Air Band Radio Basics

No matter how high you fly, staying connected while you're aloft is critical. Air band radios keep the lines of communication open for aviators as they are flying the friendly skies.

Employing VHF frequencies in the 108 MHz to 137 MHz range, air band radios, also known as avionic radios, serve as navigation tools and provide two-way communication for pilots. VHF air band channels are allotted by the Federal Communications Commission for the electronic systems used on aircraft. Unlike land-based radios, air band radios boast a much greater range since they are transmitting from air to air or from air to ground. Handheld air band radios of 5 watts have a much greater range than a ground-to-ground VHF or UHF two-way radio that is also 5 watts.

Understanding the Band

At the higher end of the band, COM channels are programmed for voice communication and have frequencies ranging from 118.000 MHz to 136.975 MHz. For navigational help, NAV channels are on the lower end of the band with assigned frequencies from 108.000 MHz to 117.95 MHz. These frequencies are split into 200 narrow-band channels of 50 kHZ.

A system of short-range beacons called VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) has become the global standard for navigators and helps pilots in knowing their position so that they are able to stay on course during a flight. NOAA weather alerts and updates also appear on VHF air band radios.

The Many Forms Air Band Radios Take

Air band radios can be handheld, panel mounted or ground station-based. Handheld air band radios look much like portable handheld land mobile two-way radios. Panel-mounted air band radios, like a mobile radio in a car, mount into an aircraft's cockpit. Ground station avionic radios mounted in a vehicle or an office operate on the ground. Incidentally, the band just below the Civil Aviation Band (108 to 137 MHz) is the universally recognized FM radio band everyone listens to in their cars or at home that ranges from 88 MHz to 108 MHz.