October 1, 2018
While flying over various parts of Minnesota every day as part of my job as a Conservation Officer Pilot for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, I get to hear many conversations between pilots over the VHF airwaves. Some are rather innocuous such as, “How’s your temps?” or “Can you see the airport yet?” Others, on the other hand, are long, drawn out conversations about everything under the sun.
It doesn’t really matter to me. Everyone has different ways to enjoy their flight, except for this... many of these conversations are on 122.9, 122.925 or 123.45. Now we have a problem. Why?
As an example from my world, 122.925 is a dedicated natural resources frequency my department uses quite often, especially during fire season. When pilots are using this frequency to chat, many fire aircraft and dispatch centers are listening to you, and this can garble the frequency during needed time periods.
Even if you cannot hear other traffic on 122.9, chances are this is a frequency used by an airport in the general area and you
could be causing dangerous radio clutter. Of course, it goes almost without saying to steer clear of 121.5 unless you have an emergency or you hear a distress signal.
FAA Advisory Circular 90-50D lays out frequency assignments quite clearly. There are two dedicated air-to-air frequencies and, surprisingly to some, one frequency is for airplanes (122.750) and one is for helicopters (123.025). I guess if VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft ever become popular in the civilian market, they will have to choose?
Use of any other frequency for air-to-air communication is commonly called “bootlegging.”
Anyone heard of going to Winchester? (Popular caliber of a Winchester rifle is a 30/30, hence frequency 130.30) Surprisingly, there are businesses out there that use this frequency as a legitimate radio channel in their business (W55, Kenmore Air marina frequency). “
Fingers” (123.45) is used for oceanic air to air, but not inland. Bootlegging this frequency causes some legitimate conflicts in Alaska for example. Granted, that is a long ways away from Minnesota but it goes to prove that these other “ghost” frequencies may be in official use after all.
Take a look at the circular sometime. It is interesting to see the dedicated frequencies. Maybe purchase a used scanner, plug in some local frequencies, and get your “radio ear” up to speed.
For more safety tips on aviation, visit the FAAST website at http://www.faasafety.gov