Indeed, it's easier to use the more you fiddle with it!
It surprised me when i first started listening to BUF that I heard the IAG guys and didn't see their freq. on the list.
The way we work it in the BUF area when we want to do IFR training in the area is we ask for a "local IFR clearance." This way, we don't have to file on the ground. It's like getting a dirty clearance in the air. If you file on the ground, your flight plan has to go through the ARTCC (Cleveland, in this case) and they approve a route and give you a squawk. However, since we weren't going to leave the BUF TRACON area, they gave us a local squawk.
The way the "local squawk" works out is that each facility is alloted a bunch of numbers to give aircraft that will just be flying in the TRACONs area, only. For example, BUF is 04XX. If you're going to just stay in the BUF TRACON area (or you are inbound to land at BUF from within the area but wasn't talking to approach), they'll tell you to squawk 0443 or 0451, for example.
ASking for a local IFR clearance, we do not have to go through the ARTCC and they assign a local squawk instead of having the center assign one (therefore, we can't leave the BUF TRACON without getting a squawk from BUF that will put us into the NAS or some serious coordinaiton).
i believe that the gentleman working us was confused and didn't understand what we wanted. On a flight plan sheet, it asks for souls aboard and fuel endurance. I've never had them ask me that when i asked for a local IFR clearance. I was thinking he thought we were declaring an emergency (go back and listen, he asks if we want to be cleared back to AKron). However, i realized that he was asking us something that we routinely give out on a flight plan form.
So, in short, after my very long answer, he was just attaining information about our flight that he would normally have if we were to file on the ground. After thinking about it, he was helping us (in two ways), giving us the clearance and asking us that information because if we were to go down, they'd now know to look for 2 people instead of one.
One thing i do not know is why he asked us if our airplane was IFR cert. and that the PIC was IFR cert. as well...any thoughts.