Radio scanner for air/police/fire

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Lowell

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As I live very near an airport, I am interested in getting a radio scanner to pick up the aircraft frequencies.  I see that some scanners are advertised to pick up almost all bands, police, fire, marine, etc.  Does anyone have a recommendation? Since I don't know if I will get bored with this, I would like to keep cost below $100.
Jake
 

finelabs

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Check out the Uniden (Bearcat) product line.  Some handhelds retail for under $100 (Walmart, etc).  As importantly, you will want to identify the local airport frequencies for Tower, Ground Control, Approach, Clearance (assuming it is a field with a tower) or Unicom freq if it is an uncontrolled field.  Visit one of the local FBOs for info.  As you listen to Approach/Departure, you'll hear additonal freqs given to pilots for Air Traffic Control Center operations -- those are good ones to plug in also if you're close to a Center transmitting facility.
 

John From Detroit

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Bearcat (Uniden) and Radio Shack seem to be the most common brands, both are simular in ability and quality

However do be aware that there are laws governing scanner use.. And like most laws there are exceptions and your millage may vary depending on where you live and other qualifiers apply.

The communications act of 1934 (Federal) states you may not transcribe, record, repeate or use for any purpose other than entainerment anything you hear on a "point to point" frequency, this includes police, fire, ems, phone, dispatch (of any kind) and aircraft frequencies (Basically all non-broadcast bands)  Severe penality should you get caught telling someone "I heard the funniest thing on the scanner last night... ____what was heard____"

States may have laws governing having a scanner in a motor vehicle,  These seriously vary from state to state

Of course, in most cases a ham license trumps state scanner laws... But I am not familure with all states
 

joelmyer

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Jake,

Take a look at http://www.strongsignals.net/access/content/pickrecv.html

Rich suggests Radio Shack as a good place for fisrt timer's.  You can touch, feel and take it back in x days if you don't like it.

Sometimes you can get really good deals on the just replaced model.
 

Lowell

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Thanks for all your comments. They were very helpful. I'll check out the the models at Radio Shack. 
Jake
 

John From Detroit

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Jake said:
Thanks for all your comments. They were very helpful. I'll check out the the models at Radio Shack. 

A couple of things you should know about Radio Shack products.

Many folks like to put down Radio Shack products, however:

1: Much of what is labeled Radio Shack, or Realistic, is not really made by Radio Shack/Realistic/Tandy but by some other well known company..... I'm not sure who made my milti-meter however I do know who makes a case that fits it like a glove (FLUKE, one of the most trusted names in this product line)  I would not be surprised to find a Radio Shack Scanner that is all but identical to a Bearcat scanner.

2: Several years ago (ok, 1970's) one of the Radio and Electronic magazines put Radio Shack, Cobra and Johnson (The two biggest names in CB's) to the test... The labortory test bench test.

They found that the very best Johnson, was virtually identical performance wise to the very best COBRA, and was superior to the very best Radio Shack... (no surprise there at all)

They found that the #2 Johnson and Cobra were nearly identical... And the #1 Radio shack was also nearly identical to the big boys #2  (once again, not really a surprise) in everythign but price

From top to bottom, the Johnson and the Cobra were not only very nearly identical in specs, but in price

However Radio Shack,  Well, their top started, as noted, about the same as the number 2 Johnson & Cobra performance wise, but were priced about the same as Johnson and Cobra's #3 radio.

This too continued all the way down to the bottom of the line,, with the bottom Radio Shack uint (Which I tossed about a month ago) being cheaper than the bottom of the other two, but again performancy wise nearly identical

In some cases, it is known who makes the Radio Shack labeled product, In others it's not as well known.

But I've never had any of their good products I would not be proud to own... The bargain basement stuff... Well, you may well get what you pay for there, but anything mid-level or above is going to be as good as a big name product costing about one level more
 

Ned

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I've had a Radio Shack PRO-79 scanner for over 3 years and it works as well as the more expensive units with similar capabilities.  It cost me $99, I believe.  200 channels, scans the air, public service, marine, weather and 10, 6, 2 and .75m ham bands.
 

John From Detroit

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Ned said:
I've had a Radio Shack PRO-79 scanner for over 3 years and it works as well as the more expensive units with similar capabilities.  It cost me $99, I believe.  200 channels, scans the air, public service, marine, weather and 10, 6, 2 and .75m ham bands.

I have a simular scanner... It is not yet in my MH (But will be) Mine also picks up FM broadcast.  Works well in spite of being around a quarter century old.

One thing it won't pick up much of any more where I live is police calls... Most departments converted to 800Mhz digital trunked which my scanner won't decode.. I clip a couple of wires and it will pick them up, but it can't decode digital broadcasts at this time and my motovation to fix that is.... Very limited (IE: non existant) so it's not likley to be fed into a computer that can decode it.
 

Ned

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RS has a couple of handheld scanners that will recieve trunked siganals for just over $100.
 

John From Detroit

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Ned said:
RS has a couple of handheld scanners that will recieve trunked siganals for just over $100.

I know..  I forgot to mention that I'm not interested in listening to police calls

Listened to them for 25 years, 8 months and 11 days... (Well, sometimes I was listening, Sometimes I was listened to) and quite frankly have had my fill of police calls :)

(would clearly be a "Busman's holiday" for me to listen to police calls)
 

Lowell

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Well, I bought a Radio Shack hand held scanner, with 1000 channels.  It was on sale for $149, regular price was $219.  It's my Christmas present, so I can't play with it yet.

For the most part, I want to listen to aircraft transmissions.  I haven't flown for about 25 years and am thinking about getting back into it now that I retired.  I used to fly out of a small airport and didn't have to communicate all that much by radio.  I think I need practice listening.  My wife agrees with that ;)  I also wouldn't mind listening to the police frequencies as my son is a 911 supervisor in a local police dept.

I'll let you know how the scanner works out after the first of the year.
Jake
 

Lowell

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Well, I tried the scanner out.  While it worked very well for police and fire radio traffic, I wasn't happy with it for aircraft bands.  It seemed to get hung up on one aircraft frequency and not continue to scan.  The frequency it got hung up on didn't have any transmission, just static.  I tried to install my own frequencies for local airport towers and Phoenix approach but I didn't have any success for that either.  I think the problem was me, not the scanner.  ???

I took it back to Radio Shack.  With tax and all it was about $180.  I decided that even if I got it working, I wasn't sure just how much enjoyment I would get out of it. Radio Sc hack was very good about the return.  No problems there.
Jake
 

John From Detroit

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Jake said:
Well, I tried the scanner out.? While it worked very well for police and fire radio traffic, I wasn't happy with it for aircraft bands.? It seemed to get hung up on one aircraft frequency and not continue to scan.? The frequency it got hung up on didn't have any transmission, just static.? I tried to install my own frequencies for local airport towers and Phoenix approach but I didn't have any success for that either.? I think the problem was me, not the scanner.? ????

The behavior you describe is common among scanners, it's called a "Birdie"  Here is what happened.

Due to the design of the radio there are some internal devices that generate a radio frequency signal, sometimes these devices combine to produce a signal within the band being scanned (On most sacnners, unless you have specifically programmed around them, the odds of this happening are roughly 100%) and thus the radio is receiving itself.

In addition there are other external sources of radio frequency interference (I can guarentee this) for example... You are looking at one of those sources RIGHT NOW (your comptuer, big time noise source)  We call this QRM (Man made radio frequency interference) so it's possible the scanner was picking up a nearby computer device.. I've seen this from engine computers, gas pumps, laptops and desktops and the like, cell phones and more

Every scanner is subject to this both the above types of interference...

So.. What can you do?  Well, different scanners will have birdies in different places.. And sometimes simply moving the radio will get rid of QRM. However SOME scanners have a "Frequency lock out" feature, (All have a memory lock out) the frequency lock out usually takes up a memory slot, but if you are set to band scan,,, It will ingore the locked out frequency.. You put your birdies here

Alternate method is to limit your scan to either above or below the birdie

Alternative (Best) is use programmed memory scan, and either lock out the birdie, or don't program it in to scan

I have two dual band dual scanner radios (Both transmit as well) and occasionally a 3rd recieve only general coverage scanner as well... And I'm planing on expanding.. (Thankfully I don't use all of these at one time,,, Example, one of the dual band dual scanners is not in the MH most of the time..... Just now it's on the christmas tree table here in the house)
 
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