Premature IDENT?

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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When I learned to fly in southern California I was taught never to press IDENT unless instructed to by ATC. I was told it causes confusion, especially in densely populated airspace like SoCal.

The other day I was doing a few practice instrument approaches with an instructor as as safety pilot, and when the tower would hand us back over to approach, the instructor would press IDENT right before checking back in with approach. I understand that approach is going to tell us to IDENT as soon as we check in, but I was curious what do you approach controllers think about this? Is this convenient for you, or annoying? The approach controller we were talking to didn't say anything about it.

It seems like doing this saves some time, but it also seems contrary to what the AIM says about use of the IDENT feature.

Thoughts?
 

RobertB

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Aug 18, 2008
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How are you being radar identified if you’re already IDENTing prior to being told to IDENT? Position correlation, being turned more than 30 degrees, new beacon code, et cetera? Your instructor is an imbecile for checking on and IDENTing prior to being told by ATC.
 

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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How are you being radar identified if you’re already IDENTing prior to being told to IDENT? Position correlation, being turned more than 30 degrees, new beacon code, et cetera? Your instructor is an imbecile for checking on and IDENTing prior to being told by ATC.
I think he mentioned to approach that he just IDENTed when he checked in. Something like Podonk Approach, Cessna 12345, Identing.

I've never seen anyone do that before, but I learned to fly in the early 90ies, and took some time off from flying until recently, so when I see/hear something new I sometimes wonder if I missed the memo.

Just for some context, we were doing multiple approaches to the same airport (like 4 or 5 approaches), and every time we were handed back to approach, approach would say "IDENT" so I think he (flight instructor) figured he was saving time by IDENTing so approach could "see" the IDENT on the initial check in. The controller seemed to roll with it, which is why I was curious about it. I thought controller would say something like "Please don't IDENT until instructed to do so" or something like that.
 

TimShady

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Mar 12, 2009
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I see this regularly with news helicopters in the area the have permanent beacon codes. They check in with a request and ident at the same time before being told. I think they think it saves a step since they know that’s usually the first thing out of our mouth. Maybe it’s splitting hairs but technically to establish radar contact we are supposed to instruct you to ident and then watch for it, so I’d prefer you just waited until you were told to do so.

I never say anything because it’s kind of a technicality and I don’t want to be a jerk about it.
 

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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I see this regularly with news helicopters in the area the have permanent beacon codes. They check in with a request and ident at the same time before being told. I think they think it saves a step since they know that’s usually the first thing out of our mouth. Maybe it’s splitting hairs but technically to establish radar contact we are supposed to instruct you to ident and then watch for it, so I’d prefer you just waited until you were told to do so.

I never say anything because it’s kind of a technicality and I don’t want to be a jerk about it.
Thank you for this explanation. Thats probably what happened here, the controller didn't want to make a big deal about it so he didn't say anything. Flight instructor thought he was doing him a favor. That instructor has moved on to an airline job, so he'll probably be straightened out in company training. :)
 

Stinger

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May 24, 2009
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In the situations where I'm going to need to tell the pilot to IDENT, I think it's great when the pilot checks on frequency and says that he just pushed IDENT. That counts for me, and I don't care that I didn't tell the pilot to IDENT.
But the times when that pilot checks on frequency and pushes IDENT, but doesn't tell me he just did...now I have to tell the pilot to ident while he's still flashing and I think it just sounds stupid.
 

RobertB

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Aug 18, 2008
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I think he mentioned to approach that he just IDENTed when he checked in. Something like Podonk Approach, Cessna 12345, Identing.

I've never seen anyone do that before, but I learned to fly in the early 90ies, and took some time off from flying until recently, so when I see/hear something new I sometimes wonder if I missed the memo.

Just for some context, we were doing multiple approaches to the same airport (like 4 or 5 approaches), and every time we were handed back to approach, approach would say "IDENT" so I think he (flight instructor) figured he was saving time by IDENTing so approach could "see" the IDENT on the initial check in. The controller seemed to roll with it, which is why I was curious about it. I thought controller would say something like "Please don't IDENT until instructed to do so" or something like that.
The whole purpose is to correctly identify you and keep you safe.
Hypothetical question which happens more regularly with flight schools especially solo student pilots: Let’s say you’re squawking 0164 and you’re doing a touch and go at XYZ airport and have just dropped off radar coverage. Another aircraft, who was assigned that code the day prior and never changed their code to 1200, departs XYZ after you drop off radar. That unknown target will now acquire your data block and the computer will “tell” us that is you. You then depart XYZ and are already IDENTing prior to being told to IDENT. We never observe the other aircraft, with your data tag attached IDENT, but we see another aircraft, you, on the same code IDENTing. How are we supposed to identify the correct target when one has the data tag and the computer thinks that is you and the other, same beacon code aircraft, is IDENTing? At that point, we should be giving you a new code, turns to identify you, or verifying your exact position because having you IDENT isn’t/shouldn’t be accepted for proper radar identification. That’s the exact same as you departing and IDENTing prior to being told to IDENT or someone telling you to IDENT when they observe what may or may not be your aircraft already and still IDENTing. Don’t skip a required step which could lead to questionable radar identification. The entire point is to move you around safely, not questionably move you from A to B.
 

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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I'll stick to what the AIM says, "Activate the “IDENT” feature only upon request of the ATC controller." However, I can see how a young flight instructor who is doing 20 practice instrument approaches a day at the same airport, can find it irresistible to jump the gun, and "help out" the controller by prematurely IDENTing.