New Satellite (Fox-1A/ AO-85) is Operational

amsatCongratulations to AMSAT for the successful launch and initial deployment of the Fox-1A amateur radio satellite.This bird has been designated AO-85 and has an FM transponder on board (435.180 MHz uplink, 145.980 MHz downlink).

I have not heard or worked this satellite yet but early reports indicate that it has a strong signal on the downlink. So start out by trying to hear the bird on 145.980 MHz. To find out when it will be overhead, use the AMSAT pass prediction page or your favorite satellite tracking software.

Download the Special Issue of the AMSAT Journal to get the full story.

73, Bob K0NR

What’s Wrong With the ARRL?

Every so often a blog posting takes on the topic of “the ARRL needs to change.” A recent one came from Dan KB6NU, referencing some worthwhile ideas he has encountered via Rotary International. (I like Dan’s blog and read it fairly consistently.) Whenever I see this kind of article, my brain immediately thinks:

The ARRL is the worst US national amateur radio organization, except when compared to all others.

Yeah, its easy to criticize the ARRL, but it is the only game in town in terms of a national organization. And they do a lot of good for amateur radio and probably don’t get sufficient credit for that. (I should point out that Dan is very clear that he just wants to see the ARRL improve, especially in attracting new hams. I believe him and I share that motivation.)

Amateur radio is not really one hobby, it is a collection of hobbies and activities. We’ve got CW-enthusiasts, QRP folks, Emcomm volunteers, HF contesters, VHF contesters, tinkerers, 75m AM operators, repeater operators and on and on and on. Because the ARRL is a member-driven organization, it tries to balance these competing interests. Just listen to the random-vector criticism that spews forth: the ARRL is too focused on QRP, doesn’t do enough for QRP, only cares about HF, doesn’t do enough for HF, is against new digital modes, is always promoting new digital modes, thinks CW is the only way to go, gave us the No Code license, hung on to the Morse Code requirement too long. This list goes on and on. It really is impossible to keep everyone happy.

It is hard being the ARRL.

Like every large organization that I belong to, the ARRL is not perfect. But the good it does clearly outweighs the stuff I don’t like, so I enthusiastically support it. Said another way, I get enough benefit out of the membership to justify the dues. The key benefits for me are: QST magazine, Logbook of the World, contests, awards and representation with the FCC. QST is clearly the biggest benefit of membership and many people just view the membership fee as a magazine subscription.

A huge threat to an organization with such a print franchise is the shift from print to new media (video, web, blogs, podcasts, social). The ARRL web site has a lot of good information and most of the bugs have been worked out of the major redesign of a few years ago. They have a basic presence on twitter and podcasts. The ARRL has a youtube channel but the content is weak. At the same time, other people are putting out some good video content. Look at what HamNation, HamRadioNow, are doing. The ARRL is trailing in new media, which is an existential threat.

The ARRL is a long-lived institution and like most long-lived institutions they tend to be grounded in the past and are a bit old school in nature. Attracting newly licensed radio amateurs, especially Techs, is the big challenge for the ARRL. I don’t know what market research the ARRL does but I suggest they establish on on-going program that gets inside the heads of newer licensees and potential hams to understand how they view the ARRL. This requires an ongoing investment that is coupled to strategy. I’ve seen marketing pros do “voice of the customer” focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc. that bring customer needs to the surface so an organization can respond to changes that attract new customers members.

If you are an ARRL member, what can you do to change things? Your avenue to make your views known is via your Division Director, so I suggest you reach out to him or her. (Contact information is listed in the front of every QST.) Don’t be surprised if your voice is mixed in with a whole bunch of other people’s views…kind of like Congress :-)

If you are not a member and spend a substantial amount of time having fun messing around with radios, I encourage you to join the ARRL. You might like it.

That’s my view, what’s yours?

73, Bob K0NR

You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

teacherK3NG has performed an important public service by tabulating the answers to the top ten amateur radio questions swirling about the interwebz. This will save thousands of hours for hams searching for this critical information.

Unfortunately, K3NG did not include the questions, so you will have to use your imagination. But it’s not difficult.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #31

0511-0701-3118-0930 This is another update on important stuff spewing forth from the interwebz. It has been a while since I’ve done this, so we’ve got some catching up to do.

The KØNR Radio Site has expanded to Facebook. “Like” us there.

Check out the statewide email list available to Colorado radio amateurs. Join us there to stay informed about regional events.

Grid locators are important for VHF/UHF operating. I came across this web site that does a good job of mapping the grids. Over at, I wrote a Shack Talk article that explains Simplex, Duplex, Offset and Split. Also, Stu WØSTU posted a very helpful article explaining NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) Antennas.

In June, Keysight Technologies donated some professional measurement software to the ARRL. Yeah, I had something to do with that.

From the Cheaters Gonna Cheat Department:

The Ham Hijinks crew continues to contribute some outstanding literary works stuff to the ham radio community. Recently, they’ve latched onto the theme of hams using cheap radios to not make any contacts on VHF:

Dodge uses Morse Code in one of their car commercials. Speaking of cars, check out Wired’s article: Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway.

Steve WGØAT created another great goat-enabled SOTA video, this one with Clay NF1R on Mount Herman.

I heard this song by Phil Collins on a the radio recently and I’m convinced it’s about the heartbreak of trying to work a rare DXpedition. Give a listen.

And then there’s this…a very well done video about ham radio that has lots of people talking.

Well, that’s all for now.

73, Bob K0NR

A Few New Ham Radio Podcasts

podcast-clipartListening to podcasts has been part of my daily habit for almost a decade. I lean heavily towards audio podcasts (as opposed to video), so I can listen to them while driving. My smartphone is always loaded with hours of content on a variety of topics which is especially useful for international flights.

Podcasts come and go (or podfade) and recently I’ve noticed a few new ham radio podcasts. Well, they might not be all that new…perhaps I just woke up and noticed them. Anyway, I am passing them along in case you have not come across them.

The QSO Today Podcast by Eric 4Z1UG:

QSO Today is a weekly conversation between me,  Eric Guth, 4Z1UG, and my amateur radio operator guest. Each guest tells his or her’s ham radio story to the present time.  I select guests based on their contributions to the hobby through their publishing of articles and books on ham radio, their involvement in the creation of new technologies that enhance the hobby, and the role that they played to bring the amateur radio to others.

The Fo Time – The Other Ham Radio Podcast by Cale K4CDN:

It’s a new Podcast for the Up and Coming Amateur Radio Operator aka Ham Radio Operator. Whether you’re looking for the latest news, a different take on an idea, or just some good humor, Fo Time is the Podcast for you.

If you aren’t sure about the name, this might help.

The 100 Watts and a Wire by Christian KØSTH:

Created by Christian Cudnik, KØSTH in 2015, 100 Watts and a Wire is a program celebrating amateur radio through the eyes of a new ham. The show features topical conversation and interviews, news and an entertaining look at the adventures of a ham trying to figure it all out.

I’ve found all three of these podcasts to be well done and interesting. They all typically run about an hour long. Frankly, that’s a bit much for me, mostly because it does not fit my commute time. Not bad for an airplane ride, but too long for driving to work. More importantly, my smartphone is overflowing with interesting audio content, so I have to be selective.

Other Podcasts

I’ll mention a few other podcasts that deserve attention: The Ham Nation podcast has set a new standard for ham radio video podcasts. Hats off to Bob Heil and crew for their efforts. The Amateur Radio Newsline got its start by delivering audio programs via telephone for hams to play on their local repeater. Many repeaters still play their program but I get their feed via my smartphone. They continue to do an excellent job of stuffing interesting content into a 20-minute format. While not a ham radio podcast, This Week in Tech from TWiT remains a quality source of tech news and opinion (lots of opinion).

Give these podcasts a listen and let me know what you think.

73, Bob K0NR

Colorado 14er Event: Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003)

For the 2015 Colorado 14er Event, Joyce K0JJW and I activated Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003) on the 2m and 70 cm bands. Alan NM5S joined us on the summit, operating mostly HF plus some 2m fm.

We took our Jeep Wrangler up the moderate 4WD road and parked at 13,800 feet. This makes for a very manageable hike to the 14,269 foot summit. Of course, you can always choose to start the hike from lower on the mountain, but you’ll end up walking along the road. This web site provides a good overview of the 4WD road.  The web site and are additional sources of summit info.

Here’s a short video of our operation on the summit.

Here’s the K0NR log on the 2m band, fm and ssb:

August 2, 2015 K0NR Log, time in UTC
15:09     144MHz     FM     K0JJW     
15:13     144MHz     FM     W0CP     
15:16     144MHz     FM     KC5JKU     Mt Elbert 
15:17     144MHz     FM     KD0WHB     Grays Peak
15:21     144MHz     FM     N0XDW      Pikes Peak
15:37     144MHz     FM     KD5HGD     Mt Elbert 
15:42     144MHz     FM     KD0MRC     
15:42     144MHz     FM     KE0DMT     
15:44     144MHz     FM     NQ0L       Franktown 
15:45     144MHz     FM     KE0EUO     Mt Democrat 
15:46     144MHz     FM     K7SO       Mt Democrat 
15:50     144MHz     SSB    KD0YOB     W0C/PR-005 
15:53     144MHz     SSB    W0BV       Buena Vista
15:53     144MHz     SSB    K0YV       Buena Vista
15:57     144MHz     SSB    W0STU      Monument
16:06     144MHz     FM     KD0WHB     Torreys 
16:13     144MHz     FM     KI6YMZ     Mt Elbert 
16:19     144MHz     FM     KE0EKT     Mt Elbert 
16:29     144MHz     FM     WZ0N     
16:29     144MHz     FM     KE0DAL     
16:31     144MHz     FM     WO9S     
16:33     144MHz     FM     K0UO     
17:10     144MHz     FM     KD2FHB     Pikes Peak

I used my Yaesu FT-817 driving a 3 element Arrow yagi antenna (shown in video) for both FM and SSB 2m operation. It was a great day on the mountain with quite a few Summit-to-Summit (S2S) SOTA contacts. See you next year on a Colorado mountaintop!

73, Bob K0NR

2014 September VHF Contest Certificate

The certificate for my entry in the 2014 ARRL September VHF Contest arrived in the mail last week. Given that it has been 11 months after the contest, I had pretty much forgotten about the effort. The ARRL VHF contest certificates look great, even if they do take a while to get issued. It turns out this contest entry was the combination VHF contest plus Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation from Mt Herman that I blogged about.

K0NR 2014 Sept VHF Contest AwardMy blog posting said my score was 767 but the actual score was 780. Not a big score by any standard but not bad for ~4 hours of operating on a Saturday afternoon. As I suspected, this sets a new record for the Single Operator Portable category in the Colorado Section. What I did not expect is placing sixth in the overall contest (for my category). For the most part, this was just a really fun SOTA activation that included some VHF contest action.

Summary: The score doesn’t matter; any day having fun with ham radio is a good day.

73, Bob K0NR

West Buffalo Peak (W0C/SP-018)

Buffalo Peaks are a pair of 13er summits that stick up quite prominently on the west side of South Park in Colorado. West Buffalo Peak is the taller of the pair (13,326 feet) and the SOTA summit (W0C/SP-018). I’ve had my eye on these peaks for a while, wanting to climb then and also do a SOTA activation. Here’s a winter view of the summits, as seen from the south near Trout Creek Pass.

Buffalo Peaks - small

Buffalo Peaks in the Winter

There’s quite a bit of good information on the peaks at

Joyce K0JJW and I hiked in from the north, off of Buffalo Peaks Road (FS 431). The trailhead is not marked and is easy to miss but this trip report on the web site is very helpful. Pay special attention to the photo of the trailhead. This trip report describes doing both East and West Buffalo in a bit of a loop. We opted to focus on just West Buffalo, skipping East Buffalo.

Joyce K0JJW on the trail

Joyce K0JJW on the trail.

Here’s my favorite hiking partner on the trail near the trailhead. The “trail” is not very well marked, following various old logging roads.  We roughly followed the route indicate on Once we cleared the trees we had a good view of both peaks and aimed for West Buffalo. We did make a critical error by going for the summit too early and got onto some very steep talus. Not fun. So the main route finding advice I am going to provide is make sure you approach the summit from the (more) gentle saddle on the northwest side. I marked this waypoint (N 38.99444, W 106.12866) as a good point to aim for on the way up so that you stay far enough west.

Once on the summit, I worked the following stations on 146.52 MHz: KD0MRC, KJ6NES, AF5KS, W9GYA, KE0DMT, W0BV and K5UK.

Bob and Joyce Buffalo Peak

Bob K0NR and Joyce K0JJW on West Buffalo Peak, with East Buffalo Peak in the background.

On the descent we stayed west of the route marked on the trip report with the intent of having an easier route. However, mostly what we did was encounter additional off trail hiking, so that is probably not recommended. It would have been better to just retrace our ascent route. Eventually, we found a different trail that led back to FS 431, popping out about a quarter mile west of where we parked. I had the location of our Jeep marked in the GPS, so it was easy to backtrack to the vehicle.

This was the first SOTA activation for West Buffalo Peak, so it was great to get that in the log. Thanks to everyone that got on the air to work me.

73, Bob K0NR

The Ten Essentials for Hiking (and SOTA Activations)

hike-shoe-printMost backcountry hikers are familiar with the Ten Essentials that you should take with you whenever you head into the wilderness. Over the past few years, I noticed that I was getting a bit sloppy with regard to what is actually in my pack when I head out on the trail. This hit home one day when my GPS battery went dead. I fumbled around to find my compass which was supposed to be in my pack. Well, it was in my pack, the other one that I left at home.

This caused me to review the list of ten essentials to make sure I had the right stuff in my kit. A search on the internet revealed that the classic list of ten has been modified and augmented by various people to make it better. (Innovation runs rampant on the interwebz, you know.) One of the better resources I found was this page on the REI web site, which explains how the Classic Ten Essentials have been updated to the Ten Essential Systems:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Read through the REI web page to get the fine points of this system approach. I won’t repeat that information here. They also include a Beyond the Top Ten list which calls out the need for:

Communication device: Two-way radios, a cell phone or a satellite telephone can add a measure of safety in many situations.

Of course, what they really mean is an amateur radio transceiver and antenna but they probably can’t say that in print due to licensing issues. (Not everyone in the backcountry has an FCC ham license. I know, they all should have an amateur license but many don’t…very hard to understand :-) )

So how are you doing with your Ten Essentials list? Are you consistent in taking along the right stuff in your pack? Any tips to share with hiking hams?

73, Bob K0NR

Summits On The Air at Central States VHF

Recently I had the opportunity to speak about portable, mountaintop VHF operating at the Central States VHF Society Conference in Denver. A key part of my presentation was the Summits On The Air program, portable VHF equipment, VHF contests and other operating events.

CSVHFSThe presentation slides are available here in pdf format. I also submitted a paper on the same topic to the conference a paper on the same topic to the conference proceedings.

73, Bob K0NR

Coming Soon: 146.52 MHz in ARRL VHF Contests

arrlnewlogo-transI’ve been known to whine complain comment about the prohibition against using 146.52 MHz during ARRL radio contests. For example, see The One Frequency You Should Never Use on Field Day and Mt Herman: SOTA plus VHF Contest.

During my presentation on Mountaintop VHF for SOTA at the Central States VHF Society Conference in Denver today, I mentioned this is an issue. Basically, I pointed out that Summits On The Air (SOTA) operators often default to the 2m fm calling frequency, which is prohibited for use in the ARRL contests. This gets in the way when mountaintop stations do a combination SOTA and VHF Contest operation.

During my presentation, Brian Mileshosky N5ZGT, ARRL Director of the Rocky Mountain Division, reported that the ARRL has decided to remove the prohibition of 146.52 MHz in VHF contests. It will take some time for this to work its way into the actual rules, so stayed tuned for further developments.

This is great news…a cleanup of an unnecessary impediment to VHF contesting. Now, will the CQ Worldwide VHF Contest do the same?

73, Bob K0NR

2015 Colorado 14er Event

Colo14er SOTA logo smallAmateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains and Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks in an effort to communicate with other radio amateurs across the state and around world. Join in on the fun on the first full weekend in August and see how many of the mountaintop stations you can contact. The prime operating hours are on Sunday August 2nd from 9 AM to noon local time (1500 to 1800 UTC), but activity can occur throughout the weekend.

Now including Summits On the Air (SOTA), which adds over 1700 potential summits! If you aren’t up to climbing a 14er, there are many other summits to choose from (with a wide variety of difficulty). See the W0C SOTA web page at

Radio operators who plan to activate a summit should set an “Alert” on the web site. To subscribe to the “ham14er” email list, visit the yahoo groups site at Also, be sure to check out the event information at For climbing info on the Colorado 14ers, see the excellent resources at

Frequencies used during the event
Activity can occur on any amateur band including HF and VHF. The 2m fm band plan uses a “primary frequency and move up” approach. The 2m fm primary frequency is 147.42 MHz.  At the beginning of the event, operators should try calling on 147.42 MHz. As activity increases on that frequency, move on up the band using the 30 kHz steps. Don’t just hang out on 147.42 MHz…move up! The next standard simplex frequency up from 147.42 MHz is 147.45 MHz, followed by 147.48, 147.51, 147.54 MHz.

Frequency (MHz)
 147.42 Primary 2m FM Frequency, then up in 30 kHz steps
 223.5 Primary 222 MHz FM frequency
 446.000 Primary 70 cm FM frequency
 446.025 Alternate 70 cm FM frequency
 52.525 Primary 6m FM frequency
 144.200 2m SSB calling frequency
 50.125 6m SSB calling frequency
 14.060 20m CW Frequency
 14.345 20m SSB Frequency
 18.092 17m CW Frequency
 18.158 17m SSB Frequency
 21.060 15m CW Frequency
 21.330 15m SSB Frequency
 28.060 10m CW Frequency
 28.350 10m SSB Frequency
 Other Bands/Modes:
 Standard calling frequencies and/or band plans apply.

Warning: Climbing mountains is inherently a dangerous activity. Do not attempt this without proper training, equipment and preparation.

Sponsored by The Colorado 14er Event Task Force

Use SSB For Better VHF Range on SOTA Peaks

Previously, I had written about how the use of SSB made the difference while activating Prospect Mountain (W0C/FR-069) for Summits On The Air (SOTA). This time I was the SOTA chaser, trying to work Brad WA6MM as he activated two peaks near Breckenridge, Colorado.

Bald Mountain to Black Forest (click to expand)

Bald Mountain to Black Forest (click to expand)

It was the Saturday of ARRL Field Day, so I planned to be out at our FD site in Black Forest. Brad and I had coordinated in advance and pretty much concluded that it would be difficult or impossible to make the contact on FM. Brad decided to take his FT-817 along with a homebrew 4-element yagi to give him 2m SSB capability. Out at the FD site, I saw that Brad was spotted on Bald Mountain (W0C/PR-019) via SOTAwatch early in the morning, so I borrowed the FD VHF station to try to work him. It was an FT-897 pushing 50 watts to a 4-element yagi up about 30 feet. I heard Brad clearly on 144.200 MHz (SSB calling frequency) and we made the contact.

I estimate that the contact was about 75 miles. I did not do a careful analysis of the terrain but the the signal had to get over the Rampart Range and quite a few other mountains to get from Black Forest to Bald Mountain. The summit of Bald Mountain is at 13,684 feet, so that certainly helps.

A few hours later, Brad showed up on the summit of Boreas Mountain (W0C/SP-030), another 13er near Breckenridge. By now, the Field Day station was in use, so I pulled out my own FT-817 and a 3-element Arrow yagi. Holding it in my hand, I pointed it towards Boreas Mountain and tuned to 144.200 MHz USB. This time Brad was even weaker but still readable, so we completed the contact.

In both cases, Brad was fair to good copy but just above the noise, I am sure that using FM would not have gotten the job done. For serious VHF work, 75 miles is not that great of a distance but we were running QRP power levels with small yagi antennas.

Brad and I are both concluding we need to encourage the use of SSB for 2m SOTA here in Colorado. It is common to end up on a high peak in the Colorado backcountry and not have enough range to reach the larger population centers. Sure there are more people active on 2m FM, but if no one is within range, it does not matter.

Congratulations to WA6MM for first activations of two more challenging summits in Colorado and thanks for 18 chaser points!

73, Bob K0NR

Announcing: Oct 2015 WØTLM Technician License Class

W0TLMHam Radio Two-Day License Class

Sat Oct 3 and Sat Oct 10 (8 AM to 5 PM) 2015
Location: Black Forest Fire Station 1, Black Forest, CO

The Technician license is your gateway to the world-wide excitement of Amateur Radio …

  • Earn your ham radio Technician class radio privileges
  • Pass your FCC amateur radio license exam right in class on the second day
  • Multiple-choice exam, No Morse Code Required
  • Live equipment demonstrations
  • Learn to operate on the ham bands, 10 Meters and higher
  • Learn to use the many VHF/UHF FM repeaters in Colorado
  • Find out how to participate in emergency communications

There is a non-refundable $25 registration fee for the class.

In addition, students must have the required study guide and read it before attending the two-day class: Technician License Course $20.95
(make sure you get the most recent edition of this book, updated for the new FCC exam questions)

Advance registration is required (no later than one week before the first session, earlier is better! This class usually fills up weeks in advance.)

To register for the class, contact: Bob Witte KØNR
Email: or Phone: 719 659-3727

Sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association
For more information on amateur (ham) radio visit

Another June VHF Contest In the Log

Last weekend was the ARRL June VHF Contest, my favorite ham radio event of the year. For me, this is “vhf activity weekend” when all of the vhf radio enthusiasts come out to play on the bands above 50 MHz. The sporadic-e propagation that is (almost) always present during the contest means that 6 meters will be hopping.

antenna vhf contest 2I entered in the 3-Band Single Operator category, using 6m, 2m and 70cm. My 6m rig is a Yaesu FT-950 driving a 6M5XHP Yagi antenna.  For 2m and 70cm, I use a Yaesu FT-847 to drive a 2M9SSB Yagi on 2m and a similar Yagi for 70 cm. I set up portable masts at our cabin in DM78av, near Trout Creek Pass, Colorado (9600 feet).

This year, propagation seemed OK but not great. My score turned out to be about the same as last year with similar effort and same equipment, but down from previous years. 6m had sporadic-e openings very late both evenings, about the time I was ready to give up. Fortunately, I stuck with it and made quite a few contacts late into the evening.

The rovers kept things from getting too boring when 6m was not cooperating. Thanks to W3DHJ/R, ABØYM/R and WE7L/R for roving in eastern Colorado. WBØGAZ/R passed through South Park heading towards Denver and give me a few contacts. I also got a few contacts from KØCS/R and KØJJW/R. Thanks for roving!

Best DX was ZF1EJ in EK99, a new country for me on 6m.

73, Bob KØNR

K0NR June VHF Contest Summary: 
 Band  QSOs  Mults 
    6:  190    83 
    2:   30    13 
  432:   11     6 
Total:  231    102  Total Score = 24,684

We Call It “Tech Field Day”

For Field Day this year, the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association (WØTLM) is planning a one day event that combines our Tech Day training activities with normal Field Day radio operating. This Tech Field Day will have a strong emphasis on radio education and training, including an opportunity to make contacts on the HF bands under the supervision of an experienced radio ham.

click to expand

click to expand

Sat June 27th, 2015 (8:00 AM to 5 PM)
Location: Black Forest Fire Station 1
11445 Teachout Road, Colorado Springs

Come to our one-day education and radio operating event and learn from informative presentations of amateur radio topics. Operate a high frequency (HF) radio station with the helpful guidance of an experienced radio ham. Learn about emergency communications and public service. Most of all, have a bunch of fun messing around with ham radio stuff!

Time Activity Presenter
8:00 Setup starts
8:30 FM Simplex and Repeaters Bob Witte, KØNR
9:30 Operating SSB on the HF Bands Stu Tuner, WØSTU
10:30 Construction of Dipole Antennas Larry Kral, NØAMP
11:30 Summits On The Air (SOTA) Steve Galchutt, WGØAT
12:00 Start Field Day Operating
13:30 Copper pipe antennas Al Andzik, WBØTGE
14:30 Emergency Power for Ham Radio Mike Hoskins, WØMJH
15:30 Ask an Elmer Panel Bob Witte KØNR and crew
17:00 End of operations – tear down

For more information, visit the W0TLM web site.
73, Bob K0NR

Good Operating Habits on Field Day

In preparation for ARRL Field Day, I will be doing a presentation at our radio club meeting, explaining how FD works. We have lots of newer hams, so I want to cover the basics well. I looked around on YouTube for some video of typical Field Day contacts so our members could hear what it sounds like.

This video shows Andy K5PO doing an outstanding job of operating the WR5P Noise Blankers Field Day station. Give a listen and notice how he keeps the contacts short and to the point, clearly communicating using phonetics.

73, Bob K0NR

Can I Use My Ham Radio on Public Safety Frequencies? Updated

This is an update to one of my most popular posts.

anytone radioWe have quite a few licensed radio amateurs that are members of public safety agencies, including fire departments, law enforcement agencies and search and rescue. Since they are authorized users of those public safety channels, they often ask this question:

Can I use my VHF/UHF ham radio on the fire, police or SAR channel?

It is widely known that many amateur radios can be modified to transmit outside the ham bands. The answer to this question used to be that amateur radio equipment cannot be used legally on public safety channels because it is not approved for use under Part 90 of the FCC Rules. (Part 90 covers the Private Land Mobile Radio Services.) The only option was to buy a commercial radio with Part 90 approval and a frequency range that covered the desired amateur band. Some commercial radios tune easily to the adjacent ham band but some do not. The commercial gear is usually two to three times as expensive as the amateur gear, and just as important, does not have the features and controls that ham operators expect. Usually, the commercial radios do not have a VFO and are completely channelized, typically changeable only with the required programming software.

The situation has changed dramatically in the past few years. Several wireless manufacturers in China (Wouxun, Baofeng, Anytone, etc.) have introduced low cost handheld transceivers into the US amateur market that are approved for Part 90 use. These radios offer keypad frequency entry and all of the usual features of a ham radio. It seems that these radios are a viable option for dual use: public safety and amateur radio, with some caveats.

New radios are being introduced frequently, so I won’t try to list them here. However, you might want to do a search on Wouxun, Baofeng and Anytone for the latest models. I will highlight the Anytone NSTIG-8R radio which I have been using. It seems to be a well-designed but still affordable (<$75) handheld radio. See the review by PD0AC.

Some Things to Consider When Buying These Radios

  • The manufacturers offer several different radios under the same model number. Also, they are improving the radios every few months with firmware changes and feature updates. This causes confusion in the marketplace, so buy carefully.
  • Make sure the vendor selling the radio indicates that the radio is approved for Part 90 use. I have seen some radios show up in the US without an FCC Part 90 label.
  • Make sure the radio is specified to tune to the channels that you need.
  • The 2.5-kHz tuning step is required for some public safety channels. For example, a 5-kHz frequency step can be used to select frequencies such as 155.1600 MHz and 154.2650 MHz. However, a 2.5 kHz step size is needed to select frequencies such as 155.7525 MHz. There are a number of Public Safety Interoperability Channels that require the 2.5-kHz step (e.g., VCALL10 155.7525 MHz, VCALL11 151.1375 MHz, VFIRE24 154.2725). The best thing to do for public safety use is to get a radio that tunes the 2.5-kHz steps.
  • Many of these radios have two frequencies in the display, but only have one receiver, which scans back and forth between the two selected frequencies. This can be confusing when the radio locks onto a signal on one of the frequencies and ignores the other. Read the radio specifications carefully.


There are a number of reasonably good radios out there from various manufacturers. My favorite right now is the Anytone NSTIG-8R but I also like the Wouxun KG-UV6D. The Baofeng UV-5R continues to be popular in the amateur community as the low cost leader. However if you show up at an incident with the Baofeng, your fellow first responders will think it is a toy. Which leads to a really important point: the established commercial radio manufacturers such as Motorola, Vertex, etc. build very rugged radios. They are made for frequent, heavy use by people whose main job is putting out fires, rescuing people in trouble and dealing with criminals. These low cost radios from China are not in the same league. However, they can still serve in a less demanding physical environment while covering the Amateur Radio Service (FCC Part 97) and the Private Land Mobile Radio Services (FCC Part 90).

73, Bob K0NR

Three Common Mistakes When Using Metric Units

rulerA while back, I had someone point out a few errors I made concerning the use of metric units. This caused me to review the SI system to make sure I had it correct. (I am sure I’ll continue to screw up a few things but, hey, life is a journey.)

The International System of Units, universally abbreviated SI (from the French Le Système International d’Unités), is the modern metric system of measurement. For a thorough treatment of the topic, take a look at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publication: Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI). A shorter and easier-to-read document was written by Charles Poynton: Writing SI units and symbols.

But more to the point, here are three common mistakes I often see occurring in ham radio literature:

  1. Using mHz instead of MHz to indicate megahertz (one million hertz). Upper case M indicates mega, while lower case m indicates milli (one thousandth). In ham radio usage, we rarely speak of frequencies in mHz.  Note that I wrote mega with a lower case m even though the abbreviation has a upper case M. The unit of hertz is with a lower case h but when abbreviated as Hz, it should be upper case.
  2. Using KHz or khz instead of kHz to indicate kilohertz (one thousand hertz). Lower case k should be used for kilo but upper case H is used for hertz. It is common to see upper case K used to indicate 1024 in digital systems.
  3. Using M instead of m to indicate the unit of meter. The proper way to refer to the wavelength of the 144 MHz ham band is 2 m, not 2M. Similarly, the abbreviation for kilometers is km, not kM or KM. The abbreviation for centimeter is cm.

Units that are based on a person’s name use an upper case letter in the abbreviation. For example, ampere, volt, watt and hertz are abbreviated as A, V, W and Hz respectively. When the unit is spelled out, it is left lower case (go figure).

While the world does keep on turning when we make these mistakes, accuracy and understanding is improved by proper usage. Did I miss any other common SI errors?

73, Bob K0NR

Explaining Standing Waves

When we teach the Technician License Class, we provide a simple explanation of Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) that emphasizes the concept of impedance matching. An SWR of 1:1 is a perfect match; anything higher is less than perfect.

SWR is an important amateur radio concept, one that is not that easy to explain so I am always on the lookout for training materials. HamRadioNow just republished this video of an excellent standing wave demonstration by Bill Hays, AE4QL. Bill actually goes well beyond just standing waves and shows some antenna and transmission line theory as well.

If you just want to learn about standing waves and basic antenna radiation, view the first 35 minutes. After that, it starts to get a little deep.

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, settle in and get ready to learn from this video.

73, Bob K0NR