When no controllers are online in your region, but they are in the adjacent region

Hi! I’m gearing up for my first vatsim flight, so doing some learning right now.

My example dilemma: I want to fly KHIO KRDD IFR in a HondaJet @ FL310. Vancouver center is online, and Oakland center is online. The only controllers online in between those sections is Ground and Tower at KPDX.

My questions: Am I supposed to talk to any of those controllers for the flight? Do I get clearance from any of them? Where do I get a squawk code? Or do I just set my xpndr to 1200 auto and monitor CTAF all the way?

Thanks for helping me learn so that I can come prepared for my first flight!

My apologies; the 2 centers that are online are Vancouver and Los Angeles, not oakland. (Seattle and Oakland centers would cover my flight.)

If there’s no ATC covering your area, you won’t talk to any ATC. You’ll self-announce on the CTAF freqs at your arrival and departure airports, and monitor 122.80 enroute. When do you switch between 122.80 and local CTAF? No one knows, so you get to make that bit up as you go.

You’re probably already familiar, but if not, familiarize yourself with Vatsim 's “top down” philosophy for ATC; there are some differences from real life as far as which ATC positions may provide which services. For instance, if your local center is online and you’re departing a class D airport which has no Vatsim controller online, the center controller will ordinarily act as tower for you also.

So basically, if there’s a controller working any airspace either at your level or above you, you’ll talk to them on Vatsim. But if you’re outside the lateral boundaries of their airspace (ie, not inside LA center’s airspace boundaries) you don’t talk to them.

“But if you’re outside the lateral boundaries of their airspace (ie, not inside LA center’s airspace boundaries) you don’t talk to them.”

Thanks! That’s what i was wondering.

I found the vatsim discord and asked there too, and they said the same…but also told me about AUTO-ATC giving out a sqawk code, which I’d not encountered yet because I’ve only ever connected as an observer. Tried it, it works!

Getting closer to my first flight, with your help.


Generally, CTAF should be used within 10 nautical miles of an airport and below 5,000 ft. For larger airports such as Class Bravo airports, 20 nautical miles and 10,000 ft should be used due to increased traffic and airport complexity. This is only a general guideline and not a rule.

Ref: https://my.vatsim.net/learn/frequently-asked-questions/section/140/page/82

Only a guideline, because there are many instances where it will not work to allow deconfliction comms among aircraft that are on the same airway or STAR but are going to different airports (therefore, different freqs.). When everyone was always on the same freq, that worked fine.

Now, when you run into one of these scenarios, you can try talking to them on your CTAF, or 122.80, but if they’ve already switched to theirs you won’t know what it is.

So when is the right time to switch to a discreet freq vs a common one? The answer is, it’s different for every single combination of routing and traffic pairing. In other words… No one knows. :wink:

Glad you were able to get some good info on your Vatsim questions! The Discord server can definitely help explain things further too.