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Various Types of Aircraft Antenna Components

Aircraft use a wide range of radio frequencies to navigate to their destinations and communicate with the air traffic controller and other aircraft. To do so successfully, onboard radio equipment use antennas of various types and sizes, each one designed for a specific frequency band.

Communication antennas connect to the radio transmitters onboard the aircraft to allow the pilot to communicate with the ATC and other aircraft. Communication antennas can be mounted on the top or bottom of the fuselage, but both places are vulnerable to shadowing from the aircraft’s body. Shadowing occurs when the aircraft’s structure blocks the transmitting path of the antenna, interfering with the signal. Some aircraft mount an antenna on both the top and bottom of the fuselage and use the top antenna to communicate while on the ground, and the bottom antenna to communicate while flying.

GPS antennas communicate with satellites overhead to help locate the aircraft. However, the GPS transmission is often very weak, so GPS antennas usually have built-in amplifiers to boost the signal. The GPS signal also travels line-of-sight, and is very vulnerable to airframe shadowing, making it essential that the GPS antenna be mounted at the very top of the fuselage. Comms antennas can also interfere with a GPS antenna’s signal, so it is necessary to mount the two as far away as possible.

The navigation (or simply nav) antenna is mounted on the vertical tail in almost all aircraft. Nav antenna come in three types: cat whisker, dual blade, and towel bar. A single nav antenna feeds both nav receivers; therefore, a failure in the nav antenna would cause both systems to fail.

Like all parts of an aircraft, antennas require inspection and maintenance. If an antenna is cracked or its paint wears off, water can enter and cause delamination, where the composite layers of the antenna begin to separate. If this happens, the antenna can be rendered useless. Proper mounting is also important, both to ensure that the antenna does not get torn off during flight, and to ensure that it is electrically grounded to the aircraft.

At NSN Parts Now, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we sell antenna parts and systems from high-quality manufacturers like Comant, Rami, Harris (D&M/Edo), and AeroAntenna Technology.

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