I’m glad you had a chance to listen to the Dayton feed. I know Dayton isn’t exactly at the top of most people’s ATC listening lists, but as I can see on the Class C Live Audio Streams page, on occasion I have a listener or two. I also have used the ATC archive feature and found it quite helpful. Most recently, I listened to some of the comms related to the transport of President Ford’s body.
The cost for my feeder is probably not typical. It would certainly be possible to setup a feeder for much less expense, especially if you live within just a few miles of KILN.
I bought the PRO-2006 radio about ten years ago for around $300. In recent years some public service communications have begun using what is known as “trunking” technology, making radios like the PRO-2006 much less useful, at least for the type of listening I’m most interested in. So it was a logical choice for a dedicated feeder, as aircraft comms aren’t trunked. My discone antenna was also purchased many years ago, for $90 as I recall.
The major expenses recently for the feeder were the coax, about $165, and the surge suppressor, at around $45. Due to the layout of my home, it was necessary to have a relatively long run of coax, so a good quality line that would suffer little signal loss was necessary. I also opted for coax that is particularly flexible (it’s more expensive), to make the necessary twists and turns easier. In the last two years I have had some significant trouble with nearby lightning strikes damaging equipment; the suppressor setup is my attempt to mitigate that risk a bit.
So my feeder expense is about $600, but as I said, it’s likely you could get by for much less. I’m sure that almost all scanning receivers (new, or manufactured in the last many years) include the commercial aviation band, so it’s likely you could find something pretty cheap, as they are relatively common. New radios are available from such manufacturers as Radio Shack, Uniden and AOR.
Depending upon your proximity to the airport and where you want to place the radio in your home, you might be able to get by with just the small antenna that comes with the radio, making coax and outside antenna unnecessary. This would probably work especially well if you could place the scanner near a window facing the airport, and on an upper floor, if possible.
Even if you live many miles from KILN, it’s likely you could pick up the airport comms with just the small scanner antenna, and that would certainly serve as a useful feeder. VHF is generally “line-of-site”, and since aircraft often contact the airport at significant altitudes, you might often be able to hear them. The outside antenna would then come into play when trying to hear aircraft on the ground or very near it.
There are obviously many, many vendors where you could purchase scanning radios and accessories. I’ve had good luck with Radio Shack receivers and have owned several, although lately I’ve purchased Uniden equipment.
You can obviously find Radio Shack radios at www.radioshack.com
. It looks like Radio Shack offers an aircraft capable scanner for $99.00
). I have no idea how well it works.
There are many vendors for Uniden radios, but I typically order from Grove Enterprises, as I’ve always been pleased in my dealings with them, and I’ve had many. Their scanners, antennas and accessories can be seen here: http://www.grove-ent.com/order.html
Of course (with a BIG buyer beware) you can find new/used radios at such places as eBay.
In very general terms, less expensive radios may be less sensitive/selective, meaning their ability to “hear” weak signals, as well as reject those that are unwanted, is not as good as in more expensive, sophisticated radios. To some extent, sensitivity problems can be overcome with a good antenna.
As far as antennas, Radio Shack has a ground plane for $26 – it’s here: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2103641
. They have others, as does Grove, found at the link above. You might also consider building an antenna to save some expense, if you enjoy projects. Sites such as http://www.radioreference.com
have some good information on “homebrew”, and of course there are many, many others sites on the Web with good info. I’m building a J-Pole antenna now for another radio. It’s relatively inexpensive, and could be constructed for the aircraft band – more info here: http://www.educypedia.be/electronics/antennajpole.htm
. Whatever antenna you end up with, it’s probably best that it be omni-directional, meaning that it receives equally well from all directions.
Although it’s not brain surgery, there is some skill involved in installing connectors on coax. If you’re handy with a soldering iron, it won’t be much of a problem to learn. If you’ve not soldered before, you might consider contacting a local ham club to see if someone could help you, or perhaps purchase coax with connectors already attached. I would recommend good quality, pre-cut lengths with connectors from places like Universal (http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/cable/cable.html
) or Grove (http://www.grove-ent.com/COAXCABLE.html
), not Radio Shack. You’re looking for cable that loses little signal over its run, is shielded well enough to reject unwanted radio signals and noise, and weathers well so that it will not have to be replaced very often. Both Universal and Grove sell decent cable.
Bottom line, I’d shop around for an inexpensive scanner that has garnered favorable reviews (online or elsewhere), use the antenna that came with it, work with LiveATC to get a feeder going, and then listen for a while and see if you feel an outside an antenna would be of benefit. If you do, build or purchase an omni-directional antenna, mount it as high as reasonably possible (perhaps on the peak of your roof) and use good quality coax and connectors.
Hope these suggestions might be of some help.