stevenjehly
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:27 pm

Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:33 pm

Hello all. I am a new member and this is my first posting. Really love this website. I would like to purchase an airline frequency scanner. I live about 100 miles north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and am on the flight path (I think!) for that airport. Also, what are the active frequencies I should program into the scanner? Nothing fancy. Any suggestions from the members? Thanks.
Sounds like a Beaver on floats to me!
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:52 pm

Welcome!

You can find a pretty comprehensive list at http://www.flightradio.com/.

For my money, listening to approach offers the most action. For SEA, you might try:

Tower - 119.9
Ground - 121.7
Clearance Delivery - 128.0
Approach Freqs - Seattle:120.4, 119.2, 120.1, 125.9, 126.5
ATIS - 118.0
Position and hold
 
thegreatchecko
Posts: 689
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:34 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:14 am

Unfortunately, on the ground, 100 miles north of the field you won't hear too much unless the aircraft is flying right over where you live.

Scanners are a lot more fun when listening sitting at the airport. If you want to get your fix from home, here are two great websites (and great ways to save some money for flying lessons):

For your Police, Fire, EMS fix: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/

For your ATC fix: http://www.liveatc.net/
"A pilot's plane she is. She will love you if you deserve it, and try to kill you if you don't...She is the Mighty Q400"
 
timz
Posts: 6114
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 1999 7:43 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 2:41 am



Quoting TheGreatChecko (Reply 2):
you won't hear too much unless the aircraft is flying right over where you live.

By "right over", he means within... 20-30 miles?
 
thegreatchecko
Posts: 689
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:34 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 3:15 am



Quoting Timz (Reply 3):

By "right over", he means within... 20-30 miles?

It depends on the topography of where he lives and the altitude of the aircraft. Even then, all that would be heard was the pilot side of the conversation, the controllers would not be heard unless very close to the transmitter site.
"A pilot's plane she is. She will love you if you deserve it, and try to kill you if you don't...She is the Mighty Q400"
 
timz
Posts: 6114
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 1999 7:43 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:21 am

Apparently it also depends on the scanner. I was on a 150-meter hill the other day with an unobstructed view of SFO across the bay, 25 km away, and my scanner wouldn't pull the tower in at all. Years ago, when my Sony worked, that would have been no problem at all.

If by chance you do have a good scanner you can expect to hear aircraft 100-200 km away if you have a line of sight to them-- e.g. if you're in flat country and they're at contrail height. It doesn't take much of a hill to dramatically extend your line of sight over flat ground; as I recall even 100 meters of elevation was enough to hear SFO tower, with the Sony.

In any case, sounds like we're agreed you should hear lots of aircraft, even if they're not right over you.
 
thegreatchecko
Posts: 689
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:34 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:56 am



Quoting Timz (Reply 5):
In any case, sounds like we're agreed you should hear lots of aircraft, even if they're not right over you.

That's if you are monitoring the right center frequency. At 100 miles away, approach is not controlling that traffic.

Also, IMO, it's not very interesting to listen to only half of the conversation.
"A pilot's plane she is. She will love you if you deserve it, and try to kill you if you don't...She is the Mighty Q400"
 
ThirtyEcho
Posts: 1409
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2002 1:21 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:59 am

Save your money and don't buy a scanner. Everything you want is on www.liveatc.net. I was listening to Seattle earlier tonight but switched to Chicago Center (best heard on KDBQ, a class 4 facility). Give it a try.
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 2:29 pm

I wasn't going to mention it to avoid getting off-topic for this forum, but adding an external antenna will dramatically improve your scanner's performance at home. This applies to ATC, EMS, etc. There are volumes on antenna design, or you can find a local ham nut and befriend him, and build your own in the attic for not much money at all. You can also buy them. The idea is to get as high up as you can since VHF transmissions are line-of-sight.

Without knowing exactly where you're located, it's hard to guess, but if there's a reasonably busy GA airport near you, you can tune their frequencies as well for a bit of fun. Student pilots are often easily identifiable...
Position and hold
 
stevenjehly
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:27 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:04 pm

I am reading the posts with interest and much appreciation in answer to my inquiries. Thank you all kindly. I live on an island 100 miles north of Seattle. We have a lot of small plane inter-island traffic which fly about 300 ft over our house. Also, quite a lot of large plane traffic descending into SeaTac at much higher elevation. Do you think those Seattle bound planes are doing much talking?
Sounds like a Beaver on floats to me!
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:54 pm

Yes. The common air-to-air frequency is 122.75, you never know what you might hear there (from the inter-island planes). If you're close to Bellingham, you can try their frequencies:
Unicom - 122.95
Tower - 124.9
Ground - 127.4
CTAF - 124.9
Victoria Approach - 132.7
ATIS - 134.45
I think a good test would be to try to pick up the ATIS. If you can hear that, you are likely to hear communication from the tower on the field, and planes overhead and within line of sight of your antenna.

If you want to hear more airline traffic, you can try to catch planes transitioning into and out of the SEA and YYJ terminal areas. The low-altitude center frequencies for your area are the best bet for this. A great link is here: http://microvoltradio.com/ARTCC/KZSE.htm
Position and hold
 
thegreatchecko
Posts: 689
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:34 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:34 am



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 8):
I wasn't going to mention it to avoid getting off-topic for this forum, but adding an external antenna will dramatically improve your scanner's performance at home.

If you are really into scanning, this would be a great idea. You will hear a lot more than with just a hand held or desktop scanner on its own. Radio Shack will soon be your best friend.

Heck, go out and get your HAM radio license while you're at it. It sounds like you might enjoy that as well!
"A pilot's plane she is. She will love you if you deserve it, and try to kill you if you don't...She is the Mighty Q400"
 
stevenjehly
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:27 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:43 pm

As the GreatChecko advised I went to http://www.liveatc.net/. What a great site. Have been listening to ANC as I am a former Alaska resident and do miss living up there; although I am from Sitka, not Anchorage. I think I will forgo buying a frequency scanner and just listen to the web site. Maybe I can share some stories (in a different forum) about trying to land in Sitka (as a passenger!) in the fog, at night, and having to head to Anchorage instead. Happened more than once. Thanks to the GreatChecko.
Sounds like a Beaver on floats to me!
 
kparke777
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:20 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:09 pm

While on the subject of scanners, what does this forum recommend for a great performing scanner? Good volume, # of channels, ease of use and strong reception. Up to $300 ish, ok.
 
packcheer
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:28 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Sat Dec 12, 2009 11:23 pm

Radio Shack carries a good range and assortment of scanners. The ones that are in the $150 range work excellently. I took the rubber antenna off of my radio shack scanner and I put on a telescoping one that extends to about 3ft tall and that antenna works great for aviation traffic.
Things that fly, Girls and Planes...
 
rolypolyman
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:53 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:27 am

I'd be curious to know if there are iPod-like miniature aviation receivers, so one can have "channel 9" right there in flight without raising alarm. Having read many of the trip reports it doesn't sound like anyone does this, so I'm kind of surprised. I recall bringing an old $20 transistor air radio on a WN flight back in 1990 and had no trouble keeping with frequency changes and hearing how our flight was progressing.
 
pilotpip
Posts: 2820
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2003 3:26 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Sun Dec 13, 2009 2:40 am

That's against the law Rolypolyman. You're not supposed to have anything (with the exception of wifi on aircraft that are equipped with it) that receives or transmits.
DMI
 
tdscanuck
Posts: 8572
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:25 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:13 am



Quoting Pilotpip (Reply 16):
That's against the law Rolypolyman. You're not supposed to have anything (with the exception of wifi on aircraft that are equipped with it) that receives or transmits.

Then there's a *lot* of mechanics in deep trouble...handheld VHF's are really common in the maintenance environment.

Tom.
 
jetstar
Posts: 1370
Joined: Mon May 19, 2003 2:16 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:22 am

Any of you old timers out there remember crystal radios, they were non battery radios that picked up RF signals and was powered by the RF signal itself and you had to use headphones to listen. I remember in my early days making a crystal radio from plans in either Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, it was designed to pick up AM signals and it worked.

Maybe someone can design a crystal radio for airborne use, because it does not use electric power, it is non electronic, does not have a power on switch and does not give off any stray signals, it should meet FAA regulations about electronic devices used in the air.

JetStar
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:55 pm



Quoting Jetstar (Reply 18):

Changing the operating frequency range of the circuit would be pretty simple. But those devices receive AM signals, and VHF air-to-air and air-to-ground are FM signals. The tuners in those crystal radios aren't sensitive enough to demodulate an FM signal at any frequency (remember how the tuning dial was just a big knob with no calibration scale?) And even if they were able to demod FM, the language I've seen in the regulations usually prohibits "any device that transmits or receives a radio signal." So, even if they could receive the radio signal without any power source, they would still be receiving a radio signal -- and still against the regulation.
Position and hold
 
David L
Posts: 8551
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:31 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 19):
VHF air-to-air and air-to-ground are FM signals.

It's been a while since I thought about it but I seem to remember that they're AM.
 
jetstar
Posts: 1370
Joined: Mon May 19, 2003 2:16 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:05 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 19):
Changing the operating frequency range of the circuit would be pretty simple. But those devices receive AM signals, and VHF air-to-air and air-to-ground are FM signals. The tuners in those crystal radios aren't sensitive enough to demodulate an FM signal at any frequency (remember how the tuning dial was just a big knob with no calibration scale?

Here is a link to someone who built a crystal FM radio

http://solomonsmusic.net/FM_CrystalRadio.html

JetStar
 
KELPkid
Posts: 5247
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2005 5:33 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:06 pm



Quoting David L (Reply 20):
It's been a while since I thought about it but I seem to remember that they're AM.

You sir, are correct  yes 
Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:39 pm



Quoting David L (Reply 20):
they're AM.

Yep, you got me. I mixed up voice with VOR reference signal. Even the voice channel on a VOR is AM. Good catch.

Quoting Jetstar (Reply 21):
link to someone who built a crystal FM radio

That does look fancy. I wish I had the time to try it out. I'm still not convinced of the legality or effectiveness of use in an airliner, but it would be fun to try.
Position and hold
 
David L
Posts: 8551
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:18 am



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 23):
I'm still not convinced of the legality or effectiveness of use in an airliner, but it would be fun to try.

I suspect the catch-all is the "designed to receive" bit, rather than how it's powered.

Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 23):
but it would be fun to try

Which, almost by definition these days, would make it illegal, unhealthy or both.  grumpy 
 
jetstar
Posts: 1370
Joined: Mon May 19, 2003 2:16 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:07 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 23):
That does look fancy. I wish I had the time to try it out. I'm still not convinced of the legality or effectiveness of use in an airliner, but it would be fun to try.

I think it would create an interesting scenario.

Listening to a crystal radio or not, it is still receiving a signal and there is no way to shut it off other than to disassemble it. It gives off no stray signals, has no power system because it gets its power from the RF signals, which are always in the air anyway.

So I think the only violation would be from the FA telling you to unplug it, and failing to obey an order would be the violation, because I doubt the FA knows anything about crystal radios. Also the airline would even have the right to deny even carrying it on board until crystal radios are proven to be inert devices.

JetStar
 
iakobos
Posts: 3255
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2003 6:22 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:21 am



Quoting Timz (Reply 5):
you can expect to hear aircraft 100-200 km away

Line of sight at 30,000ft is 212NM, add 5NM unless you lie your scanner on the ground, that makes 217NM or just over 400km.


Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 8):
VHF transmissions are line-of-sight

They are not. Switch on your FM broadcast tuner, your TV (VHF - band I or III) or listen to all services you may find in VHF, UHF, SHF and even higher. The vast majority of these communications are not LOS...because of refraction and reflections.
In open terrain, VHF coverage is typically 15-30% better than optical coverage and signals reflects pretty well on everything solid.
The VHF distance record for a two-way communication (ham radio) is close to 8,000km, although not a typical path, it proves that it is not strictly LOS.

Quoting Jetstar (Reply 18):
remember crystal radios, they were non battery radios that picked up RF signals and was powered by the RF signal itself

Nothing is powered. What the passive element does is simply detect the modulation of the (very strong) AM signal.
The said element is a semi-conductor, if made for the purpose it is called a diode, but it can work with a tiny piece of galenium sulfide or even a potato and two needles.
 
stevenjehly
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:27 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:49 am

Ladies and Gentlemen.......I had no idea that my first posting on this forum would create so much wonderful chatter concerning my question. Thank you all! I love this web site. I have been listening to www.liveatc.net & www.microvoltradio.com and really digging it. The BIG thing lately here in the San Juan Islands is the first flight of the B787 yesterday out of Paine Field just south of us. Due to weather, their flight path was directly above my head! I could hear it but did not know at the time they were over me but found out later. Also today, below the overcast (about 500 ft) two F-15's made a low and loud pass on their way to Whidby Island NAS. That will get a lot of angry complaints from the locals. Ran out on the deck with binoculars to take a look.
Sounds like a Beaver on floats to me!
 
SPREE34
Posts: 1566
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 6:09 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:49 am



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 8):
VHF transmissions are line-of-sight.

In theory, and should not be depended on for communications beyond.

Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
They are not.



Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
The VHF distance record for a two-way communication (ham radio) is close to 8,000km, although not a typical path, it proves that it is not strictly LOS.

In theory Bri2k is correct.
That being said, I spoke on 146.52 FM Simplex from Austin Texas to Tallahassee Florida in a mobile rig.
Reflection, multipath, sun spots, atmospheric ducting, etc etc. I had aircraft report hearing ATIS or another controller 800 miles away during the late 80s suncycle peak. Radio can be strange.

Hey lakobos, wasn't the 8,000km record SSB?

Oh, another bit of theory that doesn't always seem spot on. According to aerodynamic theory, a bee cannot fly.
I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
 
bri2k1
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:13 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:58 pm



Quoting SPREE34 (Reply 28):
Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 8):
VHF transmissions are line-of-sight.

In theory, and should not be depended on for communications beyond.

Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
They are not.



Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
The VHF distance record for a two-way communication (ham radio) is close to 8,000km, although not a typical path, it proves that it is not strictly LOS.

Just a matter of semantics. Your eye can't "see" VHF signals, so why assume that line-of-sight means only at visible wavelengths? Refraction and reflection are optical phenomena, too.
Position and hold
 
sprout5199
Posts: 1681
Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:26 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:56 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 29):
Just a matter of semantics. Your eye can't "see" VHF signals, so why assume that line-of-sight means only at visible wavelengths? Refraction and reflection are optical phenomena, too.

So true. LOS refers to the radio horizon, not visual horizon. IIRC the radio horizon for a VHF freq is 27 NM with the xmit antenna at 6 ft above ground level, or something like that.

Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
The VHF distance record for a two-way communication (ham radio) is close to 8,000km, although not a typical path, it proves that it is not strictly LOS.

I take it that is between two points on earth correct? Real easy to bounce a signal off the moon. I remember in 1987, in the persion gulf we tried to talk to an awacs in the northern part and we were in the straights ot hormuz, no joy with HF(6 or so mhz), but UHF(325mhz) worked great. RF does weird things sometimes.

Dan in Jupiter
 
SPREE34
Posts: 1566
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 6:09 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:58 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 29):
Refraction and reflection are optical phenomena, too.

And can seem particularly freaky at sea, or in the desert.
I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
 
iakobos
Posts: 3255
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2003 6:22 pm

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:13 pm



Quoting SPREE34 (Reply 28):
Hey lakobos, wasn't the 8,000km record SSB?

Not sure about this but my guess would be for the mode making use of the narrowest selectivity...ie good old CW.

Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 29):
Your eye can't "see" VHF signals, so why assume that line-of-sight means only at visible wavelengths

Well, sight relates to visual perception, even if enhanced by optical devices.

ps: "aviation hobby" would be a better place for such posts
 
KELPkid
Posts: 5247
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2005 5:33 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:27 pm



Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 19):
VHF air-to-air and air-to-ground are FM signals.



Quoting Sprout5199 (Reply 30):
Quoting Iakobos (Reply 26):
The VHF distance record for a two-way communication (ham radio) is close to 8,000km, although not a typical path, it proves that it is not strictly LOS.

I take it that is between two points on earth correct? Real easy to bounce a signal off the moon. I remember in 1987, in the persion gulf we tried to talk to an awacs in the northern part and we were in the straights ot hormuz, no joy with HF(6 or so mhz), but UHF(325mhz) worked great. RF does weird things sometimes.

Dan in Jupiter

I know that, when the sunspots start acting up, us amateur radio operators can sometimes talk to Hawaii on 2 meter single-sideband  Smile (145-147 Mhz band...). Very rare, but it does happen  Wink

I remember one day when I was in college, listening to my favorite FM station in the car, and I started hearing other FM stations from many many miles away bleeding over onto my favorite station (digital tuner, too). When I got home and watched the news, I found out that it was one of those bad solar flares that knocked out power grids and satellites...
Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
 
bond007
Posts: 4423
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:07 am

RE: Airline Frequency Scanners

Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:43 pm



Quoting Jetstar (Reply 18):
I remember in my early days making a crystal radio from plans in either Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, it was designed to pick up AM signals and it worked.

Here is an interesting take on a 'crystal' receiver for airband:

http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/cgi...ommerce.exe?preadd=action&key=ABM1

But, as mentioned, since the airlines quote "any device that receives or transmits", it is somewhat irrelevant whether it produces any RF signals itself or not.

As for LOS or not... I think for the purpose of this discussion we can agree that VHF reception is LOS  Wink


Jimbo
I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!

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