'Video footage taken by a Federal Express commercial airline pilot, the tankers didn't appear on the Fed-Ex aircraft avoidance system....in other words they were "Ghost Planes"
The FedEx Aircraft was on a dangerous collision heading with what appears to be two tankers. Vertical separation under 2,000 feet.
"... FedEx 5034 with request"
"... FedEx 5034 is requesting flight level '340' (34,000 feet)"
Second tanker on collision heading...
FedEx 5034 descends to 34,000 feet only to discover a third tanker at that altitude.
Conclusion: tankers were operating at civilian altitude with transponder off. The control tower had no idea the Air Force tankers existed and no radar system was available to warn the FedEx pilot of danger."
This is quite laughable reading this, especially to anyone with experience in the flying world. Below we can break down each one of these statements; conclusions drawn by someone with little or no knowledge on how air traffic control works.
1. Claim: The FedEx Aircraft was on a dangerous collision heading with what appears to be two tankers. Vertical separation under 2,000 feet.
Reality: These "tankers" are regular airliners operating in the same airspace as the MD-11. Any impending collision would have not only been audible on the MD-11's TCAS, but also triggered an alert on the appropriate controller's screen.
1. All of these aircraft are flying together in RVSM airspace. RVSM was implemented to reduce the vertical separation above flight level (FL) 290 from 2000-ft minimum to 1000-ft minimum. It allows aircraft to safely fly more optimum profiles, gain fuel savings and increase airspace capacity. The process of safely changing the separation standard required a study to assess the actual performance of airspace users under the old vertical separation standard of 2000-ft and potential performance under the new standard 1000-ft. In 1988, the ICAO Review of General Concept of Separation Panel (RGCSP) completed this study and concluded that safe implementation of the 1000-ft separation standard was technically feasible. RVSM was subsequently implemented and today RVSM represents a global standard for 1000-ft vertical separation.
2. Had these aircraft truly been on a dangerous collision heading, the MD-11's TCAS or Traffic Collision Avoidance System would have been alerting the pilots to an impending collision.
TCAS monitors the airspace around an aircraft for other aircraft, independent of air traffic control, and warns pilots of the presence of other aircraft which may present a threat of mid-air collision. TCAS uses aural annunciation of all warnings, similar to the ground proximity warning system (GPWS)
Rather than using fixed distances, threats are detected on a basis of time to conflict. Any aircraft on a flight path causing a conflict within the next 20-50 seconds triggers a traffic warning. (TA) Traffic coming even closer (15-35 seconds) may also trigger a resolution advisory (RA), i.e. advise each pilot of conflicting aircraft to climb or descend to provide optimal vertical separation.
TCAS is mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to be fitted to all aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of over 5,700 kg (12,600 lb) or authorized to carry more than 19 passengers.
2. Claim: Tankers were operating at civilian altitude with transponder off.
There is no such thing as a "civilian" altitude. All aircraft entering Class B airspace must obtain ATC clearance prior to entry and must be prepared for denial of clearance. Aircraft must be equipped with a two-way radio for communications with ATC and an operating Mode C transponder. Furthermore aircraft overflying the upper limit of any Class B airspace must have an operating Mode C transponder.
Even if their transponder would have been "turned off" they would have been detected on primary radar returns. Primary radar is still used by ATC today as a backup/complementary system to secondary radar, although its coverage and information is more limited.
Here is a great article on the breakdown of controlled airspace in the United States, and how the different agencies, ground, tower, clearance delivery etc work together.
3. Claim: The control tower had no idea the Air Force tankers existed and no radar system was available to warn the FedEx pilot of danger."
Once again..way off. All military aircraft fly in FAA controlled airspace, therefore they must adhere to the FAA's regulations. Every military aircraft is on a filed flight plan with ATC. Even if it is our tanker flying with a 6 ship of fighters on the wing, we have declared MARSA (Military Accepts Responsibility for Separation of Aircraft) with the controlling facility, on a pre approved ALTRV (Altitude Reservation) with the tanker's Mode C transponder operating in TA Mode, and the fighters squawking standby.
The need to be able to identify aircraft more easily and reliably led to another wartime radar development, the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, which had been created as a means of positively identifying friendly aircraft from enemy. This system, which became known in civil use as secondary surveillance radar (SSR) or in the USA as the air traffic control radar beacon system (ATCRBS), relies on a piece of equipment aboard the aircraft known as a "transponder." The transponder is a radio receiver and transmitter which receives on one frequency (1030 MHz) and transmits on another (1090 MHz). The target aircraft's transponder replies to signals from an interrogator (usually, but not necessarily, a ground station co-located with a primary radar) by transmitting a coded reply signal containing the requested information.
Both the civilian SSR and the military IFF have become much more complex than their war-time ancestors, but remain compatible with each other, not least to allow military aircraft to operate in civil airspace. SSR can now provide much more detailed information, for example, the aircraft's altitude, and it also permits the exchange of data directly between aircraft for collision avoidance. (TCAS)!! Given its primary military role of reliably identifying friends, IFF has much more secure (encrypted) messages to prevent "spoofing" by the enemy, and also is used on all kinds of military platforms including air, sea and land vehicles.
Surveillance displays are available to controllers at larger airports to assist with controlling air traffic. SSR displays include a map of the area, the position of various aircraft, and data tags that include aircraft identification, speed, altitude, and other information described in local procedures. Since the MD-11 was at FL340, he had already long since been passed off by tower to departure control, and most likely to an ARTCC or "center", with an 4 digit code assigned by ATC entered in its transponder, which was displaying the above information on the appropriate controller's screen.
The difference between primary and secondary (SSR) radar
Any sort of impending collision would have triggered an alert on the controller's screen. The screen looks sort of like this.
Any pilot flying around in Class B airspace, (or any controlled airspace for that matter) unannounced and unauthorized would face not only the wrath of the FAA and the controllers, but also of the thousands of other pilots flying in that airspace. It most likely would also earn the pilot a visit by a pair of armed F16's or F15C's next to his cockpit window.
The video is misleading since all it shows is the MD-11 pilot requesting a different flight level..nothing more.