If you’re truly afflicted with the aviation disease, you know that listening to other pilots fly is pretty good medicine on those days when you can’t fly. Fortunately, the internet and smartphones have made this easier than ever. Whether you’re listening to the Fisk arrival at Oshkosh, enjoying the local flavor at Beijing Tower, or just learning proper phraseology from your nearest center frequency, LiveATC.net makes it easy to listen to real pilots and controllers almost anywhere in the world.
The website has been around for many years, but the company’s app for iPad and iPhone recently received an overhaul. While the app is fairly simple, it does everything you could want it to – and the latest changes make it much easier to use.
Start by choosing what channel you’d like to listen to. You can choose US locations, sorted by state, or from one of the dozens of other countries in the app. There’s also a list of the top 50 most popular channels, which is a good place to start for casual aviation fans. Many locations offer ground, tower, approach, and en route centers so you can get a complete flying experience. This is especially good for student pilots learning the ins and outs of aviation communications – it’s great practice to follow a single airplane from clearance all the way to cruise when possible.
Once you’ve chosen a channel, the main screen offers everything you need. You can listen to the live audio, review the airport diagram, see the frequencies in use, and even watch the radar picture. This is pretty entertaining when the weather gets ugly around busy airline airports.
New for the latest version is the ability to play LiveATC audio while the app is in the background. That means you can listen to approach control while you read email or type a document. The controls are available from the built-in iOS control center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen). You can also play this audio through external devices, like a Bluetooth speaker or Apple TV.
For the ultimate AvGeek setup, we paired our iPhone to an Air Scan radio. This desktop scanner receives AM/FM/VHF, has Bluetooth built-in, and also has an Aviation Interrupt function. That allowed us to play far-off center frequencies (via the LiveATC app over Bluetooth) while we monitored local traffic in the pattern with the Air Scan’s built-in VHF receiver. When no airplanes were talking in the pattern, we heard Live ATC; when the runway got busy, the radio interrupted the LiveATC broadcast to play local activity. Overkill? Maybe. We thought it was just right.