Aircraft radio and communication systems may seem like part of the everyday normal in a pilot’s life, but if you take a few moments to reflect on what and how much they can be used for (eg. calling ground personnel for help) it's quite amazing to see how far the aviation world has come. Imagine a modern world where these communications systems did not exist. How can a pilot call for help when flying in foggy conditions? What can be done if there is no more room in the runway and you need to land fast? These are all scenarios in which an aircraft communication system comes in handy, as, prior to the invention of radio communication, a pilot would have to communicate with ground personnel (aka their friend on the ground) by waving their aircraft wing in a certain direction or by rapid tail deflection. In this article, we will look at the changing state of aircraft communication technology and how the parts meld into play.
Interestingly enough, radio communication systems began to take form around the same time that the Wright brothers developed their first flying aircraft. Traditional aircraft radio worked through Very High Frequency (VHF) or High Frequency (HF) radio waves. But it was in the mid 1980’s that data-based communication began to take hold. Nowadays, we are undergoing a similar aircraft revolution in that data based radio frequency is evolving into purely digital and computer based systems. New communication systems are even turning to automation. Aircraft are currently being equipped with communications technologies that transport data via satellite. In some cases, broadband and mobile communication receive strategic data regarding aircraft situations or even maintenance trends.
To communicate with air traffic control and or other surrounding aircraft, the pilot must utilize a wide range of radio frequencies to navigate to their destination and communicate with air traffic control and or other aircraft. In order to accomplish this, the onboard radio equipment implements several types and sizes of antennas, each designed for their own frequency band. Each of these antennas have their own characteristics regarding frequency, application, and location on the aircraft. Even the connection between the antenna and avionics has its own set of specifications. The connection usually consists of a number of connectors and a round coaxial cable. It is wise to invest in a good quality cable so that cable losses are kept to a minimum and communications are clear, both of which contribute to safety.
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