160M Options

The last band that I have not yet worked has been 160M. Living on 100? x 50? lot does not allow for many options, especially since I removed the two eucalyptus trees the first year we moved into the house. Oh how I wish I had those trees back! Currently I have a SteppIR BigIK Mk III (32?) for work on 40/80M and the 5-band hex beam (from DXE) for 10/12/15/17/20M. I ran across K6MM’s presentation from a joint PVRC – NCCC webinar, October 2009 titled The 160M “No Excuses” Homebrew Vertical.

All things considered, with a lot of my size ANYTHING that I am able to get on the air with on 160M will be a compromise and I know that going into this potential project. While the BigIR (good product) has produced modest results on 40/80M I figured I might be able to build this 160M helical wound vertical and possibly work some contacts on the “top band.” Right now, the main concern is a radial field that will provide desired results. Then again, any sort of antenna on any band is better than none, right?

Depending on the location of the antenna in the backyard I could possibly run 60? ground radials. The only drawback is they would be in one direction. One of the main concerns would be to place it where it is out of sight of the XYL, which would limit me to either side of the backyard, with a radial field running west to east or vice versa.

With any luck I could tie in the current ground radial system I have set up for the BigIR and tie it into the 160M vertical, while adding a new radial field for this antenna, regardless of where I place it. I have posted a few questions on the forums at QRZ, as well as e-mailed John, K6MM for some further information. But until I decide to move this would be one of the few ways to get on the top band and see what all the excitement is about.

The Rig Returns

Early Wednesday afternoon the FedEx delivery truck pulled up and I was handed my box that was shipped from WA4GEG after being repaired. After removing my Yaesu FT-1000MP I placed it on my shack table and connected it to the power supply. I then spent the next 15 minutes modifying the menu settings. Since purchasing the US Interface Navigator I had changed settings pertaining to the ‘USR’ setting for digital use, such as PSK31. Once I had the necessary menus modified I connected the antennas and went looking to make a few QSOs to see what difference I could hear.

RTTY still seems different than on the loaner FT-1000MP I was using. Not sure why but the obvious is a menu setting is incorrect. I need to play with the ‘WIDTH’ knob and shift the signal into the scope with running MMTTY. I did not previously have to do this, so it seems it is just a setting I failed to set correctly.

After spending a few minutes spinning the dial on 20M up from 14.080 I ran across a signal with a strong British accent. I listened for a few minutes as this individual was handing out 59 reports and engaged in a little bit of rag chewing. I then heard him sign, VP8LP. from the Falkland Islands. A new DXCC for me! Oddly enough just 15-20kHz, VP8DMN (DXpedition) was calling CQ and working a pile up. It was no waiting with Bob (VP9LP), as I got him on the first call.

About 30 minutes later after checking the packet cluster I saw 5N7M calling CQ on CW. There was a small pileup, but I decided to give it a shot, I have not had much luck working Africa, with the exception of D4C. I have heard signals from Senegal, The Gambia as well as South Africa and DXpedition a few years back to Glorioso. So it was a thrill to get my first mainland Africa QSO in the book and confirmed on 20M.

We are just a few weeks away from the next big RTTY contests. WPX is quickly upon us, followed by the NAQP. I am planning full time operations for both of these contests, where I will work 30 hours during WPX and the full 10 for NAQP. I am sure the XYL will love this, but hopefully it will prove successful. RTTY still seems to be the best mode for my given antennas and limitations I have. Depending on propagation I can actively work 15M and 20M is my “money band.” Once the sun goes down, I must use the SteppIR BigIR, which while not the best does provide some good signals on 40/80M for RTTY (and CW). In a week or so I will post my goals for WPX.

It’s nice to have my FT-1000MP back in the shack and running very well.

TSA Dumbass of the Day

I have NEVER supported federalizing security agents at airports Since 9-11 it has been nothing but window dressing with no improvement in the quality of security. Oh sure, they will point to foiled terrorist attempts, as well as no other 9-11 type incident occurring since. And someone remind me just HOW MUCH money has gone into “improving” airline security? Billions, yet the quality of the security is no better than it was back in 1991.

The story from last Thursday talked about Rebecca Solomon, 22 a Michigan student flying from Philly to Detroit. Little did she know what was about to happen. Since many air travelers are not thrilled with current TSA procedures when faced with going through a security check point, now we need to deal with agents with a complex and on power trips.

A TSA worker was staring at her. He motioned her toward him.

Then he pulled a small, clear plastic bag from her carry-on – the sort of baggie that a pair of earrings might come in. Inside the bag was fine, white powder.

She remembers his words: “Where did you get it?*

In the end it was not placed in her bag by a terrorist wanting to down a commercial airliner, nor was it her own baggie. The TSA agent for reasons unknown (maybe to get a thrill or his rocks off) was playing a bad practical joke on Ms. Solomon, as he admitted it was his baggie and allowed her to pass.

“When she complained to airport security, Solomon said, she was told the TSA worker had been training the staff to detect contraband. She was shocked that no one took him off the floor, she said.” Training? I guess this supervisor is no more smarter than the agent who attempted to pull this stunt off. “The TSA views this employee’s behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional,” she wrote. “We can assure travelers this employee has been disciplined by TSA management at Philadelphia International Airport, and he has expressed remorse for his actions.” Yet due to privacy laws the name of the agent could not be given.

Actions like this and others by TSA agents needs to be addressed. This is just a dumb as a passenger making a bomb remake when asked if they are carrying anything when they set off the magnetometer. Come on now! In both situations, the individuals involved possess no smarts in the consequences of their actions. I still believe the enter TSA (or better yet, DHS) needs to undergo an evaluation and review. Money continues to be dumped into this black hole, especially after the last “failed” bombing attempt of the “underwear bomber” aboard Northwest in December, 2009.

“DHS will receive $42.7 billion ($7 billion just for the TSA) in discretionary spending for 2010, a 6 percent increase over 2009.* I am in complete agreement with David Freddoso, who authored a recent piece titled, Time to abolish TSA as we know it in the Washington Examiner on 07 January.

Sorry DHS, but the TSA continues to get a grade of “F” when it comes to what they were federalized in order to provide.

FT-1000MP Headed Home

Received word the other day from Byron, WA4GEG at HamRadioBug.com that my Yaesu FT-1000MP was done being serviced and ready to be shipped back home. Needless to say I am elated at the fact of getting my FT-1000MP back up and running. Since August I have been using a loaner FT-1000MP from N6RO (who has upgraded his super station to Elecraft K3s), but in that time I have been able to correct set the necessary menus in order to run all the modes I operate using the US Interface Navigator.

A few posts back I was considering running a S02R operation for the upcoming CQWW WPX RTTY, but since there are other considerations I had not taken into account, I will be a single op on a single radio for this contest. I was looking to increase my overall QSOs and rate but going SO2R, but that will be something I investigate further this summer during the contesting off season. The rig should reach Oakley by Tuesday or Wednesday, if I am lucky. As of this writing I see it has been scanned in Nashville, ready to head west.

Here is a recap of what was done to my Yaesu FT-1000MP:

  • Repaired CAT function
  • Applied 1st IF Amp. mod. & replaced AUX 13.5 VDC output FUSE (RF Unit board)
  • Applied NB mod. (IF Unit board)
  • Alignment
  • Checked and found mods. already in place: CW keying de-Click & fast-AGC mod.

If the delivery schedule holds true I could be back on the air using my rig by next weekend, plenty of time prior to the next big RTTY contest. I was looking at participation in the BARTG RTTY Sprint, but after talking to W6SX via e-mail I decided not to take additional time off to play in this contest. Who knows I might be able to make some contacts when I get off work on Saturday through the end of the contest.