|The following stories from the Oct. 5, 2012, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online|
Treating transponder transgressions
Your trainer’s transponder responds to “interrogations” from air traffic control radar, providing you with capability to use flight following and other services. When equipped with Mode C altitude-encoding capability, the transponder lets you request access to busy Class C or Class B airspace. (Transponder requirements are discussed in the Air Safety Institute’s Know Before You Go online course.)
Transponder operation is simplicity itself: You enter the assigned code and wait to hear the magic words, “Radar contact,” from ATC. Or enter the VFR code (1200) if you will not be in radio contact with ATC during a flight.
Simple—but there’s a right way and a wrong way to operate your transponder. Details matter, and proper technique helps keep the traffic in your airspace flowing smoothly.
An important but sometimes overlooked detail is when to turn your transponder to the on or normal altitude reporting position, and guidance on that subject has been the subject of a recent update. Although it was widespread practice in the past to taxi with a transponder set to standby because it was asserted that a taxiing aircraft merely cluttered radar, that approach to transponder use has changed. Section 4-1-20 of the Aeronautical Information Manual was amended earlier this year, and now instructs pilots to turn their transponders on “prior to moving on the airport surface to ensure the aircraft is visible to ATC surveillance systems.”
Sometimes during a flight, ATC may change your assigned code. It isn’t necessary to switch to standby mode while making the change. An air traffic controller explains what is seen at the radar scope as you change codes in this Air Safety Institute Ask ATC video.
In a pinch, your transponder can serve as a back-up form of two-way communications. This Flight Training “Learning Experience” column relates how a pilot who could receive but not send radio transmissions was able to comply with ATC instructions using the ident feature of a transponder—after squawking code 7600 to inform ATC of the predicament.
A related tip is to refrain from using the ident feature unless instructed to do so. Proper ident etiquette is an important element of eradicating transponder transgressions!
2012 Sporty’s crystal holiday ornament
When Sporty’s unveils its annual crystal Christmas ornament, you know the holidays are not too far away. This year’s edition celebrates the seventy-fifth anniversary of Piper Aircraft, with the iconic Piper J-3 Cub. The ornament is priced at $24.95; an ornament display stand is $5.99. Order online or call 800/776-7897.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: I’m having a slight difference of opinion with a friend on when to report “procedure turn inbound” and wonder if you could clear up this matter.
Answer: The Pilot/Controller Glossary in the Aeronautical Information Manual defines procedure turn inbound as, “That point of a procedure turn maneuver where course reversal has been completed and an aircraft is established inbound on the intermediate approach segment or final approach course. A report of ‘procedure turn inbound’ is normally used by ATC as a position report for separation purposes.” Using this definition, you should report procedure turn inbound once you are established on the inbound course.
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.