Introduction to Aero Scanning with an Emphasis on the Halifax, Nova Scotia region

These pages will be of interest to anyone who is interested in hearing aircraft landing and departing Halifax Stanfield International Airport, and other nearby airports, or to aircraft in flight in the airspace above or adjacent to Nova Scotia. Much of what is described here is transferable to other areas in general but not in specifics such as frequencies.    In these pages I do NOT discuss or list anything to do with HF radio used in transoceanic flights, nor do I deal in any depth with military flights, other than those involved in refueling over Nova Scotia, nor do I dlscuss data transmissions such as ACARS or ADSB.  

My two main activities personally in aviation radio are:  

1. To listen to flights as they approach and land at Halifax, or vice versa as they leave, and in connection with this actually see the aircraft, whether I am at home or at the airport.   I do stop at the airport very frequently for short visits on my way to and from work, but I am NOT a photographer.  Having said that, I do enjoy the photos taken at the airport, some by acquaintances of mine, and I marvel at their work, and want to thank them for taking the photos and posting them.   For this aspect of listening I always use the scanner rather than on-line feeds that have built-in delays.  Mobile I generally use a Uniden Bearcat mobile trunktracking scanner connected to a magmount whip on the trunk lid.  There is no need for trunktracking in aero listening but this unit does well on the aero band, and at times I may wish to also listen to other services.  I keep a Bearcat BC-125AT with me in the car as well, in case I want to listen to two frequencies simultaneously, but this is only useful right at the airport.   At home I have several scanners, but rely mostly on a Radio Shack PRO-2048, connected to a dedicated rooftop aero vertical antenna, through which I can hear activity at the airport, as well as aloft.

2. To listen to aircraft high-flying over my area as mostly they head to and from Europe.   This is mostly an at-home activity, and done while I am doing ohter things in my "den". For this I mostly listen on the scanner, but also on occasion listen to on-line feeds.  In both cases I will also have FlightRadar24 and/or the other ADS-B-based dynamic maps up in front of me on the screen, so that I can both hear and "see" the aircraft.   And yes I also do go outside on occasion to see the real aircraft as it passes high overhead.   I can hear aircraft direct at high altitudes out to around 200 miles, but with cross coupling I can hear them much farther via my local ACC site. This aspect of listening is the one that I suspect makes me an oddball but there may be a few others out there that are interested in this.    I include the frequencies and the areas they are used in, along with an explanation of the sectors, high and low, as well as simulcasting and cross-coupling.    

I have been interested in radio and in aircraft most of my life.  As a kid I was fortunate to often see RCAF Lancasters, Neptunes, Expeditors and CF-100's, so you know that goes back a long way, and that I am getting well along in age. Unlike many of my fellow aero enthusiasts I am not crazy about fighter jets, though they are okay.   I like airliners and military transports.   I am not a major air traveller but do have a few highlights.  I think I was up in a small airplane when I was a child back in the late fifties, but that is lost in time.   A highlight around 1960 was to go on a new TCA Viscount from Victoria to Vancouver, and then back again in a Super Constellation, surely the best looking airliner ever!    In 1962 as a young teen I had a helicopter ride at the Seattle World’s Fair, and then in 1966 flew from Vancouver to Prestwick, Scotland in a Martinair DC-7C…  it was wonderful to fly over northern Canada and Greenland, and stop on the way back in Iceland for fuel.   In the military I flew on the Boeing 707 shuttle across Canada and which landed several times weekly at Shearwater, and on one occasion flew from Trenton, Ontario to Shearwater in a Hercules.  Since leaving the military I have been to Florida and California on various airlines, airliners and routes, including 727, DC-9, 737, A-319, A-320 and various Embraer and Canadair regional jets and of course the Dash 8.   If I travel I try to avoid the jumbo jets, as there is less chance of getting to actually see outside, and to me a trip without seeing is a complete waste of time and money!

Introduction to Aero Scanning in the Maritimes

This short outline will I hope serve as an introduction to aeronautical scanning, particularly as it relates to the Maritimes region of Canada, and particularly to the Halifax, Nova Scotia area.   My other aeropages will go into detail regarding various particular topics.  This page presupposes that you already know something about scanning, but not a lot about aero scanning.


The Maritimes, which is a region made up of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick is quite rich in opportunities to listen in on aircraft movements overhead and as well in and out of our airports.    There are at least three main aspects to the aero traffic in this region.   

First, as in other areas, there is the commercial traffic in and out of the airports in the region.   Due to this region not having any really large cities there is not a great deal of this traffic, and consists mostly of Canadian and American regional and short-range inter-regional services by passenger flights as well as some cargo service.   In this category also fits general aviation including private and corporate flights, as well as flight school traffic.     In the passenger category you will observe flights by Air Canada, Jazz, Westjet and Westjet Encore, Porter, Flair, and Lynx Air, as well as a few flights by American Airlines and its feeder regional airlines.     Also in this category are a few long-distance regular flights to and from Germany, Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom, with some of these being seasonal.    In the winter season particularly there  is also traffic by these and other airlines to southern destinations.    Additionally there is regular cargo traffic by Cargojet and Fedex (flown by Morningstar Air Express).  Weekly and/or seasonal cargo flights are flown by Korean Airlines and ASL Belgian and other carriers.  This description is necessarily limited in scope but that should give a good idea of the situation.   Of all this traffic the largest part goes in and out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Secondly, there is a huge amount of trans-Atlantic traffic that flies over the region on its way to and from Europe and the Middle East but does not stop here unless there is a need for medical or technical assistance.   A glance at a globe will show that the region is right on the path between the eastern seaboard of the USA and these areas on the other side of the Atlantic Many maps show the route as a curve but in reality, and as shown on a globe, the path is practically a straight one.   The trans-Atlantic air route path is actually a  wide band with a variety of individual tracks chosen on a daily basis based on wind conditions.

This polar projection map is the closest rendition
for the Northern Hemisphere of an actual globe. You can see that
Nova Scotia lies directly on the straight line track between
the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and Western Europe.

Multitudes of passenger and cargo aircraft pass over this region every day, mostly in waves occurring at particular parts of a day, east then west then east in a repetitive cycle, but almost always with a few going in the opposite direction.    That look at the globe might indicate that in some cases of origin and destination it would be shorter to fly farther offshore, but in many cases the airline will prefer to stay over or near land as much as possible.     As to where exactly the trans-Atlantic flights fly, this is all to do with wind patterns.    Therefore it true to say that they fly over the Maritimes but one day they might be flying westbound down the spine of Nova Scotia, but the next day this same wave will be flying down over the Gaspe of Quebec and just barely touching the northern parts of our region.    Regardless of where in any day the majority fly, there will always be others not in the crowd.     Overall, in the trans-Atlantic traffic you will encounter a wide variety of airlines ranging from the ordinary like British Airways and American Airlines and Air France and Fedex, to the less common such as Azerbaijan Airways and Air Algerie.   But even the exotic after a while will seem normal, because if an airline flies even one flight daily and you see it or hear it daily you will get somewhat used to it.    Do not expect to see some of the flights on a consistent basis, either because they are not regular flights, or in some cases they do not in fact always fly over our area.    Politics can play a role as well, for example there are some effects of the 2022 ban on Russian aircraft, and the related ban on flying in Russian airspace.

Thirdly, there are military flights in and over our region.    In the Halifax area there are common helicopter flights in and out of the base at Shearwater.   There are flights as well connected with the base at Greenwood and as well some helicopter traffic in and out of CFB Gagetown near Fredericton.    On a daily basis you will hear American and other military transport aircraft flying over, more or less being just part of the trans-Atlantic crowd just mentioned previously, with the difference being that they are not so much regularly scheduled.     You may also hear actual combat aircraft passing over, though in many cases you might not realize that you are hearing them.    Then as well, in connection with them and as well transport aircraft, you may hear air to air refueling operations going on practically right above your head.    The United States Air Force commonly carries out such refueling over Nova Scotia, and I have a specific page on this topic here on the website.

So, all in all, this is a rich area for aero scanning and other types of observation.    You may wish to not limit yourself to just listening.  I myself am also interested in aircraft themselves, so that I have often gone to Halifax Airport and both listened and watched.    Otherwise I commonly follow flights on the computer using various on-line services that show the identities and locations of civil aircraft.    So I can watch Emirates 324 passing along the spine of Nova Scotia on the computer screen, listen as the pilot talks to air traffic control, and if the weather is good, and the path is nearby, go out and watch it go over me.

For all of this you need at least a scanner that picks up the VHF aeronautical band.  Most scanners do, but not all are equally good for the task.   My various base/mobile Bearcat and Radio Shack scanners are all good to excellent.  My portable BC-125AT is my best portable for a number of reasons.   A good antenna will allow you to hear aircraft at a distance, and also perhaps ground stations as well.    I use rooftop antennas on a regular basis, and can hear aircraft over the Gulf of Maine and nearly to Quebec and Newfoundland.    As mentioned there are also opportunities to follow aircraft on-line using your computer or even a handheld device.



These are all outside my control and may or may not be active.

  Please send me any other useful links relating to aircraft, aero charts, aero frequencies, etc.

Professional quality photos of aircraft (on the website).  Enter CYHZ in keywords to get Halifax Airportnavfinder  is where I go to get info on airports and relationship to navaids and adjacent airports.  I use this in my Flight Simulation grand tour of North America.
SkyVector: Flight Planning / Aeronautical Charts  Get info on airports, navaids, reporting points, etc.

Canadian Airport Weather Cameras   

Nav Canada's Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS)

Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual VATCAN Moncton  Flight Simulation website   down
Rockwell Collins (AIRINC) VHF & HF coverage maps Canairradio   -- for info on Canadian aero frequencies Nav Canada's Airport Diagram Site

Milcom Monitoring Blogspot 

US FAA Airport Diagrams and Approach Plates

Aviation Safety Network (descriptions & photos of air crashes and incidents)

See current location of
 Lifeflight air ambulance   down

NTSB (United States National Transportation Safety Board) reports on incidents.  down (Lists of current and historic aircraft types, deliveries, etc)
www.  down VFRMAP - Digital Aeronautical Charts
Aero Inside get daily digests of aircraft incidents in your email Canadian Aviator
Nav Canada Aeronautical Information Circulars SKYbrary - Articles on the North Atlantic Tracks
Official websites for Other Nova Scotia Airports

Yarmouth airport         Sydney airport 

Digby Airport   

Official Websites for New Brunswick/PEI/Maine airports

Charlottetown Airport     Moncton Airport    
 Fredericton Airport    
   Saint John airport  
Summerside Airport
 Bangor Airport





Cessna CH-1 Skyhook.  As of 2019 my only helicopter ride has been in one of these at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, in my pre-teen years.