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What is the policy for ATC towers to notify aircraft the frequency they broadcast and monitor on has changed? How do they do it, if radio isn't available (because they just changed their frequency)?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

ATC frequencies don't change very often, but when they do they are planned well in advance. NOTAM's are issued ahead of time to let people know, and if the airport has ATIS they will include the new frequency on the ATIS.

If it is an enroute frequency, the other controllers will simply hand you off to the new frequency, and you don't even need to know about it ahead of time.

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Some airports change tower frequencies quite often, for example, when there are two tower controllers during busy times and only one the rest of the time. In class B and C airports you are almost always handed off to the tower by the ground or approach controller, so you don't need to know the tower frequency in advance. –  xpda Jan 13 at 18:35
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@xpda Well, those airports have multiple tower frequencies, and they are usually listed on the airport diagram. Also, B's and usually C's also have ATIS which report when they are running on a non-standard configuration (like "all tower frequencies combined on 119.1"). I took the question as asking about permanent changes. –  Lnafziger Jan 13 at 18:38
    
True... the question is a little ambiguous. And usually they will talk on both frequencies when there is only one official frequency. –  xpda Jan 13 at 18:43
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A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) will be issued for the airport pending a charting change. If you subscribe to a charting service like Jeppesen, you will get a change notice from them and updated approach plates with the new frequency.

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Note that frequency changes don't always coincide with the chart revision cycle (unfortunately) so very often the only way to know is to check the NOTAM's while we wait for the new chart to come out. –  Lnafziger Jan 13 at 1:04
    
That was the intended meaning of my wording. The NOTAM will be issued and valid until the new charts are published. And yes, for sectionals that can be something like 6 months if I recall. Thanks for clarifying the meaning. –  casey Jan 13 at 1:06
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