What is Airband (Aviation Band) on a Radio?

© 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.

http://radio-scanner-guide.com/radioscannerguidepart3c-civilaircraft.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Listen-to-Your-Local-Air-Traffic-Control

 

What is Shortwave?

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Shortwave radio
is a radio transmission using shortwave frequencies, generally 1.6–30 MHz (187.4–10.0 m), just above the medium wave AM broadcast band. Many of SW’s properties are similar to AM like the ability for the signal to travel long distances.

Since the early 1900’s, there have been significant advances in radio. One of the biggest advances that has had the most impact on shortwave, is streaming on the internet and through internet enabled devices like smartphones and Internet radios. Many of the most popular shortwave broadcasts in the late 90’s and early 2000’s have almost disappeared from shortwave and switched to streaming. If stations are still broadcasting, they often no longer broadcast to the Americas or much of Europe.

At any one moment, there are literally hundreds of millions of signals now transmitted from a wide range of devices. Cell phones, garage door openers, AM and FM broadcast stations, police, fire, airlines, TV stations and even the AC power to your home all occupy a part of the frequency spectrum. Time, propagation and the ionosphere all have an impact on what you are able to receive. Because all signals are affected by these things, it is important to understand the basics of radio transmission.

If you really want to learn about shortwave, the best way to learn, is to listen to it. ShortwaveSchedule.com provides a list of all the signals currently broadcasting at the time of your search and is a great starting place for your shortwave listening quest.

Why Would I Listen to Shortwave?

  1. Governments often use shortwave “utility” bands. Utility bands are where the action is on shortwave and are used for reliable long range communication. Coast Guard Search and Rescue, coordination of US military aviation and spy networks all use this band. One reason it continues to be used, is it is very difficult to block these transmissions. Utility stations generally operate in upper sideband mode. Virtually none of these type of transmissions is on the Internet.
  2. During a big crisis, whether it be an earthquake or hurricane, your best source of real news can be shortwave. Ham operators do an excellent job of contacting emergency services and handling messages between people. You may have experienced “all circuits busy” situations or failed text messages in a large scale emergency situation due to cellular towers being down or overloaded. Amateur radio is the only communication that works well under all circumstances and for that reason, it will continue to be used for the foreseeable future.
  3. News from other countries will give you a new perspective on the world. Following shortwave closely over a few months will give you information that approximates the political information the President and staff have at their disposal to make global decisions. When you listen to shortwave you find out how difficult it is to make decisions with global consequences. The political bent of a country slips out providing you with an alternative point of view. There is a whole world of listening and very little of it may be found on the Internet.
  4. You might stumble across a Pirate Radio station

If you have the urge, you can even take to the air waves yourself by becoming a Ham operator through the American  Radio Relay League (ARRL). You don’t even have to learn Morse code anymore unless you go for an advanced classification.

SWLING.com is probably one of the most comprehensive sites in regard to shortwave and advocating for it. This article on Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future really outlines what’s available and what’s not and why.

Share with us the most interesting shortwave broadcast you’ve heard.

What I will hear on the 2-Meter Amateur Radio Band

International competition on the VHF radio become a tradition for a long time. These competitions are held the first weekend in July. Typically, operators of amateur radio stations go out of town - to field, and from there carry out radio communications. On the picture are operators from Russia, at the field day 2011 year Photo taken July 2, 2011

International competition on the VHF radio become a tradition for a long time. These competitions are held the first weekend in July. Typically, operators of amateur radio stations go out of town to field, and from there carry out radio communications. Pictured are Ham Operators from Russia, at the Field Day 2011 Photo taken July 2, 2011

What is the 2-Meter Amateur Radio band anyway?

According to Wikipedia, “The 2 meter amateur radio band is a portion of the VHF (very high frequency) Spectrum, comprising of frequencies stretching from 144.000 MHz to 148.000 MHz.” These communications are generally FM or frequency modulated transmissions although some operators do operate using SSB (single sideband) or CW (Morse code). These modes of operation allow for longer distance communications without the use of repeater stations.

While listening to the 2-meter ham band you can expect to hear normal conversations or “rag chew” as the hams call it. You may also hear a ham operator on his way home from work asking his wife if she needs anything from the store. You may hear a ham operator reporting a traffic accident and requesting emergency services.

You may also hear ham radio operators providing on the scene emergency communications during times of disaster. Often you will hear a ham operator reporting on conditions long before the general public has been advised of the situation via the normal news media. Even before you hear the information listening to a police or emergency services scanner you have already heard about the situation if you are monitoring the 2-meter ham band.

Ham Operators coordinate emergency efforts. SSB (or Single Side Band AM) transmits in long distances. The 2-Meter Ham band can have similar type local broadcasts but is normally much clearer audio and is FM.

The 2-Meter Amateur band frequencies are reserved for the exclusive use of those licensed in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as Amateur Radio Operators or “Ham Radio Operators”. Ham radio operators use the 2-meter band for general conversations as well as for emergency communications. Ham radio operators are often the first called upon to assist in major disasters with communications between the public and emergency services such a law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. The American Red Cross has recognized that the 2-Meter Amateur band is a very effective way of providing communications during times of emergency and Ham radio operators provide 90% of the coordination efforts during a major emergency. During an emergency a 2-Meter band receiver could save your life or that of a loved one.

How does the 2-Meter Amateur Radio Band work?

In most communities, the local Ham radio operators own and maintain repeaters on the 2-meter band, which assists their communications by increasing the distance that they can communicate with each other while still maintaining the quality of an FM transmission. These repeater stations are located in high locations such as mountaintops or tall buildings in the big cities and consist of a powerful transmitter and a high-gain antenna allowing Ham operators to extend their coverage areas, often as much as 200 miles or more. These stations often have alternative forms of power such as generators, solar power and batteries, which keep them in operation when the commercial power supply has been discontinued due to weather or other disasters. Individual ham operators have also found alternative power sources for their equipment so that they can operate even when there is no commercial power available.

Ham radio operators are very inventive in their approach to communications and can often find a way to communicate when normal communications such as cell phones have been interrupted. As an example, Ham radio operators have been able to make phone calls using the 2-meter band for many years before the invention of the cellular telephone.

More information about the 2-Meter Amateur Radio Band.

Because it is local and reliable, and because the licensing requirements to transmit on the 2-meter band are easy to meet in the United States and many other countries, this band is the most popular Amateur Radio band in the United States. The 2-meter band is often the band on which Ham radio operators make their first contacts. Obtaining a Ham operator’s license consists of taking a simple test containing 35 questions covering such topics as operating procedures, rules and regulations and some minor electronics theory. There is no requirement to pass a Morse code test to be licensed to operate on the 2-meter amateur radio band. 2-meter radio equipment is also very affordable and can be as simple as a small hand held transceiver or a powerful base or mobile transceiver. This popularity also means that it is the most often used band for emergency communications such as providing emergency communications between Red Cross shelters and local authorities. Many neighborhood disaster relief organizations use the 2-Meter Amateur Radio band for their official communications during times of emergency.

To learn more about 2-Meter Ham radio and what is required to obtain a license contact the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) at http://www.arrl.org or call (860) 594-0300. They can provide you with local contacts for training classes in your area and test dates and locations. Your local Amateur Radio Club members will assist you in all aspects of obtaining your license including what type of equipment you need to get started. Also a gentleman named Gordon West would love to help you get started in ham radio. He has a school you can attend in Southern California (Gordon West Radio School) or you can order study materials from the W5YI Group at www.w5yi.org. Bob Crane recommends Gordon West’s course materials as they are extremely well written, while making it enjoyable to learn. Mr. West will even take a phone call if you have a question. Also take a look at our C. Crane blog post The Importance of HAM Amateur Radio by Tim Carter, Ask the Builder . He has a great story about Ham Operators and how important they are in aiding in emergency efforts. You will discover that Ham radio operators are a great bunch of people. They provide this irreplaceable public service for free.

Resources:
W5YI : Your Resource for Amateur Radio and Commercial Radio
Technician Class: 2006-10 FCC Element 2 Amateur Radio License Preparation – By Gordon West WB6NOA.