Radio Hacking Made Easy: the Aircraft Band Receiver

Maker News
Radio Hacking Made Easy: the Aircraft Band Receiver

Ever wanted to eavesdrop on what those lofty control towers in the sky are chatting about? Well now’s your opportunity!

If our previous project seemed a bit daunting, our latest Weekend Project, the Aircraft Band Receiver, couldn’t be easier! With only a simple analog-tuner pocket radio, some batteries, and a couple of small screwdrivers, you can have your own Civil Aviation Band FM receiver.

You see, standard radios, like the one in your vehicle or my decades-old Walkman, range from 88 to 108 MHz. But the FM radio band extends much higher, with the Civil Aviation Band (sometimes referred to generically as the Airband) ranging from 108 to 138 MHz. It is in this range where you’ll find your municipal airport’s air traffic control tower chatter. The equipment used to dial in to the hundreds of channels in this range is typically bulky, and expensive. But with a few modifications to some easy-to-find components inside every analog FM receiver, you can effectively increase the range of your device and pick up radio that is bouncing all around you that you’ve never heard before! Once you’ve correctly re-tuned your pocket radio, you should be able to easily dial in your local airport’s ATIS (typically between 108-118 MHz). This channel is easy to find because it’s constantly looping prerecorded information such as the weather.

Watch this video by the venerable Kip Kay to see how simple this project is. And send us some photos from the field of you with your successfully modified Aircraft Band Receiver – be sure to include the air traffic control tower in the picture!

YouTube player

See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts (to date)

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I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

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