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Aircraft Stations



You may only use your hand-held aircraft VHF radio in your aircraft under the terms of your aircraft license. You are required to have a separate Ground Station license to operate your radio on the ground.


Radio transmitters to be used in aircraft must be type accepted in accordance with Part 87 of the Commission's Rules except that radio transmitters to be used in conjunction with aeronautical public service frequencies must be type accepted in accordance with Part 80.
Licensees are authorized to make routine tests of their station equipment when required for proper maintenance, but precautions must be taken to avoid interference with any other station. The frequency 121.5 MHz may not be used for such a test.
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Station Operation

The licensee of a radio station is responsible at all times for the proper operation of the station. Radio operators should use the following guidelines to make radio a useful tool for safe and efficient flight:
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Emergency and Distress

The frequency 121.5 MHz is the international simplex channel for use by aircraft in distress or emergency. It is assigned only in combination with other operational frequencies. The frequency 243 MHz is available to survival craft stations and emergency locator transmitters which are also equipped to transmit on 121.5 MHz.
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International Operations

Stations aboard aircraft flying outside U.S. territory may communicate with foreign ground stations using frequencies that are not specified on their FCC station license. Aircraft radio operators on international flights should be aware of the requirements of foreign administrations.
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Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit

At least one person on each aircraft flying or communicating internationally must have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit. This requirement is in addition to the requirement to have an aircraft radio station license for the aircraft. No Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit is required to operate VHF radio equipment on board an aircraft when that aircraft is flown domestically. You may obtain a Restricted Permit using FCC Form 605. No test is required to obtain this permit. The FCC will mail the permit to you and it will be valid for your lifetime. The fee for a Restricted Permit is in addition to any fee paid for an aircraft license.
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Conditional Authority

You may operate your aircraft radio after you have submitted your application(s) to the FCC so long as you fill out, detach, and retain FCC Form 605, Schedule F. The temporary operating authority is valid for 90 days after you submit your application to the FCC and should be kept with your station records until you receive your license/permit through the mail.
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Acceptable Radios

As of January 1, 1997, each VHF aircraft radio used on board a U.S. aircraft must be type accepted by the FCC as meeting a 30 parts-per-million (ppm) frequency tolerance (47 C.F.R. § 87.133). The vast majority of aircraft radios that have been type accepted under the 30 ppm frequency tolerance utilize 25 kHz spacing and have 720 or 760 channels. Each aircraft radio has a label with an FCC ID number on the unit.
This rule applies to all U.S. aircraft radio stations, including those no longer required to be licensed individually. The effect of this rule is to require a 30 ppm type accepted radio to be placed on board if the pilot intends to use a VHF aircraft radio for communications. There is no requirement, however, for an older radio to be removed from an aircraft in cases where the pilot does not intend to use it to transmit radio signals (e.g., receive-only operation, an integral part of a navigation/communications unit, or decoration in a vintage aircraft).
A radio which has not been type accepted as 30 ppm may not be returned to service by simply changing the crystals, or adjusting the unit to meet the 30 ppm frequency tolerance. The only way to bring a unit into compliance is through the installation of an FCC type accepted "upgrade kit," which may be available from the unit's manufacturer. Like the radio itself the upgrade kit will have an FCC ID number that may be verified against the FCC Aircraft Radio List. Presently, however, few manufacturers offer FCC type accepted upgrade kits. If a kit is not available for a particular model of radio, the radio may not be adjusted and used for communications purposes on board an aircraft. If no kit is available, the radio may be reinstalled in the aircraft so long it is not intended to be used to transmit radio signals.
The Commission adopted the 30 ppm frequency tolerance in 1984 in order to conform its rules with those adopted internationally in the Final Acts of the World Administrative Radio Conference, Geneva, 1979. At that time, this action was endorsed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was strongly supported by Aeronautical Radio, Inc., the Air Line Pilots Association, the Air Transport Association, and the National Business Aircraft Association, Inc. This action was found to be consistent with the FAA's three-phase plan to implement 25 kHz channel spacing in the 118-137 MHz band, which creates more radio channels for use by pilots. These organizations also noted that users of older radios would have limited access to FAA air traffic control channels, would experience flight delays in FAA controlled air space, and would be unable to utilize newly available aviation frequencies in the 136-137 MHz band. Based on comments by the FAA and the other groups listed above, the Commission determined that permitting the continued operation of older radios type accepted prior to 1974 would pose a threat to safety in air navigation.
The Commission has taken steps to minimize the impact of this rule change on small entities and private pilots, including: (1) providing over a decade for the transition to more efficient radio equipment, (2) not requiring radios to be removed from aircraft in cases where pilots do not intend to use them to transmit radio signals (e.g., receive-only operation, an integral part of a navigation/communications unit, or decoration in a vintage aircraft), and (3) giving manufacturers the flexibility to type accept and market "upgrade kits."
arrow in front of link List of unacceptable aircraft radios
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