Aviation Communication and Navigation | Aircraft Systems

Aviation Communication and Navigation

With the mechanics of flight secured, early aviators began the tasks of improving operational safety and functionality of flight. These were developed in large part through the use of reliable communication and navigation systems. Today, with thousands of aircraft aloft at any one time, communication and navigation systems are essential to safe, successful flight. Continuing development is occurring. Smaller, lighter, and more powerful communication and navigation devices increase situational awareness on the flight deck. Coupled with improved displays and management control systems, the advancement of aviation electronics is relied upon to increase aviation safety.


Clear radio voice communication was one of the first developments in the use of electronics in aviation. Navigational radios soon followed. Today, numerous electronic navigation and landing aids exist. Electronic devices also exist to assist with weather, collision avoidance, automatic flight control, flight recording, flight management, public address, and entertainment systems.

Avionics in Aviation Maintenance

Avionics is a conjunction of the words aviation and electronics. It is used to describe the electronic equipment found in modern aircraft. The term “avionics” was not used until the 1970s. For many years, aircraft had electrical devices, but true solid-state electronic devices were only introduced in large numbers in the 1960s.


Airframe and engine maintenance is required on all aircraft and is not likely to ever go away. Aircraft instrument maintenance and repair also has an inevitable part in aviation maintenance. The increased use of avionics in aircraft over the past 50 years has increased the role of avionics maintenance in aviation. However, modern, solid-state, digital avionics are highly reliable. Mean times between failures are high, and maintenance rates of avionics systems compared to mechanical systems are likely to be lower.

The first decade of avionics proliferation saw a greater increase in the percent of cost of avionics compared to the overall cost of an aircraft. In some military aircraft with highly refined navigation, weapons targeting, and monitoring systems, it hit a high estimate of 80 percent of the total cost of the aircraft. Currently, the ratio of the cost of avionics to the cost of the total aircraft is beginning to decline. This is due to advances in digital electronics and numerous manufacturers offering highly refined instrumentation, communication, and navigation systems that can be fitted to nearly any aircraft. New aircraft of all sizes are manufactured with digital glass cockpits, and many owners of older aircraft are retrofitting digital avionics to replace analog instrumentation and radio navigation equipment.

The airframe and powerplant (A&P) maintenance technician needs to be familiar with the general workings of various avionics. Maintenance of the actual avionics devices is often reserved for the avionics manufacturers or certified repair stations. However, the installation and proper operation of these devices and systems remains the responsibility of the field technician. This site discusses some internal components used in avionics devices. It also discusses a wide range of common communication and navigational aids found on aircraft. The breadth of avionics is so wide that discussion of all avionics devices is not possible.

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