If you were to put code 7500 into your transponder in a small general aviation aircraft, and you were in a rural area with no one around, and you did not have enough fuel to get to any city, what happens? Would they shoot you down? {edit what I meant was if you were being Hijacked and you on purpose sqacked 7500

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    $\begingroup$ Here is quite a “what-if” question. Are you asking about inadvertently squawking it or purposely squawking it? If you add more detail to your scenario or state why you are asking it, it may help people answer. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I know a guy who accidentally set squawk 7500 during a flight in a glider. He had turned down the radio, so no one could contact him. At some point, a helicopter was sent up to intercept him. Oblivious to the fact that he was squawking 7500, he just waved at the helicopter pilots as a greeting. After landing, I think he had a few missed phone calls to answer ... but he wasn't shot down! $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2020 at 17:15

3 Answers 3


Who would shoot you down and why? You are in the middle of nowhere. Who are you endangering? ATC would try to contact you to ascertain your actual condition. You may have accidentally put in the wrong code. They would then offer assistance if needed.

If it was a kidnapping situation, all they could do is follow or track you until you land. You are not going to get far. Even if you went to another country close by, you can still be tracked and local authorities alerted.


A distress code is not a 'shoot me down' signal.

ATC will see the code, and will try to establish contact. If the pilot wasn't with ATC already, they should be on the guard frequency at the very least.

For USA, the AIM (Distress and Urgency Procedures) provides the following:

If the pilot replies in the affirmative or does not reply, the controller will not ask further questions but will flight follow, respond to pilot requests and notify appropriate authorities.

Regarding the use of force, that is not the ATC's call or scope.

If it's an accidental 7500 (changing the code means the pilot is in touch with ATC, unless they're playing around), the AIM (Services Available to Pilots) provides information on how to avoid that:

When making routine code changes, pilots should avoid inadvertent selection of Codes 7500, 7600 or 7700 thereby causing momentary false alarms at automated ground facilities. For example, when switching from Code 2700 to Code 7200, switch first to 2200 then to 7200, NOT to 7700 and then 7200. This procedure applies to nondiscrete Code 7500 and all discrete codes in the 7600 and 7700 series (i.e., 7600-7677, 7700-7777) which will trigger special indicators in automated facilities. Only nondiscrete Code 7500 will be decoded as the hijack code.

Related: What prevents a passenger from hijacking a private jet?

And the Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape is the only incident I found where a light aircraft was hijacked.

  • $\begingroup$ There was an incident at KOJC several years ago where a bank robber took the bank employees hostage and attempted to hijack a small plane that was preparing to take off. I'm not sure if that was part of his plan or not but it didn't work and the police ended up shooting him. For some reason he had the hostages strip down to their underwear. Bizarre situation. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Feb 13, 2020 at 18:05

If you enter a 7500 code in a transponder, I'd expect the authorities would almost certainly intercept you with instructions as to where to proceed to and land. They have no idea as to your particular situation other than you're transmitting an aircraft hijacking emergency code and they are not going to take chances. As to using deadly force against you, it is an option, provided you are posing an immediate danger to the public or national security. The most likely scenario is fighter interception followed by instructions as to where to go and land where ground based law enforcement can take control of the situation.


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