Unobtrusive external antenna

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by Ben, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    Good Evening everybody on the East Coast.

    As I mentioned in a previous thread, I am getting a kick out of my handheld radio. I am able to listen to the KART CTAF from my office! Very cool! I've got this little guy, the Icom IC-A6.

    https://www.amazon.com/Icom-IC-A6-C...qid=1511903876&sr=1-5&keywords=icom+air+radio

    I'd love to extend the range of this radio so I could hear KGTB's control tower, and maybe some other airports close to where I live.

    My wife and I moved into a new house, so mounting a very obvious external antenna would not be "wife approved". I could maybe hide one in the yard, but I can't stick anything to the sides of the house.

    Is there an unobtrusive way to extend the range of my radio? Or maybe, just buy something else to listen to these frequencies instead of extending the range of my hand held?

    I apologize if this question has been asked before. I'm not very smart, so I figured typing a semi coherent question would be the next best thing.
     
  2. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Unless you have a metal roof, putting an antenna in the attic could help.
     
  3. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route

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    LiveATC doesn't have a feed?

    Also, putting an antenna in one of your eves would be much less conspicuous than a satellite dish for DishNetwork or DirectTV. <-- see that? Provider neutral!
     
  4. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    That's a really smart idea!

    No, they do not, unfortunately! At least not one that is any good. I agree about the satellite dish- as much as I'd love NFL Sunday ticket, I am definitely a cable guy for that reason. No dish, no thanks.
     
  5. mscard88

    mscard88 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    This will probably pick up the control tower. Should fit in your backyard.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
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  6. Glenn D

    Glenn D Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Get a mag mount 2 meter HAM radio antenna, put it on a bread pan, on top of the roof... will work great and not much $$... Or a scanner discone antenna, (MFJ-1866) in the attic as mentioned earlier... or just an MFJ-1717 High Gain Handie-talkie antenna, that is what I use on my Yeasu radio..
     
  7. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    Read up on ham radio antennas. Hams have been building their own antennas since Marconi. ARRL's Antenna Book or just Google are good places to start. Try "2 meter vertical antenna" (Edit: You need "vertical" to match ATC radio antenna polarization.)

    Air radio frequencies in the 120MHz/2.5 meter region will require 25% longer antenna elements than ham antennas cut for 2 meters but other than that change there are plenty of omnidirectional ham antenna designs that you can make for yourself. And as was mentioned, putting an antenna in an attic is an option, though it will not work well if your roof is snow-covered.

    For a relatively low antenna height, you will be limited to something like 25-30 miles due to the curvature of the earth and ground clutter blocking line-of-sight transmissions. It is not so much a matter of receiver sensitivity, the little HTs are pretty good. It is a matter of antenna height. http://www.hamuniverse.com/lineofsightcalculator.html.

    If there are tall buildings between you and an airport you want to listen to, you may be SOL. Our Class B is south of downtown and there are dead and weak areas for both comm and radar to the north due to tall buildings blocking line-of-sight for low altitude traffic.
     
  8. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    Thanks Man! That is exactly what I am looking for! Only thing holding me back now is my fear of heights.

    Thanks for putting model names in! Those are very reasonable options- a pleasant surprise.

    Ok- that is very, very helpful information. Thanks for that. I did not think about curvature of the earth or buildings. Luckily, Upstate NY the trees are about the same size as most of the buildings.. haha. I should get more into ham radio one of these days.. seems like a lot of fun.
     
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  9. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    "Upstate NY" ??!?! The inside-the-attic idea will probably not work. If you are close enough to the airport transmitter antennas you might get lucky, but my guess is that a good layer of snow will significantly cut your range listening to aircraft. I would look at attaching an unobtrusive vertical whip to the side or roof of your house. Talk to the vendor about "ground plane" requirements, though. Many designs will work best with a ground plane, something you can arrange on the roof but not when the antenna is attached to the side of the building. Start by searching "J-pole antenna." There are several guys selling these out of their houses, including one I recently bought: https://www.ebay.com/itm/122702461531 One of these guys can probably advise you and maybe even make an antenna for you.
     
  10. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Even a mismatched 2m antenna placed at a reasonable height will outperform the rubber duck on a handheld scanner.

    The problem is that unless you have something REALLY REALLY high to put the antenna on, you're not going to hear the ground stations from anything that's any distance away. I can't hear anything from my house though I hear the airplane transmissions for quite some distance.
     
  11. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    True enough. Even just a longer whip on the HT will make a huge difference, but if the OP is going to go to the trouble to buy or make an antennas and mount it, why start with something that is known to be not really right?

    Actually, not true. Look at any line of sight calculator; he should be able to get pretty much all "ground-based" ATC transmissions in a large metro area without going nuts with antenna height. Those ATC antennas are often quite high to start with, like on top of the control tower. Even our Class D's backup antennas are about 30' in the air. It isn't just the height of the receiving antenna that matters. It's both.
     
  12. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It might depend on whether his eaves face toward the airport he is trying to pick up.

    Another possibility would be a home made vertical dipole, cut to the proper length. If he makes a folded dipole out of twinlead, then he could use a TV-type balun to connect the coax to the antenna.

    http://users.wfu.edu/matthews/misc/dipole.html

    (Note that the length formula at the above link is in meters.)

    TV-type balun:

    https://www.frys.com/product/5168986

    He would need some TV-type coax and a BNC adapter to connect it to his radio:

    https://www.frys.com/product/3549914

    https://www.frys.com/product/5168986
     
  13. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    True, and the airport he wants to receive is only 14 nm from an airport that he is already receiving with the rubber duck.

    https://skyvector.com/?ll=44.055600...719&chart=301&zoom=2&fpl= KART undefined KGTB
     
  14. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Bear in mind that KGTB Tower operates on both VHF and UHF, and since your radio is VHF only, you may not hear much of the military traffic.
     
  15. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    With respect, I think you're going a little too fast for the OP. Also, AFIK it would be the rare radio that wanted 75 ohm cable. Any of the radios I'm familiar with will want 50 ohm RG-8, RG-58, or RG-174 coax, not TV stuff. That's why I suggested that the OP look at home-made ham antennas projects slightly modified for air band. They will usually be 50 ohm already, no need for the OP to figure out what the heck a balun is. Antenna articles will help him with cabling choice, too.
     
  16. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Maybe, but that's for him to decide.

    I doubt that a 1.5:1 SWR between the cable and the radio is going to cause a problem, especially considering that he is probably not going to be transmitting on it.
     
  17. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    Probably true, but again: If the OP is going to make the effort to buy or build, then mount an antenna why would he not do it right? It's as easy to do good work (cutting the antenna for the right frequency, using the correct coax, etc.) as it is to be sloppy. YMMV, I guess.
     
  18. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It's not just the curvature of the earth he has to deal with. There's crap between him and the transmitter and it's going to attenuate the RF signal. Hell, it's only 25 miles to CLT from here and I can't hear or raise them on the ground in my plane with a valid external antenna (I can raise ZTL though I don't know where they're transmitter is for this sector).
     
  19. mscard88

    mscard88 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I don't swear by this but I seem to remember the GC transmitter not being very powerful due to just being enough for the airport. Probably wrong, you think I'd remember from all the CTs I worked in. @Timbeck2 or other ATC know?
     
  20. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm not even talking about ground control. This is the approach control frequency for the sector overlying my airport.
     
  21. airdale

    airdale Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, as I explained in my original post #7. @flyingron, I'm not sure why it is so important to you to dominate this thread but I'll stop responding now so you can have the final word. Feel free to post more not-quite-right and duplicative information as it pleases you. If it weren't for the likelihood of confusing the OP I would simply find it amusing.
     
  22. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nobody is dominating the thread but you. My last post wasn't even directed at you but mscard's. Please tone down the paranoia.
     
  23. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 En-Route

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    Depends upon how much money they spent on radios at the airport. Our ground freq is just as powerful as local (tower for non ATC peeps) as the radios are identical and the antennas are in the same location.
     
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  24. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I was trying to keep it inexpensive, and the 300 ohm to 75 ohm balun at one of my links certainly qualifies at $3. I expect that a 300 ohm to 50 ohm balun would cost more because it wouldn't be a mass-market item, and without it, a 50 ohm coax would just move the impedance mismatch from one end of the cable to the other.

    If he went with a single-wire dipole instead, the one-to-one balun that would be needed to connect it to a coax would probably not be a mass-market item either.

    And what would be the purpose of spending the extra money and the extra time to track down a non mass-market balun? If we did a double blind experiment where a radio was connected with a perfect impedance match vs. connecting it with a 1.5:1 mismatch, I doubt that we could distinguish between them based on the received signals.
     
  25. wilkersk

    wilkersk Cleared for Takeoff

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    I wouldn't think an aircraft whip antenna would be that noticeable if mounted on your hot water heater's flue cap. Some aluminum angle bolted to the flue will give you a mounting base and provide the ground plane. Just pot the connector with some silicone to make it weather proof. The challenge is routing the coax to where you want it in the house.

    If you want to build a really neat high gain antenna that looks like its part of the house, how about a flowerpot antenna. You can tune it for air band. the calculations are done for you in a table near the bottom of the page: http://vk2zoi.com/articles/half-wave-flower-pot/
     
  26. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Question...

    I've been using an Icom handheld to listen to LaGuardia and traffic above in order to learn the jargon, etc. I'm 1.6 miles from LaGuardia, about 70' off the ground, and with nothing taller between the tower and me. The radio is on the sill of a window that I open. I'm getting quite good reception, including from the LaGuardia VOR, but is there something that I can add that will make reception even better and/or possibly pick up JFK? E.G., will just stringing some copper wire from the end of the rubber duck help? I've seen suggestions from manufacturers that swapping out, or extending, the rubber duck antenna can harm the radio. Any truth to this?

    Thanks
     
  27. Plano Pilot

    Plano Pilot Pre-takeoff checklist

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    https://www.liveatc.net/
     
  28. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Listening to LiveATC comes off very differently to me. I have no patience for it.
     
  29. Glenn D

    Glenn D Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Adding a different antenna is the best way to provide better reception, and if you are not transmitting most things will not harm the radio... only when transmitting will there be issues. Having the antenna "match" the frequency is always better, but again to receive only it is not as important. As stated, a HAM radio replacement "rubber ducky" antenna that is longer will help. I use the MFJ-1717 High Gain Handie-talkie antenna on my Yaesu radio, and it tunes rather well for both transmit and receive... also the Disc cone antenna mentioned above works very well for a fixed location... it will also transmit, but would want to check the match before doing that. If your Icom radio has an BNC connector for the antenna this will work..

    My 2nd radio in my plane is that Yaesu with jacks to plug in my headset to... have had to use it once to get back into the Class D airport....

    As a General HAM operator, building antennas is something I give a hand at once in awhile.. just wrapping a copper wire around the rubber ducky may sound like it will help receive, but there are better ways.
     
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  30. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Still trying to figure out why some people put "ham" in all caps.
     
  31. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks very much. Just want to receive, and the radio has a BNC connector. Of the options, the MFJ-1717 sounds best - it will fit in the window - and it's a pretty minor financial outlay. Just ordered one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
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  32. Glenn D

    Glenn D Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If not in CAPS, then we would just be little pigs....
     
  33. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Attic antennas work. Dad won a number of contests with his “Toys in the Attic” in a horrid covenant controlled community. His setup and two others were highlighted in an old issue of CQ magazine, anonymously of course.

    That guy is an ass. No belt, no harness, and you can’t do any meaningful tower work like that. He probably climbed up there playing monkey just for the photo. That’s a really stupid way to die or have a permanent injury so severe your family is feeding you pudding in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.

    If I show up at a tower party and crap like that is going on, I leave. The family can name whoever else is there in the lawsuit. I’m out.

    And if I’m on the tower it’s in a body harness, preferably with at least one arrestor strap that’ll shock absorb a fall, and unless the wind keeps blowing it off to Kansas, a hard hat. And everyone below me had better damn well have a hard hat on under the tower, too, or I’m done. I try to tie off all my tools but sometimes you just can’t and one dropped wrench can be someone else’s permanent brain damage or death.

    I loathe photos like that moron’s. Absolutely hate them.

    Now I’m not going to say every piece of climbing gear I have is OSHA approved. I have a set of chains for attaching myself to my seat hooks for long stints in one place, and chains with hooks aren’t kosher, but I got those chains from a pro climber and I know they were made correctly.

    Same with my harness, it has a couple of design features that mean it was once OSHA approved but they changed the leg attachments a bit to make them more reliable if you’re not paying attention when you put the harness on.

    So yeah, I climb on a budget and can’t afford a new $1000 harness. But I know my gear and its limitations. I take care of It. And I have only ever lent it out once to someone I briefed fully on the issue with the leg straps. I rarely “free climb” and am almost always strapped on to something. And I’m slow.

    Some pros will free climb to get in position and I simply won’t. I’ll be there in a few minutes. If you don’t like my speed, I’m not getting paid for climbing so pee up a rope.

    And my Saf-T-Climb ratchet is busted which is a bummer. I need to replace that for towers that have a center safety cable up the ladder.
     
  34. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    Put a steeple on the roof of your house. Hide the antenna in the steeple.

    I think that was done once or twice in WWII.....
     
  35. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Just want to suggest that people think twice about ordering directly from MFJ. Sounds attractive, if only to benefit the maker, but six days after ordering they sent me an e-mail saying that the antenna is "backordered" and that I should expect a wait of up to four weeks.

    This morning, I told MFJ to cancel my order and ordered from DX Engineering, which appears to have an ordering system that works properly, and it looks like I'll have the antenna in a couple of days.
     
  36. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A follow-up...

    I’m using an iCom A25, I’m 1.6 miles from from LaGuardia and purchased an MFJ1717 antenna. My purpose is to listen to LGA ATC/Pilot exchanges to improve my communication ability, and while I’ll listen to the radio, LiveATC puts me to sleep.

    The bottom line is that I was getting good reception with the stock iCom antenna and I’m not seeing a significant improvement with the MFJ1717. Which doesn’t matter - it’s a cheap antenna and it was just an experiment.
     
  37. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The MFJ 1717 won't be much better, if any, than the stock Icom antenna.

    You need a bit of height, perhaps in a non-metallic attic or on the roof. You can build a simple vertical dipole out of a piece of RG58 (or better, LM240) & either tape it to a window or get a cheap Fiberglas pole (driveway marker) from a hardware store. I prefer simple ground plane antennas outside - 4-5 long welding rods soldered to a connector and some RTV. 22-24 inch elements should work. Heck, but ve seen pirate radio stations in Queens using similar arrangements.
     
  38. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Since you’re in Queens, it’s worth saying that I’m in Jackson Heights in a 6th floor apartment with nothing between me and the LGA tower that is more than 12’ above my elevation.

    As you can also understand, I am not about to do anything that can’t be done conveniently from my apartment window.

    I’m getting good reception from LGA, and just wanted to see if there was an easy way to improve it, and maybe improve TRACON reception and maybe bring in JFK. The result is that the MFJ1717, in my situation, makes no significant difference. Not a big deal, given that it cost $30 shipped.

    If you have alternate suggestions for a 6th floor Jackson Heights window, I’d love to hear them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  39. Half Fast

    Half Fast Pattern Altitude

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  40. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm not sure this is very significant for receiving purposes, but the MFJ-1717 is tuned for the 144-148 MHz ham band. It would need to be about 15% longer to be optimum for the 118-136 MHz aviation band.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018