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For fun, I decided to watch arriving aircraft to airports on flightradar24. Now, what I'd like to do also is simultaneously listen to ATC traffic concerning these incoming flights. I've found Liveatc.net and, for example, there're plenty of choices of channels for JFK airport. Which channel should i listen to if I'm interested in the radio exchanges concerning holding patterns and final descents? Is this handled from the tower?

(If JFK isn't a good example, feel free to recommend any other airport, European airports preferred. I tried LHR, FRA and CDG but it seems they aren't covered by liveatc.)

So, the more general question is: how are the channels labeled on liveatc that are about holding patterns and approaches?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, tower is typically the last frequency they use until touchdown. You can also listen to the approach frequency which will handle sequencing and holds. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 25 '17 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What ATC entities does a commercial airliner communicate with? $\endgroup$ – fooot Feb 25 '17 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ LHR wont be available as it is illegal to provide a stream of ATC in the UK $\endgroup$ – Dave Feb 25 '17 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Same for Germany, it's illegal to listen to any non public radio telephony (like airband) as long as you are not involved. $\endgroup$ – pcfreakxx Feb 25 '17 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ See also: What is a TRACON? to have a better view of who do what in the US (terminology is different in Europe). $\endgroup$ – mins Feb 25 '17 at 21:28
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If you want arrivals the relevant feeds on live ATC are:

  1. NY app (CAMRN)
  2. NY app (ROBER)
  3. NY app (FINAL)
  4. KJFK Tower
  5. KJFK Tower #2
  6. KJFK Tower 119.1
  7. KJFK Tower 123.9

CAMRN will receive approaches from the south and ROBER will receive approaches from the east. They will then pass planes to final to be lined up to the runways. Final will then pass planes to the appropriate tower frequencies, depending on which runway they are assigned. There are two separate tower frequencies of which there are two separate feeds. Items 4 and 5 are both frequencies combined (usually one in the left ear and one in the right) from the two different frequencies. The feeds are done by volunteers so there's no way to know their location. I haven't listened to KJFK so one feed might be better to hear planes from different directions. Feed #1 includes the TCA. I find it daunting to hear two feeds at once so I would recommend using either 6 or 7.

To be honest, unless there's something unusual going on, tower feeds are pretty boring. By the time they get to tower freq they are done maneuvering and are established on final. All tower does is clears them to land and and gives them exit instructions. If you are watching FR24 the approach feeds are more interesting.

Another interesting approach to watch, at least for me, is KMEM between about 2230 and 2330 Central time when all the FedEx flights are coming in to the hub. Gives you a good idea of the flow of ATC.

As Dave mentioned in comments, none of the UK airports will be on LiveATC for legal reasons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! As said, it's the approaches i'm interested in. For information, for Europe, i figured out that Zurich (ZRH) and Amsterdam/Schiphol (AMS) are two examples of somewhat busier airports that are available on LiveATC. $\endgroup$ – Scrontch Feb 26 '17 at 11:20

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