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Air Band Receivers on Aircraft

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Air Band Receivers on Aircraft

Old 4th Jul 2011, 11:10
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Question Air Band Receivers on Aircraft

Firstly, I'm sorry if this is the wrong place for this kind of question, but it seemed to be the most appropriate. I also apologise if this has been asked before, but the Search function didn't turn up anything for me.

On Saturday, I will be flying with BA, EDI-LHR-PHX (USA). Being quite interested in aviation, I have an Air Band radio (receiver only, it cannot transmit), and would like to listen to the flights' radio transmissions using it.

I am not sure, however, if this would be allowed, as I can see arguments for and against its use. On one hand, it is a non-transmitting device, so should be allowed (obviously not at takeoff or landing). On the other, there could be security issues voiced on the subject, so it shouldn't be allowed.

Can anybody clear this up, or voice an opinion? Is there no point in even trying? Or should I just try to use it, and turn it off if told to by the cabin crew?
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 11:41
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This is worth remembering:

It is important to point out that whereas buying and using a scanner is perfectly legal, it is actually illegal to use it for listening to aircraft frequencies. If you would like more information about how to abide by the law when using your airband scanner please visit the Ofcom website by following the link on the 'related sites' page.
Taken from the website of a major distributor.
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 12:10
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I've just taken a look at the Ofcom regulations for scanners, which have thrown up another question. The unit I own isn't a scanner, in that it doesn't scan frequencies to find one that is in use. It just tunes to a specified frequency. Does anybody know if Ofcom makes this distinction, or if the scanner rules apply to any device? (I'm not trying to be picky or naÔve here, I just want to be sure the practice is disallowed before discounting it.)

EDIT: On a side note, Ofcom only applies to the UK. Does this include Oceanic airspace, and does anybody know the rules in the USA?
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 14:15
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I seem to recall (and it is a long time ago since I got my licence) that the confidentiality aspect was to do with listening in to potentially sensitive information being passed when purple airways (royal flights) were active. That seems so ludicrous now that I'm sure someone will be along shortly to explain the correct reason.
However, the Wireless Telegraphy Act is quite clear, before you can transmit or receive on an airband frequency in the UK, you must pass a test and obtain a licence. Normally this is done at the early stages of flying training.
The reality of course, is no one bothers for receive only instruments. I can't imagine a situation where a prime prosecution would be brought for the offence although if one were to have "the book thrown" for some infraction caused whilst listening then maybe it would be added.
It may well be in these days of terrorists around every corner etc, that some eager official would decide that you listening to your pilots every word breaks some security rule somewhere.
I would also add, that to listen to your particular flight without a scanner would require you to know the ground, tower, approach and transit frequencies along your route. However, you wouldn't be able to listen to ground, tower or (much of, if any) approach as they would all be active during the ascent/descent phase.
Personally, I'd watch the film and down a couple of large G&T's.
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 14:41
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I am not sure, however, if this would be allowed, as I can see arguments for and against its use. On one hand, it is a non-transmitting device, so should be allowed (obviously not at takeoff or landing). On the other, there could be security issues voiced on the subject, so it shouldn't be allowed.

Can anybody clear this up, or voice an opinion? Is there no point in even trying? Or should I just try to use it, and turn it off if told to by the cabin crew?
No you cannot use it.

The radio receivers on board the aircraft are built into the aircrafts architecture (aerials.) Your receiver isn't. There isn't an "argument" it simply isn't permitted, end of! There are electronic devices that can be used at permitted times, and guidance on these should be given on board.
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 14:50
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OK, thank you all for your replies.
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 19:50
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Just as a point of interest, on all our spotting trips (all european) my son always carrys a scanner (with batteries removed until destination reached).Only once has a problem occured,a few years ago departing from SXF a custom official decided he was going to confiscate the scanner i pointed out we had no batteries. After considerable disscusion,he evetually took 14 year old son to crew room (without me)and one of the front seat drivers apparently agreed to carry the damn thing and return same at BRS,as we boarded son was re-united with scanner,and afforded a cockpit tour,me,i was left to find some seats!!!
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Old 4th Jul 2011, 21:44
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I never fly without my scanner and only ever been asked to switch it on couple of times to see if it works. There is so much electronic equipment going through in luggage these days it no longer raises interest. As to using it on board, the reception is rubbish even on the ground with doors open, don't even try it in the air, mainly as the unfamiliarity will scare people which won't ever end well.
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Old 5th Jul 2011, 09:55
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UA Channel 9

Originally Posted by HeavenOfSevens View Post
On a side note, Ofcom only applies to the UK. Does this include Oceanic airspace, and does anybody know the rules in the USA?
Fly United! United has long offered at the pilotís discretion, the ability for passengers to listen to air traffic control (on channel 9 of inflight audio). Pilots donít always turn it on, some explicitly donít like it and will not turn it on. So your mileage may vary.
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Old 5th Jul 2011, 15:45
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Firstly, the international Radio Regulations have requirements for secrecy of communication which is why the only transmissions that may be listened to legally are broadcast radio, amateurs, the standard time and frequency service, and in any case where a distress message is received.

Secondly, you may think it doesn't transmit, BUT.......

Being what is called a 'superhet' receiver, it has an oscillator in it on some other frequency, which can well be in the aircraft comms or in the VOR band. If it's CE marked, it will meet the requirements of EN55013, and the local oscillator radiation is limited to -13dBm or 50 microwatts. Doesn't sound much. does it? But a pacemaker transmitter is limited to 25 microwatts outside the body, but in practice, starting with about 1 milliwatt (about all you can reasonably get out of the battery), you get around 50 nanowatts out of the body, and they still communicate over quite a distance. Professional receivers can only radiate 2 nanowatts.

Even if it is CE marked, that doesn't necessarily mean that it meets the requirements, with CE often standing for 'Chinese Export'.

There are hearing aids with ultra low power radio transmitters in them: the power is so low that somewhere I have an email from the CAA saying they are exempt, especially as in an emergency, it is important for PAX to be able to hear crew member instructions.



Take strake's advice, although you may prefer wine, beer, whisky, brandy, vodka etc. BA have a reasonable selection, and unlike the American carriers, it is free in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus. (Free champagne is only in Club and First)
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Old 5th Jul 2011, 16:01
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Radeng,

A quick search shows you first answered this question on PPRruNe in 2003.
Any moment now, cell phones and GPS will rear their heads again...
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Old 5th Jul 2011, 21:14
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strake,

very probably. You have to bear in mind that I passed my amateur radio exam on my 14th birthday in 1961, I've been professionally employed in radio engineering since 1964, I chair a European standards committee on certain radio applications, have written EMC standards for radios and so on. But it is a hardy perennial. I know one so called 'expert' who never turns his cell 'phone off on an aeroplane. He says it has never crashed yet. My response was that I hope the first one that does because of cellphones has him on board...
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Old 6th Jul 2011, 07:48
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I think this one is destined for the Forum FAQ - thanks radeng (although I'm still not quite sure what you said )
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Old 6th Jul 2011, 10:40
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Tightslot:

"The answer is NO"

if there is argument

"Turn the bloody thing off and keep it off!"
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Old 18th Jul 2011, 02:52
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There is more in the world than just the UK

You guys should know that the world is slightly larger than the UK. In fact, that little Island is not very significant.

All of you who are replying "no no no never never never" should stop whining and start looking at the rules. It is perfectly legal to have equipment which is has an airworthiness certificate on board and turned on. For example, my hand-held VHF radio has been designed especially to be used INSIDE an aircraft. Whether as an emergency radio, or as a secondary communications device.

In case of TS, I doubt it will be certified. But stop whining of you don't know what you're talking about.
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Old 18th Jul 2011, 05:30
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PilotsAnonymous,

In case you missed it, the Original poster was asking a question from the basis of somebody from Scotland (a part of the UK,) who was travelling on a British airline and wanted to know if they could use their personal "airband receiver" on board the flight in order to listen to that flights airborne transmissions.

Most of the respondants will be aware that "the world is slightly larger than the UK" since clearly they travel widely within the former as well as the latter. The UK isn't in fact one island, it is a collection of islands and a part of another island that it shares with another country. Whatever it's significance to you might be, it is clearly of prime significance to the poster and to the subject of the thread.

There are many radios that present in an aircraft from time to time. For example two way radios used by ground personel on the ground, ELT devices, etc. However their use is governed by rules that pertain to specific circumstances. None of them allow the thread starter to use the radio in the manner and in the circumstances that he was hoping for.
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Old 18th Jul 2011, 19:31
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You guys should know that the world is slightly larger than the UK. In fact, that little Island is not very significant.
Whittles' jet engine, Viscount, Comet, Concorde, Harrier jump jet (err sorry did not the Americans buy the rights etc).
Sorry but this "not very significant Island" has done quite alot!

Sorry to all correct minded Americans, but I can't stand people who probably only read about the UK in books and if they looked on an atlas they wouldn't know where it is.

Yes, we may be a small Island's nation, but we are not small minded like some people.
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Old 18th Jul 2011, 20:13
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@ Cymmon:

Leave 'im, Cym. 'E ain't worf it.

>Cue doomladen crashing of drums ...
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Old 19th Jul 2011, 00:53
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Don't worry Cymmon, I know very well how to find the not-so-Island. In fact, it is the only Island that I have ever driven to! From ze frenz-zpeaking part of L'Europe even.

Anyway, Bealzebub is correct in one thing: TS did mention that he would be on a UK flight so in that part I stand corrected.

However, my point still stays that using an handheld VHF radio inside an aircraft is not necessarily forbidden. In fact, when I travel as SLF, I usually make sure I have my radio in my carry-on. One reason is that it has a LI-ION battery which I would not like to have in the cargo-hole, the other is that in the very unlikely event that a comms failure occurs, there is at least something to work with for the flight crew.

It is certified to be used in-flight so I see no reason not to use it if someone happens to be interested. In fact, when we're on the ground I often turn it on as well. You don't want to know how often I've heard:

capt to atc: we need to delay our departure
capt to passengers: ATC forces us to delay our departure.

"yeah, right".
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Old 19th Jul 2011, 02:33
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I can't see anything in FAR's part 91.21(a) that allows you such a dispensation when "travelling as SLF" unless the operator or pilot-in-command has specifically provided you with such a dispensation. Such devices are not covered under subsection (b) of that regulation.

Perhaps you could point out the regulation under your own countries rules that would permit a passenger to use an "air band" receiver in a commercial air transport where that device was not specifically permitted by the carrier?

The supposition that something is "certified to be used in flight" doesn't predetermine that you as a passenger are permitted to exercise that certification.

These regulations seem broadly similar to those found in other parts of the world, including the UK.

Perhaps you would be kind enough to remove your big cowboy hat, and point me to the regulation that you are relying on?
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