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Can smene clarify when one needs a radio station license, as per the 'ARROW'  mnemonic. I know it's an FCC regulation (or was, as some other aviation forums have rumored)

does one need one when flying into and out of an ADIZ? Canada? Or what about simply communicating with Canadian controllers but not crossing the 49th parallel?

9 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Feb 05, 2013

    The second “R” in the ARROW mnemonic was based on an FCC requirement that went away in, as best I can remember, the mid 1990s). It is currently required only if you are going to require an international border.

    The ARROW mnemonic is dated. I’ve seen it rewritten with only one “R.” But that’s the problem with them – mnemonics tend to become much more important than what they are supposed to represent.

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  2. Chris Carlson on Feb 05, 2013

    “Require an international border”?

    Even reading the form 605 is confusing, as it does not mention specific countries, excludes the United States, yet it is an FCC document (US government)

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  3. Kris Kortokrax on Feb 05, 2013

    See Title 47, 87.89 for Operator requirements, 87.18 for Station (aircraft) requirements.

    It says that you are allowed to operate VHF equipment for domestic communications and flights without licenses.

    If you communicate with a foreign radio station both aircraft and operator (pilot) need to be licensed.

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  4. Mark Kolber on Feb 06, 2013

    Thanks for catching the typo, Chris. Sorry about that. It should be “crossing an international border.”

    The instructions for the form tell you “You must obtain an FCC Aircraft Radio Station License if you make international flights or communicate with foreign stations.
    If you are not required to obtain a license – you do not need to file this form with the FCC”

    Even though it excludes the United States from the requirement, it’s an FCC license because the “ship” (in this case the aircraft) is of US registry. If you look at 47 C.F.R. §87.19 for example, you’ll see that eligibility for a US station license is limited to US citizens and entities.

    If you want to browse these regs, you can go to ecfr.gov, Use the dropdown to go to Title 47 and work from there. “Aviation Services” is Part 87 of Title 47.

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  5. Chris Carlson on Feb 06, 2013

    Sorry, I’m really not trying to beat a dead horse, but this is honestly confusing to me.

    At KBLI, (northern Washington State) we communicate with Victoria approach/dep on initial contact. To me, this is communicating with a foreign station, and the form does not specify Canada as an exclusion, nor do I see that in the title 47 part 87 regs. Below in an excerpt from the form. Should mine, and every other aircraft that may use approach services, along with the pilots inside, have a radio license?

    It seems ridiculous, so I must be missing something.

    “You must obtain an FCC Aircraft Radio Station License if you make international flights or communicate with foreign stations. If you are not required to obtain a license – you do not need to file this form with the FCC.
    Schedule C Instructions
    Aircraft Making International Flights or Communications Information
    Item 1 Enter ‘Y’ or ‘N’ if you will be making international flights or communicating with foreign stations. If ‘Y’, complete the form. If ‘N’, you are not required to obtain a license – you do not need to file this form with the FCC.”

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  6. Chris Carlson on Feb 06, 2013

    http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=aviation

    Specifically mentions Canada, Mexico, vigin islands, etc. in reference to aircraft licenses, though nothing is mentioned in reference to the operating pilot, as previous documents have mentioned.

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  7. Chris Carlson on Feb 06, 2013

    http://wireless.fcc.gov/commoperators/index.htm?job=rr

    Not to spam, but posting as I find information to help me (and other viewers) organize the information

    The above links for a restricted radio operator permit (RR)

    From what I can tell, an AIRCRAFT needs a radio permit if communicating with foreign ground based radio, where a pilot needs an RR if s/he plans to make an international flight (implying flying into foreign airspace)

    This helps me conclude that for my particular situation, I should technically need both…due to the ILS procedure flying me into Canada, and then back to the US, and my communications with Victoria approach controllers.

    But for all I know, I could be completely wrong. Haha

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  8. Timothy on Jan 09, 2014

    Has anyone recently been penalized for not having a radio station licence by the US or foreign authority (ie: Canada, Bahamas) and what was the penalty?

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  9. Timothy on Jan 09, 2014

    Has anyone been penalized for not having a radio station licence by the US, Canada or Bahamas, and what was the penalty?

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