One of my hobbies is Ham radio. It’s not one of those hobbies I was just dying to get into but slid into sideways. When I was flying my powered paraglider a lot of the other flyers used Ham radios to communicate. I wanted to be able to communicate with them too. So knowing you need a license to operate a Ham radio I went and got the bare minimum you need to operate a Ham radio; a Technician license. Well, the joke was on me. After receiving my license I found that none of the other powered paragliders had Ham licenses and were using the radios illegally. After finding out that I was licensed they stopped using Ham radio, fearing I would report them!
Instead I used my license to talk to local Hams. I joined the local club and talk on the radio every day coming home from work. It’s a great way to pass the time. Just like talking on 122.75 Mhz Air to Air when I’m flying the plane with my buddies.
That all being said there are three levels of licensing for Ham radio. The lowest level is the Technician license. It’s easy to get and lets you talk on the most common bands. If you put this in terms a pilot can understand it’s like when you solo your airplane. You can now fly without an instructor but you can really go anywhere. You have to stay near the field. Once you pass your flight exam and get your Private Pilot’s license, then you can go anywhere you like all by yourself.
This is what the second level of Ham license is like. This is the General license. You can talk on any frequency available to Amateur Radio. Like the high frequency bands that will let you talk to someone in Europe from North America… if the conditions are right.
I took my test for the General license yesterday and passed! It was a grueling all-day study session followed by the test. Not exactly how I’d like to spend my Saturday but in the end it was worth it because I passed. I had TMJ when I got home, probably from studying SO… HARD.
There is a third level of Ham license, the Extra license. This only gets you a few more bands to talk on. Mostly it just gets you street cred in the Ham community. In the airplane world this would be like building your own airplane and flying it around. I’m not there yet. I’m just going to enjoy the General license for a while. Slowly start looking for a cheap radio that will let me talk to Argentina. 🙂