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…

s-l1600

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.

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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:

qsl

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

k6frc

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.

de KM6FDT

Ham I am

After a 2 hour drive up to Granite Bay, CA I took the exam for the Technician Class Amateur Radio license.  I was surprised how quickly I blew through the 35 questions and was a little hesitant to hand in my test.  However, I got an excited ‘thumbs up’ from the examiners.  I was told I only missed one question, a 97%.  Not bad at all.  Now the waiting game begins.  It will still be a week or two before my license shows up in the FCC database.  But as soon as I see it there I am good to go!

Moron Ham Radio

Um… I mean more on Ham radio.  Why Ham radio?  I’ve never really been interested in it up until now.  Most of my friends who fly PPG use Ham radio to communicate with each other.  I could be like a lot of guys and just use the Ham bands ilegally but that’s not who I am.   I’ve been studying for the Technician license which will get me the privileges I need to legally use the same frequencies my buddies use.

yaesu-vx-6r

I’ve selected the Yaesu VX-6R as the radio I want to use.  The features I like are the small size and the fact that it has about a zillion features.  One of the features I really like is it’s dual watch feature.  I can input two frequencies, a main frequency and then a frequqncy that it will monitor every 5 seconds.  If it senses a transmission on the second frequency it will switch over to that other frequency until the transmission is complete and then it will switch back to the main frequency you are monitoring.  I plan to set the Ham frequency the other guys use as the main frequency, and then set the aircraft frequency our local airfield uses (MULTICOM) as the secondary frequency.  As far as what frequencies it can pick up, well, almost any radio frequency.  From AM/FM, to weather, to police and fire bands, aviation bands, and most of the Ham bands.

I’ve also been listening to a local repeater in the area.  They have a group or “net” that meets most mornings and radio out traffic and weather and talk about what their plans are for the day.  So after I’m licensed I’ll probably hook up with them and maybe learn a little more about Ham radio.  I’ve got a friend who is a broadcast radio engineer who will also be MORE than eager to answer any questions I have.

 

Ham Radio License Study

So this isn’t a blog post so much as a bookmark.  I’ve been studying to get my Amateur or Ham Radio license.  This is a pretty good “in a nutshell” video with all the info someone needs to know to pass the entry level or Technician license.