The use of the Aeronautical radio spectrum in the main frequency bands is divided into two main functions – ground-air communications and radio navigation. The CAA (acting as agent to the Office of Communications) issues licences to cover these uses of radio.
An Aircraft Radio Licence is available in three forms:
The first is an "air station" licence which covers the aircraft for all aeronautical radio equipment it carries. The licence fee is linked to the take off weight of the aircraft.
Short term Aircraft licences are also available to cover temporary use of aircraft radio equipment for delivery of aircraft etc. The fee will vary depending on the take off weight of the aircraft and the length of time the aircraft will be in use.
Finally the "transportable licence" covers the use of one hand held portable VHF radio for use on multiple aircraft and has a flat fee.
Owners of aircraft radio equipment must ensure:
Article 21 paragraph 2a(i) of the Air Navigation Order exempts glider pilots operating on the nominated glider frequencies and persons being trained as flight crew in UK registered aircraft. However, glider pilots must contact air traffic control if they wish to enter controlled airspace for which they must hold the Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence.
Pilots of balloons have no exemption under Article 21 and should hold a Flight Telephony Operators Licence even for air-ground communication with retrieval vehicles on the nominated balloon frequency.
Licences normally cover a single site and the licence fee is charged by the number of frequencies allocated to each individual site.
There are several categories of Aeronautical Ground Station (AGS) Radio Licence to cover the main types of ground to air service. These are as follows:
1. AGS General Aviation covers:
Common air to ground frequencies which have been assigned to general aviation operations and sporting use such as the common glider frequency.
2. AGS Fire covers:
Aeronautical fire station assignments on the frequency 121.600 MHz.
3. AGS Air to Ground and Flight Information Service covers
Air/Ground (A/G) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station in which the ground operator may only pass advisory information regarding the situation local to the aerodrome.
Aerodrome Flight Information service (AFIS) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator may only pass advisory information regarding the airborne situation local to the aerodrome but can pass instructions to aircraft on the ground at the aerodrome.
4. AGS Air Traffic Control / Ground Movement Control covers
Area Control Centre Service (ACC) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator provides control instructions to the aircraft within a defined geographical region or sector.
Approach (APP) - a two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator controls the aircraft in the vicinity of an aerodrome traffic zone when the aircraft is not flying by visual reference to the aerodrome.
Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) - A broadcast transmission from a ground station to one or more aircraft in which information relating to the aerodrome from which the transmission is being made is conveyed. Within the UK this service is regarded as an air traffic control service and may only be provided by an aerodrome which also provides a tower and/or an approach service.
Aerodrome Surface (AS) – Either a two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator provides either control to or information for an aircraft on the ground. This category includes Ground movement Control (GMC) & Fire. Or: An automated broadcast service passing aerodrome information from a ground station to an aircraft on the ground at that aerodrome. This category covers departure ATIS (DATIS).
Flight Information Service (F or FIS) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator may only pass advisory information as requested by the pilot. This information may include situation awareness and weather information.
Precision Approach Radar (PR or PAR) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator using both vertical and horizontal information about the position of an aircraft will talk the aircraft down along the glide slope.
Volmet - A broadcast transmission from a ground station to one or more aircraft in which meteorological information relating to a number of aerodromes as defined in the UK AIP. Within the UK this service is regarded as an air traffic control service.
Tower (TWR) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station, in which the ground operator controls the aircraft in the vicinity of an aerodrome traffic zone when the aircraft is flying with visual reference to the aerodrome.
5. AGS Operations Control covers:
Operational Control (OPC) - A two way communication between an aircraft and a ground station for the purposes stated in ICAO Annex 6, Parts 1 & 3, chapter 1 which is reproduced below:-
"Operational Control. The exercise of authority over the initiation, continuation, diversion or termination of a flight in the interest of safety of the aircraft and the regularity and efficiency of the flight."
Currently OPC services are either provided by voice communications or a slow speed data communications known as ACARS.
AGS Operations Control licences can only be issued to radio stations set up to communicate with company aircraft, or aircraft for which the licensee is the operating agency.
6. AGS Offshore Platform covers:
offshore platforms operating in UK territorial waters that are assigned a Traffic Frequency (A/G) and/or a Logistics Frequency (OPC), or, a single frequency to be used for both traffic and logistic services. The licence also covers mobile platforms where the Radio Frequency allocation is carried out using an area system based on block on sub blocks. Details of this are published in the UK AIP (CAP 32).
7. AGS HF covers:
aeronautical ground stations where an HF assignment is required.
Ground radio equipment designed for 25 kHz channel spacing must be able to operate on any channel between 118.000 MHz and 136.975 MHz in 25 kHz steps. Equipment designed for 8.33 kHz channel spacing must be able to operate on any channel between 118.000 MHz and 136.475 in 8.33 kHz steps.
Equipment and systems intended for analogue voice and ACARS data link communications must comply with the Minimum Performance Specification in the Appendix of CAP 670 COM 02 as a precursor to ANO Article 104 Approval.
Frequencies can only be licensed for use within the United Kingdom Flight Information Region.
Aeronautical radio messages must be limited to those concerning flight safety or flight regularity. Public correspondence and messages relating to air carrier/company business communications and passenger service/convenience are not permitted. More details can be found in CAP 452 ‘Aeronautical Radio Station Operators Guide’.
You will normally be asked to propose a callsign which you wish to use to identify your station. Callsigns must not include words which could cause confusion with other services, e.g. radio, control, ground etc. The most commonly used format is the company or organisation name followed by either a place name or a word like operations.
Operators of aeronautical ground aircraft radio stations should exercise strict radio discipline and base station radio procedures as outlined in the CAA publication Radio Telephony Procedure CAP 413.
This licence covers the installation and use of aeronautical navigation aids.
The licence fee is charged by the number of frequencies used by each individual navigation aid at a declared location.
The main types of navigation aid covered by the licence are as follows:
A licence is available to cover Aeronautical Primary radar and Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR). SSR is an ICAO standard system employing secondary radar principles used either by itself or co-located and synchronized with primary radar. All SSR installations have a frequency for ground-air interrogation and a frequency for the air-ground reply.