February 15, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA is notifying glider pilots and other members that the FAA has changed the VFR transponder code for gliders, effective March 7. Use of the new code, 1202, is intended to help air traffic controllers differentiate gliders, with their unique maneuvering capabilities and limitations, from other VFR aircraft.
The FAA has issued a notice providing that as of March 7 gliders not in contact with an air traffic control facility should squawk 1202 in lieu of 1200 or 1201, helping controllers identify participating gliders. Use of the code is encouraged but not required.
“Gliders operate under some flight and maneuvering limitations,” the notice sent to air traffic facilities said. “They may go from essentially stationary targets while climbing and thermaling to moving targets very quickly. They can be expected to make radical changes in flight direction to find lift and cannot hold altitude in a response to an ATC request. Gliders may congregate together for short periods of time to climb together in thermals and may cruise together in loose formations while traveling between thermals.”
The FAA said that the need for a national beacon code for gliders operating VFR and not in contact with ATC was highlighted by “an accident, many incidents, and a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation.” Several codes had been considered in the past, but conflicted with other operations.
The glider community has long advocated for the availability of this code.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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