News, Trends, And Short Takes
by D. Prabakaran
Radio Broadcasts To Ethiopia Jammed
Shortwave radio hobbyists have reported
deliberate interference to the Amharic-language transmissions of
Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), beamed to
Ethiopia. Jamming was noted in DW’s signal on 11645 kHz on November 14
and 15, and to DW’s Amharic broadcast on 15640 kHz on November 15. In a
separate report, the Ethiopian Review website reported on November 13
that VOA broadcasts to Ethiopia had been jammed since November 12 with
the help of the Chinese government, which provided technicians and
powerful radio jamming equipment.
The World Radiocommunication Conference 2007
(WRC-07) called U.S. transmissions against Cuba illegal, angering U.S.
representatives at the forum. After three weeks of negotiations, the
conference of technical experts from several countries rejected this
After the remarks, the U.S. delegation decided to withdraw from the agreement and, clearly challenging the meeting, said the transmission policy toward Cuba will be maintained.
NASCAR—Hot Cars, Hotter Scanning
A Veteran Listener’s Proven Tips For Catching Lap-By-Lap Action
by Ed Muro, K2EPM
Some kids are into model building, some into bowling. I was into radio—and auto racing. A scanner listener from about the time I was 12 (just before programmable scanners came on the market), my family had also been in the automobile business for decades and I grew up in a car culture. It was only natural that I was afflicted with the need for speed. Little did I know then that someday these two distinct interests would collide (please forgive the pun) in one of the most exciting sports in the world—NASCAR racing.
Back in those early days, NASCAR drivers
didn’t have radios in their cars to communicate with their crews. They
used signs, called Pit Boards, that the crew would hold up to tell the
driver when he had to pit. But just as with so many other aspects of
life, the miniaturization of electronics made new things possible.
Today, if watching a race isn’t thrilling
enough for the fan in the stands, watching it while listening to race
communications on a scanner adds a whole new dimension to the
experience. You get the inside scoop on strategy and sometimes you even
get to hear some off color communications as emotions on the track can
run high. (One of the most thrilling moments for me at my first race was
listening to some chatter on the radio between various crew members of a
particular race team, when a voice broke in and said: “Hush up now, I am
going out on the track.” That was the late Dale Earnhardt.
Coming from the New York area, a part of the
country that had no real racetrack, meant I had to get my fill of auto
racing on Wide World of Sports, ESPN, or TNN. In the early 1990s,
though, several of my friends were brave enough to modify their own
Mustangs and take them to Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.
Several times a month they’d make the trek to Englishtown and I’d go
along. But this type of racing wasn’t my thing, so I started bringing my
Bearcat 245 XLT with me so I could listen to the New Jersey State Police
and the Old Bridge trunked system. One day while sitting in the stands,
I realized there were radio communications going on right there. There
was security to listen to and administrative folks running the track and
the timing tower. For the next trip I brought my Opto Scout frequency
counter. The whole dimension of the track changed, as I was now
listening to the inside workings of the operation as I watched the
events unfold in front of me.
A State In Flames—
Volunteer Radio Operators
by Gordon West, WB6NOA
The fall season turns leaves amber throughout
much of the country. In southern California, autumn kicks in with a
blast of warm air whistling through the mountains from a steady
high-pressure system to our east. These hot winds, called Santa Anas,
may gust over 100 miles an hour, toppling trees and power lines in their
To assist in the efforts of dealing with that
fire, I served a two-week fire comm assignment as a radio volunteer. It
was quite educational to say the least, and I’d like to share with you
some of what we volunteers experienced and the lessons we learned as a
In disaster situations such as the California fires, few things are as important as timely and efficient communications. As experienced communicators, trained radio volunteers offer invaluable skills and equipment to help in that regard. That’s why we’re there.
Lesson Learned #1: Volunteer communicators may supply their agencies with important radio monitoring of AM aeronautical and FM Fire Command channels. Even a simple ham radio VHF/UHF handheld might easily tune in the VHF high band action frequencies (see Table. Active Southern California Fire Frequencies).
My fire comm assignment was with my local American Red Cross chapter, serving the jurisdiction of 38,500 burned acres of the Santiago fire.
Lesson Learned #2: If you serve a specific agency as a volunteer communicator, have “topo” maps ready to evaluate radio range.
Our particular Red Cross chapter has its own
ham radio/GMRS radio communications team, trained and credentialed by
the local chapter. All communicators must remain active with weekly
check-ins, must participate regularly in “boot camp” drills, and have
dedicated themselves to serving their local Red Cross chapter for their
Mark Your Calendars...It’s Time
Here’s A Preview Of The Not-To-Be-Missed Kulpsville Tradition
by Richard A. D’Angelo
As winter slowly grinds to a halt, my mind begins to think about the annual excursion to Kulpsville for the Winter SWL Festival sponsored by the North American Shortwave Association (NASWA). With spring just around the corner and the potential threat of awful winter weather beginning to dwindle, a radio hobbyist begins to think about getting together with good friends and fellow radio hobbyists at the Mecca of DX gatherings: the Best Western - The Inn at Towamencin, or Kulpsville as it’s known to long-time attendees.
This year will mark the 21st annual gathering of devoted radio listeners and it should be a good one. Although launched over two decades ago as a meeting for shortwave listeners who participated in the old ANARC 7240 Net, the “FEST” quickly morphed into a DC-to-daylight gathering, with every facet of the radio hobby represented.
The 2008 Winter SWL Festival is scheduled for March 7 and 8, 2008, and many of the Winter SWL Festival regulars will be in attendance. However, each year brings out a contingent of new faces, who are always warmly welcomed; just ask last year’s first-timer, Pop’Comm’s editorial wizard Edith Lennon! (It’s quite true…I mean the welcome, not the wizardry.—ed.) It doesn’t take much more than an hour or two for new people to become “FESTers” and get comfortable with the theme “the FEST never ends,” because people discuss the finer points of radio until all hours of the night.
The FESTivities draw an international crowd, with former European DX Council head honcho Michael Murray a regular as are a number of other European radio hobbyists. Japan’s Toshi Ohtake is always present representing the Japan Shortwave Club and Radio Japan. Of course, we always have a large contingent of our friends from up north. Our Canadian friends head south for the mild weather of southeastern Pennsylvania in March, hi!
The FESTmeisters, Rich Cuff and John Figliozzi, co-chair this popular event. March will be the eighth time these two radio hobbyists will be running the show. Previously, Rich and John served as our Hospitality Coordinators, so they’ve been an integral part of the Winter SWL Festival process for a long time.
The first 13 such events were organized by the
original “gang of three”: Bob Brown, Harold Cones, and Kris Field, who
still are regular FESTers. They were the originators of this great event
and coordinated the activities until Rich and John took the helm. The
FEST’s extended family is a large one that seems to grow each year, but
our founding fathers deserve special recognition for the foresight,
creativity, planning, and organization that launched a very successful
FEST formula that continues to work each year.
Understanding Scanner Specifications
by Ken Reiss
If you go shopping for a scanner (or, even
better, if you got a shiny new one for the holidays), you tend to run
into a lot of information…sometimes too much. Some of that information
is really important and you should consider in your shopping process,
but some of it is not. Then there’s the information that would be
important if you could rely on it, but it turns out that you can’t. This
month, let’s see if we can separate the wheat from the chafe, so to
Comparing model to model isn’t always easy
when you start looking at the specifics. One will have this feature,
another one that feature, but neither will have the other thing that a
third model has—and that’s just from one manufacturer. It’s quite easy
to get overwhelmed.
Let’s start with the basics. How many channels does the scanner have? Of course, more channels means more stuff you can put in it and be ready to go. How are those channels organized? This one may take a bit more digging. There’s usually a number of banks available, and that’s a place to start. Ten banks is common, but some scanners feature more or less. However, it may not be quite that simple.
One popular radio is advertised as offering
5,500 channels and 10 banks. Great. Ten banks of 550 channels each? Not
quite. Ten banks of 50 channels each are active at once, while another
group of 10 banks can be switched in and out in what the manufacturer
calls virtual radios. It’s a nice feature for those who travel or need
to rapidly reprogram the radio with a set of frequencies, but it’s not
really a 5,500-channel scanner.
Some of the newer receivers, mostly from Uniden in their TrunkTracker IV series, allow for dynamic reconfiguration of the banks. The radio has x number of channels available and you can program them into whatever groups you’d like. It’s not quite the same, but very useful, and it works about the same way as banks once you get it programmed.
Related to memories, on a TrunkTracker
radio, you also need to be concerned with how many trunking systems you
can put into the radio. You may not need multiple trunked systems now,
but it could be an issue in the future. Each trunked system will be able
to hold a number of IDs (talkgroups that work like channels in a
GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE
U.S. Bids Bye Bye To
by Gerry L. Dexter
The U.S. Government’s international broadcasting efforts have taken another body blow with the announcement of the coming discontinuance of the IBB-Briech (Morocco) transmitting site. The cubicle crowd of D.C. Mandarins says the operation has gotten too expensive and so will be turned over to Morocco at the end of the current B-07 season in late March. RT Marocaine has also used Briech for much, if not all, of its international broadcasts since the facility opened. Briech joins the Delano, California, site, which went comatose in late October 2007 when it was put into mothballs. Unlike Delano, however, Briech will remain active
Finally active—at least in a testing stage—is PMA Radio from Pohnpei in Micronesia. The 4755 frequency relays its local FM station “The Cross,” which is commonly used as the ID for this new religious broadcaster. The best time for reception in the United States is 1100 to around your local sunrise. Early on, at least, it seems that this station is taking a friendly attitude toward its distant listeners. The North American Shortwave Association (NASWA) has now added The Federated States of Micronesia to its country list. So even in these days of doom and gloom there’s now a new country out there you can add to your target list.
You can email reception reports to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you prefer to go via regular postal service, the address is Pacific Missionary Aviation, the Cross Radio Station, P.O. Box 517, Pohnpei, FM* 96941. (*Federated States of Micronesia).
Radio Bare (4895) in Manaus, Brazil, has a new image. The station has dropped its format of religious programming and now identifies as Radio Global Manaus. This old-time broadcaster is now part of the huge Radio Globo network.
There have been recent signs that the rarely heard Radio Nacional Angola outlet on 7217v is showing up again, although not well and apparently riding a shaky transmitter. You can never be sure in situations like this, and maybe the transmitter problems will eventually mean the end of Angola’s use of this frequency or perhaps cause a repair or replacement to be made. Let us hope for the latter!
First it was Deutsche Welle, which
discontinued using transmitter sites within its own country, and now can
be heard only on its relays or via hired time on various other sites.
Now they’ve been joined by Radio Nederland, which—at least for the B07
season—has given up the use of the Flevoland site in favor of other
locations. Flevo, says RN, is now a privately run facility. It has
proven to be cheaper for Radio Nederland to buy time on some of the
other commercially owned transmission sites than on Flevo, which it
previously used and formerly owned. So, in the Dutch case, at least all
this shuffling around comes down to economics.
Skills And Better Antennas
by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ
As I write this month’s column, I’ve just finished “playing around” in the 2007 November Sweepstakes contest(s)—CW first, then phone—from my deed-restricted condo. As if to increase my challenge beyond the norm, I have an indoor antenna and run only 5-watt output on CW, 10-watt PEP on phone. By just about anyone’s guess, including my own, I wasn’t expecting much success, especially on SSB. Thankfully, and delightfully, I was pleasantly mistaken!
My last change of address—to a tiny condo with no trees and an overachieving Townhouse Association—has had me wishing for a reasonable way out of my situation. I would love to put up a remote station a mile or two out of town, complete with an autocoupler and a big horizontal loop, but the funds for such a venture aren’t yet available, and my research into the required technical parts, radio and/or Internet links, and software isn’t complete. When it is, I’ll report on it here!
I mentioned my first stealthy antenna attempt a time or two in previous columns. I managed to get a coaxial cable outside and buried, and I fed the condo’s aluminum rain gutter and downspout against several wire radials tucked on the ground here and there, the longest being about 75 feet. The downspout ran vertically for 22 feet, and the rain gutter (a continuous length of seamless aluminum) was a healthy 75 feet, for a total of about 95 feet, “inverted-L” style. I ran a wire up the downspout and connected it directly to the rain gutter to ensure a good connection.
I expected it to work pretty well...but it was really quite horrible! It “hears” okay (and I use it for SWLing and BCBing with a homebrew regenerative receiver), but it barely transmits! I think the close proximity to the aluminum soffits, which run the entire length of the condo’s roofline, “swamps” the RF when transmitting. I managed to work a handful of U.S. stations on 40 and 20 meters, and a lone European DX station, but it was hard work!
My fallback plan was a horizontal loop running around the inside perimeter of my second-story attic space.
I enlisted the help of a small, wiry teenager (everyone should have access to one!) to “help” me run the insulated wire in the attic (“step only on the trusses and don’t breathe the insulation; the itchy feeling will go away someday”). When all was said and done, the antenna was resonant somewhere near 40 meters. The actual resonance point isn’t critical. I installed my trusty SGC autocoupler in the attic just adjacent to the hallway access hatch and had my helper run a 20-foot length of open-wire line from the coupler to the loop’s feed point.
Digital Doings: Sangean’s
HDT-1X AM/FM HD Radio,
by Bruce A. Conti
Are you digital ready? Public television wants
to make sure you can continue to receive PBS network stations when
over-the-air analog TV broadcasting comes to an end in 2009. But before
we dive into what’s coming our way in pictures, we have some news from
the audio realm. Sangean has introduced a new AM/FM HD radio. The
company’s HDT-1X is said to be the standard by which all other HD
receivers will be measured. “Broadcast Technology” puts it to the test.
The Sangean HDT-1X is designed for a component system with RCA analog and S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital InterFace) optical line outputs, requiring a separate amplifier and speakers. Although the chassis measures 17 inches wide for rack mounting, it’s a self-standing unit that rests on four plastic feet. A custom rack mount kit is needed to secure the chassis in a rack system. An infrared remote control and external AM/FM antennas are included. Initial installation and operation are straightforward, essentially plug-and-play. The instruction manual is clear and concise; it’s a good quick reference when needed.
Front panel ergonomics are functional and simple, anchored by a centrally located bright white alpha-numeric LCD with blue backlighting that’s plenty large enough to be viewed from across a room. To the left are the power button and a 10-digit numeric keypad with preset and frequency function buttons; to the right display info and AM/FM band pushbuttons, along with three up/down toggle pushbuttons for manual tuning, seek, and HD seek. The infrared remote control has dedicated pushbuttons for every front panel control.
The desired frequency can be entered directly
via the keypad, manually tuned up/down, or selected automatically by the
seek controls. AM tuning is in 10-kHz increments from 520 to 1710, FM
every 0.1 MHz from 87.5 to 108.1 MHz. Twenty AM presets and 20 FM
presets can be loaded into memory. A digital clock is displayed without
backlighting when the radio is off.
A carrier-to-noise ratio of at least 55 dB is
required for a solid FM HD signal, and greater than 60 dB for reliable
AM HD reception. When locked on a digital signal, the audio clarity is
amazing, with the most dramatic difference between analog and digital
AM—no more noise. The stereo audio quality of AM HD is actually as good
as, if not better than, analog FM, but—and it’s a very big but—AM HD
still has its shortcomings at night. Trying to find a strong AM HD
signal at night is a challenge due to adjacent channel skywave
interference, unless you happen to be located within 15 miles or so of
the AM transmitter site.
THE PROPAGATION CORNER
The Fundamentals Of Radio Propagation
by Tomas Hood, NW7US
Sometime during 2008, Solar Cycle 23 will end, and the new 11-year cycle, the 24th to be recorded by solar observers, will begin. So, while it’s still early in the year, let’s review some of the fundamentals involved in radio propagation and space weather. To do so, we’ll take a look at the data involved in observing and forecasting radio propagation.
On various Internet websites you may read a collection of terms and measurements that describe the various conditions and levels of solar activity, and so on. This same information is broadcast during the hourly space weather and geophysical reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA uses the radio stations WWV and WWVH to issue geophysical alert messages that provide information about solar terrestrial conditions. Geophysical alerts are broadcast from WWV at 18 minutes after the hour and from WWVH at 45 minutes after the hour, or you may access them on the Internet (see www.sec.noaa.gov/ftpdir/latest/wwv.txt).
The audio portions of the WWV and WWVH broadcasts can also be heard by telephone. If you call right before the 18th minute mark, you’ll hear the Geoalert report during the 19th minute. To hear these broadcasts, dial (303) 499-7111 for WWV (Colorado) or (808) 335-4363 for WWVH (Hawaii). Callers are disconnected after two minutes. Note that these are not toll-free numbers; callers outside the local calling area are charged for the call at regular long-distance rates. The telephone service is very popular, with the WWV number receiving over one million calls per year and the WWVH number more than 50,000.
The messages are less than 45 seconds long and are updated every three hours (typically at 0000, 0300, 0600, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, and 2100 UTC). More frequent updates are made when necessary.
WWV radiates 10,000 watts on 5, 10, and 15 MHz
and 2500 watts on 2.5 and 20 MHz. WWVH radiates 10,000 watts on 5, 10,
and 15 MHz and 5000 watts on 2.5 MHz. Each frequency is broadcast from a
separate transmitter. Although each frequency carries the same
information, multiple frequencies are used because the quality of HF
reception depends on many factors, such as location, time of year, time
of day, the frequency being used, and atmospheric and ionospheric
propagation conditions. The various frequencies make it likely that at
least one frequency will be usable at all times. You may read the
details about WWV and WWVH at
A Muse Or Two…And An EmComm Turtle
by Rich Arland, W3OSS
I have a confession to make: I have a muse. Actually, I have two. First is my wife, the beautiful and talented Patricia, KB3MCT, who, for the last 26 years has been my constant companion and life-partner. She’s my inspiration and has helped me through many thorny times. She also is a great source of ideas for my columns. Several years ago she obtained her amateur radio license so she could become more actively involved in emergency communications (EmComm).
Second is Herb, my buddy from Alaska. Herb, as I outlined in the December “HOMSEC,” often provides me with timely inputs to my column.
We share a lot in common and sometimes it’s down right scary to look inside Herb’s head!
So, there you have it, the deep dark secret of
my writing ability (or inability, take your choice).
A few months back we briefly covered the topic
of using RVs and campers/trailers, “Turtles” if you will, as mobile comm
facilities for EmComm during natural and/or manmade disasters. The
idea—a good one I might add—centers on the fact that there are many of
us “Baby Boomers” who are now semi or fully retired. Many of us have
motorized RVs or camp/travel trailers and enjoy traveling around the
country. Those of us who are also ham radio operators have a great
opportunity to provide highly mobile emergency communications facilities
for EmComm duties during civic events like parades and athletic events
and, again, during natural or manmade disasters. In short, we can be of
real assistance to disaster mitigaters and local police, fire, and EMS
personnel because, not only do we have the ability to become highly
mobile, we also have the gear and expertise to provide much needed
Starting with this column I’ll be detailing my progress in adapting our 13-foot Scamp camp trailer to perform EmComm duties. This is a rather long and involved process, since there’s a lot more to configuring our tiny Scamp into something akin to a mobile command post than just throwing a couple of radios into the pantry, hitching up the trailer, and hitting the road.
Above all, our Scamp is our “Home away from
Home,” our refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life. In effect,
our diminutive house-on-wheels is a direct reflection of our home…only
much, much smaller. Face it, 13 feet is not a lot of room! Especially
when the task is to add all sorts of communications equipment and still
keep the overall mission of the Scamp to house up to four people,
complete with a place to prepare meals and sleep. In other words, the
comm gear has to be small (as in physical footprint), multitasking, and
installed in such a way as to be unobtrusive during times of
THE POP’COMM TRIVIA CORNER
Radio Fun And Going Back In Time
by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL
Q. Who gave Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy, the inspiration for the famous cartoon detective’s two-way wristwatch radio?
A. Al Gross, W8PAL, was a high school student in 1938. He had a driving urge to reduce the size of the pre-World War II amateur radio equipment. He designed a small battery-operated handheld radio (four pounds) that he called a Walkie-Talkie.
Gould, already a famous cartoonist with a very popular comic strip requested permission to use the idea of a super miniaturized radio set. With that permission granted Gould went on to “invent” the miracle wristwatch radio. Gross went on to study Electrical Engineering at Case School of Applied Sciences. When World War II began he was grabbed up by the American military and spent his time during the war years inventing secret stuff for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. When the technology was declassified in 1976, we learned that Gross had 12 patents (all of which had expired in 1971) that led to the invention of the cell phone, cordless phone, and pagers.
SHANNON’S BROADCAST CLASSICS
Spokane’s Suburban AM Radio Rip-Off
by Shannon Huniwell
Though my father is in no way affiliated with Burger King, more than a few of his radio tales can only be classified as “whoppers.” In this case, the evidence I submit to you, the fair-minded readers of Popular Communications, is testimony about a theft of broadcast equipment that reportedly caused irrevocable harm to one poor little AM daytime station in a bucolic community just north of Spokane.
Allow me to begin this saga by symbolically pointing to dad and declaring, “That’s the man who told me about the mysterious robbery at KLFF 1590 in Mead, Washington!”
Admittedly, my father isn’t completely responsible for this story. Dad coaxed the important, though sketchy, details out of a middle-aged woman with whom he and mom were serendipitously stranded last year at a snowed-in airport. Throughout the evening, they passed the time, first with small talk, and then with greater detail about their lives.
“She was some big shot traveling on business for a pharmaceutical company,” dad said. In a feeble effort to impress her, he showed the lady my picture and identified me as his daughter the “well-known history writer and columnist concentrating in broadcast-related topics.” The woman, who by then was being addressed on a first name basis, responded to that shameless boast by making only the slightest mention of having once heard about a radio station heist from people she figured to be the kilocycle crooks.
“At first, Melanie politely made light of the value of her radio recollections,” my father stated, “but I insisted that she possessed a broadcasting story worth telling.” With that, my mother went back to reading her fashion magazine, while father scavenged a pen from mom’s ample purse, as well as an empty ticket envelope someone had left behind, and convinced Melanie to “start from the beginning.” As I click away keyboarding this article, dad’s hurriedly scribbled notes serve as a major source. What follows are pretty much my father’s reminiscences.
THE WIRELESS CONNECTION
A Salute To Small Vendors (Who Serve Radio Restorers In A Big Way!)
by Peter J. Bertini
I’m sitting here contemplating ideas for this month’s column, with a cup of warm apple cider in hand. Midnite the Wonder Lab is snuggled under the computer desk as I type. Here in New England the nights and days are getting cooler, and darkness falls earlier with each passing day…It’s a good evening to settle back and peruse some of the letters you’ve written to us.
Reader Nick K. from Highland, Indiana, writes, “I thought your April column was great! I enjoyed all the radio restoration articles. I would like to see a listing of part sources in a future column.” Hello Nick! I appreciate hearing from you, and I do take your suggestion seriously. We try to suggest specific vendors when appropriate for the project or restoration topic for that month. But Nick has a good point. It’s been several years since I dedicated a column to suppliers who cater to vintage radio enthusiasts. So, here’s a tip of the hat to Nick for providing the inspiration for this month’s column.
By now I’m sure most of you are familiar with the larger vendors, such as Radio Daze1 and Antique Electronic Supply2, who specialize in tube-based electronic equipment. This month I’d like to take time to salute the smaller home-based or one- or two-person shops that provide unique, but much needed, vintage radio-related items and services.
Unfortunately, for some of our readers, many of these smaller enterprises use Web-based catalogs and often prefer email communications instead of telephone or land mail queries. Some of these folks are in the business fulltime and trying to make it their livelihood, others provide these services as a hobby, and a few are elderly folks with infirmities—please extend them some kindness and patience when you deal with them. If you don’t see a telephone number supplied, you will need to use email or visit the website for more information.
Also, remember that many of these vendors may not be able to accept credit card orders. Some accept Internet payments via PayPal. Many don’t. Most of these vendors specify how they prefer to be contacted on their websites.
This is by no means a complete list of
vendors, and I apologize to anyone who was omitted. Let me know if you
feel you deserved a mention, as I will provide updated info in the
future as needed. So here we go, and these are in no particular order.
MILITARY RADIO MONITORING ON
Do You Search? Great MilCom Frequencies Await
by Tom Swisher, WA8PYR
Have you got a scanner or two (or three)
dedicated to searching the military frequency ranges? If you’re a
serious military monitor, you should. In my shack I dedicate a
RadioShack Pro-2035 with an Optoelectronics OS-535 computer interface
and Probe software for military searching, and I also use RadioShack’s
Pro-2004 and Pro-2006 scanners for general searches as well. Searching
is an excellent way to find new things to monitor, and for the first
couple of monitoring targets we’re going to discuss this month, it’s
Flying over your house on a regular basis, probably. We’re talking about those loud military choppers which seem to fly around with seeming regularity, and which seem to be flying nowhere just for the heck of it. But what are they really doing?
They could be doing nearly anything. If you live near a major military base, you probably get this on a regular basis, and it’s a part of the ongoing training our military forces conduct to keep themselves as ready as possible for anything they may be called upon to do. If you live near a National Guard base (as many of us do), they could be training, en route to provide humanitarian support at a disaster, providing security support at a large public event, or any of the many other activities the National Guard participates in.
But can you monitor them? Sure! Start with the
frequencies for your local airport or military facility, as flights will
generally have to call the local air control facility to obtain
clearance for their flight. Also check the Unicom and Common Traffic
Advisory Frequency (CTAF) frequencies for your area, as many heliports
are uncontrolled. Choppers leaving these heliports will announce their
flight intentions on the published Unicom or CTAF frequency for that
facility or area. Finally, search the VHF low-band frequencies for
activity, especially the 38- and 46-MHz ranges (see the boxed
frequencies for some suggestions).
Tactical air controllers have a very
challenging job, and one that can be fascinating for the scannist to
UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST
More From The Last Look At The DoD Flight Information Handbook
by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ
As previously reported in this space, effective on October 1, 2007, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Flight Information Publications (FLIP) have been moved to the National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) NIPRNet site and are no longer accessible to the general public via the Web.
Last month, I discussed the specifics of this development and included a list of aeronautical HF stations taken from the last publicly available version of the DoD Flight Information Handbook (FIH). I also promised that this month, I’d have a new listing of HF VOLMET (aviation weather broadcast) stations for you, also based on the information in this last publicly available FIH (see “Table. VOLMET Station Frequencies And Times”).
VOLMET stations are stations that transmit aeronautical weather information. The name comes from a French term that literally means, “flying weather.” These stations transmit a looped message to provide the aircraft servicing specific airports around the world with timely information concerning visibility, temperature, wind speed, and direction, and other weather-related information. Photo A shows a typical VOLMET broadcast console, in this case belonging to the Hong Kong VOLMET station operated by the Civil Aviation Department of the government of Hong Kong. For good measure—and to give female radio operators equal and appropriate appreciation in this column!—Photo B shows the HF console used by the HF aeronautical station in Hong Kong (refer to last month’s column for the frequencies on which to listen for it).
As you’ll notice if you study the information in the table, often a frequency is shared by more than one VOLMET station. Where this is the case, the stations alternate transmissions according to a set schedule, and the times are noted in the table. Many VOLMET stations also transmit information for certain airports during some transmissions and for other airports during other transmissions. This is also on a set schedule, but I didn’t break down the listings in the table this way, since the table is for hobby use and not intended for flight operations anyway, and breaking the listings down that way would have made it more complicated than necessary for utility listeners. After all, it’s the same station transmitting, regardless of which looped message it happens to be sending!
The nice thing about VOLMET stations is that they are among the handful of utility station types that routinely transmit on a known schedule, on a specified frequency, and at a specified time, so we know when and where to tune if we want to try and log a particular station. We can also tell where the station we’re hearing is located from the frequency and time of transmission, even if the signal is too weak to permit us to grab the station ID when the looped message says, “This is New York Radio out.” What’s more, these stations are scattered around the globe at known fixed locations, offering an insight into propagation conditions at any given time, especially since most of them transmit simultaneously on more than one frequency.
(He’s Got To Be Making This Up!)
by Bill Price, N3AVY (and Son)
The first thing of interest I learned today was that my boss was elected constable of his township, but had to resign the post because it would have required him to leave his present position (an HPJIE*) where he has me as a loyal employee. Shades of Barney Fife.
Our chief engineer decided to write in his own name on the ballot for constable of his township (and there’s no way I’m telling you where that is…) and, unknown to him, so did his wife. This was kind of a lark, because there was no one running for that office, so he thought it would be nice to tell people he got a vote once in an election. Trouble was, he got two votes in that election, and so did one other person. That’s right—there was a tie. Two people each got two write-in votes, and the township decided the outcome by tossing a coin, and although my boss won, and held the position of constable for five days, he had to stop by the town hall this morning and resign his position, because he preferred to keep—you guessed it—his HPJIE!
You might be wondering (fat chance) just what does a person do in an HPJIE? I’m glad you asked. Today, I drove through about two hours of traffic to sit at a federal government agency and wait for a cable company (an un-named cable company, lucky for them) technician to show up. I was told he’d be there between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. I was also told about the Easter Bunny, but not in the same sentence. He arrived at about 3:00 p.m.
He only had to remove a cable modem and install a new one, something requiring like three plugs if you count the AC adaptor. It took about an hour and a half. Jackie Gleason never had such a comedy of errors. It did my heart good to see someone else with an HPJIE botch things even worse than I do.
My purpose, by the way, was to represent our
company, which was his customer, as we have a phone line in this
government agency so we can stream some television coverage of some of
their activities onto the Internet. I was paid for sitting in an
overstuffed chair (quite appropriate for an overstuffed techie) and
waiting from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., then observing him swap modems.
It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Actually, I did have to
move an equipment rack and crawl behind it to swap a CAT-5 cable. Almost
broke a fingernail on that one.