I'm surprised the Pilot's Jargon
series doesn't have this one...one way to 'squawk' is to set an aircraft transponder
to the frequency
or code signal
indicated. General aviation transponders in the US have a four digit octal
code setting, so 'squawking 1200' means to set the transponder to 1200. 'Squawk IDENT' means to push the button labelled 'ID' or 'IDENT' - which causes your blip on the radar screen to embiggen so that the controller can be sure they're looking at the right one. If a controller tells you to 'Squawk 3577 and ident' then...do both. Mode C and Mode S transponders (in the U.S. at least) squawk altitude, meaning that when they are set to 'ALT' and detect an air traffic radar
signal, they respond with a signal which includes their encoded octal number as well as the aircraft's current altitude. In an emergency
, a pilot should squawk 7700
which means set his or her transponder to that set of digits so that it returns that code to Air Traffic Control
. This indicates that the aircraft is in distress.
The other meaning of 'squawk' is a report of something broken on the aircraft. If the pilot finds things not working, broken or unsafe during the inspection or during the flight, they will return a report (usually to whoever maintains the aircraft if it is not their own craft) with a list of 'squawks' on it.