About six or eight years ago, I performed the wedding ceremony for two of my close friends and coworkers out in Los Angeles. A little known law allows anyone to perform wedding ceremonies for 24 hours upon the appropriate training and certification. Anyhow, I flew out to LA, got trained, did the ceremony and of course, a large party ensued. Shortly thereafter, I got a package from Max, the groom and coworker with whom I had worked on the same shift for many years. Now Max has always had an aviation interest, and we always thought it would be fun to take flight lessons together. Then I moved here. Anyway, after the wedding, I get this package. I open it, and it’s a quite expensive hand held aviation radio – a walkie talkie for coordinating flight instructions with the tower!
I was quite taken aback by the lavishness of this generous gift. Unfortunately, it has been sitting at home underutilized all these years, except when I pull it out to see what I can pick up. With the renewed interest and my enrollment in flight school, I pulled it out a few days ago and looked it over. The battery’s shot. I can fix that. Otherwise, it works great! So yesterday, I bring it to work with me and try to listen to the chatter from the aircraft while I am going by National Airport. I didn’t get shit in the morning, so last night, I stopped in the cell phone waiting area, shut down the car and tried again. Lo and behold, I can read the aviation chart (it has the appropriate frequencies on it) correctly – sorta – and I started to hear the 737’s, 757’s and other airliners coming and going from National. I sat there for about 20-30 minutes figuring it out, and then booted up the Prius and headed down the road.
Now being the former physics geek I am, it occurred to me that this radio – this little radio my pal Max gave me in 2003 – operated in the VHF band, defined as 30 – 300 mHz. I just put a new TV antenna up on the roof which is ALSO a VHF antenna as well as a UHF antenna. Hmmmm…. I sez to myself. I wonder if I would be able to pick up the area airports if I hook the highly amplified TV antenna to the aviation walkie talkie?
So I dash over to Radio Shack (now rebranding as “The Shack.” Dumbest. Change. Ever.) and bought the right connecter, BNC, to be specific and headed home. I made a 3-foot cable which would interface with both the TV antenna on the roof AND my aviation radio.
Voila! I can hear much of the tower chatter from Dulles Airport and a little from National! Howzabout that? All that damned college finally paid off!
So now I can listen in and learn the right radio procedures from the folks who do it every day.
All for about two bucks.