Airband-specific antennas for a casual scanner user: worth it?

shmark

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I should preface this post by saying I'm not much of a radio/RF guy, I'm an airplane guy. Forgive me for what will probably be a string of dumb questions.

I recently bought a used BC125AT so I could listen to local air traffic. It works ok, but the reception of radio traffic isn't great from inside my apartment and the transmissions I receive cut in and out, but its much better if I'm right by the airport so I don't think its an issue with the scanner itself. I'm wondering if getting an airband specific (at least VHF, but ideally VHF and UHF airbands) would help me out in my case. As a casual user I'm willing to trade some raw Rx capability for cost and convenience (i.e. big roof antennas are more than I want to deal with).

Searching and reading the forums I noticed a few people mentioned Smiley's antennas, which are cool and affordable, but they have really narrow Rx bands. Do I really need 3 different antennas to cover the entire 118-136.975 range? That seems really odd to me, but maybe I'm misinterpreting the product descriptions. I'd prefer to have one antenna if that's possible.

So tldr:
Would upgrading the antenna on my BC125AT help me get better reception in the VHF/UHF airbands, or are the benefits not something a casual user would find worthwhile?
Does limiting myself to a single, portable antenna rule out the options that would get me better reception?
If improved reception is possible, are there brands that you all prefer for this application?

I am an empty cup. All advice is appreciated.
 

iMONITOR

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Check this site as they have a few options:

DPD PRODUCTIONS
 

MDScanFan

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The stock antenna of the 125AT is tuned of ~160 MHz. At vhf airband the insertion loss is around 10 dB or so. If the reception is borderline in your current situation then I think it would be very worthwhile to try a portable antenna tuned for airband. You will buy back that 10 dB, which is significant. Perhaps get a smiley antenna tuned the portion of the band you care most about. While it will degrade outside the band specified it may be a dB or so loss vs the 10 dB for the stock antenna.

From there consider an antenna that is sized to be 1/4 or 1/2 wavelength at airband, like some of the DPD antennas referenced above. They will work better than a portable antenna at the expense of being tethered to it. Mounting one of these outside would only help.

I suggest a better portable antenna first and then go from there.
 

eorange

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The Diamond RH77CA is a great airband antenna. I have 2 of them that I use for VHF and UHF (military) airband listening, and one of them I used on a friend's BC125 for a while. They have been my go-to airband antennas for 10 to 20 years.

Not sure if you have have an airband transceiver, but in the interest of experimentation I also bought an Icom A4 transceiver antenna. For on-the-ground reception tests...it performed the same as the Diamond.
 

N9JCQ

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One of my main things is civil and military aviation monitoring. I have tried numerous antennas, mostly hand held style. In fact, I believe eorange and I have exchanged antennas as well to compare them. I can tell you as a good overall aviation antenna for handheld use, the RH-77CA is very hard to beat. I use it on 325P2, my old Pro-43 handheld and my Yupiteru MVT-7100, perhaps the best aviation handheld made. Other antennas I have used with good success was a generic aviation handheld antenna, Maldol AL-500H which is out of production but a really good avaiation antenna, A Watson Airgainer that performed ok. Recently, I saw a Youtube video about a guy in the UK who makes and sells his own antennas. I bought his Civil air antenna and it actually is a very good performing antenna although very long. It's called a Broadsword and here is the video:
 

chief21

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...the reception of radio traffic isn't great from inside my apartment and the transmissions I receive cut in and out, but its much better if I'm right by the airport so I don't think its an issue with the scanner itself.
Most airband reception complaints relate to difficulty receiving ground-based transmissions (tower, approach, etc). Unlike most radio systems, the radio equipment at the airport tends to be optimized for aircraft and isn't really intended to be heard by non-aircraft stations, especially those some distance from the airport. If this is your issue, an outside, base-station antenna would likely help the most (and they're not all that big - a quarter-wave ground plane antenna is only about 22" tall).
 

shmark

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Thanks all! This is super helpful. Sounds like a RH77CA is a pretty good option for me (and not wildly expensive either).


Most airband reception complaints relate to difficulty receiving ground-based transmissions (tower, approach, etc). Unlike most radio systems, the radio equipment at the airport tends to be optimized for aircraft and isn't really intended to be heard by non-aircraft stations, especially those some distance from the airport. If this is your issue, an outside, base-station antenna would likely help the most (and they're not all that big - a quarter-wave ground plane antenna is only about 22" tall).
While I'm only a few miles away from my local airport, there's a pretty significant amount of land obstruction between me and the airport, so I don't really expect to be able to pick anything up from the airport itself unless I go drive to my plane-watchin' spot. But if that's possible, I'm interested...
 

eorange

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Maldol AL-500H which is out of production but a really good avaiation antenna
I had one of those, which I thought was pretty much equivalent to the Diamond. It was very floppy and kind of embarrassing to walk around with it on your belt, or at all, along with being an eye-poker.
 

gcopter1

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I live within 11 miles of two airports, Orlando International and Orlando Executive with the later being the closest (less than 5 miles).

From a third floor apartment, and having access to the attic, I use a J-Pole antenna from KB9VBR with excellent results.

Don't have line of sight to either airport but with this antenna I can hear the ATIS, impossible for me to do even outside on my balcony with a handheld antenna.
 

N9JCQ

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I had one of those, which I thought was pretty much equivalent to the Diamond. It was very floppy and kind of embarrassing to walk around with it on your belt, or at all, along with being an eye-poker.
Too long for portable walking around.
 

chief21

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I don't really expect to be able to pick anything up from the airport itself unless I go drive to my plane-watchin' spot. But if that's possible, I'm interested...
Seems possible... even likely (with an outside antenna). In my case, I'm slightly more than 10 miles from the local airport (as the crow flies) and separated by some substantial hills, but I am still able to monitor the tower and approach frequencies. My "base station" all-band antenna is in the attic.
 

W4ZWA

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+1 on the DPD Antenna products. I have the MilitaryX antenna and one of the blade style indoor antennas. I can pick up the ground station for Washington center on UHF and VHF 6 miles away without any issues.
 

Ubbe

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I have my nearest airport 13 miles away and I have no line of sight, it's a couple of hills obstructing and the towns city with high raise buildings are in the middle of it. It is extremly weather and location dependent to receive the tower communication.

I have something like 5 different antenna positions outside on my property I can use and when testing with a portable scanner connected directly to the antenna and using open squelch it was only two positions that could receive the tower when I held the antenna and moved it between positions. Other positions where totally dead only producing noise.

/Ubbe
 

eorange

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Just curious, were you barely picking up the tower or could you clearly hear the comms? I am 21 miles from KCLE and can barely hear the tower using a handheld homemade dipole when on the second floor inside, while facing the opposite direction (don't ask me how that works). I might be able to discern a word or 2, but that's it.
 

crevatis

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I found the Smiley Triband 144/220/440 antenna outperforms the RH-77CA on the airband and most if not all of VHF by a few dB. About 5 dB better on my local ATIS freq.
 

Ubbe

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Just curious, were you barely picking up the tower or could you clearly hear the comms?
I have never been able to hear any completly clear comms from the tower. This summer the norm have been around 50% noise. Some days it's worse and some days it's better than that.

/Ubbe
 

eorange

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KBKL is a smaller airport in Cleveland on the Lake. I can barely make out ATIS and the tower comms, but mostly never. I recently went to the Lake near me, maybe 15 miles east or so from the airport, and even then not line of sight to the airport...but I could hear both clearly.
 

iMONITOR

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I have never been able to hear any completly clear comms from the tower. This summer the norm have been around 50% noise. Some days it's worse and some days it's better than that.

/Ubbe
Filters don't help?
 

Tapet

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Complete newb myself mate but I recently posted a a similar question. In my case I'm using SDR receiver. Was suggested this Homebrewed Off-Center Fed Dipole - The RadioReference Wiki. I actually made a folded dipole for the aircraft band. Then the off Centre dipole . The off center dipole. The off center performs almost as good. I even receive handhelds at the airport but I live just less than a K from form the Airport.

I think there is no reason why you could not make the same antenna out of wire and suspend it with a weight on the bottom to keep it straight. It would be extremely easy to make and use a 300 to 75 ohm TV coax Balan. Although it might not be quite so broad band as one made from fat tube.
 
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