Aviation History: The Origin of Squawk

Posted By on September 13, 2009

parrotI learned a new historical aviation tidbit on the origination of the word “squawk” this weekend in a recent EAA magazine article. During World War II, we, the allies, used an electronic device called IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) which would transmit a secret code if hit by a radar signal. This code would tell this friendly radar which planes were ours since the IFF would “talk back” or “squawk” like a parrot.

The terminology from this day is still used today by those in the aviation world and transponders on airplanes send code back to airspace controllers in order to identify individual airplanes and helicopters. Nowadays we can set different identifiers controlled with the assistance of computers and imaging on the controllers screens, but in the early days too many transponder equipped planes could cause confusion. According to the author, controllers would sometimes ask pilots to turn off their transponders to reduce clutter and commented, “one time … said to me, “Strangle your parrot.” I new what he meant.” Very interesting!

transponder from cessna

Comments

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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