Worrying ATC

On a low altitude flight in the UK today I was asked to ascend to 21000 feet. This is concerning for two reasons:-

  1. I was in a C172, an aircraft not capable of flying at that altitude.
  2. It is several thousand feet higher than the 18,000 foot ceiling that low altitude flight should take.

I wouldn’t get too worried it’s just a game…

All jokes aside, default ATC is useless.


Yeah I could have wondered it better. I wouldn’t say it was useless, it can be ok for default which is never brilliant, I have not encountered the 21,000 foot issue until today though. Just wondering really if anybody else that flies GA in IFR and uses default ATC has been asked to climb to such an unrealistic altitude before this weeks update.


Well it seems other have had this issue since 2020, the advice is to ignore stupid altitude requests and just assume that ATC is drunk, lol.


How did you create your flight plan? In your flight plan, what is your cruising altitude in your flight plan? I’m guessing it is 21,000 ft or higher. Change your cruising altitude to something less that 14,000 ft and ATC mostly will be very cooperative.

The cruising altitude in your flight plan tells ATC your maximum altittude. That is, if you create a flight plan using a cruising altitude of 6,000 ft, ATC will not assign you a higher altitude except for waypoint crossing altitudes. For example, if one of the waypoints in your flight plan has a crossing altitude of 18,000 ft, your C172 is not capable of flying that high. ATC will instruct you to climb to 18,000 ft even though your cruising altitude is lower. The only way to fix this is to remove that waypoint from your flight plan.


this. I made the same mistake few times from being lazy and not looking to the navlog in the flight plan before launching the flight


To be honest I expected the sim to set the cruising altitude to 18,000 feet or less anyway since I selected low altitude in the plan, 21000 feet is odd because its way over what is the maximum altitude in the USA and UK. But thanks anyway guys. I will check that next time and not make that error again. I stupidly assumed that when ATC was created the developers realised that knowledge of an aircrafts capabilities was something real ATC people have and would have factored that into the code. Wishful thinking I suppose, its obviously a very dumbed down system.

Yup. And it works for the most part… for what it does. So, if you understand how to work with it, it can be less annoying than if you go in expecting something much deeper than it really is.

MSFS vanilla is a bunch of systems streamlined for use with an Xbox controller.

So much of the vanilla game is functional but not deep. And the whole 3rd party economy exists to build upon and deepen these existing systems.

If this is happening to you, please add supporting evidence (screenshots) to the bug report for this:


When you create a flight plan in the world map, make sure you open the NavLog button under the Flight conditions. This will tell you the cruising altitude for the whole flight along with the altitudes for each waypoint.

Just make sure you set the cruising altitude with the one you want if you disagree with the default altitude assignment, and hover your mouse over each waypoint in the graph to make sure you’re capable of flying the whole flight.

Once you’re happy with it, you can start your flight and the ATC will follow that flight plan to the letter. If you also assign SIDs and STARs and the Approach into the flight plan directly, the ATC will follow them for you as well, even if the conditions might be different that they apply different approach and runways to the AI.


Did you select ‘High altitude IFR’ when planning your route? Shouldn’t do that in a 172 :wink:

No I selected the low altitude option, this is why I cannot fathom why ATC requested 21,000 feet, its as if there is no fixed 18,000 foot max altitude set. Its very odd.

Thanks. I do check the navlog before I fly, there weas no obvious huge difference in altitude between cruise and departure and arrival waypoints so its really odd. I will check it more carefully today and moving forward.

And N316TS, 13 votes in a year, what chance do we really stand of getting things like this looked at with this glorified popularity contest way of dealing with issues? Its hopeless, like wishing on a star. I detest this voting system, its stacked against some of us in some ways. The only saving grace is that despite this poor vote result, in the recent thread for 5 things we want fixed or implemented, ATC kept coming up so maybe it will garner some attention.

One thing to remember also is that if you make any changes to the flight plan through the Flight computer (changing SIDs, changing STAR, selecting approach) at any stage of the flight, it would reset the entire flight plan and would also reset the way ATC handles you. So even if you have the flight plan set up at 15,000 ft on the world map. Then when you start the flight and you decided that you want to apply the Approach through the flight computer, it would reset the entire flight plan and could assign you a new flight plan with 32,000 ft cruising altitude without you knowing.

So the best practice is to create the IFR flight plan from the world map as complete as possible, including the SIDs, STARs, and Approach. And once you start the flight, you have to commit to it, and don’t make any changes to them. That should keep the ATC to follow whatever flight plan you have created.

Well, that’s democracy isn’t it? These voting system is geared towards having an idea on how many people are experiencing the issue. Having hundreds up to thousands of votes give the developers a sense of urgency on how many are being impacted. If we only have 13 votes, then technically it’s only 13 people having the issue and the rest of the 99.99% of players are considered to not experience the same issue.

Developers don’t do free work out of the goodness of their hearts. Everything they do, whether it is fixing bugs, improving QoL or introducing new features, all have costs associated with it. Their efforts needs to be concentrated on things that have great impacts throughout the entire playerbase. So issues with the most votes will get addressed as a higher priority because those efforts will impact the huge amount of players having the issue.

It’s difficult to justify spending 1000 hours worth of money and work only to fix a problem that only 13 people voted on. It would be easier to justify to spend 100 hours on issues that 300 people are having.

It is what it is…


Thanks for the tips.

I think the default cruising altitude was 36,000 ft but that was changed a few updates ago.

IRL and in SimBrief, the pilot specifies the type of aircraft. I haven’t checked SimBrief completely but aircraft designation might be for calculating fuel, passenger, and cargo weights.

Asobo is challenged by creating ONE ATC system for the entire world. I’m not making excuses for Asobo, just trying to explain what MSFS is doing. IRL there are MANY different ATCs throughout the world. They use ICAO regulations. In the US, ATC uses FAA regulations. Eventually the FAA and ICAO regulations will be merged. There are even different flight plan formats! So Asobo has to do their own “merging” of ATC systems into one for MSFS. In a sense, it is “dumbed down”. It has to be without writing a lot of additional code.

The difference between high and low altitudes are what is on the charts. In the US, low altitude charts use Victor airways and high altitude uses Jet airways. There are fewer airports on the high altitude charts. The airways have different altitudes. The differences between the high and low charts are for planning purposes, not regulatory. For example, a flight plan for a B747 can be created using low altitude charts and a cruising altitude of 6,000 ft. Of course this is impractical fuel-wise. But it is legal and can be flown in MSFS cross country.

The 18,000 ft “restriction” is for VFR aircraft (IRL). In MSFS VFR aircraft can fly above 18,000 ft. In the US it is also the transition altitude from local barometric pressure to standard.

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I just ignore ATC and fly according to my flight plan.


I see, ok thanks for the info. All useful knowledge.

I comply with the request and then immediately ask for a lower altitude reducing first by the largest change that gets me close to my desired altitude and then a smaller decrease if the first didn’t do the job.