While I don't make a habit of writing reviews on radio scanning products once in awhile something will jump up, grab me by the collar and force my fingers to make contact with the keyboard, sharing my thoughts on the thing. The Southwest Frequency Directory 7 is such a beast.
A few times a year we make a pilgrimage to Mesa, "Aridzona" to visit my parents and of course my radio scanner comes with us. The journey is documented with printed out lists of frequencies I find on outdated web sites that follow my ethereal journey from point A to point B and back.
"You know you’re a radio scanning nut when .. you arrive at the airport three hours early not because you want to make sure you make your flight but to give you ample time to monitor the radio traffic."
Like most of my purchases, this was an impulse buy. After seeing the frequency guide, called the SWFD-7 (Southwest Frequency Directory version 7), mentioned in the Yahoo ArizonaScanner group I thought it might come in handy for my upcoming journey to Arizona. I figured I had a 50/50 chance of it arriving on time for this trip but figured it would come in handy for next time.
Placing the order was easy enough since they accept orders through PayPal, which allows you to securely pay for products by several different means. The order confirmation arrived in my e-mail box in moments and was even followed up with a 'thank you' e-mail.
It made my day when I came home from work to find a package in a plain brown wrapper in my snail-mail box. After discovering it wasn't my SI Swimsuit Edition magazine (joke) it was opened to reveille an 8 1/2" x 11" plastic wire bound book with a colorful cover photo of a helicopter being dwarfed by goliath red and white radio towers (I'm a bit of a shutter bug so this impressed me). Between the translucent protective cellophane and the front cover was a 'thank you' note complete with an e-mail address to forward any pesky questions or comments to.
On the inside cover is a well organized table of contents to quickly direct you through the 185 page maze of frequencies and information. For those who don't know a PL tone from an Input Frequency a "How To Use This Book" guide is included. This did help by explaining that shaded text denotes new information that was not included in the previous issues.
The next few pages are similar to Gene Hughe's Police Call - Southern California Edition introduction to radio scanning. The SmartZone and SmartNet Trunking Systems guide explains the technology quite well. It was refreshing to see aviation radio monitoring represented in the guide since that's one of my favorites to monitor (See the Aviation Monitoring Guide on Freq Of Nature).
After thumbing through the entire guide I was quite impressed. The layout is easy to read and it seems that no frequency had been left unturned. As if that wasn't enough, a list of frequencies for popular destinations outside of Arizona are included in the back of the book and even my small town police department (Simi Valley, CA) was correctly represented, though they did not include police channel 3. That's pretty good for covering these popular coast to coast destinations in a local frequency guide. Each of the major sections of the book is divided by different colored cardboard paper making it easy to flip to the section of interest.
What really sets this frequency book apart from most others is the narratives, not only on general radio scanning but on each of the radio systems. Even the most rural radio systems are represented with detailed information. Some frequency guides stop after giving you frequencies regurgitated from FCC licensing databases and some go the extra yard by giving you radio plans and even some unit codes. This frequency guide goes the extra mile by including detailed maps and narration by those who monitor these frequencies both professionally and as a hobby. Now I will know what frequencies to monitor as I travel around the suburbs of Phoenix and beyond.
Real World Results
Prior to traveling to Arizona I had programmed my Uniden BC245XLT radio scanner with the frequencies for Burbank Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport along with the City of Mesa fire and police frequencies.
Since the comfort of a good night rest takes priority over my hobby, my wife and I decided on arriving at the airport with just the allocated time it takes to check our bags and board the aircraft. We had just enough time to purchase a gift at the gift shop before we heard the call over the airport intercom system announcing that our flight was boarding.
At the Burbank Airport passengers board the old fashioned way by walking across the apron to climb a set of stairs to the aircraft (I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning). When it came our turn in line to hand our boarding passes to the gate attendant she stopped us to inquired about the Ventura County Search & Rescue hat I was wearing. With a tone of excitement in her voice she proclaimed, "That helicopter saved my life!". She went on to explain that she had been involved in an accident in Thousand Oaks where she was air lifted to a local hospital by a Ventura County Sheriff helicopter.
The frequency guide came in handy on our visit to the Grand Canyon State.
Most of our time in Mesa is allocated to spending much needed quality time with my family in a rural part of Mesa where, even if we had spare time to monitor, the reception is poor so my radio scanner spent most of it's time silently connected to it's AC umbilical cord.
We did have a chance to visit the Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum where we monitored the few aircraft flowing through the airspace.
On our way to a Saturday evening Easter program we ran across a major accident near downtown Mesa. Since I didn't have the responsibility of driving I took some photos out the passenger side window of a helicopter landing at the scene. By the time we arrived at our destination, about a block from the scene of the accident, we heard a report of a suspect down, shot in the arm, just a block or two away from our location. While everyone else at this event could only speculate what all the commotion was about we had the benefit of first hand information from the police and fire calls on the radio scanner. Since Arizona police and fire codes are much different than their California counter parts much of the radio traffic I could only guess at but when we arrive back at our home base in east Mesa I could look up these codes in the SWFD-7 book.
On our journey back to the Golden State we had about an hour to wait for our flight in the Phoenix Skyharbor airport so we found a bar/restaurant where we could sit down and monitor the radio traffic. The SWFD-7 sure came in handy here. The airport uses an EDACS trunked radio system which is fully documented in the book so instead of spending our time figuring out the talk groups we were able to punch in just the talk groups we wanted to hear. The radio traffic was much more mundane than when we last visited back in November so we ended up moving out into the terminal to a location where we had a clear view of the landing aircraft and listened to them as they received their landing and take off approvals.
I found the Southwest Frequency Directory 7 to be an excellent resource, not only during my visits to Arizona but for general radio monitoring here at home. It is missing one thing and that's an index of frequencies in the back of the book. These type of indexes can sure come in handy when you run across some traffic on a frequency and you don't know who it belongs to. Maybe we'll see that in the next issue?
Click here for more information on SWFD-7 from Scannerstuff