contrails67
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Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:53 pm

While watching a National Geographic Special on Air Force 1, they detailed how President Bush had wanted to go visit Iraq in secret. So, he flew from Crawford, TX to Andrews Air Force Base. From there he switched planes in the hangar and boarded another plane onto Iraq.

During this segment, the pilot talked about how important it was to maintain secrecy of this mission as they were going into a hostile zone. The mission was so secret that even on the flight from Crawford, TX to AFB as well as from AFB to Iraq, the Air Force 1 pilot told air traffic controllers enroute that they were a Gulfstream jet.

My question is how the air traffic controllers were unable to tell the type of plane it is? Do they rely on airlines to tell them the type of plane it is? I gather from this scenario that the radar control screen does not identify the type of plane, but rather it is only a plane.



Thanks,
Contrail67
 
tower
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:21 pm

What may have happened was that they probably went in a Gulfstream and not the 747. And did not use the AF1 call sign. Yes we rely on the company/user to let us know what type of plane they are flying in. It is what we base separation off of.
 
Mir
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:28 pm

Quoting contrails67 (Thread starter):
I gather from this scenario that the radar control screen does not identify the type of plane, but rather it is only a plane.

That's correct. The data tag associated with the airplane will use whatever type of airplane is in the flight plan. The only way for ATC to know is to actually see the airplane, and the only people who could do that would be the tower controllers.

-Mir
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Web500sjc
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:34 pm

Quoting Mir (Reply 2):
The only way for ATC to know is to actually see the airplane, and the only people who could do that would be the tower controllers.

and how many of those controllers will correct the pilot when they realize its airforce one in front of them?
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Mir
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 4:57 pm

Quoting web500sjc (Reply 3):
and how many of those controllers will correct the pilot when they realize its airforce one in front of them?

It's entirely possible one of them would. Because, to be honest, the probability of someone accidentally filing a flight plan as a Gulfstream rather than a 747 is higher than the probability of a secret presidential flight.

-Mir
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zeke
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:24 pm

Quoting Mir (Reply 2):
The data tag associated with the airplane will use whatever type of airplane is in the flight plan. The only way for ATC to know is to actually see the airplane, and the only people who could do that would be the tower controllers.

Actually each Mode S transponder has a unique ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address, for some more info see http://www.ead.eurocontrol.int/eadba..._Circ_2007_Y_101_en_2007-11-08.pdf
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Mir
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:40 pm

Quoting zeke (Reply 5):
Actually each Mode S transponder has a unique ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address

That assumes that the aircraft has a Mode S transponder. Which some don't.

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zeke
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:57 pm

Quoting Mir (Reply 6):

That assumes that the aircraft has a Mode S transponder. Which some don't.

It is an essential part of TCAS and standard on a Gulfstreams. Only aircraft that tend not to have them is smaller GA aircraft.
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akiss20
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:59 pm

Quoting web500sjc (Reply 3):
and how many of those controllers will correct the pilot when they realize its airforce one in front of them?

It's only AF1 if the president is on board. Entirely possible that the plane is flying without him on it and thus wouldn't be AF1. I doubt the controller would "correct" the pilot.
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BMI727
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:29 pm

Quoting contrails67 (Thread starter):
My question is how the air traffic controllers were unable to tell the type of plane it is?

They probably just files the flight plan as an Air Force C-37.

Quoting zeke (Reply 5):
Actually each Mode S transponder has a unique ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address, for some more info see

Even military ones? Besides, I would think that the VC-25s can change such things if they need to. Even simpler, wouldn't one only need to swap transponders with a C-37 and, voila, your VC-25 now shows up as a C-37?

Quoting Tower (Reply 1):
What may have happened was that they probably went in a Gulfstream and not the 747.

No, I am almost certain they used the VC-25, and just swapped planes at ADW on the way from Texas.
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LAXintl
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:16 pm

Quoting zeke (Reply 5):
Actually each Mode S transponder has a unique ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address, for some more info see

You are very naive if you think military aircraft always fully comply with commercial transponder and identification methodologies.

I'm aware of lots of military activity that do not transmit anything (not even basic squak or Mode-C) and ATC has no clue of who or where you are besides looking at a primary radar target return.

Additionally since you are speaking about European airspace, there are exemptions for Military and Head of State aircraft usage of things like Mode-S. More specifically.

The granting of exemptions from the requirements for the carriage and operation of Mode-S
airborne equipment in European Airspace has been co-ordinated with the participating
States, in accordance with the provision of ICAO Doc 7030. Exemptions fall into the following categories:
........
3. IFR State Aircraft
Flights conducted by State (military, customs, and police) aircraft that need to operate occasionally as GAT.


Additionally for military aircraft they can operate with Mode-S off.

As appropriate, due account will be taken of the military requirement for Mode-S transponders to be selectable on/off from the cockpit or appropriate aircrew station accessible in flight. Where technically feasible, aircrew should be able to select the level of Mode-S being transmitted from their aircraft as demanded by the operational situation e.g. as follows: MAX – Full functionality, MIN – Basic Surveillance functionality, OFF – Mode-S transponder disabled, Squitter Off – Squitter disabled.
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ThirtyEcho
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:50 pm

I would assume that the Presidential VC-25s have all sorts of interesting ways to mask their true identities and data blocks if needed. If a controller got too pushy about the type of aircraft, just drop some chaff on 'em and disappear.
 
BMI727
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:35 am

Quoting ThirtyEcho (Reply 11):
If a controller got too pushy about the type of aircraft, just drop some chaff on 'em and disappear.

Chaff does exactly the opposite.
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FX1816
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RE: Identity Of Plane On Radar Screens

Sun Jun 19, 2011 4:53 am

Quoting zeke (Reply 5):
Actually each Mode S transponder has a unique ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address, for some more info see http://www.ead.eurocontrol.int/eadba...8.pdf

Wouldn't matter anyways, on our radar all planes look the same, there is no way to differentiate.

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 9):
No, I am almost certain they used the VC-25, and just swapped planes at ADW on the way from Texas.

         That's exactly what the documentary says.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 10):
You are very naive if you think military aircraft always fully comply with commercial transponder and identification methodologies.

Exactly, working with military daily I can attest to that!

Quoting ThirtyEcho (Reply 11):
I would assume that the Presidential VC-25s have all sorts of interesting ways to mask their true identities and data blocks if needed. If a controller got too pushy about the type of aircraft, just drop some chaff on 'em and disappear.

Nope the only thing they could do to "fool" ATC is to turn the transponder off because as I said you CANNOT differentiate on radar what type of aircraft it is. Besides if they turned off their transponder that would actually create more of an issue than if they just pretended to be another aircraft. Aircraft also have no control over their Data blocks they wouldn't even really know what they are.

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