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September 15th 2022
5 min read

What types of airband radios are there?

What types of airband radios are there?

Airband radios are mainly used by pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) for vital two-way communication.  

Available in different types and models, there are various airband radios on the market with radios and transceivers, both handheld and panel-mounted.

Follow our guide on everything you need to know about airband radios as we explore what an airband radio is, the different types available and important information surrounding their use. 

Table of Contents:

  1. What are airband radios?
  2. Do I need an airband radio licence?
  3. What is the best radio for listening to aircraft?
  4. What is the best frequency to listen to aircraft?
  5. Can I listen to military aircraft?

What are airband radios?

Airband radios use very high frequencies (VHF), between 108 and 137 MHz, and channels that differ from those used on the ground. These frequencies are specially reserved for use between aircraft and ground control. 

Airband is usually divided into COM and NAV channels. COM channels use higher frequencies mainly for voice communication, whereas NAV channels use lower frequencies for navigational assistance. 

Airband Radio

Do I need an airband radio licence?

A licence to operate airband equipment is usually required. In most countries, it is not permitted to transmit on airband frequencies without the correct license and listening to airband frequencies is also illegal in some countries. In the UK, those without a license can only listen to general broadcasts and cannot listen to ATC communications.

The Flight Radiotelephony Operator's Licence is normally granted as part of a pilot's private licence training. It authorises a pilot to operate an Aircraft Radio Station in a UK-registered aircraft. Student pilots are usually exempt while under the supervision of an instructor.

What aircraft radio licenses are there?

OFCOM issues licences to cover aircraft, ground-air communications, radio navigation aids, and radar. Aeronautical radio is divided into two main categories; aircraft and ground stations.

Aircraft radio licence

There are two types of aircraft radio licenses; radio licenses and transportable radio licenses.

Aircraft radio licences

Aircraft radio licenses cover the aircraft for all aeronautical radio equipment it carries. The license fee is relative to the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft.

Aircraft transportable radio license

Aircraft transportable radio licenses cover the use of one handheld portable VHF radio, which is not tied to a single aircraft.

Aeronautical ground station licence

This license authorises the installation and use of radio installations which provide ground-to-air communication.

Airband Transceiver

What is the best radio for listening to aircraft?

Consider which frequency bands you want to be able to pick up with your airband radio and whether you'll be using it for listening to transmissions or for communications.

Our collection of airband radios and scanners can pick up frequency bands from aircraft within line of sight.

Airband radio

Flightstore's range of airband radios and scanners can receive the VHF aircraft band (108-137MHz). Certain models can also cover both VHF and UHF aircraft bands (225-400MHz) to receive military aircraft transmissions as well as civilian.

Handheld aircraft transceivers

Handheld aircraft transceivers are the same design as a typical handheld two-way radio.

They can be an invaluable educational tool for student pilots to familiarise themselves with local traffic. Listening to what other pilots say and how they respond to ATC can speed up the learning process.

Panel-mounted aircraft transceivers

Panel-mounted airband radios are generally installed in the cockpit of an aeroplane or other aircraft. 

Operating information is clearly shown on the display with dimmer functions that adjust the display for optimum brightness during the day and night.

ADS-B receivers

ADS-B receivers provide greater accuracy for monitoring aircraft position than conventional radar surveillance, which means that more precise information can be transmitted to ground controllers and other aircraft to avoid in-air collisions.

What is the best frequency to listen to aircraft?

Airband frequencies are in the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio spectrum allocated to radio communication in civil aviation. The VHF airband uses frequencies between 108 and 137 MHz.

View out the front of a cockpit window

Can I listen to military aircraft?

Not every airband radio and scanner can communicate or listen to military aircraft. 

More expensive airband radios allow you to receive the UHF aircraft band (225-400MHz) and the VHF aircraft band, which means they can receive military aircraft transmissions as well as civilian. 

If you're seeking an airband radio that can listen to military aircraft, check out the Uniden 125XLT, which can pick up the military frequency band. 

Depending on the terrain and your receiving antenna, you may hear military aircraft  for well over 100 miles. 

Find the right airband radio

Whether you're a student or a seasoned flyer, explore our airband radios and scanners collection.

Our collection boasts top brands like Uniden and Icom airband radios and transceivers at Flightstore.


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