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FAA changes VFR code for gliders

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By Dan Namowitz

AOPA is notifying glider pilots and other members that the FAA has changed the VFR transponder code for gliders, effective March 7. Use of the new code, 1202, is intended to help air traffic controllers differentiate gliders, with their unique maneuvering capabilities and limitations, from other VFR aircraft.

The FAA has issued a notice providing that as of March 7 gliders not in contact with an air traffic control facility should squawk 1202 in lieu of 1200 or 1201, helping controllers identify participating gliders. Use of the code is encouraged but not required.

“Gliders operate under some flight and maneuvering limitations,†the notice sent to air traffic facilities said. “They may go from essentially stationary targets while climbing and thermaling to moving targets very quickly. They can be expected to make radical changes in flight direction to find lift and cannot hold altitude in a response to an ATC request. Gliders may congregate together for short periods of time to climb together in thermals and may cruise together in loose formations while traveling between thermals.â€

The FAA said that the need for a national beacon code for gliders operating VFR and not in contact with ATC was highlighted by “an accident, many incidents, and a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation.†Several codes had been considered in the past, but conflicted with other operations.

The glider community has long advocated for the availability of this code.

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Thermalseeker

So, as usual, FAA mandates leave more questions than answers. My questions, as they pertain to TMG's, do we squawk 1200 while the motor is running, then 1202 when we shut down, then 1200 again when we restart, etc.? Or, if you are only glider rated with a self-launch endorsement flying a TMG do you always squawk 1202, even when motoring somewhere? What about if you are Private SEL or higher rated, with glider rating and self-launch endorsement? The Ximango is Type Certified. Part of the TC includes a provision for night VFR. It can be flown in night VFR conditions if the airplane is properly equipped (mine is) and the pilot is so qualified (I am). So, flying at night, do I squawk 1200? Seems like you would, but the notice doesn't say one way or the other. I've asked around and no one seems to know for sure.

Regards,

John Lawton

Whitwell, TN (TN89)

Ximango #135

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Steve Sliwa

Since it's advisory and not mandatory I think it's up to the pilot to choose which message he wants to communicate to 'Big Brother'. I wonder if Sully could have saved a couple of ATC conversations over the Hudson river if he had been able to turn his code to 1202. He was a Glider Rated pilot in gliding flight. :)

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rayjb60

Since squawking 1202 will get you "Glider" consideration by the controllers, I think its a nice thing for us and probably prefered.

In my experience when a controller knows you are a glider, they will speak slower, and be more clear with instructions and not ask us to hold in the pattern

and give us priority/ right of way in many cases.

It's at your discretion how you want to be seen by the controllers. Nice to have that option and personally I will always use 1202 now since it is much more clear to controllers and other aircraft as to our mysterious apparent stop of movement on radar when we thermal and sudden in place (to radar) altitude variations as we core a thermal.

Less is more when it comes to a government regulatory agency.

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mikeschumann

I have been squawking 1202 since I got my Phoenix in February of this year.  Today, while flying in the Naples FL Class D airspace I was informed that 1202 is only for use when a glider is not in communications with ATC.  Under the current FAA rules (see FAA JO 7110.577), gliders that are communicating with ATC should be squawking 1200.

This doesn't make any sense.  Typical FAA.

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Thermalseeker

Interesting. I operate my Ximango regularly just north of Chattanooga Class C. I talk with them occasionally to give them reports of hang gliders and paragliders in the area. There's a major trauma center in Chattanooga and there are 3 companies operating medivac services. They like to know where to expect traffic ATC isn't painting. I squawk 1202 when I'm out soaring (most of the time when I fly my X) and 1200 if I'm going somewhere. The Chattanooga ATC has never said anything about squawking 1200 when I talk to them.

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Todd

I’ve flown my Pipistrel Sinus in SE Florida for over a year now.  I squawk 1202 when soaring and 1200 when cruising.  I fly from KPMP and the tower kept telling me to squawk 1200 whenever I call them even when gliding so I now just switch to 1200 before calling them.  They are very accommodating and I have always been able to land with the engine off.  When soaring in their sector I always monitor Palm Beach approach.  When they call me out to other traffic they never say it’s a glider even though I’m squawking 1202 and have ADS-B so presumably they know my aircraft type.  I know they know I’m out there as I have talked to them in the past but got tired of being given altitude and heading constraints!

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mikeschumann

From my personal experience, almost none of the controllers I talk to are aware of the the 1202 squawk code for gliders. Outside of areas like Minden NV, there are so few Transponder equipped gliders that most of these controllers never see an aircraft squawking 1202, and automatically assume that this is a cockpit error. 

I always squawk 1202 when I am flying my Phoenix Motorglider, regardless of whether or not I have the motor on. With the Dynon Skyview System, changing the squawk code is not as simple as turning a button on a transponder.  I don’t think it makes sense to add this distraction to a relatively high work load environment when you are transitioning to/from powered flight. 

A side benefit of squawking 1202 all the time is to help educate controllers that this code exists and what it means.

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