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Aircraft radio scanner

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BOB BLACKSHAW14/07/2019 15:44:52
190 forum posts
31 photos

If this is in the wrong topic,sorry.

I went to a local air show the other week and I'm now looking for a radio scanner for around £100.

I'm confused with radio frequency etc, so any advice would be helpful. Looking at a Whistler 1010, any good.

I live on a flight path with aircraft flying overhead at various heights, from a few thousand feet to thirty thousand feet.

Would I pick up a signal from a passing aircraft with a receiver at my price of a hundred pounds.

I've tried to find the answers to this on the internet but I'm confused.

Thanks Bob.

I

Robert Atkinson 214/07/2019 16:06:44
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314 forum posts
17 photos

Hi,

I'd suggest the Uniden / Bearcat EZI-33 XLT at £60- £80. Lot's of suppliers in UK e.g.
https://www.nevadaradio.co.uk/radio-scanners/scanners/bearcat-ezi33

www.radioworld.co.uk/radioscanner/uniden-handheld-scanner/uniden_bearcat_ezi33xlt_handheld_air_marine_vhf_scanner_receiver

One important feature is the availability of 8.33kHz channels. This is a fairly recent change so mny older receivers only tune to 12.5kHz channels. While not used a lot yet it's good for future proofing.
For home use a outdoor antenna will help a lot, You can make this yourself.

Robert G8RPI.

Edited By Robert Atkinson 2 on 14/07/2019 16:07:14

Howard Lewis14/07/2019 16:36:50
2149 forum posts
2 photos

Hi Bob,

Are we talking FM, or SSB? If the latter, upper or lower?

Using a communications receiver.

Howard

SillyOldDuffer14/07/2019 16:48:08
4535 forum posts
971 photos

Not really into listening to aircraft Bob but I don't think the Whistler 1010 is suitable; the spec suggests it's FM and - I think - most VHF aircraft chat is AM or USB on HF.

The most important part of the set-up is the antenna. If you visit an airport a whip on a cheap radio will pick up local radio traffic with few problems because the signals are strong. By the time you're 5 miles from the airport, you may only hear what's flying nearby, which may be good enough for you. If not, look for a radio with a socket so you can run coax to an antenna in the clear; a home-made bent-wire dipole will out-perform a whip especially if it's high on a pole. You can also get commercial antennas to fit to a chimney on the roof.

If you're intending to listen at home, and have a PC or laptop available, SDR is a good bet. I've listened to aircraft on HF and VHF with a FunCube Pro and - more flexible - a SDR Play RSP1A, reviewed here. As usual the more dosh the better the SDR, but you don't have to spend loads of money to get good performance.

Rather than scan and stop on active channels like the Whistler, SDR displays a slice of radio bandwidth (132kHz Funcube, up to 10MHz RSP) on screen. You can see visually when channels are active and click on them to listen. Depending on the software it may be possible to listen to more than one channel at a time, and some can scan as well.

A disadvantage of SDR is the computer side - not for everyone! You might prefer a conventional radio with buttons!

Air to ground conversations are extremely terse. When conditions are good I've found HF more interesting. In SW England I've listened to New York taking waypoint reports from aircraft mid-atlantic on about 5MHz ; they were a bit more chatty and quite busy. Another advantage of the SDRs and good aerials is they cover all the frequencies used by aviation from VLF Beacons to UHF military.

Not tried one myself, but upmarket scanners, including Whistler, for sale here. The expensive ones can scan more than aircraft but the extra features may not be needed.

Dave

Joseph Noci 114/07/2019 16:57:13
522 forum posts
829 photos

Just asking...what are the legalities in your part(s) of the world WRT listening on those frequencies? At least in Southern Africa it is not permitted, unless you hold a pilots license or sorts - actually not allowed to own a radio that receives on frequencies you are not licensed for...sort of the same as listening in the the VHF FM police bands, shipping bands, etc...

Anyway, for your desired local listening, the radio should cover 116MHz to around 140MHz, and be able to demodulate AM..

Joe

SillyOldDuffer14/07/2019 17:23:15
4535 forum posts
971 photos
Posted by Joseph Noci 1 on 14/07/2019 16:57:13:

Just asking...what are the legalities in your part(s) of the world WRT listening on those frequencies? At least in Southern Africa it is not permitted, unless you hold a pilots license or sorts - actually not allowed to own a radio that receives on frequencies you are not licensed for...sort of the same as listening in the the VHF FM police bands, shipping bands, etc...

...

Joe

It's technically illegal in the UK to listen to anything outside the approved broadcast, amateur and citizen band frequencies but it's rarely enforced, if ever. The equipment needed is openly on sale, sometimes band restricted, often not. Digital phones, military and police etc are all encrypted so you can only listen to open content anyway.

Other countries are far, far stricter. There was a case a few years ago where a naive group of British airband enthusiasts spent a year in a Greek jail after assuming no-one would mind them photographing an airfield and listening to the planes. I know Thailand is very sensitive about ensuring ham radios can only work in the ham bands, and it is forbidden to import anything not on their list of approved equipment.

Dave

Mark Gould 114/07/2019 18:25:46
117 forum posts
64 photos

Bob, I would suggest looking online at a pilots shop or something. Aviation is generally done in VHF. Frequencies used start at 118.0 Mhz and go up to 135,9 Mhz. If you want ti listen to mil traffic a UHF receiver would be advised. VHF transmissions are line of site and both the aircraft and ATC will be broadcasting with enough power to go 250 miles. Thats generally the limit, depending on the altitude, with ground control frequencies generally have a slightly lower output,

Mark

Swarf, Mostly!14/07/2019 19:09:30
492 forum posts
41 photos

Bob,

To complement whatever equipment you buy, I suggest that you familiarise yourself with the relationship between height and the distance to the radio horizon. Signals are receivable at quite long range if the source is high enough.

Nuff said.

Best regards,

Swarf, Mostly!

Andrew Johnston14/07/2019 20:18:28
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4717 forum posts
532 photos

In the UK it is definitely illegal to transmit on VHF aviation frequencies without a licence, with two exceptions. One, there are a number of frequencies set aside purely for gliding and a private glider pilot does not need a licence to operate on these frequencies. Two, if operating under the instruction of the licence holder, ie, a student pilot. From a practical viewpoint most ATC units say they would much rather glider pilots contact them, even if technically illegal. When I was getting my power licence I also did a course and took the exam to get radio operators licence, which is for life. The radios themselves also need to be licenced. So I pay £15 every 3 years to Ofcom for the handheld transceiver I use in my glider.

Andrew

Robert Atkinson 214/07/2019 21:17:01
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314 forum posts
17 photos

I should have said that the Whistler does not have 8.33kHz channel spacing. It's an American market model and they have not taken up 8.33kHz yet. SOD and Andrew are correct, you technically need a licence to transmit or receive airband but reception as a hobbyist is normally ignored. I have personally seen commercial aviation companies told off for 1/ having a ground radio that could be tuned to other than their licenced company frequency, 2/ playing the tower frequency as their telephone hold "music". It is now illegal to have a transmitter without a licence. This was changed so that they did not have to catch unlicenced operaors with their finger literally on the transmit button. Transmit wilfully and they will come after you. There was a case at Cambridge a couple of yer ago and the offender was cught and proscecuted.

One other thing is that there is less information being transmitted to airliners by voice as digital messaging is being usesd more and more. Google ACARS and CPDLC for more info.

Robert G8RPI

Neil Wyatt15/07/2019 01:28:48
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Moderator
16271 forum posts
679 photos
74 articles

I got a USB (Universal Serial Bus) SDR (software defined radio) for my laptop PC (personal computer). It cost about 16UKP (United Kingdom Pounds). I use it for meteor detection using RADAR (Radio Detection And Ranging) scatter with free software, but it will pick up almost anything you can make an aerial for, and you can switch it between FM (Frequency modulation), AM (amplitude modulation), USB (upper side band) and LSB (lower side band) or even stereo FM.

As SOD (Silly Old Duffer) says, this is a really cheap and easy way to experiment.

Neil

Were these posters who wanted every acronym serious?

Bandersnatch15/07/2019 01:32:18
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1206 forum posts
40 photos
Posted by Robert Atkinson 2 on 14/07/2019 21:17:01:

It is now illegal to have a transmitter without a licence.

You mean on aicraft bands or in general?

Robert Atkinson 215/07/2019 07:24:54
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314 forum posts
17 photos

Any transmitter or in theory even a receiver. The relevant legislation is the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. Chapter 4 section 36. **LINK**

"A person who has a wireless telegraphy station or wireless telegraphy

apparatus in his possession or under his control commits an offence if—

(a) he intends to use it in contravention of section 8; or

(b) he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that another person

intends to use it in contravention of that section."

Section 8 says" 8 Licences and exemptions

(1) It is unlawful—

(a) to establish or use a wireless telegraphy station, or

(b) to instal or use wireless telegraphy apparatus,

except under and in accordance with a licence (a “wireless telegraphy licence&rdquo

granted under this section by OFCOM."

In practice you are unlikely to be prosecuted for having a receiver.
Software Defined Receivers (SDR) have been mentioned a couple of times. While SDRs can be great, the simple cheap USB Stick ones intended for TV reception do have limitations. For a beginner they can be quite daunting to set up. They need a PC or possibly tablet and this can cause interference issues. There are drivers and various versions of software to install. I have a couple of SDR's including TV stick and a much more expensive ~£200 unit. They are great for what they are but neither offers the "out of the box" operation of a handheld scanner and the TV stick does not offer anything like the performance of a dedicated scanner on AM Airband.

Robert G8RPI

(I have Amateur, aircraft and marine transmitting licences)

Andy Carruthers15/07/2019 14:07:57
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249 forum posts
23 photos

Two frequencies of particular interest are the distress ones: 121.5MHz and 243.0MHz

Don't ever transmit on these by mistake as the transmitter will be pinpointed by direction finders

Cornish Jack15/07/2019 14:13:11
912 forum posts
120 photos

Bob - for aircraft radio specific recommendations, log on to www.pprune.org and the Spectators Balcony forum. Full of active, like-minded people who will point you in the right direction.**LINK**

You'll find a wealth of aviation-related content there.

rgds

Bill

RMA16/07/2019 09:46:03
154 forum posts
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 15/07/2019 01:28:48:

I got a USB (Universal Serial Bus) SDR (software defined radio) for my laptop PC (personal computer). It cost about 16UKP (United Kingdom Pounds). I use it for meteor detection using RADAR (Radio Detection And Ranging) scatter with free software, but it will pick up almost anything you can make an aerial for, and you can switch it between FM (Frequency modulation), AM (amplitude modulation), USB (upper side band) and LSB (lower side band) or even stereo FM.

As SOD (Silly Old Duffer) says, this is a really cheap and easy way to experiment.

Neil

Were these posters who wanted every acronym serious?

Yes, if we don't know what you're on about Neil, you're an editor and communication is your business. You've failed if your audience doesn't understand you. However, why is this post on a model engineering forum? I have an aircraft scanner but not that interested in how it works, but I saw the title and clicked on it. Surely there's a more appropriate forum.

Andrew Johnston16/07/2019 10:15:31
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4717 forum posts
532 photos
Posted by RMA on 16/07/2019 09:46:03:

Yes, if we don't know what you're on about Neil, you're an editor and communication is your business. You've failed if your audience doesn't understand you. However, why is this post on a model engineering forum? I have an aircraft scanner but not that interested in how it works, but I saw the title and clicked on it. Surely there's a more appropriate forum.

It's impossible to write for every level of audience, some a priori state of knowledge has to be assumed. As it happens I know what all the acronyms mean, as it was radio that got me interested enough in electronics to pursue it professionally. But if I'm interested but don't understand I'll either do an online search or ask for clarification - it's called curiosity.

While this is nominally a model engineering forum it covers a far wider range of interests and techniques than a man in his shed building a steam loco, and long may it continue.

Andrew

SillyOldDuffer16/07/2019 10:29:52
4535 forum posts
971 photos
Posted by RMA on 16/07/2019 09:46:03:
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 15/07/2019 01:28:48:

I got a USB (Universal Serial Bus) SDR (software defined radio) for my laptop PC (personal computer).

... this is a really cheap and easy way to experiment.

Neil

...

However, why is this post on a model engineering forum? I have an aircraft scanner but not that interested in how it works, but I saw the title and clicked on it. Surely there's a more appropriate forum.

The wide range of interests and expertise on all matters technical is what makes this forum special. It attracts people who like to make things and understand how they work. Hammer to Atomic Clock via Bee Keeping and Astronomical Frame Stacking is fine by me. I'm interested in what other people are doing and have learned a lot.  I like experimenting with different things and I'm not alone.

Bob probably knew from other posts that the forum has the expertise needed to answer his question; not least because we have Radio Amateurs and Aircraft enthusiasts on tap. I don't know of any other forum that can wheel out expertise in 3-phase, radio, electronics, machine tools, microcontrollers, chemistry, microscopy, astronomy, CAD/CAM, 3D-printing and bow making as well as quality comment on making steam locos, traction engines and setting up a workshop. Lot's of practical help on offer, and - usually - good-humoured.

Model Engineering has always been much more than Model Making. It's all good to me - more the merrier! And, I wouldn't want new friends to be intimidated by fear of asking daft questions in the wrong place, or having their spelling criticised. Some fora are dominated by self-appointed policemen officiously explaining what's amiss with questions, rather than answering them. I think they are worse than this one by far.

But RMA is not wrong - the penalty for open discourse is a regrettable tendency for threads to wander off topic. The forum is more like engineers chatting informally in a bar than engineers organising for work, and that can be irritating.

Dave

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 16/07/2019 10:32:25

RMA16/07/2019 10:40:26
154 forum posts
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 16/07/2019 10:29:52:
Posted by RMA on 16/07/2019 09:46:03:
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 15/07/2019 01:28:48:

I got a USB (Universal Serial Bus) SDR (software defined radio) for my laptop PC (personal computer).

... this is a really cheap and easy way to experiment.

Neil

...

However, why is this post on a model engineering forum? I have an aircraft scanner but not that interested in how it works, but I saw the title and clicked on it. Surely there's a more appropriate forum.

The wide range of interests and expertise on all matters technical is what makes this forum special. It attracts people who like to make things and understand how they work. Hammer to Atomic Clock via Bee Keeping and Astronomical Frame Stacking is fine by me. I'm interested in what other people are doing and have learned a lot. I like experimenting with different things and I'm not alone.

Bob probably knew from other posts that the forum has the expertise needed to answer his question; not least because we have Radio Amateurs and Aircraft enthusiasts on tap. I don't know of any other forum that can wheel out expertise in 3-phase, radio, electronics, machine tools, microcontrollers, chemistry, microscopy, astronomy, CAD/CAM, 3D-printing and bow making as well as quality comment on making steam locos, traction engines and setting up a workshop. Lot's of practical help on offer, and - usually - good-humoured.

Model Engineering has always been much more than Model Making. It's all good to me - more the merrier! And, I wouldn't want new friends to be intimidated by fear of asking daft questions in the wrong place, or having their spelling criticised. Some fora are dominated by self-appointed policemen officiously explaining what's amiss with questions, rather than answering them. I think they are worse than this one by far.

But RMA is not wrong - the penalty for open discourse is a regrettable tendency for threads to wander off topic. The forum is more like engineers chatting informally in a bar than engineers organising for work, and that can be irritating.

Dave

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 16/07/2019 10:32:25

I do agree, diversity of topics is fine with me. I only commented on it as a side issue to the acronym post by Neil, in which I notice he has two versions of USB!

Neil Wyatt16/07/2019 13:24:16
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Moderator
16271 forum posts
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74 articles
Posted by RMA on 16/07/2019 09:46:03:
However, why is this post on a model engineering forum? I have an aircraft scanner but not that interested in how it works, but I saw the title and clicked on it. Surely there's a more appropriate forum.

It's for users of the forum to decide what other things they wish to discuss - this is pretty much the way of any successful internet forum.

People with a main interest in common often share many other interests, so space is provided for them to discuss 'off topic' issues.

In this case, the thread is in the 'Tea Room' but as a point of fact Model Engineer has carried over 360 articles on radio related topics over the years so it's perfectly legitimate subject for this forum.

Neil

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