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Aircraft Monitoring: General

No other facet of radio monitoring involves more specialized knowledge than aircraft. The Official Aeronautical Frequency Directory (sold by Radio Shack) is even thicker than Police Call. How can you sort through all this, and what does it mean? Before you start in earnest, it might be a good idea to understand a few basic things.

The best approach to aircraft monitoring is to keep it simple at first. If you live near a major airport, the control tower frequency alone can keep you plenty busy. Same with the CTAF/Unicom frequency at a busy small airport. There is a large menu of things to listen to, and the listener can easily become overwhelmed by all these choices.

Your best source of basic frequency and operational information is the NOAA Sectional Aeronautical Chart for your area. Airports are listed along with runway info, and control/advisory frequencies. You can buy one for around $7.50 from the Fixed Base Operator at most airports. (This is the outfit that sells fuel, flying lessons, etc.)

Your next best source of frequency info is from the aircraft themselves. As aircraft are handed off from controller to controller, they give the frequencies and functions out as part of the conversation. Take good notes, or even better, keep a small tape recorder.

Different Monitoring Environments

Different people have different interests in monitoring. Some just like to watch planes take off and land. Others may be interested in special activities in the sky. Others might wish to track an airliner or fighter jet as they cross the sky. Some private pilots might just want to keep track of their friends as they fly around the local puddle-jumper airports. For this reason, I want to address each of these environments.


Click here to see my personal Top-20 list for travelling around.

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