In aviation, pilots utilize avionic radios, also known as air band radios, for both navigation and communication. Air band radios rely on VHF frequencies of 108 MHz to 137 MHz because the FCC designated separate, specific channels to both land based and air based radios. Trans-oceanic aircraft may use HF frequencies as well, but for aircraft traveling over land and open spaces, avionic radios depend exclusively on VHF frequencies. The transmissions occur from either ground to air or air to air, so they cover large distances and have a much greater range than on the ground radio stations.
Both handheld airband radios and panel mounted navigation/ communication (NAV/COM) radios are used in aviation, with NAV/COM radios often providing access to a greater range of frequencies. COM channels use the higher end of the allotted frequencies between 118.000 MHz to 136.975 MHz for communication, while NAV channels use the lower end of the allotted frequencies between 108.000 MHz to 117.95 MHz for navigational assistance. VHF airband radios also access NOAA weather channels and an emergency communication frequency known as International Air Distress (IAD). Frequencies are measured in MHz which relate to the channel numbers, and each frequency has a bandwidth of around 50 kHz-100 kHz.
Different models of air band radios have different access to frequencies. The three basic types of aviation radios are the handheld air band radio, the panel mount radio, and the ground station which typically consists of a radio mounted into a panel or vehicle on the ground. Similar to land handheld radios, air band handheld radios are portable and allow for two-way radio between one user and another. Handheld airband radios are available in models such as the AC-I6 which offers access to COM channels exclusively, and the AC-I14 which offers access to the full range of NAV/COM channels.
The panel mount radio is typically built into the cockpit of the aircraft along with the pilots other instruments, and it functions to pick up NAV/COM channels. However, ground station radios function to pick up NAV/COM channels for personnel monitoring air travel from the ground. Until the 1990s, air band radio operators were required to be licensed to access aircraft radio stations, but this was eliminated by the FCC in 1996. This led to a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82, 11 FCC Rcd 14849, FCC 96-421 which allowed any aircraft operating domestically to utilize avionic radios. Stations accessed by these radios must be licensed by the FCC, either individually, or by fleet. Avionic radios are licensed for use by pilots and are not licensed or intended for general consumer use.
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