In the commercial aviation industry, there are a plethora of aircraft that are constantly taking off, flying, and landing. At LAX alone, over 1,500 planes take off and land each day. Even with such great amounts of constant global traffic, the amount of collisions and accidents are extremely low. This efficiency and safety of so many aircraft is maintained with an aircraft transponder, and the air traffic controllers behind them.
As aircraft pass above radar stations on the ground, transponders will pick up radio-frequency interrogation transmissions and reply with a signal that identifies the aircraft. With this, air traffic controllers can identify who is flying and then give direction so that nearby aircraft are aware of others and stay a safe distance from each other. With advancing technology of transponders, aircraft are beginning to be able to detect other aircraft in the area themselves so that they can avoid dangers easier.
When communicating with air traffic controllers, the term “squawk” is used for assigning and selecting transponder codes. When a pilot is provided a squawk number, they can set their transponder to the code so that the air traffic controller can correctly assign their identity on their radar screen. When flying, aircraft often have codes that they can transpond alongside modes. 7700 and 7777 are both codes that can be sent to denote an aircraft that is in distress. 1200 is another important code that lets others know that they are piloting under Visual Flight Rules. Modes such as mode C can provide altitude information that is normally not given by primary radar. Another important mode is S mode in the transponder that allows for intercommunication between aircraft.
With transponders, aircraft and air traffic controllers can work together to provide for safe flying. With ample communication and tracking, pilots can be more aware of their surroundings, as well as avoid other nearby aircraft as each make their way to their destination.
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