FlightAware Discussions

High gain VHF/UHF antenna for airband recommendations?

I’m looking for a high gain VHF/UHF outdoor base station antenna so I can hear loud and clear **both sided **conversations of as many air traffic control (Tower, TRACON, and ARTCC RCAG) communications as possible with very little or no static. I’m mostly interested in the civilian band, but military would be good too. I’m even looking at 2m/70 cm ham radio antennas and can’t figure out which one to buy since they have a lot of mixed reviews.

I’ve given up on Radio Shack base station antennas after several negative experiences, and recently put up a Diamond D-130J, and my airband RX is better but still very weak and mostly static. I have a 30’ AGL outdoor chimney mount with commercial grade RG-11. My airband capable scanners are a Pro 106, Pro 96 and Maycom AR-108.

Per Google Maps, I’m about 15 miles from KFNT, about 45 miles from KMBS, about 65 miles from KLAN, about 75 miles from KMTC, and about 85 miles from KDTW. I’d like to be able to receive both sided, loud and clear air traffic control communications from these airports. Also I want to do so for as many ARTCC RCAGs as possible.

Would a VHF/UHF high gain antenna alone fulfill my wishes or would I also need an airband preamp?

BTW I have all of the frequencies from airnav.com for everything but KMTC programmed in already.

I’d appreciate any tips.

Mt. Morris, MI

What’s the HEIGHT of your antennae array? You’re trying to read line-of-sight communications from ground stations, ergo you need height.

It’s in my post: 30’ AGL (30 feet above ground level) i.e. 2nd story roof + 10 foot fence pole. I’m well aware that “higher is better” (I’ve been listening to scanners for 13 years), but my chimney is over 100 years old and the guy who sold me the mount said with brick chimneys that old, anything over 10 feet will make them topple, so more height is NOT an option. (I also have 2 TV antennas on the same mount).

So which antenna should I get?

Can’t help on the particular antennae but in my experience even FNT at 15 miles is going to be marginal due to the line of sight limits on VHF radios. You will hear airborne airplanes at Flint with no problem but the low altitude airplanes in the further locations will be out of touch and frustrating for you. Try www.liveatc.net

John in Saudi

Yeah I can hear planes up the wazoo but I want to hear the controllers units too.

Liveatc.net? More like delayedby60secondsatc.net or missinghalfofthefrequenciesofatc.net. I have scanners cuz I want to listen to everything actually live.

Can someone please answer my actual question? What antenna should I get?

I understand liveatc is not perfect and with the risk of repeating myself I will say I have been in airplanes on the ground with good radios and could not talk to the tower at an airport 5 miles away. My antennae was probably only 10 ft off the ground and the towers would have been at least 60. I could barely hear them and they could not hear me. As somebody else suggested earlier the type of antennae for VHF radios is not as important as the height. You have to get it above the neighboring buildings.

He answered it.

Your Line of Sight is TO far away for proper ground communication monitoring.

Try posting your question to the user forums on LiveATC.net :bulb: :wink:
Those are the people who are most familiar with the equipment and configurations.

Well were you on the right frequency? At KFNT for example, some of them are patched together (ground/tower mostly, sometimes north/south TRACON, and sometimes clearance/ground). I’ve heard planes talk on clearance freq sometimes and Tower said “I don’t copy you, go to ground” and they after the pilot did the plane was loud and clear on the tower’s end. Same with the TRACON freqs (plane used north instead of south, same result).

Why were you talking to another airport’s tower on the ground anyway? I thought if an airport doesn’t have its own tower you use its Common Traffic Advisory Frequency until you’re in the air. I’m not a pilot though so correct me if I’m wrong.

Also the guy that run’s KFNT’s live scanner feed told me planes have 2 antennas, one on top (for ground use) and one on bottom (for in-flight use). Maybe you were on the bottom one instead of the top…

Yes I was on the right frequency, I was trying to get an IFR clearance from an uncontrolled airport and I was using the top antennae which was all that airplane had.

:smiley: what your aircraft wasn’t equipped with an antennae selection interface ?

Tomcat, the guys that have responded with suggestions are probably the most trusted on the FA boards when it comes to answers to our questions… if you don’t agree with them, maybe another venue for your question would be appropriate.

lol, no. In fact I think that one only had one radio. (That flight was in the last century so details are getting fuzzy)
I also think the suggestion regarding the liveatc boards is a good one. Some of those guys have some serious equipment.

I don’t disagree with them, I was just asking questions. I’m the curious type and I like to learn new things… :smiley:

I already posted to Liveatc too and got a few good leads. I didn’t even know that had forums before yesterday so thanks for the suggestion. :smiley:

I have a 30’ AGL outdoor chimney mount with commercial grade RG-11.

RG-11 is a 75 ohm cable. I would expect your receiver to use a 50 ohm system. You might check your receiver documentation and see if it lists the antenna impedance. If it is 50 ohm, you might have better luck with something like Belden 9913 or LMR-400 cable.

You might try a better scanner; a Radio Shack 2045 or Uniden 780XLT are much better on air frequencies both VHF and UHF.
Impedance won’t make much matter on receive only.

Well 1. I only use handhelds and I prefer RS exclusively (I hate paying shipping and there’s a RS on dozens of street corners), 2. In my 13 years of scanning, I’ve found that better reception has more so to do with better antennas, hence the thread title and my OP.

Yeah they told me that on LiveATC too. Getting some LMR-400 is first on my to do list.

Of the radios you have the Maycom is the best for air. I have had all three and would not use any of them for serious air monitoring. No signal means no need for an amp…what would you be amplifying? I missed the edict about it having to be a hand held so I’d suggest a Pro 43 as it rocks on mil air and will stomp the others as well on VHF. Curious if that “commercial grade” RG 11 is copper clad. Nick the wire prepping for connectors and now you are running the steel as a center… it rusts. RG 11 to 400 is not even a db better at 125 meg but you must know that,right?
Hearing both sides at the distances you mention is a dream without a beam and a real radio. :unamused:

Even a three or four element Moseley beam will be of little use without getting it MUCH higher.

Line-of-sight means exactly what it says.

I don’t buy the line of sight issue on AM thankfully. I’m 11 miles straight out on the approach end of 23L/R at KIND. Between ISOLA/ LATTE on the IFR plate. ATIS on 134.250 and the ATIS at Eagle Creek on 121.575 are readable. They use less power than the tower/ground guys. If you Google map me, you will see I cannot be LOS due to the highways if not trees and buildings.