Using radio scanners for listening to airband signals is a very popular part of our hobby and with less dedicated airband scanners on the market choosing an all round model that will produce good results is more important than ever.
Older scanners may not have the right frequency steps (8.33 KHz) to listen to the new channel reorganization that was introduce in 1999 on transmissions above a certain flight level, this change is still being extended to cover more airband signals so double checking that any new radio will function properly with this new channel system is key to having an effective airband scanner.
This is not that much of a problem if your are listening outside of Europe as the new spacing is rarely use anywhere else and if you have a scanner without the new steps it isn’t a complete loss as you will still be able to receive a fair number of signals but this will be increasingly restricted over time as more transmissions fall into line with the new system.
The Right Frequency Coverage
Even though the military airband will not be as busy as the commercial band having the option to listen on these frequencies will make your radio more future proof especially if you are attending some of the many air shows that take place all around the world every year. Its always good to look beyond what you initially want in a scanner taking into account any extra frequency coverage and features that may be of interest to you in the future.
Commercial frequency band 108 – 137 MHz
Military frequency band 225 – 400 MHz
All airband transmissions are in AM (amplitude modulation) and even though some scanners will cover some or all of the airband allocations not all have the option to switch to AM and its very important to check this before parting with any cash.
Reception of Airband Transmissions
Luckily signals transmitted from planes can travel a great distance and be received clearly with simple antennas but if your monitoring at home installing an outside antenna system will give you much better coverage and more enjoyment when using the scanner.
Installing a wide band scanner antenna will cover all the frequencies you need to receive on the airband and make your setup more flexible if your scanner listening habits change and you move on to other things, this will save a lot of time and effort putting up an additional antenna or replacing the existing limited model.
Airport Ground Signals
Along with the signals from the plane are all the other radio frequencies that airports use on the ground but because of their very limited range you are unlikely to receive any unless you are lucky enough to live very close to an airport or have a very high location.
Where to Find the Good Stuff
Transmissions between tower and plane are of a very routine nature most of the time unless there is an emergency or poor weather conditions but there are some other signals to listen to which can of a bit more interest. Each airplane company have a whole series of “working” frequencies used for everything from logistics to ordering special services from the airport they are about to land in (These channels can easily be found online by doing a search).
Although seldom used (thankfully) having the general airband emergency channels program as part of the scan on your radio will yield some very interesting signals over time.
The aircraft emergency frequencies are 121.500 MHz for the civil airband and 243.000 MHz for the military allocation.