ACARS decoding

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hawkeye32

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Hi their!!

So figured I;d try this hobby out, but need a little help. Here is my setup, I have the RTL dongle, with planeplotter and also have virtual radar,antenna is the DPD 1090 ADS-B antenna with a run of 35 feet LMR-400. I can see the planes in my area and all that, but am confused on to decode the ACARS messages. When I click messages in planeplotter all it shows me is just a blank white screen with the planeplotter toolbar at the top,is their something I am doing wrong? I read in the tutorial portion of planeplotter in order to decode ACARS I need to hook up a scanner to the computer via soundcard, also read that I can hook up my HF radio (R71A) as well to receive secal messages? However I also read u can also decode them without having to hook up a scanner or HF radio, so i guess thats where I am. I have the paid version of planeplotter as well.

I just want to be able to get the full use of planeplotter and what she can do. I have no clue if it is working right or not. Like I say I can see aircraft in my area, but very limited, maybe seeing 10 planes if I am lucky,I am in the windsor/detroit area, so just thinking I should see more beings metro airport, city airport, selfridge and of course our airport here in windsor. From what I can tell from planeplotter I am getting about 250-300 radius for reception. Any help would be greatly appreciate :)

Chris
 
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DaveNF2G

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To decode ACARS, you need a receiver tuned to at least one ACARS frequency.
 

hawkeye32

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To decode ACARS, you need a receiver tuned to at least one ACARS frequency.
Hi thanks Dave, that clears that up :) Not sure if you will know this, but if I hook up my BCD996xt park it on ACARS freq (which I'll look up in the database), setup the settings in planeplotter for it to read it, then thats it? Or is their any other type of configuration that I have to do
Thanks
 

SkiBob

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Unless a plane has a ADS-B transponder you are not going to see it on your virtual radar. Unfortunately very few planes in the USA have those. The good news is the planes most people want to see (the big and unique ones) are international flights and are required to have an ADS-B transponder.

This is a hobby that is designed for the European aviation enthusiast. The airspace over there requires all of their aircraft to carry such transponder. If you go to flightradar24.com you will see why there are so many more hobbyist there.

As far as the ACARS goes, I'm not sure how it works with your software, but I have found that it is just a bunch of jibberish that is coded for very few to understand. Much of it is secretly coded for competitive reasons. Sure, about once an hour (in Atlanta) I'll pick up an interesting message of a pilot ordering dinner to be ready when he arrives. Bad weather days carry a few more messages. 200-300 mile radius is a normal reception range depending on the landscape.

It's an addictive hobby for sure. I have enjoyed it for a couple of years now.

Hope this helps.
 

hawkeye32

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Unless a plane has a ADS-B transponder you are not going to see it on your virtual radar. Unfortunately very few planes in the USA have those. The good news is the planes most people want to see (the big and unique ones) are international flights and are required to have an ADS-B transponder.

This is a hobby that is designed for the European aviation enthusiast. The airspace over there requires all of their aircraft to carry such transponder. If you go to flightradar24.com you will see why there are so many more hobbyist there.

As far as the ACARS goes, I'm not sure how it works with your software, but I have found that it is just a bunch of jibberish that is coded for very few to understand. Much of it is secretly coded for competitive reasons. Sure, about once an hour (in Atlanta) I'll pick up an interesting message of a pilot ordering dinner to be ready when he arrives. Bad weather days carry a few more messages. 200-300 mile radius is a normal reception range depending on the landscape.

It's an addictive hobby for sure. I have enjoyed it for a couple of years now.

Hope this helps.
Thanks skibob!! yes that helps alot, makes sense to me now why I am only seeing limited aircraft. Of course like anything else I just want to take full advantage of what Planeplotter offers. Yes this is a very addictive hobby thus far
 
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DaveNF2G

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ACARS is also useful for determining the positions of some flights that do you use ADS-B, which is what PlanePlotter does with the data. (It also shows the messages as decoded in a separate window.)

All you need is an audio patch cable from your scanner's external speaker or headphone jack to your computer sound card's Line In port (or select Line In with the sound card's software if there is only one input jack). Be sure to "tell" Planeplotter that you are feeding it ACARS audio. Use the signal level reference screen to make sure that PP hears the bleeps when you do and that they are not overly loud. (When they just square off on the edges on peaks, that is right for PP to decode.)

There is another mode called VDL2 which PlanePlotter cannot decode directly. However, there are instructions available online for interfacing MultiPSK, which can decode VDL2, to PlanePlotter.

The best place for information and support directly from the PP author, as well as access to the combined expertise of the user community, is the planeplotter forum at Yahoogroups.
 

autovon

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FYI SELCAL is not a messaging mode. It is essentially a way to alert the aircraft that the HF controller has a message for them. No data is passed. The only thing would get out of it is essentially the aircraft tail #
 

hawkeye32

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ACARS is also useful for determining the positions of some flights that do you use ADS-B, which is what PlanePlotter does with the data. (It also shows the messages as decoded in a separate window.)

All you need is an audio patch cable from your scanner's external speaker or headphone jack to your computer sound card's Line In port (or select Line In with the sound card's software if there is only one input jack). Be sure to "tell" Planeplotter that you are feeding it ACARS audio. Use the signal level reference screen to make sure that PP hears the bleeps when you do and that they are not overly loud. (When they just square off on the edges on peaks, that is right for PP to decode.)

There is another mode called VDL2 which PlanePlotter cannot decode directly. However, there are instructions available online for interfacing MultiPSK, which can decode VDL2, to PlanePlotter.

The best place for information and support directly from the PP author, as well as access to the combined expertise of the user community, is the planeplotter forum at Yahoogroups.
Thanks Dave that really helps!!! I have it decoding now, pretty neat to say the least. In a way it is almost like RTTY, sure do miss those days lol. I'll take a look at PP forum.Once again thanks :)
 

hawkeye32

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FYI SELCAL is not a messaging mode. It is essentially a way to alert the aircraft that the HF controller has a message for them. No data is passed. The only thing would get out of it is essentially the aircraft tail #
Thanks Autovon!! Ya after I did some more reading I found that out after I posted that, sorry bout that should of edited my post, but it is also good to have confirmation as well lol.
 

737mech

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Thanks Autovon!! Ya after I did some more reading I found that out after I posted that, sorry bout that should of edited my post, but it is also good to have confirmation as well lol.
Try ACARSD without plane plotter and such. Just tune your scanner to a known ACARS freq, lower your volume level a bit, plug into your line in audio plug and run acarsd. The messages are not all that much to get excited about, stuff like "We need 3 wheelchairs on arrival, we need maintenance oil service too etc." Sone is very generic door close times or atis weaher reports. It's not a work around for plotting aircraft because not every aircraft sends position data over acars. Most likely the aircraft intending to land in your area as we call it "In Range" might report position but not a standard system for all aircraft to report position.
 

hawkeye32

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Try ACARSD without plane plotter and such. Just tune your scanner to a known ACARS freq, lower your volume level a bit, plug into your line in audio plug and run acarsd. The messages are not all that much to get excited about, stuff like "We need 3 wheelchairs on arrival, we need maintenance oil service too etc." Sone is very generic door close times or atis weaher reports. It's not a work around for plotting aircraft because not every aircraft sends position data over acars. Most likely the aircraft intending to land in your area as we call it "In Range" might report position but not a standard system for all aircraft to report position.
Ok great!! Thanks 737mech, I'll give that program a try, I see what u mean by the messages not being very exciting lol, none the less thou I guess its neat in its own kind of way.
 

eorange

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I have seen telemetry data on ACARS, like operating parameters for 4 engines (I recall temp being one), and even an alarm for a highwater mark in a lavatory.
 
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DaveNF2G

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YMMV on ACARS. I would say that it definitely is a work-around for plotting aircraft. For some airlines (and/or aircraft types), especially the smaller regionals and the non-Boeing non-Airbus airliners, ACARS is the only way to get position reports.
 
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