Generally Speaking

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. 🙂

Memorial Day Flight

For the first time in four years I flew a fixed wing aircraft solo today.  I took my biennial flight review and got checked out in Oakdale Aero Club’s Cessna 152.  This morning I took it out solo.  It was a beautiful morning.  There were still some clouds around from yesterday’s storms.  It made for a beautiful sunrise, golden skies not red.  A good sign.

I got the airplane ready to go, performed my run-up, radioed my intentions, and back-taxied to runway 28 at Oakdale.  They are doing construction on the airport and all the taxiways are closed so we have to taxi down the middle of the runway to takeoff.  This is called back-taxiing.  I lined up on the runway, radioed once more and took off.  I departed left downwind and flew towards the Sierra foothills.


I flew eastward until I reached the hills on the west side of Salt Spring Valley and then turned north.  I knew that the morning Ham radio net was going so I pulled out my HT (handheld transceiver) and tuned into the SARA repeater.  As today is Memorial Day it was a smaller group of folks on the net and wouldn’t be going as long as the regular weekday net.  So when I heard a pause I keyed my radio and said “BREAK”.   Net control told me to go ahead and I checked in, “This is N6SVA, aeronautical”.  That’s a fun thing for Ham folks.  They love talking to Ham operators that are in out of the ordinary situations.  A Ham operator flying an airplane qualifies.  So checking in to the morning net was a fun thing for me too.  I checked in a couple of times telling them what the weather looked liked, where I was, my altitude, stuff like that.  They loved it and I thought it was fun too.

After the net ended I turned my HT off and just enjoyed flying around a bit.  I thought it would be fun to fly over to New Jerusalem where I had flown my powered parachute and powered paraglider so much.  It felt odd approaching the field from 2500 feet MSL as I hadn’t flown over 500 feet above the ground in four years!   I had a little difficulty finding the field because it had been so long since I had seen the field from that height.  I finally found the field and entered the pattern on a left crosswind.  I flew the pattern and made a landing that… well… let’s just say I’m a little rusty.  No metal was bent, no wheels popped, and the airplane will live to fly another day but it wasn’t one of my trademark smooth landings.


I taxied back and took off and headed back to Oakdale.  Happily my landing at Oakdale was MUCH better.  I taxied over to the fuel pump and topped the tanks off for the next guy.  All in all it was a wonderful morning but I can see that I need to get out on a few more wonderful mornings and knock this rust off.


Aeronautical Contact

It’s been somewhat breezy in California’s vast Central Valley this past week but the winds died down this past Sunday evening and I took advantage.  I loaded up my powered parachute and high-tailed it out to New Jerusalem Airport.  I got off the ground at about 6pm.  The winds near the ground were mildly rowdy, and I mean mildly.  As I climbed up through 300 feet MSL ( above mean sea level), the air became silky and warm.

I brought along my Icom VX-6R Ham radio HT (handi-talkie) to try to make an aeronautical contact.  I was circling the field and called out on the SARA repeater frequency.  I got an immediate call back from KM6MHT.  A gentleman by the name of Mike whom I talk to on the radio every now and again on my commute home.  He said I was pretty scratchy but readable but since we both heard each other we can log it.  Since the radio was so heard to hear I decided to just put it away and enjoy the evening flight.

I flew around the New Jerusalem area (just southeast of Tracy, California) and enjoyed the sunset.  The air was perfect, there was no traffic, it was so peaceful.  I shot three landings for practice and then decided to put my PPC away before it got dark.  It was then that I found the only flaw in my day… the mosquitoes!  I put my PPC away in record time and jumped into my pickup truck to escape the onslaught.  It was a perfect end to the weekend.img_20190331_185446

Aeronautical Contact

Image result for yaesu vx-6rFor quite some time I’ve been trying to join up my hobbies of aviation and Ham radio.  Every time I tried to call someone they either didn’t respond or if they did they said I was unreadable.  Well, today I figured out there was a 9 volt battery in my headset that has been there probably since the thing was made.  I changed out the battery yesterday and tried it with my Yaesu VX-6 today.  I unloaded my powered parachute and warmed up the engine.  While it was warming up I tried to make contact with any station from the ground using my headset.  I stood at a good distance from the running powered parachute to minimize both ambient and electrical noise.  I got a call back saying that I was loud and clear!  So my next step was to sit in the seat with the engine running and make another call.  I shut my engine off and rolled the craft onto the runway and got it all set up.  I sat down, strapped in, fired up the engine and made another call as N6SVA-AERONAUTICAL.  The local hams knew what was up by now so I got a couple of call backs all of which said I was perfectly readable even with my engine running.  Next step, pour the coals to my powered parachute and get it up in the air!

I climbed up to only about 100 feet or so and made another call.  This time appending AERONAUTICAL to my callsign. The first ham operator to respond was Gary from Manteca, WA6UXA.  He said he could definitely hear my engine but I was completely understandable.  Success!  I thanked him for the reply and then got my second aeronautical contact from Roy, KK6OQP.  It was actually quite thermally so I went ahead and landed counting my morning as completely successful.  Then I got another call from a gentleman in Sacramento trying to make an aeronautical contact.  He was a little crestfallen when he found out I was back on the ground already.  Well, this was just a test after all.

My next goal is to try to be airborne for the next Parachute Mobile event.  I’ll be calling a ham operator who has jumped out of a plane and is descending in a parachute while I’m ASCENDING in a powered parachute!  Nerdy aviation, I love it!

Parachute Mobile Mission MISSED!

I drove out to New Jerusalem this morning on a mission to attempt to make contact on my ham radio with another ham.  He was to be coming down in his parachute while I was going up in mine.  Sadly it didn’t work out that way.  My radio was unreadable… AGAIN.  So I contented myself with merely enjoying the beautiful scenery.

After all the storms today was just stunning.  It was a perfect Spring day.  I could smell the almond blossoms and alfalfa from 400 feet up.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Enjoy a little raw video footage:


Parachute Mobile Mission 34: March 16, 2019

Going to try to participate in Parachute Mobile tomorrow morning but I’m going to try to take it one step father. I’m going to try to contact a parachute from a parachute, a powered parachute that is.

More info about parachute mobile is available on their website:

Airborne Checkin On HAM Radio Net

On my morning drive in to work I usually tune in and listen to the SARA (Stanaslaus Amateur Radio Association) Morning Traffic and Information Net on my HAM radio.  A net is when a group of HAMs get together on the radio and take turns speaking to each other.  This net is used to talk about the weather we can expect that day and any traffic information for the commuters.  Otherwise people just talk about what they are going to do for the day, their Aunt Edna, or whatever.  I check in every now and then but mostly just listen.

This week I decided to check in from my powered paraglider.  HAM radio operators get a thrill out of new or unusual contacts (contact with someone via radio).   So here is a short video of that flight.  I added my usual artistic flair by adding some music to make it less boring.  Enjoy!

Flexible J-Pole Antenna

I’ve been looking for a small powerful antenna for my Yaesu VX-6 and KK6ES recommended this to me…


It’s basically a roll-up J-Pole antenna.  I have a line with a weight on one end that I can toss up over a tree branch and just pull it up into a the tree and use that as a mast.  I tried it out the other night and was able to get really good transmission and reception on a local repeater.  It was marginal with the rubber ducky antenna that came with the radio.

Today I tried to come up with a portable mast.  I have a telescoping windsock pole that I use when I fly my powered paraglider but it’s made of aluminum and the antenna is not as efficient when hung next to metal.  So I bought some sections of PVC tubing and some slip couples and made a mast.


However, it was too floppy.  I had to use the tree to prop it up so that it wouldn’t flex too much.  If I can come up with a way to stiffen the PVC pipes it will work nicely.  Or… maybe the folks out there have better ideas?

First QSL Card

Making contact with other Ham operators are what Ham operators love to do.  The code for this is QSL.  It has become tradition for operators to send a QSL card as proof of the contact.  Whether across the state or across the globe many Hams still do this.  It was a privilege of mine to have a dear friend be my first Ham contact.  He is a radio engineer and a dear brother in Christ.  He doesn’t get on the Ham bands much anymore but made an exception for me.  We chatted as he drove home from Modesto to Valley Springs.

I was so excited about my very first Ham contact and conversation I decided to make up a QSL card of my own.  Note here that it is tradition to send paper QSL cards, which are very similar in size to a standard postcard.  Being in the digital age I decided to email him.  Here is what I sent:


A few days later I received the following in the mail:


Anyway it was really fun to carry on this tradition with a very good friend who has been very encouraging of me to get my Ham license.

KM6FDT clear

Even More Ham

In my last blog entry I talked about taking the Amateur Radio test up in Granite Bay.  I didn’t go into much detail on the testing process so I’ll add a little about that here.   The local club in Granite Bay gives tests every Saturday at Raley’s.  Yes, Raley’s.  There is a community conference room at the back of the store and this is where you’ll find the local Amateur Radio club every week.  When you first walk in you are given a packet with some forms to fill out.  Simple stuff like name and address and FRN number if you have one.  The FRN number is how the FCC identifies you in their database.

In the packet is the actual test and answer sheet.  If you’ve ever taken standardized tests in school where you fill in the bubble it’s very similar.  Don’t write in the test booklet, completely black in the answer number.  After you’re done with the test you hand it to the graders.  It is a group of three people who are usually “elmers” or older more experienced Hams.  They each graded it as a cross check.  When the last guy checked my answers he gave me a big smiling “thumb’s up!”

After that they told me it would be a week to 10 days before my license appeared in the FCC database.  This can be checked on the FCC’s website.  I had the page bookmarked and checked every morning and evening this week.  This morning before work, my name was not there.  On a whim I checked when I got to work and there I was!

Now that I have a call sign I am legal to talk on Ham radio.  I have a good friend who will be in my area this evening and we are going to try to arrange it so that he will be my first radio contact.  We are going to communicate via what is called simplex.  This means we will be communicating radio to radio not using any repeaters.  Repeaters allow to boost your range.  We’re going to keep it simple for tonight.  He’ll be within a couple miles of me anyway so simplex should work just fine.

One other thing I’ve done is request a vanity call sign from the FCC.  This will allow me to use a slightly shorter and more meaningful call sign.  Since I’ve been a pilot for years and years I’d really like a call sign that begins with N.  I’ve put in the application and will update here when it comes through.