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Sony Corporation, Tokyo

Air Band Receiver TFM-8600 W

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überarbeitet am 1.11.2010

There are some radios that simply seem to be quite rare, end even rarer to be found in an online auction: Sometimes it's worth to spend a few Swiss Francs or Euros in an online auction offer of an unknown set:
The Sony TFM-8600W probably has been built in the late seventies, this special receiver covers the FM broadcast band, mediumwaves, the longwave band for the reception of longwave beacon signals and the VHF Air Band to monitor the traffic between airplanes and ground stations in Airports and Airfields.

Single conversion, I.F. AM 455 kHz, FM 10,7 MHz

Analog dial,

LW 150 - 400 kHz, MW 530-1605 kHz
FM broadcast band 87,5-108 MHz, AIR Band 108 - 136 MHz AM

Selectivity -6 dB/ -60 dB

Sensitivity

S meter, squelch

The Sony TFM-8600W has a design similar to a small suitcase receiver, the carrying handle can be used as a stand to use the receiver in tilted position, the frequency dial will face the front in this position.
The receiver measures 25 x 7 x 17 cm and has a weight of around 500 g. It is powered by four UM-2 baby cell batteries and has a socket to connect an external power supply.

On the frontpanel, You find the rotary controls for volume and tone in the left upper corner, below a pushbutton to activate the dial illumination, the ring around it is the switch to set the meter to battery strength indication, and the main power switch.
In the middle of the frontpanel, the signal strength meter and the frequency dial window will take most of the available space. In a similar arrangement as found with the ICF-5900W or the similar set CF-950S with the cassette recorder, You find a vertically moved film dial with the dial markings and a fixed position pointer line.
The tuning knob is equipped with a small crank, at it's left, You find a thumbwheel to control the R.F. gain in AM modes and the squelch level when in FM mode. The active band segment is mechanically displayed in a tiny window, a switch lets You activate the AFC in FM mode manually.
The telescopic antenna is located at the top of the receiver, at the back, You find jacks to connect earphones, a cassette recorder and an external 6 V power supply and also screw terminals to connect an external AM and FM antenna and earth.

After You get used to the TFM-8600W a little bit, the operation is uncomplicated. In the positions FM and MW of the band selector at the right small face of the radio, You can use it as an ordinary FM and mediumwave radio.
In the AIR position, the receiver can be tuned to signals from the Air Band located above the VHF FM broadcast band. Although it's a VHF range, the transmissions from nearby airports (weather reports) and air-ground / ground/air communications are in amplitude modulation (AM) mode.
As most of these transmissions are short and there are long intervals without communication, You can use the squelch function to suppress the continuous hiss from the speaker, it will only be opened when a carrier is active on the frequency.
In the BEACON position, You can receive signals from longwave beacons used for airplane navigation. You can try direction finding with the internal ferrite antenna: Tune to the signal, then use the control DF Level (direction finding level), in fact a RF gain control, to adjust for a medium level reading on the signal strength meter. The signal strength is at maximum in an angle of 90 degrees from the internal ferrite antenna and at minimum when the ferrite antenna points in the direction of the transmitter location - so You can turn the TFM-8600W to find the signal minimum and locate the direction of the transmitter's position.
Of course, You can also listen to longwave stations, in the United States, the only longwave transmitters active are the aeronautical NDB (non direction beacons).

The TFM-8600W is a special receiver for people interested in aeronautical communications and it probably has been sold only in small numbers. When it was new, You needed a special license to receive Air Band communications here in Switzerland and in Germany, restrictions were even more stringent, so that even the possession of such a receiver was not allowed.
It's a nice item in the collection and a rare classic when You stand at the edge of an airfield or air show and can monitor communications with an oldie receiver, the TFM-8600W has been replaced by the Air band receiver ICF-8650, the ICF-2001D / ICF-2010 with Air Band coverage and the AIR-7 / AIR-8 as special scanner receivers.

© Martin Bösch 22. Aug. 2004 / transl. 14.11.2010