Author Topic: FAR 91.159 and flight following  (Read 13670 times)

Offline HappyBird

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FAR 91.159 and flight following
« on: August 18, 2014, 08:18:27 AM »
I'm hoping a controller here can settle a little debate I've been having with a friend of mine. He contends that when a pilot is receiving flight following, he/she is free to fly without regard to the standard VFR cruising altitudes. My reading of the regulation is that unless specifically authorized by ATC, the east-odd/west-even rule still applies for VFR flights. And I'm assuming that authorization does not include silence on ATC's part when a pilot is inadvertently flying at the wrong altitude. Thanks for any guidance!



Offline martyj19

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2014, 11:03:38 AM »
The text "shall maintain" and "unless otherwise authorized by ATC" are very clear and would lead to the conclusion that your friend is not correct.

To get a definitive answer I think you would need to have the FAA issue a ruling or maybe an experienced aviation attorney who has dealt with that specific issue.

I have been assigned non VFR altitudes while in B/C airspace so it does happen.  I have also heard controllers ask other aircraft to get on the correct altitude for direction of flight.

Offline Brad G.

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2014, 11:44:52 AM »
I agree with marty's conclusion; the .65 rarely leaves anything to chance or "implicit" understanding. It's very verbose when it comes to carefully crafting phraseology for controllers. For example, there's a (considerable) difference between some action being "approved" versus you being "cleared" to do it.

Thus, without explicit clearance to deviate from 14 CFR 91.159, the east/west plus 500 rule for cruising applies.

I have been assigned non VFR altitudes while in B/C airspace so it does happen.
Do you mean things like "maintain VFR at or below 2,400 until advised" (e.g. KSNA), or hard altitudes like "maintain VFR at 2000" ?

Either way, circling back to my point above, there are provisions in the .65 for advising a pilot to return to the VFR cruising altitude reg above (7-8-5. ALTITUDE ASSIGNMENTS):

Quote
7-8-5. ALTITUDE ASSIGNMENTS

...

b. Aircraft assigned altitudes which are contrary to 14 CFR Section 91.159 must be advised to resume altitudes appropriate for the direction of flight when the altitude is no longer needed for separation, when leaving the outer area, or when terminating Class C service.

PHRASEOLOGY-
RESUME APPROPRIATE VFR ALTITUDES.

(The same is restated in 7-9-7(c) for Class B airspace, too.)
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 11:47:22 AM by swa4678 »

Offline martyj19

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2014, 01:26:55 PM »
Do you mean things like "maintain VFR at or below 2,400 until advised" (e.g. KSNA), or hard altitudes like "maintain VFR at 2000" ?

One example: I was at 4500 transiting KMHT Class C and given "descend and maintain 4000" and much later "descend and maintain 2500 contact Nashua Tower".

Offline StuSEL

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2014, 03:07:16 PM »
When within Class B, Class C, or the Class C outer area, the type of service being provided by a radar controller is different than the flight following you receive outside of those classes of airspace. Inside the Class B, Class C, or Class C outer area, the controller is required to provide you a certain level of separation from other traffic dependent upon your weight classification. In doing so, the controller may legally assign you altitudes that do not comply with NEODD-SWEVEN/91.159.

Outside of a Class B, Class C, or the Class C outer area, controllers provide traffic advisories on a workload-permitting basis. They also have an order to prevent collisions between aircraft, so it would not be unheard of for a controller to "assign" or suggest a heading or altitude change to prevent a collision, if he or she believes one is imminent.

In no case while talking to ATC is a pilot permitted to violate the regulations of14 CFR. In the absence of an ATC-issued altitude assignment, pilots must comply with 91.159.
CFII

Offline hayek

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2014, 07:19:45 PM »
A few weeks ago, while getting VFR advisories from NORCAL, cruising at 7500 outside the C/D airspaces, I received this call: "N123, descend and maintain 7000, traffic converging from behind you at 7,500".  I took that as "authorization" from ATC to go to 7000 and did so. 

Offline spades

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2014, 11:46:14 PM »
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Offline svoynick

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2014, 03:57:24 AM »
A few weeks ago, while getting VFR advisories from NORCAL, cruising at 7500 outside the C/D airspaces, I received this call: "N123, descend and maintain 7000, traffic converging from behind you at 7,500".  I took that as "authorization" from ATC to go to 7000 and did so.  
I would think that goes beyond just an authorization, but is an "instruction", which requires compliance.  From the following FAA legal interpretation letter, http://goo.gl/omFVad

"A pilot flying VFR in Class E airspace, which is controlled airspace, is not required to communicate with ATC; however, if a pilot is communicating with ATC and ATC issues an instruction, the pilot must comply with that instruction."

My question:  what happened after this?  Did you eventually get some kind of a "resume..." instruction?  "Resume own navigation", or "resume appropriate VFR altitudes", as mentioned earlier, or what?  How did they eventually release you from this altitude assignment?
« Last Edit: September 15, 2014, 03:59:12 AM by svoynick »

Offline hayek

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Re: FAR 91.159 and flight following
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 01:16:13 PM »
Quote
My question:  what happened after this?  Did you eventually get some kind of a "resume..." instruction?  "Resume own navigation", or "resume appropriate VFR altitudes", as mentioned earlier, or what?  How did they eventually release you from this altitude assignment?

Turns out, I starting having altimeter issues around this time and decided to turn around to return to my departure field, so I advised ATC of my intentions and went to 6500 for the opposite direction leg.  Had I not done so, I would have expected "Resume own navigation, altitude restriction cancelled" or some such formulation.