FlightAware Discussions

Helicopter with No Transponder for 6 Years?

Tail No N888HA, a RED Helicopter flying over Las Vegas since 2014, or much earlier, but I began documenting its rogue activities since 2014. None of the Tracking sites including Flight Aware has any tracking or data except my uploads. No Tracking for almost 6 years, and I have never seen this Helicopter using Transponder??.. Never once, nada, not a single time this Helicopter showed up on any tracking site, unless someone prove this is wrong or post the data.
All these years, it is been flying 24/7, all day, every day, more trips in the evening hours from 4pm-7.30PM.

Can anyone explain why? and how any let alone this Helicopter but any craft can fly for years without Transponder?..

Hunter of Rogue criminal crafts in the sky

The helicopter is staying within class E or class G airspace where transponders are not required.

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I’d say they are doing helicopter tours.


There is a picture of N888HA on Flickr where it is sitting in the lot at 702 Helicopters. It’s registered to Helicopter Leasing Services, which is owned by the people who run Equipment Leasing Services ( equipls.com ). So if I were to venture a guess, the helo is probably leased out to 702 or to somebody else for either flight training or helicopter tours.

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It does have a transponder, just not the more modern ADS-B (or mode-S) type you are used to thinking about.

This helicopter has the older original mode-3A type transponder with a 4-digit squawk. You are probably familiar with things like squawk “1200” for VFR. The squawk is assigned by ATC before takeoff and sometimes changed inflight.

Because they are operating in the Las Vegas area they also have the required mode-3C (or just “C”) which includes an altitude encoder. Mode-C is required in the Vegas area and depicted as required on the Vegas sectional chart.

If you were using software such as PlanePlotter you would actually be able to see both the 3A squawk codes and C altitudes. PlanePlotter can even perform MLAT with 3A squawk codes and provide position much like FlightAware does with mode-S.

As we get closer to the January 2020 deadline you will see more of these aircraft using the “older” style transponders upgrading to ADS-B.

Hope this helps. The military uses the 3-A/C and mode-s / ADS-B like civilian traffic, and also has modes 1, 2, 4, and now 5.


Edit: Yes, I realize that the PlanePlotter feature used to determine position using Mode-A radar pulses is actually called “Beamfinder Plus” and it is not an MLAT procedure that requires multiple receivers. I initially used MLAT above because I thought FA users here would be more familiar with the term.

For those interested, PlanePlotter has three different Beamfinder modes, one of which (Mode-A) only requires a single receiver and one ATC radar head interrogating the aircraft.


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that begs the question, is it legal to fly without Transponder, is it mandatory?.. flying without Transponder seems like the pilot or co do not want to be honest or transparent in their activities, especially flying over residential areas??

Thank you for the detailed info…!!..

Interesting, linked to 702, needs some digging into!!!. Ty