INFOCENTRAL

News, Trends, And Short Takes

by D. Prabakaran

 

HCJB Partner Launches Shortwave Station In Central African Republic

Six years of planning and praying culminated on March 1, as Integrated Community Development International (ICDI) in Boali, Central African Republic, officially began broadcasting the gospel via shortwave with help from HCJB Global Voice. The station, broadcasting on 6030 kHz, airs eight hours daily with programming in French and three African languages, Sango, Aka and Fulfuldé.

HCJB Testing DRM To North America

In other HCJB-related news, the Voice of the Andes is conducting new DRM test transmissions to North America for the next couple of weeks. The tests will begin on 15140 kHz from 1200 to 2400 each day and then move to 9820 kHz from 0000 to 0800 UTC.

Eleven Former VOA Directors Appeal For Reversal Of Plan For VOA Cuts

Eleven former directors of the Voice of America have issued a joint statement calling on Congress to reverse a Bush administration plan to substantially reduce VOA’s English broadcasts as well as those in 15 other languages.

VOA, the largest publicly funded civilian overseas broadcasting network in the United States, may go silent in many areas of the world on radio later this year unless the Congress reverses the action in hearings on the U.S. federal budget for the next fiscal year, starting October 1. Among the planned cuts is the shutdown on radio of VOA’s worldwide English service. The former VOA directors joining in the appeal to reverse the cuts have served at various times during the past half a century under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
 

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WASHINGTON BEAT

Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

 

Lawmakers Consider Antenna Bills In Three States

Arizona, Maryland, and Oklahoma legislators are considering amateur radio antenna bills that would put the essence of the limited federal pre-emption, known as PRB-1, into each state’s statutes, the American Radio Relay League has reported.

“The Arizona and Maryland bills go a step beyond most PRB-1 legislation. They not only would require that municipal land-use or zoning regulations ‘reasonably accommodate’ amateur radio communication per PRB-1, spelled out in the FCC’s amateur radio rules in §97.15(b), they would extend the same protections to homeowners in certain private communities where deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R) apply,” the League said.

According to the ARRL, the Arizona amateur antenna bill, House Bill 2595, calls for “reasonable heights and dimensions for accommodation of amateur radio station emergency service communications antennae and structures.”

In Maryland, essentially identical bills are under consideration in both legislative chambers; they are House Bill 941 and Senate Bill 68, requiring local zoning authorities to comply with the PRB-1 limited federal pre-emption calling on municipalities to “reasonably accommodate amateur radio communication.” The bills “also would apply to homeowners’ associations (HOAs) that have not already enacted antenna restrictions by the time the bill becomes law, and HOAs could not impose such restrictions after that date,” according to the ARRL.
 

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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base—Where Aviation’s Past, Present, And Future Meet

By Tom Swisher, WA8PYR

 

And now, we embark once again on something completely different in our ongoing search for exciting military comms. Continuing with our military facilities profile, and since it’s time for the Dayton Hamvention, this month we’re going to pay a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Located just northeast of Dayton, Ohio, in the suburb of Fairborn, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the premiere facility for conception, development, and testing of weapons systems for military aviation.

The history of Wright-Patterson (or as it’s known locally, “Wright-Patt”) begins in 1917, when McCook Field was built just north of downtown Dayton. For 10 years, this facility was the home of the U.S. Army Air Service Materiel Division, as well as procurement and research activities. At the same time, Wilbur Wright Field was built on leased land near the villages of Fairfield and Osborn (which later merged to form Fairborn) at the site of today’s airfield for the training of pilots, armorers, and gunners. Constructed adjacent to Wilbur Wright Field was the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot, a major supply facility.

After World War I, the requirements for Wilbur Wright Field and the depot changed, and the facility transitioned to a maintenance and repair base as well as major supply facility, in addition to continuing the training of armorers. In 1919, Wilbur Wright Field, the Armorer’s School, and the Fairfield Depot merged to form the Wilbur Wright Air Service Depot. McCook Field continued to host the Materiel Division as well as much advanced research activity. However, with short runways and obstructed approaches, this facility was too small and too close to downtown Dayton to continue as a safe, effective facility.
 

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Army MARS Chief Sets New Course

The Venerable Organization Is Restructuring—
Where Are We Headed?


by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL/AARØOW

 

Army MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System) was begun in 1925 to help supply the Army with enough trained people to satisfy the need for wireless operators in the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard. Since that time the Army has tasked the MARS organization with many other missions. For instance, MARS was particularly active in passing traffic into and out of Vietnam during that war.
Recently, however, MARS has fallen on hard times and many have wondered if it still had validity. Rumors, in fact, had started that MARS had “gone out of business.” Restructuring and realignment were demanded from many quarters, particularly of Army MARS, which is larger than the Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS organizations.

Under new leadership, MARS is now changing in many ways. At this time the major effort is in restructuring and streamlining the basic structure of MARS and retraining the MARS membership to be more in line with their Army counterparts in the Regular Army, Reserves, and National Guard. An effort is also being made to make the supported agencies and the military more knowledgeable about MARS and its missions. NIMS (National Incident Management System) training is now mandatory for all MARS members to meet the requirements of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The number of hours required for MARS membership participation has also been increased. MARS members, all volunteers, have been told to look for other changes that may develop as restructuring continues.

 

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Talk Back To Your Radio!
Experience The Magic Of Ham Radio


New Privileges And New License Rules Mean The Time Is NOW To Get—Or Upgrade—Your Ham Radio License

by Rich Moseson, W2VU

 

In the space of just more than two months, the Federal Communications Commission radically remade ham radio in the United States. On December 15, 2006, the HF Novice Morse code (CW) bands ceased to exist, and all Novices and Technicians with code credit (“Tech-Plus”) were given General class code privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters. Then, on February 23, 2007, the FCC removed the Morse code requirement for General and Extra class licenses, and at the same time extended “Tech-Plus” HF privileges—including voice and digital modes on a portion of 10 meters—to all Technician class hams.

Net result: As of February 23, all licensed amateurs in the United States have at least some HF operating privileges—a considerable amount for those who choose to learn and use Morse code—and upgrading from Technician to General, which gives you voice, code, and digital privileges on all HF.* requires only that you pass a 35-question multiple choice written exam. One additional written exam is all that’s needed to upgrade to Extra, earning all operating privileges on all ham bands.

Getting “A Round Tuit”

There are thousands of radio enthusiasts out there who have considered getting their ham licenses, but have never gotten around to actually doing it. Perhaps you’re one of them. Maybe the code test has been holding you back. Maybe you want to talk to the world and you’ve been told the VHF bands don’t let you do that (you’ve been told wrong, by the way). If either of those reasons has been your excuse, then your excuse is gone. Get a license manual; find a club offering classes; find a test session, take your test and get your license. You can even try it out first (see “Field Day—No Better Way To Get On The Air”)! Or if you’re already a Technician, a few hours of studying are all you need to upgrade to General or even Extra. The time is now.

 

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Field Day—No Better Way
To Get On The Air

Whether You’re Operating From A Park, A Mountaintop, Or The Beach, There’s No Thrill Like Field Day. And Everyone’s Welcome!

by Chip Margelli, K7JA

 

The fourth weekend of June brings hams throughout the Western Hemisphere together in one of the most popular operating events of the year: the ARRL Field Day. Part competition, part emergency exercise, and part social event, Field Day is the highlight of the operating year in amateur radio. Here’s an introduction to this fun and exciting weekend, one that you’ll surely want to put on your calendar now!

What’s It All About?

Field Day fundamentally is an exercise that demonstrates amateur radio’s unique capability to provide emergency communications in times of need. While a few operators conduct solo operations, the vast majority of Field Day efforts are by radio clubs or groups of hams wanting to have some fun away from the confines of their regular radio shack. For many, it’s a first opportunity to experience the thrill of making contacts across the country, and even overseas, using the HF bands.

Most groups operate from portable locations in parks, on mountaintops, or at the beach, so Field Day is a great opportunity to try out new antennas, experiment with portable power sources (such as solar panels), and learn about the teamwork required to put together a successful multi-station operation. Operating with many transmitters in close proximity is a difficult challenge, and Field Day gives us the opportunity to find out what needs to be fixed—before “The Big One” hits!

What Happens At Field Day?

This year, Field Day runs from 1800 UTC (2 p.m. EDT or 11 a.m. PDT) on Saturday, June 23, and lasts for 24 hours. Setup begins 24 hours earlier, and Friday afternoon finds antennas being built and raised, generators being tested and connected to all the stations, and tents and trailers being positioned for the actual operating event Saturday and Sunday.
 

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SCANTECH

Scanning Dayton, Ohio

by Ken Reiss

 

It’s time once again for Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio. Sure, it’s really a show for ham enthusiasts, but there’s an awful lot of scanner and shortwave listening going on there, too. There are new radios, antennas, vendors, and all sorts of forums to sit in on to relax and perhaps pick up a tip or two.

In honor of the event, we thought we’d offer a guide to scanning the Dayton area if you’re coming in so equipped. First of all, put 146.94 into your handheld transceiver or your scanner, as that’s the info channel for the Hamvention itself. Even if you can’t transmit, you’ll hear directions to the best parking and other info by listening to that frequency on your way in.

There’s just about every type of trunking system imaginable in the area, so it’s a great place to check out your trunktracker. There’s also some simplex VHF and UHF things to listen to, plus a lot of aero, between James M. Cox Dayton International and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (see the “Military Radio Monitoring” column elsewhere in this issue for frequencies to monitor for Wright-Patterson). Have a look at the frequencies presented here and program your scanner!

 

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GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE

New U.S. Relay Station In Tajikistan,
Plus Is HCJB Going Relay?

by Gerry L. Dexter

 

“Orzu” is a word we’re going to be seeing a lot in reference to shortwave in another year or two. The United States is going to build a new international relay station there (in the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan). You can probably expect to hear all of the U.S. international broadcasters via that site at one time or another, including Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Afghanistan, and the Voice of America in its various guises. In the process, of course, keeping track of who’s who—and from where—will get even more complicated!

After a look at their most recent schedule it seems HCJB may be edging closer to going the relay route. While most of the broadcasts are still shown as originating from Quito (Pifo), there are a couple shown as Sackville (Canada) and one VT site in England, along with the usual number from Kununurra (HCJB-Australia).

Liberia has never been much of a player on shortwave, but that may change one of these days after word came that the Chinese are going to build an FM and shortwave service for the Liberian Broadcasting System. It’s in the early stage right now so I can’t tell you anything as to how large, powerful, or extensive this operation may be, or what else it may involve. But it wouldn’t be much of a big leap to expect CRI (China Radio International) to also make use of the site. LBC (Liberia Broadcasting Corporation) had a shortwave station years ago but it was more of a regional service, operating down on 90 meters. The only activity from Liberia at present is ELWA-4760 and Radio Veritas-5470, the latter not heard very often due to its schedule, which puts it off the air at 2300.

Among all the governments that say they can’t afford to keep an international service going, there is at least one private shortwave enterprise that seems to be growing like a dandelion in your front yard. CVC (Christian Vision) International is to open up “Radio for Africa from Africa,” based in Cape Town, South Africa. That, of course, may not be where the transmitters are placed. Their news release is unclear as to whether this will be an entirely new operation or just a schedule expansion of what already exists (The Voice-Africa, Zambia on 4965). We’ll see what happens.

 

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TECH SHOWCASE

ICOM’s IC-PCR2500 Triple-Duty Base/Mobile PC Scanner

by Gordon West, WB6NOA

What, me confused about a scanner? Not usually, but I have to admit that when I started to open the ICOM IC-PCR2500 scanner system, I found more than I had anticipated. Specifically,

• PCR2500-25 advanced PC-controlled scanner body
• PC hardware and software accessories, including USB cable
• R2500-05 twin readout mobile/base remote head (I didn’t know it came with one)
• DC adapter for remote head mobile use
• AC adapter for base and home PC use
• Instruction manuals for the IC-R2500 and IC-PCR2500!

What a deal from ICOM America for just under $999; a full-blown PC-controlled black box receiver covering 100 kHz to 3300 MHz, IN ALL MODES, ready for Microsoft Windows XP driver installation with the included CD. But to get started, because my computer was tied up with boat race communication logging, I began my test of the rig with the included head, which simply plugs in to put the equipment on the air. Just add 12 volts to the black box, or power it with the supplied 110-VAC major-sized transformer, and the scanner crackles with life, driving the remote-controlled display.
The head looked familiar. My 2-meter/440-MHz dual-band ham set is the ICOM IC-2720H, and this scanner head is absolutely identical in size, shape, and function. But my 2720 ham set couldn’t begin to go where the PCR2500 would take me (see “IC-PCR2500 Coverage”). For starters, the receiver is sensitive down to a microvolt, relatively selective on narrow band FM frequencies, and multimode to let the mobile head listen to one frequency in one mode and another channel on a completely different band in a completely alternate mode. I didn’t realize there was so much up there beyond 1500 MHz!
The black box to drive either the remote head or your PC readout will accept a plug-in DSP board, a DTMF decoder board, and most impressively, a P-25 Public Safety digital board for unencrypted APCO-25 transmissions—very handy for our Los Angeles Police Department and others around the country.

 

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THE PROPAGATION CORNER

A World Of New Opportunities On The HF Bands

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

 

Last month, we began taking a tour of the new opportunities afforded to Technician class amateur radio operators by the FCC. Because of the ruling, effective on February 23, 2007, to eliminate Morse code testing for all levels of amateur radio licenses, and extending limited HF operating privileges to all Technicians, the shortwave spectrum is now open for many new radio hobbyists.

It’s an opportunity like never before. Not only can a hobbyist interested in radio communications join the amateur radio community on VHF and higher frequencies by taking the entry-level written exam, but a hobbyist can now enjoy operating on the shortwave allocations that have become available to all license-class holders.

The Technician class license has limitations on shortwave (let’s call shortwave HF, for high-frequency spectrum). True, in addition to all amateur radio operating privileges above 50 MHz, Technicians who never passed a Morse code test now have Morse code (CW) privileges on certain sub-bands of the 80-, 40-, and 15-meter amateur bands. Additionally, they have CW, radio teletype (RTTY), digital, and single-side band (SSB) privileges (but no FM mode privileges) on certain sub-bands of 10 meters. But, that’s it. The HF privileges all Technicians now have are equivalent to those that Novice licensees enjoy. This also means the 200-watt maximum power limit still applies, regardless of where you operate in the HF bands.

Because there’s no need to learn to send and receive Morse code in order to pass any of the amateur radio license exams, you don’t have to settle for the limits of the Technician class license privileges. After you take the Technician exam, you may take the General class exam, and then finally the Extra class exam. As you pass each exam, you will qualify for additional spectrum and modes on the various amateur HF bands. When you reach the level of Amateur Extra, you’ll have the entire amateur radio HF spectrum that’s available. And, with those additional privileges, Generals and Extras may use the full legal limit of over a 1000 watts of power on nearly all HF frequencies. Now, that is an opportunity!

Now that you have all of this opportunity, what are you going to do with it? What can you do on the HF frequencies of your license class? Last month we took an introductory look at propagation at various frequencies during this part of the solar cycle. And, we looked at what those same frequencies might look like during the peak years of the next solar cycle. This month, let’s look at conditions right now.

 

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 BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY

For Your Protection—The Emergency Alert System

by Bruce A. Conti

 

“This is a test. This is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test.” Such test messages broadcast on TV and radio should be familiar to most people, as should severe weather warnings and Amber Alerts, yet technological advances have far outpaced the system. Last year President Bush issued an executive order to overhaul the Emergency Alert System, placing the Secretary of Homeland Security in charge. But just what is the Emergency Alert System, how does it work, and what needs to be done to get the system up to speed with current technology?

History In Brief

The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) was established by the FCC in 1963 as a means through which the President could communicate with the public via radio and television in the event of a national emergency. It replaced the obsolete Control of Electromagnetic Radiation (CONELRAD) system that required all AM radio stations to broadcast only on 640 or 1240 kHz during an enemy attack so transmissions couldn’t be used for missile guidance. Furthermore, 47 C.F.R. Part 11 Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934 granted through the EBS, “specific communications-related powers to the President in time of war or national emergency...to enable the President to exercise these powers quickly and efficiently.” The system also became a vital tool for local authorities and the National Weather Service (NWS) to warn individual communities of a specific threat to public safety.

The first major overhaul of the system was announced in 1994, and phased in through 1998 under a new name, the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The FCC cited aging analog equipment, non-compatibility with cable TV, a lack of automation for unattended broadcast operations, and an overall need to modernize the system to relay critical information when “seconds may mean the difference between life and death during sudden emergencies such as tornadoes, flash floods, hazardous chemical spills, and nuclear accidents.”
 

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THE WIRELESS CONNECTION

More Solutions For High Line Voltages

by Peter J. Bertini

 

Our January 2007 column highlighted the use of power resistors to reduce modern AC line voltages to levels suited for use with vintage receivers. We showed how a small wire-wound power resistor in series with the AC primary winding could dramatically lower operating temperature of a small Zenith power transformer. Other benefits included lowering filament voltages, which were found to be operating near maximum operating ratings at typical 125-VAC line voltages. I’ve tried similar modifications on a few other sets in the interim, and the results in all instances have been gratifying!

The dropping resistor approach has its advantage: it’s cheap enough to be included under chassis when the need arises. There are a few shortcomings, however. First, a power resistor will dissipate heat, and that adds to the problem we’re trying to correct. The second problem is that the resistor doesn’t provide regulation; the voltage drop will be proportional to the current drawn (the set’s wattage).

I mentioned that most early radios drew fairly constant currents, and that the resistor provided some degree of turn-on surge reduction—a good thing! However, the power resistor is a poor choice for renovating larger vintage communications receivers or ham transmitters! The current is too great and the regulation is too poor. A better, but more involved and costly, approach is to use a small 6- or 12-VAC filament transformer to “buck” (lower) the AC voltage to a safer level.

Voltage Bucking Techniques

I mentioned using a “bucking” transformer to lower the line voltage in passing, and reader Ted Cohen, N4XX, responded with these comments via email:

Superb column! I always enjoy your work. I’ve been a licensed radio amateur for 54 years and collect and restore Catalin radios, among others. In 1991, I restored a Crosley 555 tombstone radio. Running on a 130-VAC line voltage the transformer was so hot you couldn’t touch it! It was clear that the radio wouldn’t last long under those conditions, so I took the autotransformer route you mentioned, using an old filament transformer I had lying around. What a difference it made. I highly recommend that you introduce it to your readers as a weekend project.

 

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HAM DISCOVERIES

“And The Award Goes To...”

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ

 

Most employers, no matter how lowly, offer employee recognition awards and incentives of some sort. If you’re really lucky, by exceeding your sales quota you’ll receive free use of a shiny new company car (yes, a Ford Taurus “is” a car—and so is a pink Mary Kay Mobile!). If you land a new account you might receive an all-expenses-paid cruise to some exotic DXpedition location. And if you merely show up consistently, you’re bound to win “employee of the month” at least once before you die!

Although it’s not an employer per se, ham radio has plenty of recognition and achievement awards of its own. You have to do a little more than simply show up, but if you set your mind to systematically meeting the required benchmarks, ham radio’s plethora of awards and achievement certificates will amply reward your hard work and determination.

Better yet, you’ll undoubtedly learn something in qualifying for each new certificate, and you’ll open up new perspectives on our wonderfully diverse hobby. Don’t know a thing about working PSK31? After planning for and executing your strategy to work a ham in each state via that nifty digital mode, you’ll be a veritable expert—and you’ll have an achievement award on your shack’s wall to prove it! When you’ve mastered PSK, move on to 6 meters, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Described by Old Timers as “chasing paper” or “the great wallpaper chase,” the quest for ham radio operating awards and certificates (to pin on your shack walls, of course) captures the attention and efforts of almost every ham at one time or another. Some make it a lifelong journey. So, whether you’re after one specific award, or you’re aiming to cover every inch of wall space, the sheer number of awards available will keep you tuning the bands for quite some time.

 

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HOMELAND SECURITY

A Warm-Weather Spruce-Up For Your Antenna,
And Other Ways To Stay Prepared

by Rich Arland, W3OSS

 

It’s rapidly becoming “antenna time” on the East Coast of the United States, where I live. But no matter where you may live, it’s still a good time to go out and find out what kind of damage winter storms did to your antenna farm. It’s also a good time to assess your antennas and possibly consider erecting new ones or rearranging existing antennas to improve reception and transmission.

In the fall of 2006 I took down my old dependable 40-meter Extended Double Zepp (EDZ) that had been up for over 10 years. In its place I erected a Radio Works Carolina Windom. In the past I’d used these off-center-fed dipoles with outstanding results. This time it was no different. The 40-meter Carolina Windom performed very well. Not as well as my 40-meter EDZ, but the performance was good, nonetheless. Unfortunately, a couple of the neighbor’s kids decided that the length of Kevlar rope didn’t belong in that particular section of the tree, and cut it down. Needless to say the Carolina Windom no longer performed well, and it was time I took a close look at a multi-band HF antenna that would fit into the city lot on my property.

Easy As EDZ

Okay, let’s return to the EDZ concept. The 40-meter EDZ was roughly 90 feet per leg for a total length of about 180 feet. In order to fit it into my lot I had to bend the last 15 or so feet of each dipole leg back upon itself. This didn’t tremendously alter the performance of the 40-meter EDZ and it kept things inside my property lines.

If a 40-meter EDZ would get me on 160 through 10 meters why wouldn’t a 20-meter EDZ allow me to operate on 80 to 10 meters? I quickly applied the proper formulas and ended up with a dipole antenna that was 45 feet per leg, fed with 300-ohm twinlead via a balanced line tuner. (Lacking a true balanced line tuner one could use a standard coaxial tuner with a 4:1 current balun to match the 50-ohm unbalanced output of the tuner to the 300-ohm twinlead.)
 

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PLANE SENSE

Monitoring The Atlanta Skies—The Nation’s Busiest,
Plus A Great New Tracking Resource

by Bill Hoefer

 

There have been debates around the country as to the busiest airports, towers, flight service stations, etc. I’ve been to numerous airports over the years from Bangor, Maine, to Key West, Florida, from Los Angeles International, to Seattle, Washington, from Chicago’s O’Hare to Denver International and Anchorage and Fairbanks Internationals in Alaska. I’ve even been to some smaller airports, like Albany, Georgia, Grand Island, Nebraska, and Toccoa, Georgia. I won’t even go into the airports in Europe I’ve been through.

Having said that, here’s a story I heard from DJ Charlie Tuna over the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in the 1970s while in West Berlin: A man was flying out of Montgomery, Alabama, and wanted to go direct to Denver. The lady at the Southern Airlines counter said he’d have to fly through Atlanta. The passenger said that was unacceptable. He then asked what would happen if he wanted to fly to New York. The Southern Airlines employee said he’d have to fly through Atlanta. What about Chicago? Through Atlanta. Denver? Through Atlanta. The passenger was getting irate. Washington? Atlanta. Phoenix? Atlanta!

The passenger finally yelled out, “What if I want to fly to hell?” The lady behind the counter calmly said, “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s a Delta flight.” (My apologies to Delta. I have numerous friends working for Delta, but that was the punch line of the joke at the time. Again, it was quoted by Charlie Tuna. Please no lawsuits.)

This brings me to the first part of my June article: Atlanta. A short time ago Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) was simply named Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. Today ATL is the busiest in the United States, and one of the busiest on the planet. Atlanta has four parallel runways and pretty much is the airport of the southeastern United States. I’ll probably get letters from Miami (MIA) and Orlando (MCO) FL on this, however. Try these frequencies if you’re in the area: 127.9, 118.35, 126.9, and 127.25.

 

Click here for frequency List
 

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UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST

How AIS Fits Into The Maritime Communications Picture

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ

 

In last month’s issue of Pop’Comm (you did read last month’s issue, didn’t you?), this column discussed maritime HF communications, including a considerable amount of information on the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress Safety System) and how the various systems that are part of GMDSS interact.

However, that article did not tell the entire story on maritime communications. There are also the VHF-FM Marine Radiotelephone channels, which I did not discuss, primarily because these frequencies are not part of the HF bands. Furthermore, there’s the AIS (Automatic Identification System), and a couple of other systems used to assist in maritime navigation, namely the GPS/DGPS (Global Positioning System/
Differential Global Positioning System) and LORAN C.

The problem with trying to deal strictly with HF communications in a column like this one is that, like it or not, there are facets of maritime communications that fall outside the boundaries of the HF bands, and if you discuss maritime communications—as we did last month—you can expect to field questions regarding those systems you left out, even though they may not pertain to utility monitoring. I learned that this past month when reader Bob Schweikert, N4NMK, of Harrington, Delaware, sent us an e-mail inquiring about the AIS. Bob noted that he has been hearing the Delaware River and Bay Pilots Association telling merchant vessels, especially when entering port, that “we have you on both radar and the AIS.” Bob wanted more information on the AIS and asked if an article on it was feasible.

My initial response was that since the AIS operates on VHF, it was beyond the scope of this column. As you may have guessed by now, I’ve reconsidered; we started out talking about maritime communications, and I feel that, if you’re going to tell a story, you may as well tell the whole story, not just the parts you want to talk about. The AIS is, after all, backwards compatible with the very same GMDSS we talked about extensively last month. Beyond that, we know for a fact that many of our regular readers are not only dedicated HF utility listeners, but also at least dabble in other areas of the radio arts, including ham radio, and scanning the VHF/UHF bands for aircraft, military, public safety, and other communications in those frequency ranges.
 

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WORLD VIEW

Thailand—Emerging From Tragedy

by Edith Lennon, N2ZRW, Editor

 

Known as the Land of Smiles because of the hospitality of its people, Thailand is also infamous for the Golden Triangle, the storied crossroads of a lucrative opium trade at the border of Laos and Myanmar (Burma). Although favored with a timeless landscape of hazy mountains, dramatic karst formations, and sweeping stretches of beach, neither man nor nature has been very kind to the Kingdom of Thailand in recent years. The devastating tsunami of December 2004, a recent military coup, and a worsening Muslim separatist movement in the south have rocked the nation.

Sharing land borders with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia and lapped by the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand, on the map the country resembles the head of an elephant, a revered animal. Its climate is tropical, with the southern isthmus always hot and humid, the northeast dryer and cooler, and a southwest monsoon annually soaking the population of nearly 65,000,000 from mid-May to September.

Demographics

Thailand’s population is dominated by about 75 percent ethnic Thais. The largest group of non-Thai people is the Chinese; other ethnic groups include Malays in the south and Mon, Khmer, and hill tribes, who tend to remain insular. After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees also settled in Thailand, mainly in the northeastern regions.

According to a 2000 census, 95 percent of Thais are Theravada Buddhists, and saffron-robed monks are a familiar sight on city streets as well as in the ornate temples. Muslims constitute the second largest religious group in Thailand and live primarily in the south where there is a growing—and increasingly violent—separatist movement. Christians, mainly Catholics, and a small but influential community of Sikhs and some Hindus add to the mix of cultures.

 

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LOOSE CONNECTION

Not Much In Common...

by Bill Price, N3AVY

 

I have tried for a long time to combine my favorite hobbies. Radio, harmonica, target shooting, and pet rats—and I’ll warn you right now that the first letter I get even hinting that I shoot at my furry little friends will be dealt with swiftly and severely! I’ve thought about shooting at least one radio (and a couple hams, now that I think of it). I’ve even taken a rat, a gun, and a shortwave radio to a harmonica convention, but to be painfully honest, these hobbies of mine are about as “diametrically opposed” as hobbies can get.

I do use a laser to “boresight” some of my guns—oh, and let me digress for a moment to tell you about two young ladies with all the smarts of two valley girls—and no reference to hair color, because they happened not to be blondes. And, no, in the now infamous words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up:

I was in the sporting goods department of a nearby mega-lo-mart and I knew they sold laser boresighters (for the uninitiated, that’s for adjusting the sights on guns using a laser sticking out of the barrel), but I couldn’t find them. The two young ladies in question were drooling over the guy who worked behind the sporting goods counter. When they paused to wipe their chins, I asked him if he still had any of the laser boresighters, and the two of them looked at each other and one asked me, “You mean there are lasers that will find them for you in the woods?” It was all I could do to avoid mentioning the similarities and differences between “bore,” “boar,” and “boor.”

Anyway…I’m using my electrical skills (learned because of my love of radio) to design and (I hope) build an arcade-style shooting gallery. A few of you might remember these from carnival midways of long time ago, when you could plunk down a quarter for 10 shots at moving steel ducks and hope to win a big stuffed animal (which was nailed to the shelf). Those galleries were soon regulated out of existence, but they still provide some pleasant memories.

 

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