Curious Web Sites

This page last updated on 01/26/2019.

Copyright 2001-2019 by Russ Meyer

This web page contains recordings I've made of aircraft using the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz.  Over several years, I've collected a few interesting events.  Most of the time it's just a lost student pilot, but occasionally there are aircraft making off-field landings, having engine trouble, etc.

I find these recordings rather educational.  Most of the pilots seem to react calmly to difficult situations.  It's interesting to see how other aircraft and ground stations lend a hand.  In most of these situations, the conversation is very easy going.  I find it all reassuring.  If I need to ask for help someday, I now know that it doesn't have to kick-off some hysterical, embarrassing incident.

I have a Drake R8 receiver with a VHF down-converter.  The audio output of the Drake goes to my computer.  I then use a program called RecAll to capture the audio and store it on disk.  RecAll is a voice activated recorder so it doesn't record dead-air, only the transmissions themselves.  That way you don't have to wade through long minutes of silence between transmissions.  I usually have the radio on and RecAll recording all the time.  About once or twice a year I capture something of interest.

Most of the time you can't hear ground stations in the recordings.  VHF communication only works "line-of-sight."  If the station is over the horizon or behind a lot of ground clutter, it can't be received.  This is why ground stations aren't heard in the recordings.  Airplanes can be received hundreds of miles away, especially when they are at higher altitudes.  When airplanes are down low, they suffer the same kind of communication drop-outs as ground stations.  When listening to the recordings you'll notice that as airplanes climb higher reception improves.

If you are interested, you can look up the aircraft tail numbers here.

  • 3247V - 2:07 PM, Saturday, September 9th, 2000
    A pilot in a Cessna 150 having engine trouble about 35 miles southwest of Ardmore, OK.  The engine was running rough and he couldn't hold altitude.  He was losing altitude at about 100 feet per minute.  Assisted by the tower at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX.  As he descends reception gets worse, but it sounds like he made it to an airport OK.

  • 6107Q - 5:48 PM, Sunday, September 17th, 2000
    A pilot in a Cessna 152 became lost on a flight from Shreveport, LA to Altus, OK.  He sounds like a student pilot, but handles the situation fairly well.  He eventually made contact with a ground station and was directed to a Center frequency for RADAR assistance.  He apparently made it safely to Altus.  However, on the return flight to Shreveport, what appears to be this same student pilot got lost again.  He called up Center and got RADAR vectors but eventually ran out of gas around midnight and crashed into trees.  The Cessna was totaled, but the pilot came through with only minor injuries.  Read the NTSB report.  The tail number has since been re-assigned to a Cirrus SR22.

  • 201YP - 11:19 AM, Monday, March 12th, 2001
    A pilot in a Mooney M20 made a forced landing in a field about 10 miles east of Hamilton, TX.  After landing, he called MayDay and ConAir 5192 relayed information back and forth to Fort Worth Center.  The pilot wanted to check in with Center telling them he was OK.

  • 80181 - 2:24 PM, Wednesday, March 21st, 2001
    A pilot in a Cessna 172 is lost and looking for Arlington, TX.  She sounds like a student pilot.  DogJet 164GB and EagleFlight 859 lend a hand.  She is eventually located on RADAR by Fort Worth Center.  She switched to Center frequency and that's the last I heard of her.

  • 2309L - 11:26 AM, Tuesday, October 1st, 2002
    A pilot flying a Beech 23 became lost when forced down low due to poor weather.  Continental flights 1646 and 1449 relay information between Montgomery Flight Service and 2309L.  The lost pilot eventually found his way to Lufkin, TX and landed without incident.

  • Trespassing Restricted Airspace - 11:04 PM, Saturday, September 28th, 2002
    Someone flew through the restricted airspace around President Bush's ranch.  It's known as the P49 restricted area west of Waco, TX.  This is one of the things pilots hope to never hear in their headsets.  The audio is kind of broken because it is coming from a ground station.

    On a related note, here's a recording I obtained of another aircraft receiving a warning for penetrating a restricted area.  I don't know who recorded this or when, but it sounds like it could be authentic.  Basically, a guy flying VFR (probably a light aircraft) is east of Dallas, headed west, and about 4 miles from penetrating the Class B airspace.  (The aircraft is actually just west of Terrell.)  Apparently the Class B airspace was restricted at the time.  That happens occasionally when the president is in town.  It was also restricted for a while after 9/11, especially to VFR traffic.  Anyway, maybe something like that was going on.  I suspect it was shortly after 9/11, because the Air Force is involved and they're threatening to shoot the guy down.  The Air Force doesn't normally make those kinds of threats.  Also, I believe the Secret Service rather than the Air Force handles air security during presidential visits.

  • Cropduster Down - 10:09 AM, Tuesday, September 9th, 2003
    Some Missouri State Police are calling on the emergency frequency, looking for the pilot of a crashed crop-duster.  Their transmissions are picked up by a number of aircraft, including American 2309.  This leads to some confusion, but it eventually gets sorted out.  Crop-duster crashed near Fanchon?, Missouri.

  • 4761L - 10:45 AM, Friday, November 21st, 2003
    A lost student pilot in a Cessna 152 at low altitude near Killeen, TX.  FedEx flight 3106 and American 1230 relay information between Fort Worth Center and 4761L.  About half-way through the recording, 4761L climbs to 4500 feet so Fort Worth Center can pick him up on RADAR.  At the higher altitude, his radio also has better transmission range, so you can finally hear him in the recording.

  • Twin Cessna in the Water - 2:00 PM, Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003
    A few aircraft heard a call from a twin Cessna going down over the water, apparently somewhere south of New Orleans.  There are a lot of offshore oil rigs and underwater pipelines all along the Louisiana and Texas coasts.  Some of my friends have worked pipeline patrol out in the gulf.  They typically fly piston twins at less than 500 feet.  There are many patrols every day, and I'd bet dollars-to-donuts this was one of them.