In my view nothing beats the smell of aviation fuel, the hustle and bustle of an airport tarmac and the wonder of machines which weigh thousands of tonnes yet fly like birds.
Likewise the wonder of hearing aircraft on the airwaves when they are sometimes hundreds or thousands of kilometres away is still amazing!!
The traditional method of monitoring aircraft movements is by using a radio which covers the 108MHz – 136MHz VHF band coupled with a simple external antenna.
The radio can be a “base” radio or a “portable” and many brands are on the market from a range of retailers. But don’t forget that good bargains can be found on secondhand markets, sometimes for less than $50.
Don’t become too stressed about spending big money on antenna’s either – a very simple antenna can be made for less than $10. I will provide more details on constructing an antenna later.
If you have no room for a radio or an external antenna, you may listen to aircraft on the internet. Again, more on this later.
In the meantime, here are some simple tips to assist in listening to aircraft on VHF:
1. All transmissions are using Amplitude Modulation (AM) mode.
2. In the course of a flight, an aircraft may be required to change frequencies a number of times.
3. Generally you will be able to hear both the air traffic controller and aircraft, as transmissions are relayed via a network of “repeater” stations. Sometimes however you may hear an aircraft but not the controller.
4. If we take an example of a frequency of 120.5 MHz (Melbourne Tower), you will hear this spoken on air as One Two Zero Decimal Five.
5. The altitude at which an aircraft is flying is often referred to as a “Flight Level”. Thus Flight Level 200 is 20,000 feet. And yes, the aviation industry measures altitude in feet, not metres.
All frequencies quoted in the following sections are active and I have heard traffic on them from my location in the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
So what are you waiting for ? Get into the hobby of aviation monitoring.