To understand and apply the correct Aircraft Capability Code (Equipment Code) on the flight plan for any aircraft flown on VATSIM.
- Have you ever wondered what code you should be putting into your Flight Plan in vPilot, SquawkBox or FSInn in respect of your aircraft capabilities?
- What do all the codes mean and where do I enter them?
- Does it make a difference to the controller what I enter?
This tutorial will set out to answer these questions for you to help improve your online experience and that of the other pilots and controllers on VATSIM.
Just want to get started and fly? Understand that including an equipment suffix in your flight plan is important to both you and ATC. The controller needs to know what navigational equipment is on board, and if you want to fly in RVSM airspace (FL290 - FL410) you must file correctly. If you are filing for a basic airliner-type aircraft you can include the /W suffix for now. Flying a General Aviation aircraft? Try /G. But after you've completed some flights, come back and read the rest of this section. It has very useful information.
First, what am I talking about?
An equipment code describes the transponder and/or navigation capability of the aircraft. Air traffic controllers (ATC) issue clearances based on filed suffixes; therefore it is important for pilots to use the appropriate suffix.
Aircraft Capabilities get entered on a SquawkBox or FSInn Flight Plan differently to one another but to a controller, they should be displayed the same. The same abbreviations are used worldwide so it doesn't matter if you're flying from Auckland to Ardmore, or Auckland to Anchorage, the same codes get entered. The codes depict what navigational capabilities your aircraft has and this lets the controller know what sort of separation he or she needs to give you from other aircraft in the area and how well he can rely on your blip on the screen!
In SquawkBox the aircraft capabilities get picked up from a couple of places on the Flight Plan when you file it. The Heavy checkbox and the Aircraft Capabilities drop-down as highlighted in this diagram:
Diagram 1. SquawkBox Flight Plan
Heavy relates to the wake turbulence category of the aircraft. This only needs to be ticked for aircraft weighing 136,000 kgs (300,000 lbs) or more, so really only a Boeing 767 or larger. Otherwise it is left un-ticked and no "H" will appear before the aircraft type.
The Aircraft Capabilities drop down forms the last part, or Aircraft Equipment Suffix code (the part after the / in the aircraft type above), for the capabilities of the aircraft you have chosen to fly. Each one of these will be explained shortly, but using the Drop Down in SB3 will apply the correct suffix code in the Aircraft Type field. This is what will display to controllers in your Flight Strip once you have filed your plan and is what they will be looking for each and every time.
In FSInn it is necessary to complete all details, except for aircraft type, manually on the Inn Flight Plan form under aircraft as shown in diagram 2.
Diagram 2. FSInn Flight Plan
As you can see from the diagram, there are no checkboxes and no drop down for Aircraft Capabilities and you will need to enter the codes yourself. By default, FSInn enters some codes for you as it looks at the aircraft you are flying from your aircraft list and if it recognizes the aircraft type, it will enter the code for you. (i.e. B763 for a Boeing 767-300, or as in Diagram 2, B744 for Boeing 747-400.)
One thing that FSInn always does is adds "T/" before the aircraft type. In the USA, Africa and Europe, this indicates that the aircraft has TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) equipment. This "T" is not used in Asia or Oceania. If your Aircraft fits within the Heavy Wake Turbulence category (Aircraft weighing 136,000 kgs (300,000 lbs) or more, so really only a Boeing 767 or larger) it replaces this T with an H. If your aircraft fits into Medium or Light wake turbulence category, then simply delete the entire "T/" before your aircraft type.
The Aircraft Capabilities code (the "/Q" in diagram 2 above) forms the last part, or Aircraft Equipment Suffix code (the part after the / in the aircraft type above), for the capabilities of the aircraft you have chosen to fly. Each one of these will be explained shortly and you will need to type the correct suffix code after the Aircraft Type code. This is what will display to controllers in your Flight Strip once you have filed your plan and is what they will be looking for each and every time.
Aircraft Equipment Suffixes
When providing aircraft type on a flight plan, pilots are required to include information about the on-board, certified equipment using an identifier code as a suffix to the equipment type. Pilots are recommended to file the maximum capability of their aircraft in the equipment suffix.
Diagram 3 indicates the code that should be used. In vPilot, simply select the correct code from the dropdown. In FSInn you will need to type this in as indicated on Diagram 2 above. Since SquawkBox uses a hard-coded dropdown box, and support for SquawkBox ended prior to the most recent list of equipment suffixes being published, its list is obsolete; you should use the code from Diagram 4.
|Navigation Capability||Transponder Capability||Suffix|
|RVSM||Any||Failed Transponder or Failed Mode C Capability||/H|
|No GNSS, No RNAV||Transponder with Mode C||/W|
|RNAV, no GNSS||Transponder with Mode C||/Z|
|GNSS||Transponder with Mode C||/L|
|No RVSM||No DME||No Transponder||/X|
|Transponder with no Mode C||/T|
|Transponder with Mode C||/U|
|Transponder with no Mode C||/B|
|Transponder with Mode C||/A|
|Transponder with no Mode C||/N|
|Transponder with Mode C||/P|
|RNAV, No GNSS||No Transponder||/Y|
|Transponder with no Mode C||/C|
|Transponder with Mode C||/I|
|Transponder with no Mode C||/S|
|Transponder with Mode C||/G|
Diagram 4. Obsolete Aircraft Equipment Suffixes – for use with SquawkBox only
The reason that it is important to enter the correct code is it indicates the capability of your aircraft to ACCURATELY fly the route based on the type of equipment carried. This means that there is a greater likelihood that you will maintain course exactly as planned. The less equipment that is carried, obviously the less accurate the navigation and conversely, the more navigation equipment aboard the aircraft the more accurate the navigation, especially when managed by an FMS and autopilot. If you overstate your capability, it is likely that ATC will assign you clearances that you cannot (or cannot easily) comply with.
This will mean that ATC can bring aircraft closer to you without fear of a mid-air collision, including 1,000 feet vertical separation for RVSM capable aircraft, instead of the normal 2,000 feet separation.