Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Off to Friedrichschafen

Getting ready to go to Friedrichschafen in the morning.
Bags packed, together with camera, mobile phone, handheld radio (for keeping in touch with the Camb Hams group), chargers, mains adapters, some pre-ordered preamps and the essential passport, boarding card, currency and credit card! And mobile phone numbers to contact those I need to.
I now have a small number of items on my shopping list. I thought I had everything I needed......
The weather in FHN doesn't look so good this year.
More when I get back.

Added several new squares to the six metre band total this evening after just band noise most of the day except for the odd meteor ping on 50.150MHz
That's 30 new squares in the last month. Still a long, long, way to go to even get onto the bottom step of the squares ladder.
73 de Sam
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Saturday, 22 June 2013

ESWR Ipswich rally

Tomorrow, 23 June, is the day of the Ipswich rally. This is now held in the car park of the Orwell Crossing Truck Stop, just off the east bound carriageway of the A12/A14 between junctions 57 and 58.
This 'new venue' has allowed us to expand the rally without incurring prohibitive extra costs. And the venue has a restaurant and bar! Some of us will be in early to get a good cooked breakfast before we start the day.
I will be manning the UKuG stand in the car park where the CambHams will be in attendance with Flossie, their purpose built radio vehicle.
I'll be bringing some microwave equipment for show and be there to answer technical questions as one of the volunteer tech helpers for the Group. As I am also one of the moderators for the RSGB 'Litmus test' consultation, I may be able to answer some of your questions and may be able to offer some advice on your response to OFCOM. This is a very important consultation so don't miss your opportunity to contribute. The very future of the higher amateur bands is at risk and the implications for the VHF and HF bands is obvious. We are now very much into a world where we need to justify our very existence and where amateur radio privileges could be withdrawn if policing the amateur radio service is felt by OFCOM to be unjustified or too expensive. We will need to up our act.
The recent few weeks have seen me fill my shack with equipment for disposal, both from the shack of my late friend Russ and then from a lab clearance. Just about all of Russ' stuff has now been moved on to new and deserving homes and a very good amount of money raised for the hospice in Wolverhampton.
Just this last week I was asked if I would help clear some 'older' microwave and general radio/test equipment 'stuff' from a university lab that was closing. None of this was to be sold, but rather re-homed as donations instead of going to the scrap merchants.
I have kept a couple of the uni items for myself including a couple of Marconi Sanders X band horn antennas and an old bench DVM.
As a result the pile of 'extras' in my shack has considerably reduced in the last few days and I can actually get in there now. The extra space has meant that I have been able to finish the new 4m band transverter. I will take this to the ESWR tomorrow and may be able to show it on the UKuG stand ( well it could be an IF converter.....)
Just to show that it's not all moving equipment around I have managed to pick up several new squares on 6m in the last few days and using the new 4m transverter I have worked around half a dozen stations on the band in the few spare moments I had available for operating.

The new 4m transverter.
After the ESWR is over it is back to preparing for Friedrichschafen.
At least one person has asked me how I am getting to Friedrichschafen. I will be taking the same route as last year. That is, fly to Zurich, Intercity train to Romanshorn and ferry across the Bodensee to Friedrichschafen. This is possibly the easiest way to get there from the UK and used by many other UK amateurs.
73 de Sam
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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Visit to Bentwaters

This weekend we had a visitor from the USA. Steve, WB0DBS, from Wichita is a friend of many years. My wife and I first met Steve and his wife in Dallas at one of the Microwave Update meetings we attended. Since then Steve and Jeannie have visited with us in the UK and we have visited their magnificent Victorian era home in Wichita.
Steve is a regular visitor to the UK for his job and when he is able he visits us in Felixstowe.
On this occasion, whilst deciding what we could visit as something new, Dave, G4HUP, mentioned that his radio club, The Leiston Amateur Radio Club (LARC) would be putting on a radio station at the Bentwaters Open Day on the 16th June. This sounded ideal as Steve once served in the USAF at USAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, and was keen to see Bentwaters again after many years.
Bentwaters is open to the public on a regular basis, and once a year have their big open day. For those who don't know, Bentwaters was until 1993, the home of various USAF squadrons and latterly the 81st Tactical Wing. When we moved here in 1984 Bentwaters was home to A10 Warthogs (anti tank planes). Previously it was home to a range of fighters and bombers over the years. The now decommissioned airfield still has its long runway and lots of hardened ammunition bunkers and aircraft hangers. As well as all the other facilities required to run a large military airfield.
These days the airfield is home to a large number of small industries as well as a number of private aircraft including the world famous 'Grace Spitfire' ( see heading photo).
One of the nice things about the open day is that among other things there are bus tours around the normally-hidden areas of the airfield. This includes seeing the ammunition bunkers, repair facilities, 'Hush room' and more.
The Hush room is a specially soundproofed bunker where aircraft engines could be run up at full power and could hardly be heard outside the building. A huge 'silencer' baffles the engine sounds.
The photo shows one of the ammunition bunkers.

After the tour we were able to eat (American burgers, what else!) and then go and visit the Bentwaters Cold War Museum (BCWM).
What an interesting place. For anyone over about 50 the Cold War era is still very real and was a period of high tension between the capitalist and communist worlds. Cuba missile crisis, Korean War, Vietnamese war and so on.

These two photos show scenes inside the museum. The control room is where any conflict involving the airfield would be run from.
But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Grace Spitfire and the YAK flying displays. Although we left before it arrived there was a SeaKing Air Sea Rescue helicopter drop-in scheduled for later in the afternoon.
After the flying displays by the Spit and Yak they came and parked up right in front of us. What great photo opportunities!

In the second photo the YAK can be seen, in the background, on a low level fly-past in front of the Spit.
ML407 has a very distinguished career. Built in 1944 is saw action on the first day of the D day landings. It flew more than 160 sorties during the war. I don't know if there are any more Spits, still flying, that saw service in WW2?
First built as a single seater it was converted in 1950 into a two seater. It saw service with a number of airforces including the Irish Airforce and ( if I remember correctly) the Norwegian airforce.
ML407 is now privately owned and is based at Bentwaters. It is owned by the Grace family and flown by Carolyn Grace. Yes, a distinguished and very capable lady pilot! Originally ML407 was bought by Nick Grace who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1988. His widow decided she must keep ML407 flying and two years later flew the Spitfire after learning how to fly. Her son also flies ML407 on occasions.
ML407 is often to be seen flying over our home whilst it is put through its paces ready for flying displays or just for testing.

ML407 has a V12 Merlin engine that sounds superb. Very evocative!
The next photo shows what I assume to be the spare Merlin engine for ML407, mounted on a trailer frame. This engine was run up several times whilst we were there. Fabulous! A real 'hat knocker off-er!'

This was seen next to the BCWM, opposite a Rapier missile launcher. It looks ideal as a 10GHz EME dish and mount!

An original radio transmitter and receiver used in the control room.
I need to find out more about the YAK. On this occasion it was, for me, very much the support act. However it is an interesting plane in its own right and deserves to have more words written about it.

A couple of biplanes that flew into Bentwaters whilst we were there.
Now that Steve has gone down to Hampshire ( to do some work!) I will turn my attention back to the new 4m transverter I'm building. It's been air tested at low power. Now to connect up the rest of the control circuitry and the 7W PA!
Out of interest the prototype, built last year, is out on loan and has already been used to work some juicy SpE DX on the band.
73 de Sam
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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Getting ready for RAL

I have been busy getting stuff ready to take to the RAL ( Rutherford Appleton Labs) Microwave Round Table on Sunday.

I was asked to help dispose of a lot of microwave related items belonging to my late friend Russ, G4PBP/G8BHH. The main disposal is being handled by a mutual friend, but he felt that he didn't have enough experience in microwaves to be able to set realistic sale prices. He and Russ' widow asked if I could help. All proceeds from the sale will be going to the hospice where Russ spent his last few weeks.

I'm pleased to say that almost all the larger items have been spoken for, leaving a large number of smaller items ( connectors, adapters, cables, mixers, wave meters, loads etc) to be sold. Some of these items have already been sold when I attended a meeting in Cambridge. However, there is still a lot to go and I've priced it ( with agreement) to sell as the shack must be cleared!


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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Dayton part 3 - home

At least on Sunday morning we were able to have a 'lie in' before departing for the Hara Arena.

Time to return the room keys to the University reception, head for the car park, 'breakfast' and the arena.

We arrived about 8am and parked the van in our usual spot before going off to have a last look around. No trading for us on the Sunday, but the chance to pick up some las minute bargains....
Most but not all the Fleamarket and hall traders had already departed. But here was still enough to see and do before departing for the airport. Rich had already departed for Dallas early on the Sunday morning, before Kent and I were even awake.

After a quick look round at what was left of the Fleamarket I went into the hall area. In there I bumped into Justin of Innovantennas and had a chat. Later we were joined by Kent, WA5VJB and an earnest discussion on antenna ensued. Photo 1 shows Justin and Kent in deep conversation.

You can see that the North Hall wasn't as busy as usual on the Sunday morning. The Elecraft stand, behind Kent, was as quiet as I had seen it all weekend!

Not much left in the Fleamarket............

After saying cheerio to Lloyd, NE8I and a few other other guys, I was back at Dayton Airport about 11am and ready for my flight to Chicago on the Embraer 145 jet. Kent went back to the Hara Arena to pick up Douglas, his co-driver for the long drive back to Dallas, and then set off to cover the 1150 miles through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and into Texas.

An uneventful flight for me and we touched down at Chicago O'Hare airport after about one hours flying time. O'Hare airport seems to be bigger every time I see it! The last time I was here was at least 10 years ago.

The flight into O'Hare, over the south end of Lake Michigan, was close to Gary, Indiana, and I was able to see just how desolate this old American industrial area has become. It was easily recognisable from the air. Fascinating!

Lake Michigan is a well known American microwave area and I previously wrote about amateur microwave contacts over the lake in my column in Radcom. It was nice to see it from the air. I had already been driven through it by Mike, AA9IL, in his pick up truck some years ago ( on our way to the Sandusky Microwave Update event).

A few hours later ( another delay on United Airlines) and it was off on the trans Atlantic leg home to Heathrow. Justin and I were in adjacent seats, so we were able to chat about 'ham' things before the day's exertions got the best of us!

We touched down at 06:00. I was completely disoriented by the fact we were in Terminal 1 whereas we had left from T4! A short underground ride later and I was back on familiar territory and ready to collect my car from the T4 long term car park and the 2 hour drive home.

It was a great trip to Dayton. I really enjoyed visiting again after my several years absence. I would like to go back at least one more time. I really don't know why as the Hara Arena is becoming quite dilapidated and must be nearly ready to be pulled down. The Friedrichschafen Messe is much, much, cleaner and the food and beer is so much better. And the flight there is a lot cheaper than it now costs for long haul flights.

But, there is something about Dayton that keeps drawing me back. It has more to do with the social aspects of the event than suffering the inadequate facilities of this old establishment.

My thanks to Kent, Brian, Rich, Lloyd, Dave, Tony, Dick, Zack, Ed and all the other American amateur radio guys who helped to make my visit so successful. Thank you.

Dayton, I will be back again!


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