent comments, Mark. Thanks for contributing!

Filing a VFR flight plan is something I usually do in this type of situation (for the reasons you stated), but didn’t on this particular flight. I’m glad to see it really can be helpful, particularly to a Center controller working top-down over a large area. I’ll try to make it part of my routine.

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I would say, based on my limited experience in SOCAL area, the best for us VFR guys is to find Approach / Departure coverage in this case. The Center Control usually have a huge area of operation with many class B - and at times quite busy airports - not to mention class C. The Approach / Departure usually work with me quite good and I am happy with that. Not as realistic as departing LAX when it is full stuffed but still a nice training I think.

As for the VFR flight plans it is a thing I will investigate in separate topic here at forum, because today one Controller mentioned to me, that they don’t see VFR flight plans. And before him I had numerous situations when I would say “as filed” and Controller would not see my plan. Sometimes it’s working still.