A Typhoon jet returned to RAF Lossiemouth after suffering a “technical issue”.
The aircraft, from RAF Lossiemouth, had been flying near Aberdeen before declaring an emergency and squawking 7700. The aircraft landed safely and the pilot is fine.
A Royal Air Force spokesperson told me:
“An RAF Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth on a routine training sortie had a technical issue, as a precaution the pilot returned to base where the aircraft landed safely.”
Squawking is communicating with air traffic control (ATC) by tuning a four-digit code on an aircraft’s transponder. This code, which is usually set before flight, is displayed on ATC radar identifying to the controllers the aircraft’s registration or flight number, heading, and altitude. Transponder codes can be changed, at ATC’s request, once in flight. However, a pilot can change the code if there’s a loss of communication (7600), a hijacking (7500), or an emergency (7700) as in the case of the RAF Typhoon.
What does it mean to ‘Squawk 7700’?
Captain Ken Hoke is a Boeing 757/767 captain for a package express airline. He also runs the website AeroSavvy and had this to say.
“Declaring an emergency means the crew determines they have an ‘urgency’ or ‘distress’ situation. ‘Urgency’ means the crew is concerned about the safety of the flight and needs timely (but not necessarily immediate) assistance. A ‘distress’ condition means that the flight is in serious and/or imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.
If a crew resets their transponder to the emergency code of 7700 (squawking 7700), all air traffic control facilities in the area are immediately alerted that the aircraft has an emergency situation. It’s up to the crew to let ATC know what the exact situation is. It may be an aircraft problem, medical issue, or something else.”
Not all emergencies are as urgent as portrayed in the movies
Providing further insight into how an emergency is handled onboard an aircraft, Capt Hoke told Flightradar24:
“In some cases, a crew may not elect to change their transponder to 7700 (it’s not required). If I’m talking to Chicago Approach and have a problem, I’ll tell them the problem, declare an emergency over the radio and get vectors to land immediately. In most ‘emergencies’ we aren’t in a big hurry. Unless it’s smoke, fire, or low on fuel, we can usually take our time to evaluate the problem. If we are in a cruise flight and get a warning message of some sort, we may spend several minutes working the problem with a checklist.”
The Royal Air Force also told me that a 7700 squawk is relatively common. Enabling 7700 allows ATC controllers to safely vector an aircraft to the nearest airport or, in this instance, an RAF base.
What is a Typhoon anyway?
The Eurofighter Typhoon is manufactured by a consortium – Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo – that conducts the majority of the project through the joint holding company, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH.
The Typhoon FGR4 variant of the fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft is described by the Royal Air Force as “a highly capable and extremely agile” plane. It is deployed for a range of operations including “air policing, peace support and high-intensity conflict”.
What the above means, by the way, is the air intercept of Russian planes near the UK territorial zone, multinational operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and air combat.
The jet’s profile on the RAF website reads: “The pilot performs many essential functions through the aircraft’s hands-on throttle and stick interface which, combined with an advanced cockpit and the Helmet Equipment Assembly, renders Typhoon superbly equipped for all aspects of air operations.”
It’s a modern aircraft and it squawked 7700 as a ‘precautionary’ measure, despite what you might read elsewhere. Based on the quality and reliability of the RAF Typhoon and the training and regular recurrency of its pilots, I believe it’s important to ease public concerns as this emergency was nothing to worry about.