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Air Traffic Control



Modes Of Operation.
How a transponder works?
System Components.


Air traffic control system allows controllers

to track airplane movement on ground
radar displays (GND controller scope).

It is a service provided by ground-based

controllers who direct aircraft on the ground
and in the air.
The GND station monitor the A/Cs
identification and altitude and computes its
range, bearing and airspeed.



Types Of Radar

PSR (Primary Surveillance Radar):

Operates on the normal radar principle in
which any aircraft appears as lighting point
on the radar display with no other
information than distance and bearing. It
transmits a narrow RF beam through a
rotating antenna and receives its reflection
by any target in its path. from the elapsed
time, the distance to the A/C is computed.
It is not requiring any response from the

Types Of Radar

SSR(Secondary Surveillance Radar):

Uses what is called an ATC transponder
in the aircraft .
It provides the communication capabilities
between the GND station and the A/C.
The primary and secondary surveillance
antennas are mounted on the same
rotating mounting, therefore both always
look in same direction at the same time.


ATC Components

ATC system consists of :

Ground station PSR & SSR.

Airborne ATC transponder is a

receiver/transmitter which transmits in
response to an interrogation from the
ground station secondary surveillance radar


The ground station SSR transmits

interrogation signals that is received by the

ATC transponder replies to this interrogation

by transmitting a reply signal consisting of a
special code which will be displayed on the
ground radar unit.

Modes Of Operation




Mode A: It is used to give the

identification code of the A/C, delay = 8
Mode B: Optional mode for identification
transmitting, delay = 17 s.
Mode C: Interrogates the A/C about its
altitude, delay = 21 s.
Mode D: Optional mode for altitude
transmitting, delay = 25 s.

How a transponder

The ground SSR interrogates the airborne

transponder in one of two modes A and C.

The type of interrogation is determined by

the spacing between between two pulses
(P1 and P3) transmitted on a carrier
frequency of 1030 MHZ.

How a transponder

Mode A


How a transponder
Each interrogation contains a third pulse
P2 which is transmitted by an omnidirectional antenna located with SSR. The
pulse P2 is transmitted 2 s after P1 pulse.
P2 has lower amplitude than P1.
* P2 (SLS) : side lobe suppression

How a transponder

By comparing the relative amplitude of the

P1 and P2 pulses, the airborne
transponder can determine whether or not
the airplane is in the main lobe of the SSR.

How a transponder

The transponder replies to mode A or C

interrogations with coded pulses on a carrier
frequency of 1090 MHZ.

Mode A reply : the coded pulses represent 4

digit octal code entered on the ATC control
panel by the pilot from 0000
(8^4=4096 combinations).
An emergency identification code (7700 or
7777) causes aural warning to the controller.

How a transponder

Mode C reply : the coded pulse represent

altitude data from CADC.

How a transponder

F1 and F2 (first and last framing pulses) are always

present and separated by 20.3 s.
The encoding of the reply is done by means of the
presence (1) or absence (0) of the 12 reply pulses.

How a transponder

This pulse is initiated when the IDENT

pushbutton switch is pushed on the
ATC/TCAS control unit. The IP follows the
last framing pulse by 4.35 s.

How a transponder

This causes the display on the radar scope to change

so the ground station operator can be positive of his
particular location on the radar scope.

System Component

2 antenna for each system.
Control Panel.

System Component
Transponder (Aircraft)









System Component

The air data computer supplies coded

altitude to the encoder.

The control panel supplies selected code

information to the encoder.

The two transponders and the two DME

interrogators are interconnected by a
suppressor bus which prevents transmission
from more than one system at a time.

System Component

2 antenna for each system.
Control Panel.

System Component

According to the aircraft configuration, the

transponder selects the antennas (lower or
upper) which receive the best transmission
signal from the ground ATC secondary
radar this allows better radar cover.

The reply message is transmitted through

the same antenna from which the selected
received signal originated.

ATC antenna

Control Panel

Control Panel

System selector switch: selects ATC

system desired for use with the knob in
standby position Transmission and answers
to ground station or other aircraft are
inhibited (electrically supplied but not

IDENT: by pressing ident button an IP

(identification pulse) is transmitted for (18
~ 20 sec) the ground radar operator will
see an enhanced target on the radar scope.

Control Panel

Two sets of knobs of two below the

code digital readout : each knob
controls one digit to enable the selection
of the ATC transmission code.

Mode select switch : to select the

desired mode of operation.

Control Panel

ALT RPTG SELECTOR : when on enables

coded altitude information to be sent to
the appropriate ATC system.

ALT SOURCE : to select NO.1 or NO.2

central air data computer to give altitude
information to the ATC transponder.

Control Panel (Recently)

Mode S

In a mode S environment, both ATCRBS

and mode S equipped airplanes can
operate at the same time. Mode S,
TCAS and ATCRBS interrogators may
also be operating simultaneously in the
same airspace.

Mode S interrogators use all call

interrogations and discrete

Mode S

There are two types of all call


The mode S/ATCRBS all call : is used to

interrogate ATCRBS transponders and to
elicit the unique mode S address from
mode S transponders.

Mode S

The mode S only all call: elicits the mode

S address - an ATCRBS airplane will not

After gaining the mode S address from a

transponder, the interrogator will lock out
the transponder from replying to later all
call interrogations and interrogate the
transponder using discrete interrogations.

Mode S

An additional signal, the ATCRBS all

call, is used to interrogate ATCRBS
transponders only; mode S
transponders will not reply.

Discrete interrogations are used to

interrogate mode S transponders only;
ATCRBS transponders will not reply.

Mode S

The mode S/ATCRBS or ATCRBS only all call:

The additional P4 pulse is ignored by an ATCRBS

transponder and an ATCRBS transponder will
respond based on normal criteria.

Mode S

The mode S transponder evaluates the P4

pulse, if the P4 pulse is 1.6 s, the mode
S transponder identifies the interrogation
as a mode S/ATCRBS all call and the
transponder will respond (if not previously
locked out) with its unique 24 bit address.

Mode S

If the P4 pulse is 0.8 s, then the

mode S transponder identifies the
interrogation as an ATCRBS only
interrogation and will not respond.

Mode S

If the P4 pulse is absent, then the

mode S transponder will reply with
the appropriated ATCRBS response.

Mode S

The mode S only all call is sent in the

same format as the mode S discrete
interrogations except that the address
being interrogated is all logic ones.

Mode S

Mode S discrete interrogation:

Discrete interrogations are called uplink

Pulses P1 and P2 are of the same amplitude
ATCRBS transponders will not reply.

Mode S

1.5 s after the beginning of the P2 pulse,

the mode S interrogator begins the P6 pulse.
The P6 pulse is a 4 MHz continuous wave.

Mode S

2.75 s after the Beginning of the P2 pulse, the

P6 signal reverses the phase of the 4 MHz wave.
This reversal is called the sync phase reversal.

Mode S

Another pulse, P5 is in phase with the

beginning P6 wave and is transmitted from
an omni-directional antenna at the same
time as the sync phase reversal occurs.

Mode S

If the mode S transponder senses the sync phase

reversal, the transponder will evaluate the address.
If the interrogation is addressed to that
transponder, the transponder will reply.

Mode S

If the mode S transponder is in the side

lobe of the interrogator, the P5 pulse
will mask the sync phase reversal and
the transponder will not respond.

Mode S

The 4 MHz P6 signal after the sync phase

reversal is divided into either 112 or 56 bit
times. If during a bit time the phase of the
signal is reversed, that bit is a logic one. If the
phase of the signal is not reversed, the bit is a
logic zero (DPSK).

Mode S

Mode S replies

Responses are called downlink formats and the

downlink format used by the transponder is
based on the uplink format received from the

The data bits are transmitted using pulse

position modulation (PPM).

PPM sends a logic one if the pulse is in the first

portion of the bit time and a logic zero if the
pulse is in the last portion of the bit time. Bit
time is 1 s.

Mode S

Mode S transponder is designed to

reply to one all call every 4 or 8 or 16
all call interrogators (random) so
there is a better chance to receive a
response from only airplane at a time.