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 turned out to have an excellent operation!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
In the evening, Rob KB5EZ operated digital RTTY on 20 and 40 meters.
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.
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.
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 WA2JQZ, KB5EZ, Ghee WL7C, with help from the rest of the team.]