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Let’s say you’re in class G and doing some aerobatics. Is there any standard frequency you might use (perhaps MULTICOM on 122.9?) to communicate your intentions?

Assume you’re not using flight following and that you’re VFR.

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  • $\begingroup$ USA class G or class E, say on the northern California coast. $\endgroup$ – Peter Apr 11 '14 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ I was taught that 123.3 is a common low altitude air-to-air frequency, but I'm, on the east coast; I don't know if there's something in the FAR/AIM about it. $\endgroup$ – mah Apr 11 '14 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @mah the only air-to-air frequencies listed by the AIM currently are 122.75 for airplanes and 123.025 for helicopters (section 4-1-11). And chances are no one will be using those unless they too are engaged in some sort of aerobatics or formation / group flying. $\endgroup$ – TypeIA Apr 11 '14 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ 123.3 MHz is one of three frequencies the FCC/FAA reserve for "aviation support stations"; these are typically set up to coordinate pilot training, ballooning, gliding and certain other uses. This particular frequency, along with 123.5, can be used without a permit (the last one is 121.95 and requires advance approval) but use by pilots or mobile ground staff must not interfere with use of the channel by permanent ground stations and their contacts. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Jun 25 '15 at 18:10
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MULTICOM is used when operating in the vicinity of an airport that has no tower, no FSS, and no UNICOM so wouldn't be appropriate here.

There is an air-to-air frequency (122.75) but most pilots don't monitor it unless they have a specific reason to (i.e. someone else that they want to talk to).1

You can listen to the closest airport or approach control frequency, but that would only help if the other aircraft is on the same frequency.

In short, there isn't a good option for this, and in my opinion, unless you have a spotter watching for traffic in the area it would be pretty hard to do safely since it will be very hard for you to watch the area for traffic while doing aerobatics. Other pilots may also have a hard time spotting you because you could be approaching from odd angles.

If you can get flight following, I would highly recommend it, but there is an even better option:

Practice in an Aerobatic Practice Area. See Where Do Airshow Pilots Practice? for more specifics on this. Not only would ATC and airports in the area know where you were, but a NOTAM is issued any time that it is active to warn pilots transitioning the area.


1 See Services Available To Pilots for more details on communication frequencies.

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  • $\begingroup$ MULTICOM 122.9 may in fact be appropriate: the AIM 4-1-11 says it's for "Activities of a temporary, seasonal, emergency nature or search and rescue, as well as, airports with no tower, FSS, or UNICOM" (my emphasis). Aerobatic practice sounds like it would fall under the temporary activities? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 18 '15 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @pondlife Well, the biggest problem is that I don't know of anyone that monitors it except when operating at an airport as described. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 19 '15 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger That's true, I didn't know about that comment in the AIM until I checked, and there's often a difference between theory and practice. But having said that, telling people that "you can just ignore the AIM on this one, no one else does it anyway" just doesn't feel like good advice. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 20 '15 at 14:08
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I'm not aware of any regulation or AIM entry that specifies what frequency to be on.

I use the UNICOM frequency of the nearest airport when I'm out looping because I consider it to be the frequency most likely to be used by traffic near me.

It also has a mild safety benefit -- if something on my plane were to break, I'd already be on the right frequency for the airport I'm about to inhabit.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep, in my opinion this would be the safest thing to do. Other aircraft are almost certainly either going to be on the nearest airport's CTAF or on an ATC frequency, so using the nearest CTAF is going to give you the best chance of having your transmissions heard by other planes nearby. (If you're near controlled airspace, you could also consider calling ATC and letting them know you'll be maneuvering in a certain area; even if you decline radar service and switch back to a CTAF, ATC will at least know you're there and can pass that on to anyone else they're talking to). $\endgroup$ – TypeIA Apr 11 '14 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ There was an FAA NOTAM released recently that required all pilots to monitor GUARD when feasible (i.e. when not actively using or monitoring another frequency). That's primarily for picking up transmissions from distressed aircraft and/or being able to receive and respond to a hail from ATC or an intercepting aircraft. If someone has to go that far to get your attention you're already very wrong. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Jun 25 '15 at 17:50
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As far as I can tell, according to the AIM 4-1-11 you should use 122.9, which is described as follows (my emphasis):

(MULTICOM FREQUENCY) Activities of a temporary, seasonal, emergency nature or search and rescue, as well as, airports with no tower, FSS, or UNICOM.

The words "as well as" indicate that it isn't just for use around airports, and aerobatic practice certainly sounds like a "temporary" activity. Of course, flight following would be preferable if it's available.

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