Mode C on the Ground

Mark Jeffreys

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Mode C on the Ground
« on: January 29, 2019, 07:46:06 pm »
I've noticed an increase in the number of controllers telling pilots to "squawk mode c" while on the ground. While this would be correct at airports that have ground radar, I continue to hear this at airports that are without such equipment. This shows that the controller does not understand why we have pilots squawk mode c on the ground in specific situations.

Many large airports have ground radar which allows the controllers to monitor aircraft and vehicle movements on the taxiways and runways. A quick glance at the airport diagram is the easiest way to know if your airport is equipped. For example, DFW's diagram says, "ASDE-X in use. Operate transponders with altitude reporting mode and ADS-B (if equipped) enabled on all airport surfaces." A similar statement is also provided in the ATIS. Controllers at an airport like OKC wouldn't care, or even know, what mode the transponder was in because they are looking outside, not at a ground radar display.

I'm sure some of you have already copied the VATSIM CoC line that says pilots shouldn't squawk standby on the network. While this is true, it isn't the controllers job to enforce CoC. Changing the little dot to an asterisk on VRC isn't going to change the way you control at these airports anyway.

Why am I complaining about something that doesn't really matter in the long run? I just want to make sure the students are being taught properly. Telling a student to do something with out explanation isn't adequate instruction. They should understand why planes on the ground at DFW need to enable altitude reporting, while planes can have it on whatever mode they want at OKC.

Hopefully some of you will agree with me and we can do a better job of instructing students in the future.
Mark Jeffreys
Air Traffic Manager
Fort Worth Virtual ARTCC

David Stone

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2019, 09:19:57 pm »
Mark, refer to AIM 4-1-20 a.3.
David Stone
Air Traffic Manager
vZID ARTCC

Mark Jeffreys

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2019, 09:27:29 pm »
I know what the AIM says. At work, we keep the transponder on ALT the whole time. I'm not trying to discuss what mode the transponder should be set to on the ground. I want controllers to stop telling pilots what to do with their transponders on the ground at smaller airports. This stems for a lack of proper instruction and I see it daily on the network.
Mark Jeffreys
Air Traffic Manager
Fort Worth Virtual ARTCC

Nickolas Christopher

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2019, 09:52:56 pm »
Mark, refer to AIM 4-1-20 a.3.

The FAA changed their guidance and the AIM on that a few years ago.
I followed the FAA's advice.
ATC told me to turn it off.

YMMV
ZLA Air Traffic Manager

Rick Rump

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2019, 06:56:55 am »
This is (and has been) a training issue with numerous facilities not teaching the why (Which is a larger issue). If you do not instruct as to the why something is the way it is, there is no understanding behind the concept and rote memorization encourages it to be done all the time.
To be honest there is little reason on the network to practice ASDE-X, only time a pilot should be cautioned to enable altitude encoding is prior to runway entry (Though vPilot 98% of the time will fix this upon takeoff).
Is this something we should check for on an OTS to ensure it is properly utilized though? Personally I hate being asked to "squawk mode C" when I am still on the ramp.

VATUSA Training Director
https://vatusa.net
vatusa 3 at vatusa dot net
Former ZDC ATM, DATM, TA & WM

Dhruv Kalra

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2019, 07:17:51 am »
We’re really making this more complicated than it needs to be.

ASDE-X airport? Ground and local share responsibility in ensuring code accuracy and Mode-C prior to takeoff clearance being issued.

Non ASDE-X airport? Ground/local have no ability to see transponder status on the ground. Local holds responsibility in ensuring proper track acquisition prior to handoff to the overlying radar controller. At these airports the earliest you’ll get interrogated about your transponder is once you’re in the air.

Simulating ASDE is another can of worms. Personally I like it at the major fields because it allows ground to quickly differentiate between aircraft authorized to operate on movement areas vs. not.
Dhruv Kalra
ZMP ATM | Instructor | Grumpy Old Man

Matt Bromback

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2019, 07:48:23 am »
Mark,

As ATM of a facility you have the ability to dictate local procedures for what you feel is right/needed.

Example:
At ZTL a few years ago we came out with self installer VRC/VSTAR files that would not just install the software, also put all control positions set in as "profiles". So if you wanted to work ATL TWR you select that profile, if you wanted PDK_TWR you would select that profile.

So to answer your question a little more directly this allowed us to setup the radar modes, color profiles, everything to airport specific conditions. In ATL to simulate ASDE-X we would use ARTS as the radar mode for TWR with realistic data tag mode on. This would force our controllers to make sure aircraft were squawking right code and it was on when they called for taxi (on the ASDEX map). In order to "see" the callsign of the aircraft calling for taxi the plane would HAVE to be squawking mode C with correct code (QL function on). While simulating realism this also greatly fixed any issues of pilots taking off with wrong or no squawk code, it was a win-win.

For other small airports like HKY_TWR we would set the default to TOWER radar mode or something similar as they do not have ASDE-X.

My point is you can adopt a similar policy or standard if you want to simulated ASDE-X at DFW. Make it part of your training program to setup the radar in a certain way, make sure students know the difference, etc...And if you don't really care to much about the 100 other TWR airports in your airspace thats your decision to make there also.

Only other advice I can give you is never look at something "is it really that important?" If its done in the Real World do not underestimate the enjoyment from the pilots. If its something extremely simple like SWK MODE C that one little extra step of realism might make a pilots day. From my experience this has been proven time and time again.
Matt Bromback

Mark Jeffreys

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2019, 08:43:00 am »
Matt, I was using our airports as an example because I didn’t want to call out specific facilities. DFW is the only airport that has ground radar, so it’s the only one that I would want my controllers ensuring that planes have mode C on and proper codes.

I’m more concerned with the fact that somebody at OKC calls for taxi at Atlantic (using OKC as an example to avoid calling out any particular facility), the controller’s first response shouldn’t be “squawk mode C”. They obviously don’t understand the purpose, and are doing this just because somebody told them to.

Perhaps I should’ve titled this differently. As I keep talking about this, it brings up a lot of other “VATSIMisms” that really need to go away. The only reason these actions continue is because people are taught TO do them, not WHY they’re doing them.
Mark Jeffreys
Air Traffic Manager
Fort Worth Virtual ARTCC

Mark Hubbert

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2019, 12:25:37 pm »
Quote
Matt, I was using our airports as an example because I didn’t want to call out specific facilities. DFW is the only airport that has ground radar, so it’s the only one that I would want my controllers ensuring that planes have mode C on and proper codes.

I’m more concerned with the fact that somebody at OKC calls for taxi at Atlantic (using OKC as an example to avoid calling out any particular facility), the controller’s first response shouldn’t be “squawk mode C”. They obviously don’t understand the purpose, and are doing this just because somebody told them to.

Perhaps I should’ve titled this differently. As I keep talking about this, it brings up a lot of other “VATSIMisms” that really need to go away. The only reason these actions continue is because people are taught TO do them, not WHY they’re doing them.

Mark, Not disagreeing with your assessment.  A lot of other valid points made especially Dhruv's and Rick's regarding the reasoning or "Why we do this".  Matt is correct, as the ATM you are trusted to adjust local policy/procedures etc. and for your ARTCC you have the ability to correct your controllers as well as insure that they are getting proper training.  There is a specific clause in our Division Policy for these types of situations.

Quote
5.
Sub-Divisions can create Facility Specific Standard Operating Procedures to provide guidance
to Controllers with respect to local procedures such as runway configurations, clearance
altitudes, handoff procedures etc. Such SOPs must be approved by the Division Director
or their designee.  These SOP’s must be published on the Sub-Divisions websites and be publicly accessible. 

6. Sub-Divisions may require training of their Facility Specific SOP’s.  The requirements of this
training must be documented and approved by the Division Training Director

Mark Hubbert
Division Director VATUSA

Matt Bromback

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Re: Mode C on the Ground
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2019, 01:05:31 pm »
Matt, I was using our airports as an example because I didn’t want to call out specific facilities. DFW is the only airport that has ground radar, so it’s the only one that I would want my controllers ensuring that planes have mode C on and proper codes.

I’m more concerned with the fact that somebody at OKC calls for taxi at Atlantic (using OKC as an example to avoid calling out any particular facility), the controller’s first response shouldn’t be “squawk mode C”. They obviously don’t understand the purpose, and are doing this just because somebody told them to.

Perhaps I should’ve titled this differently. As I keep talking about this, it brings up a lot of other “VATSIMisms” that really need to go away. The only reason these actions continue is because people are taught TO do them, not WHY they’re doing them.

In that case I would strongly recommend filling out feedback to the facility that you see that happening. Chances are it could be a training issue the training department isn't aware of.

Or maybe a facility has adopted a blanket policy to simulate ASDE-X at all their fields for simplicity and ease of training. Never know until you reach out to that specific facility.
Matt Bromback