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I get notifications from FlightRadar24 whenever a plane squawks 7600 or 7700. It happens a lot; I've received eight today. (It seems like more happen on weekends than on weekdays, probably because more GA pilots can fly on weekends.) The last two, however, are the same helicopter squawking 7600, about 40 minutes apart. This happens every few days, usually with 7600 but sometimes 7700. Normally it's an airplane, not a helicopter, but I don't think this is the first helicopter that's done it; I probably just see more airplanes because there are more planes in the air than helicopters, so it would be expected that most emergencies woutbe declared by planes.

Why do repeated emergencies like this happen? Does it mean that the radio failed, the pilot landed and thought (s)he had fixed it, then took off again, and the radio failed again?

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you give some example days/times and tail numbers? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ Please remember that websites such as FR24 are for hobby use. The data they provide is not necessarily accurate. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @tedder42 the most recent was N111MF, a Robinson R44 helicopter, and the notifications came through at 04:50 and 05:29 UTC, January 29. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 8:03

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There's going to be a little speculation here, but I believe this may be a Flightradar24 thing (or a ground radar thing), and not an aircraft thing. Helos tend to stay very low, and radar isn't always the best at low altitudes.

A decent example of this is in North Carolina over the Pamlico Sound. I've flown sevral flights on VFR flight following (VFR FF henceforth) into and out of KFFA (First Flight), KMQI (Dare County), KHSE (Hatteras/Mitchell) and W95 (Ocracoke). FFA and MQI are on the boundary of the Norfolk (ORF) and Cherry Point (NKT) TRACON (Approach control) sectors. ORF can see you down to about pattern altitude at FFA and MQI, but NKT can't. Flying into and out of HSE and W95, NKT TRACON can't see you at all (you'll fall off radar at about 2500-3000), so we actually have to make special reports if we're flying something like the RNAV (GPS) 7 approach at HSE. That entire approach is flown below radar from the IAF at CULAT until landing at HSE, so if we get off on our speed or profile, we have to tell NKT. That's also why the go around is a climbing left turn all the way to 6000 when the minimum safe altitude is 2100 - at 6000 we're guaranteed not only obstacle clearance, but radar coverage.

Long story short, that was a very verbose way of saying I think this is an artifact of radar and ground tech rather than something on the aircraft. But take this with a grain of salt, none of us actually know what was happening in that aircraft, so this is all still speculation.

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  • $\begingroup$ So you're thinking the plane goes out of range of the receiver then comes back in range, causing the notification to appear twice? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Someone That's precicely what I think is happening. It seems weird that this would happen in Dallas (I looked up the helo in question), but at the same time, helos tend to stay within about 1000' of the ground, which can easily be low enough to drop off radar. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 21:10

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