Besides the services provided by FSS as discussed in Chapter 5, there are numerous other services provided by air traffic. In many instances a pilot is required to have contact with air traffic, but even when not required a pilot will find it helpful to request their services.

Primary Radar

 Radar is a method whereby radio waves are transmitted into the air and are then received when they have been reflected by an object in the path of the beam. Range is determined by measuring the time it takes (at the speed of light) for the radio wave to go out to the object and then return to the receiving antenna. The direction of a detected object from a radar site is determined by the position of the rotating antenna when the reflected portion of the radio wave is received.

 Modern radar is very reliable and there are seldom outages. This is due to reliable maintenance and improved equipment. There are, however, some limitations which may affect air traffic services and prevent a controller from issuing advisories concerning aircraft which are not under their control and cannot be seen on radar.

 The characteristics of radio waves are such that they normally travel in a continuous straight line unless they are “bent” by atmospheric phenomena such as temperature inversions, reflected or attenuated by dense objects such as heavy clouds, precipitation, etc., or screened by high terrain features.


(number) Operate radar beacon transponder on designated code in
  MODE A/3.

Engage the "IDENT" feature (military I/P) of the

(number) and Operate transponder on specified code in MODE A/3 and
 IDENT engage the "IDENT" (military I/P) feature.

Switch transponder to standby position.

Operate transponder on low or normal sensitivity as
  specified. Transponder is operated in "NORMAL"
  position unless ATC specifies "LOW", ("ON" is used
  instead of "NORMAL" as a master control label on some
  types of transponders.)

Activate MODE C with automatic altitude reporting.

Turn off altitude reporting switch and continue
 SQUAWK transmitting MODE C framing pulses. If your equipment
  does not have this capability, turn off MODE C.

(mode in Switch off specified mode. (Used for military aircraft
 use) when the controller is unaware of military service
  requirements for the aircraft to continue operation on
  another MODE.)

Switch off transponder.

Operate transponder in the emergency position (MODE A
  Code 7700 for civil transponder. MODE 3 Code 7700 and
  emergency feature for military transponder.)

Operate radar beacon transponder on code 1200 in the
  MODE A/3, or other appropriate VFR code.

Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System (ATCRBS)

 The air traffic control radar beacon system is often referred to as “secondary surveillance radar.” This system consists of three components and helps in alleviating some of the limitations associated with primary radar. The three components are an interrogator, transponder, and radarscope. The advantages of ATCRBS are the reinforcement of radar targets, rapid target identification, and a unique display of selected codes.


 The transponder is the airborne portion of the secondary surveillance radar system and a system with which a pilot should be familiar. The ATCRBS cannot display the secondary information unless an aircraft is equipped with a transponder. A transponder is also required to operate in certain controlled airspace. Airspace is discussed in chapter 7.

 A transponder code consists of four numbers from zero to seven (4,096 possible codes). There are some standard codes, or air traffic may issue a four-digit code to an aircraft. When a controller requests a code or function on the transponder, he or she may use the word “squawk.” Figure 6-15 lists some standard transponder phraseology.

Radar Traffic Information Service

 Radar equipped air traffic facilities provide radar assistance to VFR aircraft provided the aircraft can communicate with the facility and are within radar coverage. This basic service includes safety alerts, traffic advisories, limited vectoring when requested, and sequencing at locations where this procedure has been established. In addition to basic radar service, terminal radar service area (TRSA) has been implemented at certain terminal locations. The purpose of this service is to provide separation between all participating VFR aircraft and all IFR aircraft operating within the TRSA. Class C service provides approved separation between IFR and VFR aircraft, and sequencing of VFR aircraft to the primary airport. Class B service provides approved separation of aircraft based on IFR, VFR, and/or weight, and sequencing of VFR arrivals to the primary airport(s).
ATC issues traffic information based on observed radar targets. The traffic is referenced by azimuth from the aircraft in terms of the 12-hour clock. Also the distance in nautical miles, direction in which the target is moving, and the type and altitude of the aircraft, if know, are given. An example would be: “Traffic 10 o’clock 5 miles east bound, Cessna 152, 3,000 feet.” The pilot should note that traffic position is based on the aircraft track, and that wind correction can affect the clock position at which a pilot locates traffic. [Figure 6-16]