If your using a radio scanner as just another way of getting the most out of your interest in aircraft then you’ll probably not initially be bothered about the full specs of the radio, but instead being more concerned with something you can set up and use quickly.
Things might move on once your more comfortable with your new radio scanner and you become more interested in the finer points of how it all works. Sticking to a radio scanner designed purely for airband use does leave you with a piece of equipment that has a limited frequency range should your interest move past aircraft and into the other sides of hobby radio.
With the range of wideband radio scanners on the market that do an excellent job on the aircraft portions on the VHF and UHF bands, gone are the days when you had to seek out a dedicated airband scanner.
Another plus is these radios have the sort of support (like being programmable via a computer) that makes it easy to stuff them full of all your favorite airband frequencies and help the novice scanner user quickly get to grips with a new radio (ideal if your just starting out).
Uniden UBC125XLT Handheld Radio Scanner
Frequency Coverage – 25-88MHz, 108-174MHz, 225-512MHz and 806-960MHz
Frequency Steps – 5/6.25/8.33/10/12.5KHz
500 Memories (split into 10 banks)
A little wideband radio scanner that manages to pack a lot in with a large clear display to drive it all.
At an entry level price, the UBC125XLT hosts all the features that Uniden add to their modern scanners (Close Call, CTCSS and DCS squelch modes etc), along with enough memory storage space to load up a good selection of airband frequencies.
Going the manual route when entering frequencies can be time consuming but with the addition of an interface cable (sold separately), they can be uploaded (on mass) to this scanner from a home computer.
Uniden UBC3500XLT Handheld Radio Scanner
Frequency Coverage – 25-512Mhz, 806-960Mhz and 1240-1300Mhz
Frequency Steps – 5 / 6.25 / 7..5 / 10 / 12.5 / 15 / 20 / 15 / 50 / 100 kHz and 8.33 kHz
Taking it up a notch from the first radio scanner on this page, the UBC3500XLT is a more costly and complicated radio. With built in features designed to make this a very effective airband scanner (pre-programmed airband search etc), the huge amount of memory slots give enough space to store your frequencies.
Add to this the alpha tagging and you’ve got a searchable database of frequencies from right across the VHF and UHF aircraft band allocations.
Use from Home and that All Important Base Station Antenna
Aircraft at high altitude really cut through the line of sight problems that plague transmissions at VHF/UHF and even with the set top antenna fitted to the scanner, you’ll be able to hear planes over a great distance but if your also using the scanner at home, a base antenna suitable for the airband will make all the difference to its reception.