What is Airband (Aviation Band) on a Radio?

© Frankljunior | Dreamstime.com - Air Traffic Control Tower And An Airplane Photo

© Frankljunior | Dreamstime.com – Air Traffic Control Tower And An Airplane Photo

This has become a popular question with our new CC Skywave™.

According to Wikipedia, Airband, also referred to as Aircraft or Aviation band, is a group of frequencies in the VHF radio spectrum that are allocated to civil aviation radio communications. VHF is a short range, line of site transmission. Our radio covers 118 – 137MHz for Airband. In most countries a license is required to operate airband equipment but that appears to apply only to transceivers, not receivers. In some countries it is illegal to listen to or monitor the Airband without authorization (even in the UK).

The language that is used to communicate on this band can be a challenge to follow. Ken Hoke’s article on Stuff Pilots Say, gives some great insight into the meaning of the seemingly cryptic language used on Airband.

The primary purpose of Air traffic control worldwide is to prevent collisions, organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and provide information and other support for pilots. It was difficult to find any “history” of airband but it appears that it was first used extensively after World War I and after 1921 at Croydon airport in London. Navigation and air traffic control have changed over time and many areas use higher frequencies and RADAR and other more sophisticated systems. The Airband radio frequencies still continue to play a part though, especially in ground communication with pilots. It is used almost exclusively in small airports that don’t have control towers. We have one customer who plans to use the CC Skywave for monitoring the ground to pilot communication at the local air races.

As to why we decided to include Airband in our radio? Here is Bob’s answer:

“When you are in a big airport you are sometimes subject to the whims of security and circumstance. TSA does a great job but when the process gets a little tense I yearn for more information. I want to know everything that will affect my tiny domain. When you listen to aviation band you can usually figure out more by reading between the lines on what pilots and the control tower are talking about. Sometimes you gain a sense of power and wisdom as you do with any knowledge.”

For more information on what you might hear or how to listen, visit the links below.



Tell us your best airline story to be entered to win a CC Skywave. One entry per person. Winner will be drawn on February 27th.

473 Responses to “What is Airband (Aviation Band) on a Radio?”

  1. Dr. James T. Low Says:

    When I was working on my Ph.D. dissertationin in 1977 at the University of Michigan Business School, I used the Airband to listen to landings, takeoffs and taxiing instructions between the tower controllers and the pilots at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. I was building a GPSS simulation model to analyze passenger congestion delays throughout the airport, both airside and landside, to examine where delays would occur, under what conditions, how much delay would be incurred, and what would happen if efforts were made to alleviate the delays. Since I was a long-time ham radio operator (K8JEM), I knew how to build my own customized 5-element beam antenna for the Airband frequencies, so I could use a shortwave-capable radio to listen to the controllers from Ann Arbor, 40 miles from the airport. That normally is not possible without a special antenna. My simulation model did correctly point out what would happen when the Republicans all tried to fly out at the same time, after the 1980 Republican Convention in Detroit.

  2. Andrew Lazazzera Says:

    In 2014 last week of Sept. and 1st. week of Oct. air flight from Chgo. to Munich to Naples, Italy we rented an automatic
    vehicle and explored the island of Ichichia about 7-10 miles off Naples’ coast. We enjoyed the small coastal town of
    Laco Ameno most and our tour rose to 500 ft. circling to the near top of the island. I, as driver, had only brief glimpses
    downward since the elevations were about 500 ft. high or more. We gasped when, in the opposite direction, we were approached by a tour bus; both our vehicles slowed to a near stop and we squeezed thru.
    We enjoyed picture taking along the coast at Laco Ameno, buying fresh fruit, and Italian ice cream. adl123@ameritech.net

  3. jane wade Says:

    My best travel story was when we were sleeping in a volkswagen bus and a bear came up and scratched himself on the back bumper, making us think we were falling down a hill, and then he came to the front and put his paws on the window and looked in, scaring my son and all of ut.

  4. Leora Worthington Says:

    In 1969 20 others and I traveled from Columbus, Ohio to set up a biology camp in the Bahamas. We left the Ft. Lauderdale airport in a DC-3 to land at the Reynolds company airport on Andros Island where we had no electricity, a water ration each day and lived in tents along with the “no see ems”. On our daily dives we encountered sharks, enjoyed the graceful flying of the sea turtles and discovered that fish see as well as we do.

  5. JOHN Says:

    I listen to Aircraft bands most every evening– very relaxing.

  6. Gregg Freeby Says:

    My best travel story involves camping in the mountains in southern Colorado. We were awoken in the wee hours of the night by a brown bear that had broken into our ice chest. He ate EVERYTHING. He drank jugs of juice, ripped open packages of cold cuts, bit through our egg carrier and event bit into tins of fruit. Nothing could stop him. He devoured everything in our ice chest. Or so we thought. When we were cleaning up after he left we discovered one last item left, untouched in the ice chest. My plastic bottle of homemade spaghetti sauce! From that moment on my family began referring to my sauce as “bear repellent”. “Are we having bear repellent for dinner tonight?”

  7. Mary Steuer Says:

    My best airline travel experiences are cross country U.S. flights where the scenery below changes dramatically.Also enjoyable are North to South U.S. flights in early Spring, watching the new season unfold. Hope I win the new Airband!!

  8. Tim Gunter Says:

    I remember hearing a broadcast from an airband frequency at the Fort Smith airport and often the outside temperature was always broadcast. It was also for airports of area cities. 1680 AM is frequency for the Bill and Hillary Clinton airport near Little Rock and the broadcast was repetitious. This was on my recent trip to Little Rock.

  9. Lee Says:

    Live near an airport. Wonder no more.

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