Aviation Headset Information & Specs

Aviation headset are used in different industries but are primarily designed to be used in civilian and military aircraft. This guide will provide you with general information about your headset’s specifications, functionality, parts, diagrams and schematics.

What is an aviation headset used for?Pilot Aviation Headset

  • Military Aviation
    Military aviation headsets are typically low-impedance headsets with a non-amplified dynamic microphone. Military headsets are not compatible with civilian aviation aircraft intercoms. Some military units use dual impedance or high impedance headsets for specialty needs.
  • Civilian Aviation
    Civilian aviation headsets are high-impedance headsets with an amplified dynamic or electret microphone. Civilian headsets are not compatible with military aviation aircraft intercoms. Some civilian aircraft utilize military aviation headsets but that is not the standard in civilian aviation.
  • Broadcasting/Video Production/Studios (Blackmagic Studio Cameras)
    Blackmagic has a studio camera that uses civilian aviation headsets for production communication and monitoring. The idea behind this was to prevent headset input and output from being accidentally swapped. These headsets have two different size stereo plugs that measure 1/4″ and .206″ in diameter.

Aviation Headset Styles

  • Lightweight
  • Military Grade Large Cup
  • Military Grade Deep Cup
  • Behind the Head (BTH)
  • Communication Earplug Protection (CEP)

Aviation Headset Parts

  • Microphone
    • Military Microphone: Majority of military aviation headsets will have a M-87/AIC or M-101/AIC 5 ohm dynamic microphone. This microphone does not require voltage to operate.
    • Civilian Microphone: Civilian aviation headset are equipped with an amplified electret or dynamic microphone. These style microphones require a voltage from the intercom to function properly. This is one of the reasons that the amplified microphone is not compatible with military aircraft.
  • Boom
    The microphone is attached to the headsets using a boom support system. Booms vary in lengths, materials and design depending on the manufacturer and model. The headset boom will either be permanently fixed to the headset or removable depending on the ratchet system. The two main types of booms are flexible and fixed wire booms.
  • Ratchet
    The boom attaches to the headset’s ear cup by connecting to a ratchet style bracket system.
  • Earphone Speakers

    • Military Earphones: The military use a 19 ohm earphone called a H-143/AIC. Some military headsets will have active noise reduction modules instead of regular speakers. (David Clark’s H10-76XL)
    • Civilian Earphones: Civilian aviation headsets utilize a 300 ohm earphone speaker wired in parallel.
  • Head Pads / Top Pads
    One of the most important concerns in aviation headsets is the comfortably factor. Top pads help distribute the weight of the headset which is essential for longer use times. You can even get a head pad made with sheep skin.
  • Cables
    • Microphone Cables
      The microphone is connected to the headset’s ear cup wiring with a microphone patch cable. Flexible booms run the patch cable through the boom to an external connector or directly into the ear cup depending on the model headset. These cables are terminated with U-173/U, U-172/U and the U-179/U connectors.
    • Communication Cables
      Aviation headsets have communication cables that connect the headset to the desired intercom/system. This cable runs into the ear cup and is terminated with the needed connector (See Connectors). Some headsets have the ability to remove this cable with the push of a button. This feature is great for switching aircraft that have different interfaces.
  • Knobs
    Headset knobs are generally used to control the ear cup volume. Headsets will have dual volume, single volume or no volume controls depending on the model/brand.
  • Connectors
    • Fixed Wing Aircraft: These aircraft use a dual plug intercom system. The plugs are referred to as the PJ-055 (Standard 1/4″ Stereo TRS Plug) and PJ-068 (.206″ Stereo TRS Plug) connectors. The plugs look identical except for the diameter of the plug. This prevents you from accidentally mixing up headset plugs.
    • Helicopter Aircraft: These aircraft use a single plug intercom system. The plug is generally called a U-174 but it is also referred to as a TP-120, TP-101, U-174/U, U-92A/U, US NATO plug or simply a helicopter plug. Don’t confuse the U-174 with the UK NATO plug (brass) that looks very similar in design.
    • Airbus Aircraft: These aircraft use a single plug intercom system. The plug is a standard 5-PIN XLR which also provides power to ANR from the panel.
  • Ear Seals
    Ear seals help reduce the pressure points from wearing the headset while increasing the attenuation of your headset (Most important factor in safety). Ear seal designs vary on functionality and comfort. Ear seals are filled with foam, gel or a combination of both.
  • Foam
    The foam helps dampen the noise inside the ear cup increasing the overall attenuation of the headset.
  • Windscreens
    Windscreens help the overall performance of your aviation microphone. They reduce interference from outside elements that would normally prevent you from communicating. Wind is a major issue for pilots who fly in open cockpit situations, so more advanced windscreen designs were made to help combat the direct wind interference.

Aviation Headset Specifications

  • Impedance
    • Military: Standard military aviation headsets use a 5 ohm M-87/AIC or M-101/AIC microphone and 19 ohm H-143/AIC earphones
    • Civilian: Standard civilian aviation headsets use a 80-300 ohm amplified electret or dynamic microphone and 300 ohm earphones.
    • Variations: There are always variations to these specifications for special applications. This information is based of civilian and military aviation headset standards.
  • Wiring Diagrams & Connectors
    (Wiring diagrams are based on industry standards.)

    • PJ-055 Plug Wiring / Civilian Aviation HeadsetsAviation Headset PJ-055 Wiring Diagram
      1. Left stereo channel or positive balanced mono phase
      2. Right stereo channel or negative balanced mono phase
      3. Ground
    • PJ-068 Plug Wiring / Civilian Aviation HeadsetsAviation Headset PJ-068 Wiring Diagram
      1. Push to talk (Optional)
      2. Positive microphone channel
      3. Negative microphone channel
    • TP-120 Plug Wiring / Civilian Helicopter HeadsetsAviation Headset TP-120 Wiring Diagram
      (Each terminal is marked on connector.)

      1. Positive microphone channel
      2. Positive earphone channel (mono)
      3. Negative microphone channel
      4. Negative earphone channel (mono)
    • U-174/U (TP-101) Plug Wiring / Military Aviation HeadsetsAviation Headset U-174/U Wiring Diagram
      (Each terminal is marked on connector.)

      1. Positive microphone channel
      2. Positive earphone channel (mono)
      3. Negative microphone channel
      4. Negative earphone channel (mono)
    • 5-PIN XLR Wiring / Airbus Aviation HeadsetAviation Headset 5-PIN XLR Wiring Diagrams
      (Each terminal is marked on connector.)

      1. Positive earphone channel (mono)
      2. Negative earphone channel (mono)
      3. Positive microphone channel
      4. Negative microphone channel
      5. External Power (Optional / ANR)
  • Attenuation
  • Mono vs Stereo
  • Standard Testing

Aviation Headset Features

  • Active Noise Reduction (ANR)
  • Passive Noise Reduction (PNR)
  • Volume Controls
  • Talk-Through
  • Bluetooth
  • Wireless
  • 1/8″ (3.5mm) Input (Music/Auxiliary Audio)
  • Dual Communications
  • Dual Impedance
  • Push-to-Talk (PTT)


Conversions and Adapters

Broadcasting / Video Production / Studio Production (Blackmagic)