Posts Tagged ‘shortwave’

DXing The Utilities (Part 2)

The following blog was originally posted in 2015 but might still be of interest to anyone with a shortwave radio! Since the migration of HF aero traffic to satellite has been slow, there is still a lot of oceanic traffic to be monitored on the bands, 24/7.

                  **************************************

Unlike the growing scarcity of good HF maritime DX targets, there is still a large amount of HF aero activity to enjoy! Even with the move to satellite comms, there is still, at any given time of the day or night, hundreds of aircraft using HF radio to communicate with controllers, companies and home bases. Both commercial aviation and the military, as well as many privately owned aircraft, use the HF communication networks to keep them flying safely. From trans-oceanic 777s' and military transports to single engine float planes in the Canadian Arctic and Alaska, the sky is alive with DXing opportunities!

A huge percentage of commercial aircraft are delegated to moving freight and many of them can be heard on HF radio. Many of the planes in use are retired passenger planes that have been reconfigured for moving cargo. Back when I did this type of listening, older DC-8s seemed to be particularly popular, especially on the nightly South / Central America to Florida routes. I suspect that nowadays, these have been replaced with older DC-10's and 747's.


'FINE AIR 432' was logged on March 24,1996 at 0435Z while working Miami Radio on 6637kHz. The DC8-51F (Freighter) was over Bogota while enroute from Lima to Miami.




'NIPPON CARGO 083', a 747-200F, was logged
on 8891kHz working Baffin Radio. They were reporting position "LT", a waypoint above Alert, at 82-31N / 62-12W, westbound on Polar Track "Quebec".
The freighter was enroute Amsterdam to Anchorage.



The Antonov 124-100 is a gigantic Russian built freighter - capable of transporting in excess of
120 tons. This is aircraft "RA-82045" which was logged as 'HEAVYLIFT 878' in June, 1996.



Operated by Volga-Dnepr, 'HEAVYLIFT 878' was working Dakar (Senegal) Aeradio on 6535kHz reporting FL240 and position 13-14N / 24-26W enroute Cape Verde Islands to Sao Paulo, Brazil.


'AFM 01' was a DC8-55F logged while working Brazzaville Radio (Congo) on 8903kHz. It was at FL350, enroute Harare, Zimbabwe to Kano, Nigeria at the "MPK" waypoint, 250 miles east of Kinshasha, Zaire. Brazzavile was advising of 'crossing traffic, same level...please say intentions'... Yikes!

On another evening I heard the Dakar (Senegal) controller advise a British Speedbird 747 to 'go to flight level 330 ... please go now ... go very very fast'.


'AFM01' (Affretair) was Z-WMJ, shown here on final approach to Gatwick.



'PACIFIC AIR EXPRESS 3517' was heard on 8867kHz working Brisbane Radio while over the Coral Sea. The Lockheed L-188C four-engine turbo prop was enroute Honiara to Brisbane with a load of fresh tuna destined for the Japanese market. N360Q, shown on the ground at Honiara, was leased from the states and operated by Charrak Air.



The U.S. military is still active on HF radio and some interesting catches can be had. During the testing phase of the 'cruise' missile, the missile navigation systems were tested over the Northern Territories and Alberta. Once dropped from their B-52 launch platforms, the missiles were tracked across Alberta by Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA). 'AGAR 93' was heard on one such mission on 11176kHz. 'AGAR 93' was # 81-0893, an EC-18 (modified Boeing 707) out of Wright Patterson' 4950th Test Wing. According to the aircraft commander who signed my verification, the aircraft was approximately 1 hour S.E. of Namao, Alberta. One can easily see why # 81-0893, shown here, was affectionately known as "The Beast".


'DOOM 81' was a gigantic B-52H from the 96th Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale AFB, LA. The appropriately named big bomber was heard on 11176kHz while working Ascension Radio and was just about to rendezvous with their mid-air refueler when the mission was aborted. This was the first and only B-52 that I was ever able to confirm.

 

'ROMA 99' was logged on 17975kHz while working Thule Radio. They were taxiing for takeoff at Dulles International in Washington D.C. and reporting a minor fuel-pump problem. 'ROMA 99' was a KC-135R Stratotanker, # 62-003512, from the 509th Air Refueling Squadron at Griffis AFB, NY.



'REACH 71839' was heard on 11176kHz while working Albrook AFB, Alaska. Tail # 65-0239, this 'REACH' flight was an aging C-141B Starlifter, at one point, the Air Force's major transporter. 'REACH 71839', out of McChord AFB, was enroute Brazil to Puerto Rico.



There's still plenty to be heard on HF, outside of the amateur bands and a quick internet search on 'Utility DX' will turn up several interesting and informative sites ... each one having an abundance of related links to follow. Here are some that will be helpful:

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A freshly updated list of all active HF aero frequencies. Also check their list of active aero 'callsigns'

http://monitor-post.blogspot.ca/p/this-international-hf-aero-frequency.html

If you can catch an aircraft's four-letter SELCAL code, often given during waypoint checks, you can search here for more info on the actual aircraft itself:

http://www.airframes.org/reg/b18305 

The Milcom Blogspot:

http://mt-milcom.blogspot.ca/

DXing The Utilities (Part 1)


The following blog was originally posted in 2015 but might still be of interest to anyone with a shortwave radio! Although maritime CW has all but vanished from HF, ships can still be logged and followed on digital modes, using DSC or Digital Selective Calling.

                 *******************************

After building the house here on Mayne Island, in the early 90's, it was several years until I was able to set up a dedicated station. In the meantime, I limited my radio activities strictly to listening. I had a nice Icom R-71A set up in a hall closet and spent my radio-time, mostly on weekend evenings, listening to maritime CW, HF aeronautical traffic and, of course, NDBs below the broadcast band.

My HF receiving antenna consisted of three inverted-V's ... one for 160m, the second for 80m and the third for 40m ... all fed from the same coaxial line at the top of a 70' Balsam. It didn't take long to realize what an exceptional radio location I had, living right at the edge of the ocean, with dozens of miles of saltwater in most directions other than due west.


I really enjoyed following evening airline flights across both the North and South Atlantic, and in the early winter afternoons, following the commercial air-traffic all over Africa. Even though listening on 5 or 6MHz, I was amazed at how strong the signals from airliners over Africa at 30,000 feet or more could become, this far to the west. In the early mornings, directions were reversed and traffic from the far east, right into India, was fairly common. Often, small single-engine planes, usually run by various missionaries, could be heard while on the ground, taxiing at remote field locations and calling in via HF radio to request takeoff and flight-following.

Now QSL's have always been one of my top radio interests and it wasn't long before I started sending and collecting verifications for both the aircraft and the ships I was hearing ... once I had figured out how to get my reception reports to their proper destinations.

A very small portion of my 'utility' QSL collection is shown below. For the most part, it consists of PRC's or 'Prepared Reply Cards', with blank portions to be filled-in by the verification signers. Surprisingly, my return rate was around 90% and verifications were often returned with long, hand-written letters and numerous photographs ... especially from the ship RO's, as I suspect their days at sea were often quite monotonous. Even many of the military and commercial aircraft pilots would return a handwritten note along with the filled-in verification card, which I found even more surprising. It seemed that most were very surprised to hear that their radio transmissions were even making it this far and could be heard so readily.

Some of the most interesting catches came from the Pacific, with a large variety of ships operating out of Japan. There are probably still several maritime CW stations operating in Japan. Many of these were owned and operated by commercial fishing companies and could be heard working fleet vessels throughout the Pacific on their daily CW skeds.

This interesting catch from the North Pacific was the Japanese 'fisheries research vessel' 'M/V FUJI MARU'. She was about 1200 miles NW of her CW contact, JNA in Tokyo.


A Japanese cruise-ship, the 'M/V ORIENT VENUS' was logged early one summer morning while working JNA on 8355 KHz CW. Her position indicates she was in the Mariana Islands.







One of my first catches from the Great Lakes
was the 'M/V Oglebay Norton', a huge bulk
carrier out of Detroit. Her 150W signal was loud and clear late one August evening while in contact with WLC, Rogers City Radio.




The U.S. Coast Guard is still one of the best QSLers around.
Several of their stations will QSL with a nice printed card.
NMC (San Francisco) and NMO (Hawaii) were two
catches, regularly heard on the old 500 KHz calling
frequency.


Stormy weather often provided a good chance
to catch a search and rescue mission in progress.

'Rescue 6008' was an HH-60J helo enroute from
Chesapeake Bay to Elizabeth City, North Carolina during
a midnight rescue operation.





Although not my farthest HF maritime catch,
this was one of the most surprising. 'C4PC'
was heard early one February evening on 8 MHz CW, when conditions seemed terrible. No other ships were heard on the band at the time. As I learned later, the 'M/V MAIROULI' was at anchor near Beirut, Lebanon, a distance of nearly 7,000 miles from Mayne Island.

                                                                .... cont'd

Olivia Digital Mode (1000 Hz) on Twenty Meters – A Simple Video

The Olivia digital mode on HF radio is a mode capable of two-way chat (QSO) communication (keyboard to keyboard, like RTTY) over long-distance shortwave (HF) ionospheric propagation paths, especially over polar regions.

If you are interested in more than a logbook QSO (such as is typical with FT8 and other propagation-checking modes) but want to chat with other hams around the world using digital modes, consider Olivia as one option.

This video captures a few moments of two-way conversation on the Twenty-Meter band, up in the sub-band where 1000-Hz digital modes are commonplace. More narrow-bandwidth settings are used in a lower subband in the digital slice of Twenty Meters. More details about the mode are in the files section of this website: http://OliviaDigitalMode.org.

In 2005, SP9VRC, Pawel Jalocha, released to the world a mode that he developed starting in 2003 to overcome difficult radio signal propagation conditions on the shortwave (high-frequency, or HF) bands. By difficult, we are talking significant phase distortions and low signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) plus multipath propagation effects. The Olivia-modulated radio signals are decoded even when it is ten to fourteen dB below the noise floor. That means that Olivia is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is slightly over three times that of the digital signal!

Olivia decodes well under other conditions that are a complex mix of atmospheric noise, signal fading (QSB), interference (QRM), polar flutter caused by a radio signal traversing a polar path. Olivia is even capable when the signal is affected by auroral conditions (including the Sporadic-E Auroral Mode, where signals are refracted off of the highly-energized E-region in which the Aurora is active).

Currently, the only other digital modes that match or exceed Olivia in their sensitivity are some of the modes designed by Joe Taylor as implemented in the WSJT programs, including FT8, JT65A, and JT65-HF–each of which are certainly limited in usage and definitely not able to provide true conversation capabilities.  Olivia is useful for emergency communications, unlike JT65A or the popular FT8. One other mode is better than Olivia for keyboard-to-keyboard comms under difficult conditions: MT63. Yet, Olivia is a good compromise that delivers a lot. One reason for this is that there are configurations that use much less bandwidth than 1000 Hz. 16 tones in 250 Hz is our common calling-frequency configuration, which we use lower down in the Twenty-Meter band, with a center frequency of 14.0729 MHz.

Q: What’s a ‘CENTER’ Frequency? Is That Where I Set My Radio’s Dial?

For those new to waterfalls: the CENTER frequency is the CENTER of the cursor shown by common software. The cursor is what you use to set the transceiver’s frequency on the waterfall. If your software’s waterfall shows the frequency, then you simply place the cursor so that its center is right on the center frequency listed, above. If your software is set to show OFFSET, then you might, for example, set your radio’s dial frequency to 14.0714, and place the center of your waterfall cursor to 1500 (1500 Hz). That would translate to the 14.0729 CENTER frequency.

The standard Olivia formats (shown as the number of tones/bandwidth in Hz) are 8/250, 8/500, 16/500, 8/1000, 16/1000, and 32/1000. Some even use 16/2000 for series emergency communication. The most commonly-used formats are 16/500, 8/500, and 8/250. However, the 32/1000 and 16/1000 configurations are popular in some areas of the world (Europe) and on certain bands.

These different choices in bandwidth and tone settings can cause some confusion and problems–so many formats and so many other digital modes can make it difficult to figure out which mode you are seeing and hearing. After getting used to the sound and look of Olivia in the waterfall, though, it becomes easier to identify the format when you encounter it. To aid in your detection of what mode is being used, there is a feature of many digital-mode software implementation suites: the RSID. The next video, below, is a demonstration on how to set the Reed-Solomon Identification (RSID) feature in Ham Radio Deluxe’s Digital Master 780 module (HRD DM780).

I encourage ALL operators, using any digital mode such as Olivia, to TURN ON the RSID feature as shown in this example. In Fldigi, the RSID is the TXID and RXID; make sure to check (turn on) each, the TXID and RXID.

Please, make sure you are using the RSID (Reed Solomon Identification – RSID or TXID, RXID) option in your software. RSID transmits a short burst at the start of your transmission which identifies the mode you are using. When it does that, those amateur radio operators also using RSID while listening will be alerted by their software that you are transmitting in the specific mode (Olivia, hopefully), the settings (like 8/250), and where on the waterfall your transmission is located. This might be a popup window and/or text on the receive text panel. When the operator clicks on that, the software moves the waterfall cursor right on top of the signal and changes the mode in the software. This will help you make more contacts!

RSID Setting:

+ NOTE: The MixW software doesn’t have RSID features. Request it!

Voluntary Olivia Channelization 

Since Olivia signals can be decoded even when received signals are extremely weak, (signal to noise ratio of -14db), signals strong enough to be decoded are sometimes below the noise floor and therefore impossible to search for manually. As a result, amateur radio operators have voluntarily decided upon channelization for this mode. This channelization allows even imperceptibly weak signals to be properly tuned for reception and decoding. By common convention amateur stations initiate contacts utilizing 8/250, 16/500, or 32/1000 configuration of the Olivia mode. After negotiating the initial exchange, sometimes one of the operators will suggest switching to other configurations to continue the conversation at more reliable settings, or faster when conditions allow. The following table lists the common center frequencies used in the amateur radio bands.

Olivia (CENTER) Frequencies (kHz) for Calling, Initiating QSOs

Current Olivia Digital Mode Calling Frequencies

Current Olivia Digital Mode Calling Frequencies on Shortwave (HF)

It is often best to get on standard calling frequencies with this mode because you can miss a lot of weak signals if you don’t. However, with Olivia activity on the rise AND all the other modes vying for space, a good deal of the time you can operate wherever you can find a clear spot–as close as you can to a standard calling frequency.

Note: some websites publish frequencies in this band, that are right on top of weak-signal JT65, JT9, and FT8 segmentsDO NOT QRM weak-signal QSOs!

We (active Olivia community members) suggest 8/250 as the starting settings when calling CQ on the USB frequencies designated as ‘Calling Frequencies.’ A Calling Frequency is a center frequency on which you initially call, ‘CQ CQ CQ. . .’ and then, with the agreement of the answering operator, move to a new nearby frequency, changing the number of tones and bandwidth at your discretion. Even though 8/250 is slow, the CQ call is short. But, it is narrow, to allow room for other QSOs nearby. It is also one of the best possible Olivia configurations for weak-signal decoding.

Some Summer Short Wave Listening

courtesy:americanradiohistory



Over the past few months I’ve spent some time tuning around the international shortwave bands.


I vividly recall how jam-packed these bands were when I first discovered the magic of radio, back in the peak years of Solar Cycle 19. Much has changed in this part of the radio spectrum since then, but after having read so many dire comments describing the demise of international SW broadcasting, I was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered.



Although there are certainly not the large numbers of stations there once were, there is still a large amount of activity to be found throughout the various bands allocated to international SW broadcasting.


courtesy: https://communicationwhiz.com/short-wave-radios-guide/

Trying to keep track of station schedules and frequencies is a hobby unto itself but now made easier with the availability of so many online information sources. As when younger, I found the best way to stay organized was to keep a SW logbook, eventually settling on a simple ‘diary’ format which is still evolving.



Its next refinement will be an additional notebook having separate pages devoted to each individual frequency within a given SW band. This will allow for updating frequency information from various postings of the daily online ‘heard’ reports.

I’ve always had a great interest in QSLs and collecting cards was one of the things that initially attracted me to SW radio back as a pre-teenaged DXer. For me, not much has changed in the last several decades and I still enjoy QSLs ... the real, traditional cards, as opposed to the now popular e-card. For me, an e-card just doesn’t have much appeal for some reason but for many others, they work just fine.

As I slowly re-learn much of what I had forgotten about SWL’ing, I discovered that there are still many SW broadcasters that will acknowledge a reception report with a real paper card ... just like the good old days!

If you are keen on doing some serious listening, I cannot recommend the WRTH highly enough.





Studying the latest WRTH revealed the QSL policies of most international as well as domestic SW broadcasters as well as contact information. It is a superb annual reference and well worth the investment! With this information in hand, my listening has become more focused on recording and submitting reception reports to those stations still practicing the courtesy of acknowledging reports with a traditional QSL. Many stations also issue an e-card, but these are of little interest to me at present.




With a small amount of spring-summer time devoted to SW listening, I generated and submitted a few reception reports along with linked audio files on my website ... so far, the following QSLs have arrived:


Radio Exterior de Espana
15520 kHz - Noblejas, Spain

Radio Free Asia
9950 kHz - via IBB on Tinian Island, S. Pacific


All India Radio (AIR)

9865 kHz - Bengaluru, India

DX Clube Sem Fronteiras Broadcast via WRMI 7730 kHz, Miami

T8WH - 9965 kHz Palau, South Pacific

HSK9 - 5875 kHz Udon Thani, Thailand
Radio Liangyou - Hong Kong

9275 kHz via Bocaue, Philippines site

Radio Romania - 9730 kHz - Bucharest, Romania
Radio Nikkei 2
3935 kHz - Chiba, Japan

I’ll do an upcoming blog on some of the great information and online sites to support international SW listening activities.

How I Reunited Two Devils Brigade Canadian and American Veterans of World War Two

In the 1990s while living in eastern Montana, I had the amazing experience of reuniting two soldiers that served in the Devil’s Brigade. They both trained near Helena, Montana.

One day, I was operating on the amateur radio shortwave Ten-Meter band, and a gentleman answered my, “CQ, CQ, CQ, this is N7PMS in Montana, Over”. I took notes of our conversation.

The next day, when again I called for any station to answer my call for a conversation, another fellow, from Canada, answered me. I learned something amazing: Both of these two men mentioned that, during World War Two, they both were in the same special forces unit, training near Helena, Montana.

One of these Veterans served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the other in the American Armed Forces. Listen to my story, for the full details of this amazing experience I had as an amateur radio operator.

Jump to 3:22 if you wish to skip my introduction to the story, during which I give some background on when and so on:
https://youtu.be/YFMplHjxy6s?t=3m22s

This certainly was one of the most memorable moments in my amateur radio hobby experience! The joy of reuniting friends is good.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Special_Service_Force:

The 1st Special Service Force (also called The Devil’s Brigade, The Black Devils, The Black Devils’ Brigade, and Freddie’s Freighters), was an elite American-Canadian commando unit in World War II, under command of the United States Fifth Army. The unit was organized in 1942 and trained at Fort William Henry Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States. The Force served in the Aleutian Islands, and fought in Italy, and southern France before being disbanded in December 1944.

The modern American and Canadian special operations forces trace their heritage to this unit. In 2013, the United States Congress passed a bill to award the 1st Special Service Force the Congressional Gold Medal.

Thank you for watching, and sharing. Comments are welcome: do you have a memorable moment in your radio hobby experience on the air?

73 de NW7US

What? ARRL Petitions FCC to Expand Privileges of Technician-Class Amateur Radio Operators

I have my opinion on ARRL asking FCC to grant more HF privileges to Technician-class licensees.

I verbalize them in this video:

After you hear my comments, please leave your comments.

Thanks, 73 de NW7US dit dit

Condo Hamming, The NRR and Ron’s Logs

courtesy: K4VRC Group
An interesting thread has developed recently on the e-ham.net reflector concerning the enjoyment of your radio hobby from a condo / townhouse or similar sites subjected to the typical 'no outside antenna' rules.

Rick, KB2NAT, describes the learning curve in his 'How To Overcome Some Condo Issues' post.

Amateurs contemplating downsizing to a restricted development or those finding themselves in a similar situation to Rick will likely soon be subjected to more noise, less space, more neighbours and an abundance of rules. Hopefully the comments of Rick and others will be helpful if this is your situation.

For many restricted hams, Mag loops appear to be a popular choice and one of the comments points to a good deal of information on building one for yourself. The Villages Amateur Radio Club (K4VRC)  group's 'resources' link will provide some interesting ideas for restricted antenna builders. As well, they have put together an informational presentation, full of great antenna ideas for those contemplating ways to get on the air from antenna-restricted locations.

If you live in the USA, the 'Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005' has been used by many antenna-restricted hams, to legally erect their own 'antenna flagpole'! It may be an easy route for a nice antenna system for you as well.


The 'Novice Rig Roundup' Starts Tomorrow!





Just a reminder that 9 days of CW operating fun begins tomorrow afternoon. After last year's most enjoyable event, the NRR is now one of my 'must do' operating activities. You can read all about it here.





Ron's Logs



courtesy: California State Parks
If you have any interest in tuning around the international shortwave bands or perhaps are wondering what can be heard there, the daily logs of several dedicated listeners can be found in the Groups.io World of Radio as well as in Yahoo's DXLD group. I particularly enjoy the information posted in 'Ron's Logs' and marvel at some of the DX that he hears each morning from his car!




Ron lives in the seaside city of Monterey (CA) and on most mornings he makes the short pre-dawn drive to Asilomar State Beach (CA), a spectacular location on the coast.




After stringing out his 100' wire antenna on the nearby fence posts, Ron proceeds to log and record some truly exotic stuff before heading home.

Early last Fall, before being aware of Ron's daily regime, I had visited his exact location and after watching the big sea lions playing in the surf, had drooled over the location's great DX potential, little knowing that Ron had likely packed his gear up a headed home just a few hours before my arrival! I'm sure you'll be inspired to tune around the SW broadcast bands after checking out theses Group's daily posts.

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