Savannah – As those of you who follow me on Twitter probably already know, I’ve been amateur radio-less in the car for about the last month and a half. Before I go any farther, let me say this – even if you listen far more than you talk (which I do), you don’t know how much you’re going to miss the radio until it’s not there! Around the beginning of the year, I decided to take the Yaesu FT-8800 out of the car and use the FT-857D for both HF and VHF/UHF, putting its control head on the dash where the FT-8800’s was. Since I do more receiving than transmitting and I haven’t had the need to use both radios at one time in quite awhile, I didn’t see any sense in having both radios in the car taking up space. This arrangement worked fine until the main tuning knob on the 857 quit working.
First, the main tuning knob quit tuning the radio up. I could still tune up using the smaller select knob, so I kept on using it with the idea of seeing about having it repaired after the Georgia QSO Party. I was thinking about operating from Brantley County or another of the small counties near work. That plan came to naught when the main tuning knob also quit functioning altogether. In addition to losing fine tuning, you also lose the ability to manipulate the menus to program the radio and adjust some of its functions. After an exchange of email with Yaesu, it went off to them for repairs. After a little over a month, it returned with $119 of repairs including the rotary encoder and various assorted hardware with labor. This past Saturday while still in Brunswick, I reinstalled the 857 and shot some preliminary programming into it with the ADMS-4B software and RT System’s USB programming cable I had ordered while it was away.
The installation was a bit messy, with cables and wires still all over the place, but I wanted to see how it was going to work. After tuning around, up and down – everything worked – I found W1W, the 100 Watts and a Wire Podcast special event station on 20 Meters and worked Marty successfully. It was still relatively early and the conditions weren’t all that good, so I didn’t find anything else. On Sunday morning, a brief opportunity to get on the air yielded 4V1TL, a Haitian special event station honoring Toussaint Louverture. With that, I left things like they were and planned on cleaning up the installation once I got back to Savannah on Monday. The Monday morning drive from Brunswick to Savannah gave me an opportunity to try out the VHF/UHF side of things. A good roundtable QSO on the Savannah 442.700 repeater with Marc, W4MWM, Philip, KA4KOE, Jeff, WX4JDM, and others proved that side of the installation was working good as well.
Later on Monday morning after I got back home, the re-installation was pretty much finished. I sorted out all of the cabling and wiring and got everything tucked back back under the front seats. I also took the opportunity to sort out some of the scanner cabling that got a bit out of order after replacing the Uniden HP-1 with a new HP-2. The FT-857D programming still needs to be finished, however. I’ve got the Savannah, Brunswick, Hinesville, and Waycross areas programmed in but I still want to add repeaters for the drives to Beaufort and Charleston and Warner Robins and Forsyth. I also want to program the upper/lower limit memories for 40, 20, 17, 15, and 12 Meters with the General Class portions of the bands.
With the radio back in, I hope to be able to start hunting special event stations once again and giving out a few contacts in some of the contests. Even though I could care less about the contest aspect of it, I also want to start hunting National Parks on the Air Stations. I love the idea that amateur radio is helping celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service! The fact of the matter is, things just didn’t feel right without a piece of amateur radio gear in the car. Everything’s back to normal and I’m once again a happy ham.
P.S. – I’ve been thinking about replacing the HVT-400B HF antenna with a Yaesu ATAS-120. I haven’t fully convinced myself yet and I’m still contemplating that move. If and when I decide to do it, I’ll have more to tell about it.
Pooler – About a month ago, I was asked for some photos I took of the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force‘s B-17 arrival for use in a book being published about the aircraft and its restoration. After finding the digital originals and dropping them off at the museum, I started thinking about how much of a change the aircraft has undergone since its arrival at the museum in 2009 and that in turn led to this blog post.
The National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force’s B-17 is a B-17G, serial 44-83814. By the time 44-83814 was delivered, World War II was in its closing stages so it never saw combat. After the war ended, it saw civilian service in both the United States and Canada. Picking up a US civil aviation registration of N66571, it flew with California Atlantic Airways from 1951-1953. From 1953-1971 it flew with a Canadian registration of CF-HBP and was owned by Kenting Aviation Ltd. out of Toronto, Ontario. Kenting Aviation used retired World War II aircraft for mapping and surveying duties; as CF-HBP, 44-83814 was one of those aircraft. From 1971 to 1982, it resumed its US registration of N66571 and flew with Arnold Kolb Black Hills Aviation as a fire fighting tanker. After its service as an aerial tanker was over, it was put on static display at the Pima Air Museum in Arizona as 44-83814 until 1984. On 25 April 1984, it was put into long term storage with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where it remained until 15 January 2009 when it was delivered to the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force in Pooler, GA.
44-83814 has been undergoing restoration by volunteers since it arrived at the museum, but not as 44-83814. Instead, it is being restored as 43-39049, an aircraft that did see combat action during World War II and had a connection to the Savannah area. Scrapped after it returned stateside from action in World War II, 43-39049 was the 5,000th aircraft to be processed through Hunter Field in Savannah for service in the European Theater. Additionally, during 1944 the people of Chatham County raised $500,000 to build a B-17 and train it’s crew; it just so happened that it turned out that aircraft was 43-39049. In honor of the fundraising effort, 43-39049 was named “The City of Savannah.” As part of the delivery and processing, it carried lettering on the fuselage recognizing that it was the “5,000th Aircraft processed through Hunter Field, GA.” As you can see in the photos above, the bomber arrived in pieces, but was quickly moved into the museum and reassembled for restoration, an effort which, although still ongoing, has radically altered its appearance.
Part of the restoration efforts included work by some Savannah area amateur radio operators to restore the aircraft’s radio equipment. As a result of their efforts, the “City of Savannah” has a fully operational BC-348 receiver. I understand from those more knowledgeable of the period tube gear that the transmitter has the potential to be restored as well. There are also provisions to set up a modern amateur radio station at the B-17’s radio operator position for use in special event stations related to the military and the museum using the callsign WW2COS, recognizing both World War II and the bomber’s name. I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to operate from the “City of Savannah” and I can honestly say it is both a sobering experience and an honor.
If you’re interested in learning more about the “City of Savannah” and its restoration, B-17 Flying Fortress Restoration: The Story of a World War II Bomber’s Return to Glory in Honor of the Veterans of the Mighty Eighth Air Force by Jerry McLaughlin, the restoration project manager is scheduled for publication in May. I’m truly looking forward to reading more about the restoration project. I assisted some amateur radio operators that worked on the restoration of some of the aircraft’s radio equipment, but my job moved from Rincon to Brunswick shortly after the work began, which meant that I was rarely around when they were working on the radio gear. For more information on the book and its publication date, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.
Savannah – After work on Saturday morning, I drove to Savannah and headed out to the Fort Pulaski National Monument to attend a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation by the Coastal Amateur Radio Society (CARS). I haven’t been to a CARS event (or an amateur radio event for that matter) so it was good to see the guys from CARS for a few hours, hear a few NPOTA runs, and catch up on what’s been going on. Bill, K4WP was heading up the operation and we used his callsign for the event. Before we got on the air, Melissa Memory, Fort Pulaski’s Superintendent dropped by and talked with us; it was great to see we had good support and a warm welcome from the monument staff!
For those unaware, NPOTA is a year long event coordinated by the ARRL to help recognize the National Park Service‘s 100th Anniversary. The primary objectives are to promote the National Park Service and showcase Amateur Radio to park visitors, but the ARRL has also issued a set of regulations to organize the event and give it a contest aspect.
When I arrived around 0915, Bill and a few others had already set up the antenna and were in the process of setting up the radio. The antenna was a Spiderbeam NPOTA Activation Kit consisting of a 69ft asymmetrical dipole for 6-40 Meters, a 40 ft fiberglass pole, and the necessary hardware, guy rope, and pegs. It’s essentially everything you need to set up a portable antenna for an NPOTA activation. It sells through Spiderbeam for $269 and based on it’s performance it was well worth it. The radio in use was Bill’s Elecraft K3 with an LDG Z-11 tuner in a homemade go-kit box. There was rain and storms in the area through the previous night with the possibility of some showers during the day, so the station was set up under the park’s picnic shelter so the shelter’s commercial power was used instead of battery power.
By shortly after 0930, the activation was on the air on 40 Meters with a moderate level of success. As I mentioned above, there were storms that had moved through the area overnight and they were still offshore when we got on the air. There were some strong signals on 40 Meters but the problem was that the lightning/static crashes from the storms were stronger; Bill, K4WP was operating and even with his experience it was quite hard at times to pull out callsigns and information, even when asking for multiple repeats. After a short run, it was determined that 40 Meters was simply untenable. Since 40 Meters was being difficult we moved to 20 Meters. Kevin, KW4B almost immediately put on about an hour run including stations in Montana and California (not bad for around 1030 in the morning!) and a DX contact to Spain. Underneath the photos below of Bill, Kevin, and Bob, N5GNA operating are some short videos of QSOs that I posted to Instagram during the activation. I also posted our active frequencies on Twitter while I was there. Some spots also helped draw attention to the operation.
After working the midnight shift, I wasn’t able to stay for the entire activation but I enjoyed the portion I was there for. As I was leaving, they were getting ready to set up a CW station augment’s Bill’s SSB station. It also looked like a shower was brewing up but later in the afternoon conditions definitely improved. I truly enjoyed my morning at the Fort Pulaski activation and look forward to being involved in more before the year is over. Unfortunately, my FT-857D is at Yaesu for repairs so I wasn’t able to make a contact with the activation but I’m looking forward to getting it back so I can put some NPOTA QSOs in my log.
March was another busy month that left me with little radio time. Once again, I’ll be combining two months into one; I’ll post a MilCom recap and Mode-S log for March and April at the end of April. Hopefully at some point in the near future things will settle down and I’ll have a little more time to play radio and the recaps and logs will return to a monthly post.
Savannah – The Statesboro Amateur Radio Society has installed a new repeater for 147.105+ repeater located in Pembroke, GA. They have switched to a Yaesu Fusion repeater. It will be functioning as a dual mode repeater on 147.105+; you won’t have to purchase a Fusion capable radio or transmit anything special to use it because they have it set on Automatic Mode Select (AMS). The repeater will detect whether you are using it in analog FM or Fusion mode and operate accordingly. For those using analog FM only radios, you’ll hear some funny noise when it is operating in Fusion mode.
To be honest, I don’t know much about the Yaesu Fusion mode other than that it is another amateur radio proprietary digital voice mode along the lines of D-Star. Quite honestly, I don’t know why the manufacturers are all coming up with their own proprietary modes instead of working toward a common/open source mode (well of course I do, it’s called money…). I’ll pass along anything I happen to hear about how well it works on the digital side as I don’t have a Fusion capable radio and probably won’t be looking for one either.
Savannah – While visiting the Savannah NWR yesterday I was also able to get in some good mobile monitoring time, and there was plenty to listen to yesterday. Using the BC780XLT and new Home Patrol 2, I was able to catch a variety of activity including AWACS, air to air combat training, close air support training, F-35B training, and approach training from visiting aircraft.
- CHALICE (E-3C, 82-0006, 963rd ACCS) was one of the two AWACS in the area yesterday morning and it worked with Air Force F-16s from Shaw AFB off of the South Carolina coast on 279.275 and 258.400. Later in the morning, they worked with Florida ANG F-15s from Jacksonville off of the GA/FL coast on 293.600 and 316.300.
- DARKSTAR (E-3, 965th ACCS) also showed up in the area and worked with Air Force F-16s from Shaw AFB in the Bulldog MOA on 343.750 and 346.825.
- HAWK 8# flights, F/A-18Ds from VMFA(AW)-553 at MCAS Beaufort worked with a JTAC using the callsign VAGRANT at Townsend Range on 228.400 and 252.900.
- SWEDE flights of F-35Bs from VMFAT-501 at MCAS Beaufort were out throughout the morning doing training flights with air-to-air traffic on 315.300 and 319.500.
- On the way home from the Refuge, I caught NOMAD 13 (C-130T, 165313, VR-62) from NAS Jacksonville (temporarily Cecil Field while NAS Jacksonville’s runway is being resurfaced) on approach to Hunter AAF with Savannah Approach/Departure on 120.400 and Hunter Tower on 124.975. I was even able to catch a photo since I still had a zoom lens on the camera from the Refuge visit.
I picked up The Middle Ages by Morris Bishop after reading Juliet Barker’s Agincourt and Conquest. I was looking for a general history of Medieval Europe and it seemed to fit the bill. It turned out that this book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was but it was exactly what I needed.
The Middle Ages is not a chronological history of the Middle Ages. It doesn’t tell what happened when; it doesn’t list Kings and nobles or follow the various wars and campaigns of Medieval Europe. Instead it tells the story of life in the Middle Ages. It explores the roles of the nobility, the serf, the knight, the clergy, the businessman, and the artist and what life was like for each. With good humor and wit, Bishop tells the reader what it was like to live during the Middle Ages and how life changed through the era.
“…the Middle Ages bequeathed to its son, modernity, a richer inheritance than it had received at birth”
Bishop holds that the Middle Ages weren’t as dark as some would have us believe and his book illustrates that well. He shows that were accomplishments in the arts, architecture, and education. Comfort was brought to the daily life and the seeds of the industrialism and capitalism were planted as were those of socialism and communism. As he concludes, the Middle Ages paved the way for the Renaissance that was to come. He also puts the violence Middle Ages in perspective with our times; he shows us that while the Middle Ages may have had “tortures, judicial mutilations, blindings, (and) beheadings” our modern age has “air-bombings, genocides, and the starvation of peoples.”
The Middle Ages isn’t a long book; in print version it comes in at 277 pages, but it is a wonderful and informative book. It is a great starting point for learning about the Middle Ages and Medieval Europe. Other specialized books will tell you what happened during the Middle Ages and when it happened, but this book is a social history that gives you a background in what the Middle Ages were like for those who lived it and what the roles of each part of society were. As I read it, I found myself wishing I would have found it before I read Agincourt and Conquest. It was a fascinating read. Despite being originally published in 1968 it holds up well because Bishops storytelling, humor, and wit keep the reader engaged and interested. For that reason and because of how useful it is at introducing one to the Middle Ages it is a five star read.