A Guide to Common Aviation Radio Frequencies

In order for flight operations to be safely and efficiently carried out, aircraft are fitted with a number of systems and technologies that assist the pilot in their various duties. One of the most important elements on an aircraft is the radio system which allows pilots to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) and other individuals as required. When communicating on radios, it is important to know all of the right frequencies and jargon to use. While it can be difficult to memorize everything, having a basic understanding of the most common frequencies is very important for any new or current pilot.

Aviation frequencies are separated into four groups, those of which are low frequency (LF), medium frequency (MF), high frequency (HF), and very high frequency (VHF) variations. In the early days of aviation, most communication occurred on the low frequency band which ranged between 200 and 415 KHz. While low frequency radio communication has since become obsolete with higher bands existing, low frequency beacons still assist in instrument landings and as backup solutions during the failure of navigation systems. For medium frequency communication, pilots will utilize bands between 2850 and 3000 KHz. Generally, a majority of modern aircraft feature radio direction finders that are able to maintain their bearing through focusing on medium frequency transmissions.

High frequency bands were once used for most domestic voice communication, but this has since changed as the very high frequency band has come about. Nevertheless, the high frequency band still finds use for voice communications during international flights, a result of the wider distances that HF signals can travel, as compared to VHF signals. As stated before, the VHF band is now mostly used for domestic aircraft communication, though it also supports the VOR navigational system as well. For full access to VHF communication, the FAA recommends that all aircraft have a 760-channel radio with 25 KHz channel spacing.

While navigation systems utilize radio frequencies for their operations, not all radios are capable of being used in such a way. While some radios are only able to handle communication signals, others are dedicated for navigation. Meanwhile, dual-capability options are also available if one wishes to have the benefit of radio navigation and communication capabilities.

Even if a pilot has the right type of radio system and knows of every frequency, they will still need to practice basic communication and lingo to effectively work with air traffic control and other individuals. There are a variety of aircraft call signs that will need to be learned, and pilots should never use any sort of slang or jargon that may end up in a miscommunication. If you are learning communication for the first time, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of a workbook or class that allows you to quickly familiarize yourself with everything you need for communication.

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