The ADF radio, vintage 1940’s AM radio-direction-finding technology, inspires a lot of love and hate among pilots. Some pilots twitch violently when they remember the trauma of partial-panel NDB approaches during instrument training, some love the simplicity of the little needle that just points at an AM transmitter, and still others simply think of the ADF mainly as a convenient way to listen to sports games and talk radio from broadcast AM stations. I doubt that anyone reading this posting, though, loves ADF quite as much as the people who frequent Alex’s Longwave Page (link updated December 2015).
Yes, this is a fansite for NDBs. Really. And as of 21 October 2004, the counter was up over 15,000, so Alex is not clearly not alone in his love of the NDB. Longwave fans keep logs of the NDB stations they’ve received and identified the same way that plane spotters keep logs of tail numbers: Alex’s
own log has nearly 800 entries in it, ranging from northern Canada to Cuba, and visitors have added hundreds more to the visitor log. There is also a section for unidentified NDBs, where other readers can write in with information (these links are no longer active as of December 2015).
Longwave transmissions can hug the earth and travel surprisingly far under the right conditions. If you still have an ADF on your plane, tuning in NDBs as you fly by them and watching the needle swing around is a good way to stay awake and provide a little extra situational awareness; after visiting this site, I might go a step further next time, and start tuning frequencies at random and trying to figure out (later, on the ground) what I’ve been receiving.
If anyone was still doubting whether the flying geek actually had replaced the flying doctor as the cliche of private aviation, well, doubt no longer.