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So squawk codes are given to an aircraft prior to departure. We know that if the pilot inputs the wrong code, the data will not show up. So are squawk codes linked via computer to the aircraft’s flight data, so once the pilot inputs the correct code the data will show up? Also, what is the process of requesting a code change? Does atc have to re link the new code?

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In the , the squawk code is the (primary) method of correlating a radar target with useful information such as the aircraft identifier, its destination and route, its requested altitude, etc, etc. It is possible for a controller to manually associate a radar track with a given flight, but this requires extra work and may cause issues with automated data transfer to other facilities. (Note that, unlike in Europe, the ADS-B-entered "flight ID" is not used for identifying a target; only the traditional Mode A squawk code is used.)

In other words, yes! The squawk code is "linked" with the rest of the information that stored in the flight data computer.

It is possible for ATC to manually assign a specific discrete squawk code to a flight, but the problem is that there is no immediate conflict warning if that code is already assigned to a different flight. So, almost without exception, we simply let the computer assign the code.

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When an IFR flight plan is filed, the ATC computers have all the relevant flight information such as type of aircraft, destination, and suggested routing.

When the flight plan is opened, an available squawk code in the sector where the flight is located is assigned. At that point the pilot would be expected to set the code in the transponder.

If that code is seen by the ATC radar, then the display will be able to find the filed and open flight plan and can display data from that plan. If a different code is seen (perhaps because the transponder was mis-set), then the intended information won't be found.

what is the process of requesting a code change?

As the transponder code is just a (seemingly random) set of four digits, I'm not sure why a pilot would want a code change. Can you give more information on what scenario might arise to ask for such a change?

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info! I’ve seen videos were pilots have requested a code change due to superstitious reasons. For example, a squawk code of 4666. $\endgroup$
    – Boeing787
    Aug 19, 2023 at 0:38

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