Friday, 5 October 2012

Milair in Kentucky - or how I learned to stop worrying and love the search button

Having moved from Chicago, IL (ish) to Louisville, KY the milair monitoring has improved... a lot!

Hearing lots of AAR (Air to air refuelling) as well as helicopter and fixed wing traffic into the local range (Fort Knox).

Some activity I found by punching in a load of AAR freqs but otherwise I found out that a lot of the milair frequencies on the internet were either out of date or incorrect so I set about finding my own.

I left the BCT-15 searching 230-370 and 138-144 today while I was at work and this is what I ended up with in the bank:


The fun part comes trying to identify them! 

So far only one has kept the squelch open so that's locked out (315.000 I believe).

This is the list of freqs I found over another day:


Some of those are satcom downlinks in the 262 range, I believe.

The joys of trying to start from scratch!  This reminds me of the "big change" we had in Europe a few years back when all the UHF air frequencies were reallocated.  And I mean ALL of them.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


Right folks. I'm now living in Louisville Kentucky.

Down here is a major hub for the parcel carrier UPS who use Sandiford Field (SDF) as their airport.

I thought Manchester (MAN/EGCC) was a busy airport but listening to SDF is crazy.

There are two approach frequencies for flights above FL60, two for approach below 6000ft and two tower frequencies.

The midnight hours and early morning are incredibly busy too. I have my BCT15 set to have no channel delay and it's non stop action.

You'd never get bored listening to this airport!

Monday, 1 August 2011

nwmonitor becomes Northwest Indiana Monitor.

Hi folks,

Kept it a little quiet on the blog but some of my twitter friends know, but I've recently made a move overseas, in fact to the US.

I'/m currently based out of Northwest Indiana - I picked this so I wouldn't have to change the name of my blog ;)

So far, radio wise, there's lots of public safety to listen to, which as a Britisher is a very welcome thing, since our government deems us not trustworthy enough to handle being able to listen to the Police.

My feet have barely touched the ground yet, but once I get the radios fully up and running (I am missing a big 12v power supply, so I'm limited to running one radio and once, and the only antenna I have up is an nwmonitor  Industries portable sloper for VHF (I will post pics)), I will do some proper band scans and check out UHF air.  My home brew satcom antenna made the trip with me (god knows how!) but the mounting bracket had to stay at home, so a trip to Home Depot is on the cards at some point.

So, the list of things I need from either RadioShack or a ham radio dealer are:
20 amp PSU (preferably linear but I will make do with a switch mode)
coax, probably satellite coax to start with, but when I get my ham licence I will upgrade it to something morebetter (yeah, that's a word)

Some kind of temporary mast to hoist these up.

I think that's it for now, folks.  It's bloody hot here in the Midwest.  It's around 0730CST and the temperature is already 25C/76F, with a heat index (how the temp feels) of 27C/81F.


Monday, 20 June 2011

AAIB publishes report into PSNI helicopter crash, G-SEWP.

A report into the cause of a helicopter crash on the Mourne Mountains found that the pilot's recent family bereavement was probably "the most significant contributory factor".
It happened close to the scene of a fatal accident five days earlier.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said the "task to be carried out on the day was within the capabilities of the pilot".
In this bloggist's view this was just an accident - I don't think it could have been prevented, and everyone involved seems to have taken the same view.  The pilot admitted later that his family bereavement could have caused him to lose concentration.  The AAIB said the pilot did what he should've done in trying to recover from the situation.

Reading the full AAIB report (rather than relying on the BBC) is a good idea in any crash or air incident.  The link to G-SEWP's crash is here:

Personally I find it encouraging that no-one has had the Big Finger of Blame pointed at them and everyone realised this was simply an accident - I admit everyone was lucky to get out alive though - had anyone been in the left hand seat up front, the accident may have been a fatal one.


NATO admits "weapon system fault" for Tripoli deaths...

Nato has admitted "a weapons systems failure" may have led to civilian casualties in Sunday morning's air strike in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
In a statement, the alliance said the intended target of the strike was a military missile site, but "it appears that one weapon" did not hit it.
The Libyan government earlier said Nato bombed a residential area, killing nine civilians, including babies.

Interesting one this... I don't know what weapons system they used and the article doesn't clearly state if it was an airstrike or a TLAM ("Cruise Missile").  I don't suppose we'll ever know, as this story will probably be brushed under the rug pretty soon.

It's highly possible that the regime is hiding SAMs and AAA sites close or in civilian areas like a lot of these regimes do.  Iraq and Saddam Hussein did the same thing during "GW1" as have countless other idiots.

8.33kHz spacing on airband

Following on from a discussion on Fighter Control, I thought I'd post up something from Dick Ware that I received in my email a while back.  I take no credit for this, but its a useful thing to print out and have near your scanner for those pesky 8.33kHz steps on VHF civil air:


Freq       Frequency
----       ---------
xxx.x      xxx.x0000 25kHz spacing
xxx.x2     xxx.x2500 25kHz spacing
xxx.x5     xxx.x5000 25kHz spacing
xxx.x7     xxx.x7500 25kHz spacing

Channel    Frequency
-------    ---------

xxx.x05    xxx.x0000 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x10    xxx.x0833 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x15    xxx.x1666 8.33kHz spacing

xxx.x30    xxx.x2500 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x35    xxx.x3333 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x40    xxx.x4166 8.33kHz spacing

xxx.x55    xxx.x5000 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x60    xxx.x5833 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x65    xxx.x6666 8.33kHz spacing

xxx.x80    xxx.x7500 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x85    xxx.x8333 8.33kHz spacing
xxx.x90    xxx.x9166 8.33kHz spacing

Examples of how it works:
Channel 118.885 on R/T = Frequency 118.88333 on radio
Channel 132.205 on R/T = Frequency 132.20000 on radio
Channel 132.755 on R/T = Frequency 132.75000 on radio
Channel 132.840 on R/T = Frequency 132.84166 on radio
Channel 132.860 on R/T = Frequency 132.85833 on radio
Channel 133.005 on R/T = Frequency 133.00000 on radio
Channel 133.480 on R/T = Frequency 133.47500 on radio
Channel 133.635 on R/T = Frequency 133.63333 on radio

Be legal. Be discrete
Dick Ware

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Icom PCR-1000 IF Tap (Intermediate Frequency).

As regular readers of my blog (and twitter) will know I have a Software Defined Radio, also known as an SDR.  This is a very useful bit of kit, and google will be able to explain the technical details behind how it actually works, but as a geek its really exciting stuff.

Regular readers will also know I tapped the "IF" of my Kenwood R2000  but it's not ideal, as I have to manually tune the radio - such a headache ;) and I would like something I can do from the comfort of my computer.

I knew that IF taps for my PCR-1000 were well documented but I didn't fancy "going under the hood" myself.  Well I guess impatience got the better of me last week and I went ahead and did it.  Not before using a 'scope probe and hunting out the best place for it.  Despite what it says on google and other places, I didn't tap the Q85 transistor emittor, but I followed the circuit until I came to a small 0.1uF capacitor.  Since capacitors block DC and Q85 would have a DC voltage on it, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone.  I checked with the probe and I couldn't tell any difference in signal level from before or after the capacitor.

A few notes I made to make it easier for anyone else:

You NEED to remove the control board from the unit before you drill any holes for the IF Tap.  This comes out with the screws that hold it down, and you need to CAREFULLY remove the two stiff ribbon connectors that take signals to and from the RF section (the big metal shielded bit).

You also need to remove the big metal shield :)  You don't need to make any holes in the shielding at all because where the RF goes in from the antenna socket there's a small cutout which will take RG174 or similar coax (it already has some passing through).

I grounded my coax to the same point the antenna feed is grounded (see below) but you may be able to earth it to the chassis directly on the socket.

I drilled out the hole that used to be used for the grounding bolt on the back of the radio.  This was perfectly in line with the antenna socket, and I never used it anyway.  Some people have used SMA jacks or similar but I never have any patch leads with SMAs laying around so I would end up using an adaptor anyway!

With the addition of an ExtIO DLL I found, I can now control the PCR-1000 from WinRad/WRPlus and HDSDR using "Ham Radio Deluxe". 

Pictures of the tap are below - now, a question to you experts.  Should I have grounded the RG174 coax at either the tap end or the socket end...?  Due to the position of the BNC socket I ran out of space (and shield) and there isn't anywhere convenient to put a ground connection at the tap end.  The coax IS grounded at the same place the antenna lead is grounded.

I have yet to decide if I need a buffer stage like I did with my Kenwood R-2000, but what I do want to do is modify the CCW SDR again and add what the manufactuer added to later models, which is a MOSFET pre-amp ahead of the RF input.  He said this reduces local oscillator leakage quite a bit and improves SNR/Gain figures too.  I just have to prise the information out of him as I have a lot of mosfets in stock.

Answers on a post card please.

Overview of the IF tap - this is with the sockets at the top of the page.

IF tap point.

BNC socket taking the IF to the output.

Grounding of the IF output.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Lack of postings...

I must apologise dear readers for the lack of anything interesting lately.  I have been working my proverbial behind off and also "real life" has intervened.

Fear not, I will be in June's issue of Monitoring Matters with some more interesting scanning/monitoring info.

If you have anything you want me to answer or any frequencies, tips, hints etc there's still time for a "STOP PRESS" so send them over to me at "nwmonitor" at gmail.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Strange QRM on 5MHz

Here's a screen shot of 5600 to 5700kHz.

The middle of the screen is 5650kHz.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Busy 6MHz

While waiting for some interesting traffic on 6761 I decided to take a screenshot of the band from around 6702 to 6798.  This is on my R2000 and SDR combination, using it as a panadaptor.

As you ccan see 6761 is squeezed in between a strong RATT/RTTY station and some STANAG4285, also quite strong.

I hadn't, at this point, applied any skew calibration, so you can see 'ghosts' of the stronger signals on the "lower" side of the band. (see the strong RTTY signal, and on the opposite side of 0Hz you can see a faint image of it.

Also, ignore the date too!  I have to set my computer clock to March in order to get WRPlus to run.

Annnnd... we have QUID ## calling RAMA 71 on 6761 at 2255. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Kenwood R2000 - SDR panadaptor updates

Well dear readers, after struggling with my IF tap and the SDR loading the circuit too much, I built myself a buffer amplifier.  It consists of a 2N3819 JFET and a regular transistor in emitter-follower mode.  It works nicely, and plugging the SDR into the R2000 has no effect. 

I was having a few issues with the SDR receiving stations directly to its own front end, due to the LO being tuned to 9.850MHz.  I had a look around there with the SDR and no R2000 connected and can see a load of broadcast stations.  The reason I chose 9.850 is because if tuned to say, 5500kHz on the Kenwood, the display on the PC via the SDR lined up nicely with the band I was looking at.  I could see Shannon volmet at 5505, Shanwick at 5598, etc. etc.

Anyway, the broadcast breakthrough was annoying me, so I searched around and found a clear spot of spectrum at 10MHz.  10050 to be exact.  The SDR only sees two weak carriers which when connected to the IF of the R2000 disappear totally.  It just means in order for me to know what frequency I am on I have to subtract 200kHz from the display on the R2000.  Not ideal but what can I do - the Kenwood isn't PC controlled.

I've reboxed the Cross Country Wireless SDR in a plastic (yes, plastic case) as the ex-MoD equipment case I had the thing in before was too heavy and cumbersome.  It was shielded, sure but it was getting in the way.  I now have it mounted in an old Atari external disk drive case (pics soon) and once given a coat of black paint will fit in nicely with all the other 'black boxes' in my shack.  The plastic case also lets me easily transport the radio with me - the plan eventually is to pick up a cheap (but good quality) external sound card so I can just pitch up somewhere with netbook + SDR and have at it.

Next thing to do is to attempt to tap my PCR-1000, but as funds are limited in this day and age, I don't fancy risking it.... yet, anyway!

Monday, 9 May 2011


Being the egotistical author that I am, I see people coming from a link on facebook.  Can any kind soul link-back to the page that I'm linked on? 

Would be nice to check out who listed me ;)


In flight emergency - CAMBER 119

Caught by HF monitors on Twitter, but passed off as a mistake, was an in flight emergency (or IFE) of callsign CAMBER 119, a DC-10 operated by Omni Air International on behalf of the USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC).  Registration was "N270AX".

Geir, from Norway however posted up his log today on UDXF (Sunday, May 8th) of the incident which took place on this past Friday, the 6th:

Checking through a recording from last Friday, May 06, I found a fascinating story unfolding. As I haven´t seen any reports in the groups, here are some details as they were heard on 5616 kHz with Shanwick Radio, times UTC:

1756 CAMBER 119 pos report 56N 20W FL 320 westbound, ETA destination 2329 (St. John´s?). relay info to Omni. Reachhunters lists this aircraft as N270AX, an Omni Int. DC-10 as they departed the UK - not sure what airport.

1846 next pos report 55.21N 029.12W FL 280. Shanwick advises that BIRK (Reykjavik) is 150 nautical miles closer than Shannon. Aircraft requested to confirm they were still heading to Shannon (EINN). I think there was a confirmation they had 365 persons board. Request to call Shannon VHF 122.980 when in range. 119 was hard to copy in this pos, so what had happened? It seemed they had encountered engine problems, and had decided to turn back. Level now 280, an hour earlier was 320

1850 Shanwick clears 119 to descend and "advise Shanwick as required", there were no other aircraft below them. Shanwick passed on latest Shannon METAR, and confirmed 119 descended even further to FL 260

1903 119 advised "need to dump some gas before Shannon" and requested permission for this, as they again would like to confirm there were no other planes below them

1906 Shanwick informed that fuel dump had been approved; 119 advised there would be a six-minute dump. Shanwick asked if 119 was still running on three engines - 119 advised they were now running two engines

1917 in the last 11 minutes Shanwick repeatedly called 119, no joy; and handed off other callers to 5649 (several N bizjets etc.). 1917z 119 was back, saying they had turned off the HF during the fuel dump, Shanwick confirmed they had assumed this was the reason for the non-response. Present pos 54.54N 022.38W

Aviation Herald also writes:
Incident: Omni DC10 over Atlantic on May 6th 2011, engine fire indication

By Simon Hradecky
 An Omni Air McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 on behalf of US Mobility Command, registration N270AX performing flight MC-119 from Ramstein (Germany) to Baltimore,MD (USA) with 352 people on board, was enroute overhead the Atlantic northwest of Ireland when the crew received intermittent fire warnings for the #2 engine (CF6, tail mounted).

The crew worked the according checklists, shut the engine down, but continued to receive intermittent engine fire alerts. The crew turned around and diverted to Shannon (Ireland) for a safe landing on runway 06 (runway 24 was active), vacated the runway and stopped on the adjacent taxiway, where emergency services checked the aircraft without finding any trace of fire, heat or smoke. The aircraft subsequently taxied to the apron.
Courtesy Aviation Herald:

So, the original Tweeter M0YFT, you were right all along!  Well done that man.

See his tweet of May 6th:

Tony Murdoch
Interesting comms on 5.616 an aircraft with only 2 engines running and about to dump fuel!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Civil disobedience...

Apparently there is a fuel protest today at the Stanlow refinery.  Some selfish people think that by blockading the refinery the oil companies will magically lower prices at the pump.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a government is always right, kind of person, but people like this have to be realistic.  Blockading the refineries will do nothing.

Anyway, political ranting aside, you can bet your bottom dollar (pound?) that the protesters are quite organised.  If you're in the vicinity, use your Close Call scanners to see what comms they're using.  My bet would be off the shelf PMR-446 handhelds, or failing that UK Gen (V/UHF).  They may even be using illegal handhelds bought off eBay or similar, so like I said, Close Call comes in very handy.

Same goes for any other protests - student, political, you name it.  They will be well organised - these things generally don't just start up from nowhere.  So get your scanners out (safely) and listen in.  I find a pair of stereo ear-buds work well - everyone wears them.

Be careful out there.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Satcom QFH antenna.

Here are some pictures of a Satcom QFH antenna constructed by Shaun from Fighter Control.

They're mainly here in order that we had somewhere to upload them, but once I've finished the write up (or if Shaun wants to) I will upload the constructional details too.

For now, just feast upon his engineering prowess.  Mine would not look this good!