When should a transponder be turned turn on?
Should Altitude Mode be used whenever the transpoder is on?
At least in the United States the FAA recently (I think in 2012?) changed the recommendation for transponder operation in the AIM. It now reads:
Civil and military transponders should be turned to the “on" or normal altitude reporting position prior to moving on the airport surface to ensure the aircraft is visible to ATC surveillance systems. IN ALL CASES, WHILE IN CONTROLLED AIRSPACE EACH PILOT OPERATING AN AIRCRAFT EQUIPPED WITH AN OPERABLE ATC TRANSPONDER MAINTAINED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 14 CFR SECTION 91.413 MUST OPERATE THE TRANSPONDER, INCLUDING MODE C IF INSTALLED, ON THE APPROPRIATE CODE OR AS ASSIGNED BY ATC. IN CLASS G AIRSPACE, THE TRANSPONDER SHOULD BE OPERATING WHILE AIRBORNE UNLESS OTHERWISE REQUESTED BY ATC.
(Cribbed from the on-line HTML version of the AIM)
So, basically "Turn it on before you taxi, and turn it off right before you shut down the engine. Always use the Altitude mode (Mode C) unless ATC tells you otherwise."
In practice having the transponder on while on the airport surface doesn't do much unless your field has something like ASDE-X which plots aircraft transponders on a screen in the tower, but it generally doesn't hurt anything and it ensures you don't forget to turn the transponder on when you take off.
Operating your transponder while on the ground may cause "ground clutter" on nearby radar station's displays (possibly setting off the conflict-alert system) - this is why many of us were taught to set our transponders to standby mode while on the ground. In practice this usually isn't an issue, and if it is a problem local ATC will ask you to "squawk standby while taxiing" to resolve the issue.
If anyone gives you a hard time about it copy the number and politely quote the AIM.
When should a transponder be turned turn on? On the ground? Always in flight? Only during radar service (flight following) or IFR flight? Should Altitude Mode be used whenever the transpoder is on?
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These days, when reading news about missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, I keep coming across a scenario where pilot might have deliberately turned off the transponder which is used for the communication of flight with ATC. When there is a possibility that any bad thing can happen when pilot turn off transponder, why would one give the ability of turning off the transponder to a pilot when he/she usually depends on instructions from ATC or flight control. Is there anyway that ATC can turn on transponder back from ground?
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