2015 Field Day Review

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This year we chose to really operate as a field station for Field Day. We used the NASA Picnic area on Tiros Street. This gave us the chance to get out, to test ourselves out, and operate under emergency conditions in a public area. We operated as a Class 1A station. We turned out to have an excellent operation!

The Set-Up

We operated from the NASA picnic area on Tiros Street, which has a roofed pavilion large enough to provide shelter during the average summer rain shower. The layout is shaped like an “L” with two wings, and we operated at the corner.

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NN4SA Field Day portable set-up at the NASA picnic pavilion on Tiros Street. Picnic tables were available, but we brought our own portable table and chairs.

The pavilion has some basic amenities: picnic tables, a concrete floor, rest rooms, and electric power, including ceiling lights. We could operate as an emergency station and still be comfortable.

We used the provided electricity to power our laptop computer and fan. But to operate our transceiver, we relied 100% on solar power!

45W solar electric panels,  brought by KB5EZ. These powered our transceiver 100%.

45W solar electric panels, brought by KB5EZ. These powered our transceiver 100%.

Rob KB5EZ brought his set of 45w solar electric panels and two deep cycle batteries. The batteries remained charged above 12V, and provided the electricity we needed to operate 100% with solar energy.

Deep Cycle batteries which powered our Yaesu FT-950 transceiver.

Deep Cycle batteries which powered our Yaesu FT-950 transceiver.

For an antenna, we used a 102 foot dipole G5RV antenna, fed by a ladder line. The ladder line in turn was connected to an MFJ antenna tuner. A home-made slingshot enabled us to loop the antenna support ropes over nearby tree branches.

Rob KB5EZ lowering a weight at the end of fishing line, after he looped the line over a tall tree branch with his home made sling shot.

Rob KB5EZ lowering a weight at the end of fishing line, after he looped the line over a tall tree branch with his home made sling shot.

Afterwards, the fishing line is attached to one of the antenna support cables, and the antenna itself is then lifted up. John N4CNY and Malcolm K4MLP prepare to raise the southeast end of the antenna.

Afterwards, the fishing line is attached to one of the antenna support cables, and the antenna itself is then lifted up. John N4CNY and Malcolm K4MLP prepare to raise the southeast end of the antenna.

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The ladder line feed was attached to the dipole and rolled out to the pavilion.  Broken insulators which keep the two lines of the ladder separated were repaired with electrical tape.

The ladder line feed was attached to the dipole and rolled out to the pavilion. Broken insulators were repaired with electrical tape.

Feeding the ladder line safely into the pavilion.

Feeding the ladder line safely into the pavilion. (L-R: Rob KB5EZ, John N4CNY, and Malcolm K4MLP.)

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The final step, setting up the radio.

The final step, setting up the antenna tuner and our 100W Yaesu FT-950 transceiver. Rob KB5EZ used an antenna analyzer to determine resonant tuner settings for different parts of the radio bands we would use. To test the results we made some SSB contacts on 15 and 20 meters, to as far away as California. (L-R: Rob KB5EZ, Malcolm K4MLP, Ghee WL7C, and John N4CNY.)

Rob KB5EZ made some test contacts before Field Day officially started.

Rob KB5EZ made some test contacts before Field Day officially started. [Photo WL7C]

Rob KB5EZ operating with Malcolm K4MLP.

Rob KB5EZ operating with Malcolm K4MLP. [Photo WL7C]

Operations

We turned out to have an excellent operation!

Although we had occasional scattered showers on Saturday, those were not a hindrance, and were infrequent. The cold front passage brought dry, cooler, and very comfortable conditions. Had the weather been muggy and wetter, we still would have persevered and operated — this is a practice emergency operation after all. And had the weather been very rainy, we would have reverted to our Plan B and operate from our radio club station as a Class 1F (as a back-up EOC). But we could not have asked for more favorable summer weather! Sunday was even better, without the rain.

We did experience some radio noise at the site. The higher the frequency, the more noticeable was the noise, up to about an S-3 level on 6 meters.  Yet the noise was minor and did not inhibit us.

On Saturday we started operating on 20 meters phone. We tried 15 meters, but the propagation seemed limited and we didn’t stay. Then we tried 40 meters, which we discovered was very relaxing. With the day-time propagation skip on 40 meters, many of our contacts were within the Southern U.S. Southerners tend to be very relaxed and friendly, and we ended up staying on 40 meters for awhile. We also had occasional contacts to the Mid-West and northeast U.S. (40 meters had the most of our phone contacts, with 44 QSOs.)

Here and there we switched to CW (on 10, 15, 20, and 40 meters) which gave us higher contact rates, and also enabled us to work weaker signals.

John N4CNY operating on phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

John N4CNY operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

John N4CNY and Rob KB5EZ.

John N4CNY and Rob KB5EZ.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 20 meter phone with Malcolm K4MLP mid afternoon Saturday. [Photo by WL7C

Gary WA2JQZ operating 20 meter phone with Malcolm K4MLP mid afternoon Saturday. [Photo by WL7C]

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ.

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ.

(R-L) Ghee WL7C and Rob KB5EZ

(R-L) Ghee WL7C and Rob KB5EZ

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging, and Gary WA2JQZ.

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging, and Gary WA2JQZ.

Ghee WL7C brought a BioLite, which can power small devices with small wood pieces.  It was invented by hikers.  Larger versions are now being used in the 3rd world. Ghee got a fire going, and recharged his cell phone.

Ghee WL7C brought a BioLite, which can power small devices with small wood pieces. It was invented by hikers. Larger versions are now being used in the third world. Ghee kindled a fire, and then recharged his cell phone from the heat energy.

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Michael KG4OZK operating 40 meter phone later in the afternoon. He also logged for the CW contacts.

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 meter phone later in the afternoon. He also logged  many of the CW contacts.

Michael KG4OZK

Michael KG4OZK

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 m phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 m phone with Rob KB5EZ logging as the sun lowered.

In the evening, Rob KB5EZ operated digital RTTY on 20 and 40 meters.

In the evening, as the sun set, Rob KB5EZ operated 20m RTTY.

In the evening, as the sun set, Rob KB5EZ operated 20m RTTY.

Rob KB5EZ got us an early start at 8 AM on Sunday, working SSB and digital PSK31. Gary WA2JQZ came by 9:30, and then operated 20 and 10 meter CW. When we were ready for a break, we discovered 6 meters was open. Rob and John N4CNY then worked 6 meter phone to the Mid-West. Gary then got in some 6 meter CW, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

Gary brought Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and muffins to keep us warmed up. And John brought a case of Cherry Dr. Pepper. Plus we had water.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 10 meter phone with John N4CNY logging. Gary also operated CW.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 10 meter phone with John N4CNY logging. Gary also operated CW. [Photo by KB5EZ]

After getting what we could on 6 meters, we switched to 10 meter phone, which we found was also open. We stayed with 10 meters for awhile, as we had a good contact rate with strong enough signals, and pileups were minimal.

Malcolm K4MLP and Michael KG4OZK worked our remaining contacts, on 40 meter phone.

Malcolm K4MLP operated 40 meter phone during the last hour of Field Day, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

Malcolm K4MLP operating 40 meter phone on Sunday, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

In Summary

We really had an excellent Field Day! Operating as a field station (Class 1A) turned out to be an excellent decision. Set up took an hour, and we were able to take down everything in 20 minutes — thanks to an effective set-up and good teamwork. The pavilion was a great place to operate from. Operation was straight forward and relaxed! The weather was excellent, with just occasional showers, and with a nice breeze. Late Saturday we did have some mosquitoes, but we can probably figure out how to keep them away for next time. The pine trees supported our G5RV, and we had a good spot for our solar panels, once the sun came out.

We were Ghee WL7C, John N4CNY, Rob KB5EZ (Lead), Gary WA2JQZ, Malcolm K4MLP, and Michael KG4OZK. We really all worked well together, as a group and in the many ways we paired for operating. We had diverse strengths and diverse experience levels. Everyone had time operating at the radio, regardless of the experience level. We all contributed, and we all learned from each other and from our whole experience.

We learned useful lessons that will help us deploy for emergency communications. That’s part of the point of Field Day, along of course with the fun! And probably the best part was the fellowship!

The total contact (QSO) count was: 89 SSB phone, 47 Morse Code CW, and 14 digital (Radio Teletype and PSK31 Phase Shift Keying). We contacted other amateur radio stations across the continental US, from California to Vermont and Florida, and in Puerto Rico. 51 contacts were on the 40 meter band, 49 on 20 meters, 22 on 15 meters, 19 on 10 meters, and 9 on 6 meters. We were fortunate to have good propagation on 10 and 6 meters on Sunday morning — that is not always the case.

Please plan to attend next year’s Field Day. You’ll enjoy it and learn something too!

[Posted by Gary WA2JQZ with Rob KB5EZ]

[Photos by Gary WA2JQZ, Rob KB5EZ, and Ghee WL7C, with some additional help from the rest of the team.]

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2 responses to “2015 Field Day Review

  1. ARRL posted the results/statistics for 2015 Field Day.

    We scored 1072 points with 150 QSOs. We ranked #1459 out of 2720 entries. Operating less than 150 watts, our score included a multiplier of 2. Our score also included points for copying the ARRL broadcast bulletin (in several modes), operating in a public location, posting information in the Marshall Center’s news, and having information literature available. We were one of 44 entries in Alabama, we were one of 118 entries in the 1A category. We were one of 1247 entries in the broader A category, for operating portable with 3 or more participants. (Plus there were 315 entries in the B category, for portable with just one or two participants.) 35,369 hams in total participated in this year’s Field Day.

    Although the scoring was nice, our focus was really on having a good experience operating, for all of us participating, and for having practice for emergencies.

    http://www.arrl.org/files/file/ContestResults/2015/FD.pdf

    http://www.arrl.org/results-database?event_id=68929

    73,
    Gary WA2JQZ

    Like

  2. Pingback: Field Day 2016 | MSFC Amateur Radio Station

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