The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which became law on February 8, 1996, brought about fundamental changes in the licensing of aircraft radio stations. Aircraft radio stations include all types of radio transmitting equipment used aboard an aircraft, e.g., two-way radiotelephones, radar, radionavigation equipment, and emergency locator transmitters (ELTs). The primary purpose of aircraft radio equipment is to ensure safety of aircraft in flight.
On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82 (text
) eliminating the individual licensing requirement for all aircraft, including scheduled air carriers, air taxis and general aviation aircraft operating domestically. This means that you do not need a license to operate a two-way VHF radio, radar, or emergency locator transmitter (ELT) aboard aircraft operating domestically. All other aircraft radio stations must be licensed by the FCC either individually or by fleet.
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.