Years ago, I was working in the bush and we used portable radios on something like 154MHz. When it came time for pickup, we were able to talk to the helicopter pilot on that frequency. Since it's outside the air band, I'm wondering if it's normal for aircraft to have VHF radios installed to cover commercial (and maybe amateur) VHF bands.

  • $\begingroup$ Was he a company pilot or one specifically contracted to do the drop/pick? If so, the VHF radio may have been part of the agreement. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Aug 17 '20 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Contract helicopter, who worked for many clients, all presumably with their own frequency allocations. My impression was that the pilot could dial in whatever frequency was required to talk to the ground. It certainly made operations easier and safer, but the helicopter must have had a radio connected into the aircraft in order to use the PTT on the stick. $\endgroup$ – EBlake Aug 17 '20 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ 154 MHz could make it one of the MURS frequencies, which are license-free (actually, licensed "by rule") in the US. So anyone can have and use such a radio, for commercial or any other purpose--far less restrictive than Amateur or licensed commercial. However, I see one reference that says "MURS operation is NOT authorized aboard aircraft in flight". $\endgroup$ – CCTO Aug 17 '20 at 20:39

No, is the short answer. Aircraft generally only carry radios covering the bands they require as standard - i.e., those covering aviation communications and navigation. I have an airband transceiver here and it can't physically be tuned that high. As far as I know, the ones in the planes I fly are identical.

I can't see any advantage in doing otherwise, as standard, as the vast majority of pilots are not licenced to talk on such bands.

In terms of citation, here's a popular general aviation radio, the BendixKing KX 165A


Communication Transceiver: 118.000 MHz to 13.975 MHz in 25 kHz increments, 118.0000 MHz to 136.9916 MHz in 8.33kHz increments (118.000 - 136.990 displayed per DO 186a and ED-23B) (8.33 kHz capable KX 165A only) Navigation Receiver: 118.00 MHz to 117~ .95 M

And, here's another:


(From the manual: https://icomuk.co.uk/files/icom/PDF/productManual/A220-TSO-Instruction-Manual.pdf)

Frequency Range: 118.000 to 136.992 MHz (8.33khz)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Bendix has quite a few typos in their own specifications: that should be "to 136.975" instead of "to 13.975" and the navigation range should start at 108 MHz, not 118. $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Aug 17 '20 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. Some airplanes carry additional radios but, even then, they are usually required for some kind of normal operation. I had the pleasure of flying a plane with a HF radio and could pick up all kinds of strange stuff. Pro-communist Cuban propaganda was a notably strong transmission (Radio Havana; english). And this was while flying over Wyoming. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Aug 17 '20 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ OTOH helicopters often need to talk with ground personal, which is not trained for aviation communication, nor have such transmitters. Firefighters, but also construction works, transport of goods (e.g. woods). Note: low altitude, low speed $\endgroup$ – Giacomo Catenazzi Aug 19 '20 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @GiacomoCatenazzi I'd argue that's simply mission specific equipment. There's nothing inherent about helicopter operations that means they need such radios. Your average off the shelf GA Helicopter will be airband only $\endgroup$ – Dan Aug 19 '20 at 16:31

In Canada, its normal for utility helicopters to be equipped with "agile*" 2m commercial band radios to communicate with the ground, often on a clients Licenced commercial radio channel. almost all oil/gas, forestry work, and firefighting relies on air to ground communications, usually to people without an aviation radio licence

*agile refers to it being capable of changing frequency manually, normal commercial radios need to have pre-programmed channels and cannot change to un-programmed channels.


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