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TCAS

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The material covered in this document is based off information obtained from
the original manufacturers Pilot and Maintenance manuals. It is to be used
for simulation purposes only.

Copyright 2011 by Angle of Attack Productions, LLC


All rights reserved

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Table of Contents Table of Illustrations
What is TCAS? 3 Figure 3-1. Navigation Display Indicating TCAS OFF 8
What is a Transponder? 5 Figure 3-2. Four Classes of TCAS Symbol 9
How Does TCAS Work? 6 Figure 3-3. Example Scenario for Monitor Vert... 11
Advisories and Displays 8 Figure 3-4. Example Scenario for Maintain Vert... 12
Monitor Vertical Speed 11 Figure 3-5. Example Scenario for Climb, Climb 13
Maintain Vertical Speed, Maintain 12 Figure 3-6. Example Scenario for Descend, Descend 13
Maintain Vertical Speed, Crossing Maintain 12 Figure 3-7. Example Scenario for Climb, Climb Now 14
Climb, Climb 13 Figure 3-8. Example Scenario for Adjust Vert... 15
Descend, Descend 13 Figure 3-9. Example Scenario for Clear of Conflict 16
Climb, Crossing Climb  13 Figure 3-10. Transponder Panel 17
Increase Climb, Increase Climb 14 Figure 3-11. Example Scenario for Adjust Vert... 18
Adjust Vertical Speed, Adjust 15
TCAS Mode Control 17

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What is TCAS?
TCAS stands for Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance The FAA finally made TCAS mandatory in US airspace in
System. 1993 following the 1986 collision between a DC-9 and a
Piper Archer over Cerritos, California which resulted in the
TCAS is a system designed to identify and reduce the loss of 82 lives.
risk of midair collisions between aircraft. It provides traffic
displays, alerts and resolution advisories to the crew to There are two principle versions of TCAS currently in
improve their situational awareness and assist them in commercial service: TCAS I and TCAS II.
resolving a conflict.
TCAS I is designed primarily for general aviation and small
Aviation has had a long and troubling history of midair regional airliners. It provides a traffic display and traffic
collisions, dating back to its earliest days. During the 1950s, advisories only.
air traffic was continuing to grow at an ever-increasing rate,
and so was the risk of mid-air collisions. As concerns grew TCAS II is used on the majority of commercial airliners, and
over the rising risk, research was conducted into proximity adds several improvements over TCAS I, most notably the
warning devices that might reduce it. ability to issue resolution advisories. The FAA mandates
TCAS II on aircraft with more than 30 seats, or weighing
The 1956 collision between a Lockheed Super more than 15,000kg.
Constellation and a DC-7 over the Grand Canyon
outlined the need for both a reformed ATC system The rules are more stringent in Europe under EASA.
and accelerated development of a proximity warning Currently operational on most aircraft TCAS II Version 7.
device. A continuing trend of midair collisions continued Version 7.1 has been projected for mandate by EASA
throughout the 1960s and 70s however, with each on new build aircraft in March 2012, and for retrofit by
accident continuing to catalyze development of collision December 2015.
avoidance systems.
Version 7.1 introduces improvements designed to

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What is TCAS? (Cont.)
overcome weaknesses that failed to avert the 2002 Notes
berlingen disaster.

Studies conducted for Eurocontrol, the European


Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, indicate that
the current probability of a mid-air collision in European
Airspace is 2.7 x 10-8. This equates to one mid-air collision
every 3 years. Implementation of TCAS II version 7.1 should
reduce this by a factor of 4.

TCAS II Version 7.0 is our main focus here however, as that


is what is installed on our 737.

TCAS continuously interrogates operating transponders


in other aircraft to predict their positions and flight paths.
It then provides traffic displays and advisories to the flight
crew.

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What is a Transponder?
A transponder is a device that automatically transmits a Mode A and C transponders, but add many more features
coded signal when interrogated by ATC ground radar or to the mix.
TCAS.
Mode S adds improved accuracy, improved interrogation
The term transponder is actually short for transmitter- capabilities and most significantly: communication datalink.
responder, which describes its basic functionality well. This datalink is used by TCAS II to coordinate resolution
advisories between two aircraft. A Mode S transponder is a
Key to the content of the signal sent out by a transponder requirement for a TCAS II installation.
is the altitude of the aircraft.
We will talk further about the other transponder modes and
There are three main types of transponders in operation in their effects on TCAS later in the lesson.
civil aviation; Mode A transponders, Mode C transponders
and Mode S transponders.

When Mode A transponders are interrogated by ATC


ground radar or TCAS, they transmit a four digit squawk
code. This squawk code is used by ATC to identify the
aircraft.

Mode C transponders also transmit a four digit squawk


code when interrogated, but also include altitude
information. This altitude information is available both to
ATC and to TCAS in other aircraft.

Mode S transponders include all of the functionality of

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How Does TCAS Work?
TCAS and the transponder are inherently linked. TCAS TCAS issues an RA both aurally and in the form of visual
interrogates operating transponders in other aircraft, cues on the Primary Flight Display.
analyzes the transponder replies, and predicts the position
and flight paths of those aircraft. We will elaborate further on both TAs and RAs later.

Directional radio antennas on the top and bottom of The advisory capability of TCAS is dependent on the
the fuselage determine the range, bearing and speed of transponder mode of the conflicting aircraft. If switched to
the other aircraft. TCAS then computes the position and OFF or to STANDBY, that traffic will be invisible to TCAS.
projected flight path of those aircraft.
TCAS only sends out Mode C and Mode S interrogations.
Altitude information may also be received from the other A Mode A only capable transponder will not reply to
aircrafts transponder if available, and vertical speed may TCAS interrogations, and will therefore be invisible to TCAS.
then be calculated.
A Mode C transponder with altitude reporting switched
TCAS issues Traffic Advisories and Resolution Advisories as OFF will reply to TCAS interrogations. TCAS Traffic Symbols
appropriate to avoid mid-air collisions. and Traffic Advisories will be available, however Resolution
Advisories will not be available due to the lack of altitude
A Traffic Advisory, or TA, is an aural and visual alert to data. Additionally, Traffic Symbols on the Navigation
draw the flight crews attention to closing traffic. TAs assist Display will not display altitude data.
the pilot in the visual search for the intruder aircraft, and
prepare the pilot for a potential Resolution Advisory. A Mode C transponder with altitude reporting switched
ON will reply to TCAS interrogations and supply altitude
A Resolution Advisory, or RA, is a recommended maneuver information. Traffic Symbols on the Navigation Display will
that will either increase or maintain the existing vertical display altitude data, and Traffic and Resolution Advisories
separation from the intruder aircraft. will be available. Coordinated Resolution Advisories will not

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How Does TCAS Work? (Cont.)
be available however, as this feature requires the Mode S is approximately 40 seconds from the Closest Point of
datalink and TCAS II installation in the other aircraft. Approach.

If the other aircraft has a Mode S transponder and TCAS A Resolution Advisory is generated when the other aircraft
II installed, then the two TCAS systems may establish is approximately 25 seconds from the Closest Point of
communications and coordinate Resolution Advisories. This Approach.
ensures that the two Resolution Advisories given will be
compatible, and not worsen the situation.

To provide advisories, TCAS constructs a three dimensional


airspace around the aircraft where a high likelihood of
traffic conflict exists. The dimensions of this airspace vary
depending on the closure rate with the conflicting traffic.

Traffic Advisories and Resolution Advisories are generated


based on a Closest Point of Approach, or CPA. The CPA
is the point at which the separation between the two
aircraft will reach a minimum value.

TCAS calculates the time to reach the Closest Point of


Approach by dividing the distance by the closure rate.
This is effectively a distance/speed/time calculation. Traffic
Advisories and Resolution Advisories are issued based on
this time.
A Traffic Advisory is generated when the other aircraft

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Advisories and Displays
TCAS issues aural advisories and visual displays to the ------
flight crew. Visual indications are present both on the ---
Primary Flight Display and the Navigation Display.

The Navigation Display displays TCAS Traffic Symbols,


TCAS Annunciations and other TCAS information. TCAS
Annunciations are displayed in the lower left of the ND.
These indicate the status of the system.

An amber TCAS OFF annunciation is self-explanatory it


indicates that TCAS is switched off.

A cyan TA ONLY annunciation indicates that TCAS is set


to Traffic Advisory Only mode, so Resolution Advisories are TCAS
TA ONLY
disabled and will not be generated. OFF

TFC traffic indicates that the Traffic switch on the EFIS


Control Panel has been selected on, and that the ND
TCAS display is active. Figure 3-1. Navigation Display Indicating TCAS OFF

TCAS TEST indicates that the TCAS is operating in test


mode, and that corresponding indications are active on
the display.

We will be revisiting these four annunciations later.

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------
---

Advisories and Displays (Cont.)


An amber TCAS FAIL annunciation may also appear, and
indicates that the TCAS system has failed. +10

TCAS Traffic Symbols may be displayed on the ND using +00

TFC traffic switch on the EFIS Control Panel. When Traffic is


------
selected on, the cyan TFC traffic annunciation appears. TA ONLY
TFC
---
TA ONLY
TFC

Traffic may be displayed on the ND by a variety of symbols.


The symbols may be white, yellow or red depending on the
severity of the situation.

There are four main classes of symbol that TCAS will


generate on the Navigation Display (Figure 3-2):
Open white diamond
Filled white diamond -2

Filled amber circle TA ONLY


TFC TA ONLY
TFC
+2

Solid red square

The symbol may have an associated altitude tag attached Figure 3-2. Four Classes of TCAS Symbol
which displays:
Relative altitude to your aircraft in hundreds of feet
Whether the aircraft is above or below you
Whether the aircraft is climbing, flying level or descending.

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
The altitude trend arrow only displays when the traffic is sound only once, and will then be reset for another, future
climbing or descending at rates greater than or equal to Traffic Advisory. Never try to self-separate from a Traffic
500 feet per minute. Advisory.

This altitude information is dependent on the other aircrafts When the traffic is approximately 25 seconds from the
transponder reporting altitude. If altitude information is not Closest Point of Approach, the symbol will change to a
being transmitted, then the symbol will not have an altitude solid red square, and a Resolution Advisory will be issued.
tag and Resolution Advisories will not be generated.
A typical TCAS II Resolution Advisory requires a response
An open white diamond indicates non-threat traffic that is within 5 seconds, and G-forces of plus/minus 0.25G.
greater than 6 nautical miles away or greater than plus or Because of this G-Force requirement and the immediacy of
minus 1200 feet vertically. This is non-threat traffic referred the response required, the autopilot must be disconnected
to as other traffic. prior to responding to the RA. It is too slow to rely on.

A filled white diamond indicates traffic that is less than 6 Bear in mind also that as we said earlier, TCAS II is
nautical miles away, AND within 1200 feet vertically. capable of coordinating Resolution Advisories via the
This traffic is still not considered a threat, and is referred to Mode S datalink. This is dependent on the intruder aircraft
as proximate traffic. also having an operational TCAS II installation, but is
effective in ensuring that the Resolution Advisories are
A symbol change to a filled amber circle indicates that compatible and will not worsen the situation.
the intruding aircraft is now considered to be potentially
hazardous. This will occur when the intruding aircraft is There are many Resolution Advisory aurals, and visual
approximately 40 seconds from the Closest Point of commands on the PFD vary depending on the type of
Approach. This is called a Traffic Advisory, and is indicated advisory triggered.
aurally by a Traffic, Traffic message. The aural alert will

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
Resolution Advisories may be broken down into two types
Preventative Advisories and Corrective Advisories.

Corrective Advisories require that the flight crew take


positive action to maneuver away from the other aircraft.

Preventative Advisories require that the flight path of the 250


ARM
MCP SPD
LNAV
ALT HOLD
VNAV
276 306 ------
---

aircraft be maintained. 300 CMD


FD 10400

280
10200

There are three aural Preventative Advisories. 260


TRAFFIC
1 2
250 1
9
240

Monitor Vertical Speed


+05

+10
9800
220

This RA requires that the pilot avoid the pitch areas TFC -2
-05
-10
+2

200 9600

highlighted on the attitude indicator. (Figure 3-3)


TCAS
276 TEST

A TCAS vertical speed tape on the vertical speed


Figure 3-3. Example Scenario for Monitor Vertical Speed
indicator, or VSI, is a customer option on the 737NG. The
red areas should be avoided.

A Monitor Vertical Speed RA rarely requires a change in


vertical speed.

You might expect this RA if targets are approaching from


both above and below the aircraft, and vertical speed
must be monitored closely to maintain separation.

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
Maintain Vertical Speed, Maintain
This RA requires that the pilot maintain a rate of climb or
descent in accordance with the indications on the PFD
attitude indicator and VSI. (Figure 3-4)

The pilot should always follow the guidance given on


the PFD in this case, rather than trying to chase the exact 250
ARM
ARM
LNAV VNAV
276 306 ------
---

vertical speed that was current when the RA was issued. 300 FD 10400

Following the guidance ensures that the resultant vertical 280


10200

speed is sufficient to satisfy the RA. 260


TRAFFIC
1 2
250 1
9
240

Maintain Vertical Speed, Crossing Maintain 220


9800 +10

This RA should be flown in the same way as Maintain TFC -2


-05
-10
+2

200 9600

Vertical Speed, Maintain.


TCAS
276 TEST

The inclusion of crossing in the aural message is merely


Figure 3-4. Example Scenario for Maintain Vertical Speed, Maintain
for the pilots information, and indicates that his aircraft will
pass through the level of the intruder aircraft while the RA is
followed.

The rest of the Resolution Advisory aurals are Corrective


Advisories, and require positive action by the pilot to
maneuver the aircraft.

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
Climb, Climb
This RA requires that the pilot climb to avoid the pitch MCP SPD ALT HOLD 276 306 ------
250 ---

regions displayed on the PFD. (Figure 3-5) 300 CMD 10400

280
10200

In this case, the clear, safe region will be towards the top of 260
1 2
TRAFFIC

250 1

the attitude indicator, prompting the pilot to pitch up. 9


240

9800
220

Dont forget that TCAS is expecting you to respond within


-02

TFC
200 9600

276
5 seconds and achieve a load factor of at least 1.25G in
the pitch up to climb. The autopilot must be disconnected
for this type of RA. Figure 3-5. Example Scenario for Climb, Climb

Descend, Descend
This RA requires that the pilot descend away from the red
pitch regions on the PFD. (Figure 3-6)
MCP SPD ALT HOLD 276 306 ------
250 ---

Descend RAs are inhibited below approximately 1100 feet 300 CMD 10400

radio altitude due to the lack of safe terrain clearance. 280


10200

TRAFFIC
260
1 2

Climb, Crossing Climb 250


9
240
1

Or the reversed advisory Descend, Crossing Descend. 220


9800

+02

TFC
200 9600

Crossing climb and crossing descend RAs are also issued 276

where the intruder aircraft will pass through your level during
the maneuver. Figure 3-6. Example Scenario for Descend, Descend

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
The technique to follow these is exactly the same as for
standard climb and descend Resolution Advisories.

TCAS may sometimes reverse its initial Resolution Advisory


command.

Where the initial command was to descend, a reversal 250


ARM 276 306 ------
---

would result in the aural callout Climb, Climb Now. (Figure 300 FD 10400

3-7) 280
10200

TRAFFIC
260
1
Where the initial command was to climb, a reversal would
2
250 1
9
240

result in the aural callout Descend, Descend Now. 220


9800

+01

TFC
200 9600

The aircraft must be pitched without delay to the new 276

revised attitude. Follow the PFD guidance to achieve this.


The reversal should be made within 2.5 seconds with
Figure 3-7. Example Scenario for Climb, Climb Now
additional load factor at plus/minus 0.35G.

Further Resolution Advisory aurals may be issued where the


current rate of climb or descent is insufficient to resolve the
conflict.

Increase Climb, Increase Climb


Or the reversed advisory Increase Descent, Increase
Descent.

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
Guidance will be given for both of these commands on the
PFD.

Increase descent RAs are inhibited below approximately


1,500 feet radio altitude so that pilots are not
encouraged to descend too quickly close to terrain.
MCP SPD ALT HOLD 276 306 ------
250 ---

300 CMD 10400

TCAS may also issue aural messages to reduce vertical 280


10200

speed. 260
TRAFFIC
1 2
250 1
9
240

Adjust Vertical Speed, Adjust 9800


220

This RA requires that the pilot reduce vertical speed. TFC


-05

It may be triggered both as an initial Resolution Advisory


200 9600

276

and as a weakening Resolution Advisory. (Figure 3-8)


Figure 3-8. Example Scenario for Adjust Vertical Speed, Adjust
As an initial RA, adjust vertical speed is commanded to
maintain separation between two aircraft and avoid a
conflict.

It may also be issued following a climb or descend RA


where the current rate of climb or descent is greater than
needed. This minimizes ATC disruption.

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Advisories and Displays (Cont.)
When any Traffic or Resolution Advisory occurs, a TRAFFIC
message will appear on the Navigation Display. This will
be amber for a Traffic Advisory, and red for a Resolution
Advisory.

If the Navigation Display range is too close, and TA or RA


traffic is not displayed as a result, an OFFSCALE message 250
ARM
ARM
LNAV VNAV
276 306 ------
---

will appear. 300 FD 10400

280
10200

If the bearing of traffic cannot be determined, it cannot be 260


TRAFFIC
1
displayed as a traffic symbol on the ND.
2
250 1
9
240

+10
9800
220

If that traffic qualifies for a TA or RA, a No-Bearing


-10
+2

TFC -2
200 9600 TCAS

Message will appear. This provides range, relative altitude 276 TEST -06

and a vertical motion arrow.


Figure 3-9. Example Scenario for Clear of Conflict
All Resolution Advisories are inhibited below approximately
1000 feet radio altitude. Aural Traffic Advisories are
inhibited below approximately 500 feet radio altitude.

After a Resolution Advisory traffic conflict has ended,


and traffic separation is increasing again, a Clear of
Conflict aural message will sound, and all corresponding
indications will disappear. (Figure 3-9)

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TCAS Mode Control
TCAS mode control is conducted from the Transponder
Panel, located on the Aft Electronics Panel. (Figure 3-10)

The 737NG has two transponders which are individually


selectable using the Transponder Selector at the top left
of the panel.

Altitude data for Mode C and Mode S reporting can


be taken from either of the two Air Data Computers in the
ADIRUs. The Altitude Source selector allows the crew to
manually select the data source for altitude reporting.

When flying into RVSM airspace, the source selected


should correspond to the primary altimeter referenced by
the autopilot in use. ALT SOURCE

Figure 3-10. Transponder Panel


For Autopilot A, this is in Air Data Computer #1, and for
Autopilot B its #2.

The two code selectors allow pilots to enter the


transponder code assigned to them into the code
indicator window.

An identification signal may be transmitted manually by


pushing the IDENT button. This is done in response to ATC

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TCAS Mode Control (Cont.)
requests to ident.

The Transponder Fail light indicates a transponder


malfunction when lit.

The control on this panel most relevant to TCAS is the


Transponder Mode Selector. This is a five position selector ARM
LNAV VNAV ------
---

with a pushbutton mounted on it. FD

The pushbutton is a test switch that starts a test of the TRAFFIC

TCAS system. Symbols appear on the Navigation Display,


along with the TCAS TEST annunciation (Figure 3-11). +10

An aural annunciation signals the outcome of the test.


-10
+2

-2
TCAS

PASS also appears in the transponder window, and the TEST

Transponder Fail light illuminates to indicate that the


selected transponder is operational.
Figure 3-11. Example Scenario for Adjust Vertical Speed, Adjust

The Transponder Mode Selector may be rotated to select


one of five transponder operating modes.

The STBY position places the transponder and TCAS


system in standby. In this mode, the transponder will not
transmit.

When set to the ALT RPTG OFF Altitude Reporting Off

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TCAS Mode Control (Cont.)
position, the transponder operates but without altitude Notes
reporting.

The XPNDR position enables altitude reporting, but Traffic


and Resolution advisories are still disabled.

The TA ONLY position enables TCAS Traffic Advisories,


and the TA/RA position enables Resolution Advisories on
top of that.

Depending on airline Standard Operating Procedure, the


TA ONLY mode may sometimes be selected following an
engine shutdown.

TCAS does not take into account aircraft performance


capability when issuing Resolution Advisories.

A 737 with an engine out will have inadequate climb


performance to fully comply with climb Resolution Advisories.

Selecting TA ONLY avoids the issuance of RAs that the


aircraft would be unable to comply with.

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