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Aviation Words: Squawk

We are all familiar with the word “squawk” and use it often if we have a transponder, but there are some uses of it in the recently released Nav Canada VFR Phraseology guide that you might find interesting.

We know what to do when we’re asked to “squawk 1335” or “squawk IDENT”, but did you know that you may also be asked to “squawk Mode Charlie”? That is a request to ensure that you have Mode C selected. You may also be asked to “stop squawk mode Charlie”, that is, turn your transponder off Mode C. You could imagine that if your remote altitude encoder wasn’t working correctly, this might be a good idea rather than trusting erroneous information.

You may also be told to “squawk standby” - turn your transponder to standby mode. Or “confirm squawk” after resetting and recycling your transponder. FSS will also use the phrase “Roger IDENT” or “You are radar identified,” after pressing IDENT or changing to a new code.

The one phrase you don’t really want to hear is “Your transponder appears unserviceable/malfunctioning. Cycle transponder off and back on again.”

It's also useful to remember 7500, 7600 and 7700 are codes that identify hijack, loss of radio, and emergency, respectively. When setting another code, be careful not to temporarily pass through and broadcast one of these, e.g. if you’re asked to squawk 7531 and you’re set at 1200 (VFR), you would pass through 7500 while setting the first two digits. The advice is to set the transponder to standby while you’re dialing in the new code. Not having ever been given a code beginning with “7”, I suspect that this may be moot.

Squawk is just short form for “set your transponder to…”; not just what to broadcast.

It’s been great squawking with you!
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