Category Archives: 432MHz

Tropo on the edge…

It’s been some months since we’ve seen any sort of decent tropo opening on VHF/UHF, in this part of Europe at least. However, there really was no excuse for being unaware of this one in advance because the forecasting websites (F5LEN and Hepburn) had been predicting something nice for the end of September for at least week prior. It turned out to be exceptional!

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Cloudy, with a chance of DX – super tropo.

A baby 70cm station is born, ready for action!

EI3KD antennas

2m (11el F9FT) and 70cm (19el F9FT) at EI3KD

Some months ago I added a 432MHz 19el F9FT antenna to the mast (approximately 4.5m a.g.l.), with the help of G4CLA – thanks Pete! My FT857D is capable of 20 Watts output on 70cm, but I did find an old sspa that, with a reduced drive from the rig, bumped it up to a massive 30 Watts! Every decibel counts, right? Anyway, the sspa’s built-in preamp was probably a small improvement over the rig’s front-end. Even with such a small set-up I’ve managed to give away a few points in the RSGB UKAC 70cm contests, and also had a few DX contacts during brief spells of enhancement. I also have a higher power sspa to modify for 432MHz, but that’s another story.

Since added the 70cm antenna I’ve been looking forward to a decent tropo opening, and early February wasn’t going to disappoint! Apologies for the length of the blog that follows, but it was an exceptional tropo opening…

Worked and heard maps 8-12 Feb 2015

144MHz worked and heard, 8-12 Feb 2015

144MHz worked and heard, 8-12 Feb 2015

432MHz worked and heard, 8-12 Feb 2015

432MHz worked and heard, 8-12 Feb 2015

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Problems with the Meteorscatter-Sprint contest?

The Meteorscatter-Sprint contest takes place, each year, for a period of 48 hours around the peak of the August Perseids meteor shower. The rules don’t state any specific reason for the contest but, apart from providing the usual contest thrills, one assumes one of its main aims must be to promote activity?

From my perspective, it became apparent during 2013’s Perseids shower that this contest is having a somewhat negative impact, especially (but not only) when it comes to attempting ODX (extreme distance) contacts. I’ll try, as best I can, to explain…

Firstly, there is really no need to promote activity at the very peak of the year’s best meteor shower! The August Perseids is widely known to be very reliable and has been a focus of activity, including expeditions, for decades. Any promotion of activity would be far better targeted a week, or even a few days, before or after the peak: Conditions are often excellent during these times, but activity (i.e. stations “on the air”) has never been anywhere near as good as at the peak – this can only be partly due to the current sprint contest because it has been true for many, many years.

The August Perseids provides a high ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) at a quite predictable peak time, that makes it ideal for attempting extreme distance QSOs. However, even at the very peak of the shower, distances significantly greater than 2000km will often take a long time to complete, perhaps upwards of an hour. Unfortunately the sprint contest implicitly encourages entrants to only attempt QSOs that will take very little time to complete: It is, after all, a “sprint” and the scoring system is based purely on the number of contacts made, so it’s natural that entrants want to make contacts at the highest possible rate – who can blame them? I’m not sure it’s really possible to add enough bias in the scoring system to make it worth people’s time attempting QSOs over extreme distances, but if the contest is to remain at the peak of the shower then it should be considered… please!

The end result is that it becomes intensely frustrating to be receiving meteor scatter signals from several stations who are more than 2400km away, but have no chance to contact them because they are only interested in “quick and easy” QSOs. Of course, as it stands, once the contest is finished they are then free to try an hour-long sked, but the irony is that the peak of the shower has then passed and a QSO is not possible…

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a DX-er and therefore have my own biases. I enjoy stretching the boundaries of what is possible at VHF and I think, in general, contests are a great way of achieving that purpose. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Meteorscatter-Sprint contest does not!

An exceptional tropo opening

There had been much anticipation of a decent tropo opening around the 23rd September with a large, stable area of high pressure forming over north west Europe. In the end it turned into something that people will remember for a long time, with some fabulous contacts made. I can’t wait to see reports from the likes of GI4SNA, OM2VL, S51ZO, and others, which I’m sure will be amazing!

Here’s my own story, with apologies for the length…

The Hepburn forecast map was looking good with a nice yellow/orange area predicting long-distance potential:

Hepburn 23/06/13

Hepburn’s tropo prediction for 06z on 23/09/13

On the morning of 22nd September things started to look promising, with a few reasonable contacts over 800km to the east and south – not huge signals, but it was something:

22/09/2013 06:30 DG0VOG          JO60QU  519      519      2 m.   1496km
22/09/2013 06:35 PA3GGI          JO21TV  539      529      2 m.    947km
22/09/2013 06:38 DL6YBF          JO31OX  59       59       2 m.   1054km
22/09/2013 06:42 F4EGA           JO10QK  54       51       2 m.    823km
22/09/2013 06:47 PA2CHR          JO32DB  59       59       2 m.    991km
22/09/2013 06:53 PA4VHF          JO32JE  57       55       2 m.   1024km
22/09/2013 07:05 ON4KHG          JO10XO  58       56       2 m.    858km
22/09/2013 07:11 ON4KBE          JO20BI  559      559      2 m.    877km
22/09/2013 07:49 DK3EE           JO41GU  54       41       2 m.   1146km
22/09/2013 08:12 PE9GG           JO33NA  59       59       2 m.   1043km
22/09/2013 08:19 PA5MS           JO21RQ  55       54       2 m.    938km
22/09/2013 08:31 DF0MU           JO32PC  529      519      2 m.   1058km
22/09/2013 08:34 PA1VW           JO22IN  549      559      2 m.    881km
22/09/2013 08:42 ON4BR           JO20SW  549      439      2 m.    958km
22/09/2013 08:47 PA2DW           JO22GD  55       55       2 m.    871km
22/09/2013 09:02 PD0HCV          JO31FW  57       57       2 m.   1003km
22/09/2013 09:17 DK1FG           JN59OP  519      319      2 m.   1384km
22/09/2013 10:42 EA1DHB/P        IN83FD  51       52       2 m.   1038km
22/09/2013 10:44 EA2TO/P         IN83FD  51       51       2 m.   1038km

Later that evening and into the morning of the 23rd September a few more signals appeared:

22/09/2013 22:32 DG0VOG          JO60QU  51       519      1496km
22/09/2013 22:46 DM7RM/P         JN48JC  51       519      1283km
23/09/2013 06:50 DL8MAI          JN57FV  519      529      1405km
23/09/2013 07:06 DF1CF           JN57FP  519      529      1417km
23/09/2013 08:05 HB3YAT          JN47JM  RO       RO       1313km
23/09/2013 09:18 DF1CF           JN57FP  57       52       1417km

Once again the signals were not too strong, but the distances were very good: This usually indicates there’s a good high-level (mid-tropospheric) duct somewhere along the path, but it is almost certainly extended at one or both ends by a local low-level inversion. There was certainly one at my end of the path, if the thick fog here was anything to go by.

After the QSO with DF1CF @09:18z things started to go downhill very rapidly as the local inversion lifted, to the point where the band seemed absolutely dead more-or-less everywhere. This was disappointing, because it showed that few, if any, people were able to directly access the mid-tropospheric duct at this time – probably because it was at too high an altitude (indications are it was then >1400m above sea level). Over time there was no doubt the high-level duct would descend, as it always does, but of course the high pressure system itself would also move. There was plenty of nail-biting at ‘3KD, hoping the duct would come directly into range at some point!

Luckily, this is where well-sited beacons show how useful they are: HB9HB (JN37qf/1226km) is located at 1395m asl and was a constant signal even when everything else had faded, confirming the duct was still present. Indeed it grew in strength, thus raising hopes…

Then, at around 12z, the first “properly ducted” signal suddenly appeared, from OE2XRM (JN67nt/1589km)! It took a few calls to attract his attention through the instant pile-up, but a nice QSO resulted. I didn’t have the audio recorder running at the time, but made this recording just a few minutes later:

Soon after, more and more signals started to appear from a similar direction, characterised by good signal strengths disturbed by very deep and rapid fading. The distances were great, varying from 800 to over 1500km:

23/09/2013 12:15 OE2XRM          JN67NT  55       559      1589km
23/09/2013 13:05 F0FYP           JN37LO  55       55       1188km
23/09/2013 13:30 F6DCD           JN38RQ  569      569      1167km
23/09/2013 13:35 DJ9EV           JN49SC  55       52       1290km
23/09/2013 13:50 DK1FG           JN59OP  58       58       1384km
23/09/2013 14:00 OK1ES           JO60RN  529      419      1510km
23/09/2013 14:09 HB9SLU          JN36MU  54       51       1236km
23/09/2013 14:42 DF9RJ           JN68GS  55       53       1508km
23/09/2013 14:48 DK3XT           JN49FE  559      559      1213km
23/09/2013 14:51 HB9BNI          JN37WB  559      559      1278km
23/09/2013 15:13 DL2GPS          JN48CD  54       41       1242km
23/09/2013 15:25 F5BLD           JN38WS  549      559      1191km
23/09/2013 15:33 DL2OM           JO30SN  599      559      1104km
23/09/2013 15:36 DL5MCG          JN58KH  53       58       1414km
23/09/2013 15:39 DL8NP           JN58SC  559      569      1468km
23/09/2013 15:44 DL0SA           JN58SC  549      539      1468km
23/09/2013 15:48 OE5RBO          JN68OB  559      559      1583km
23/09/2013 15:55 F5SE/P          JN19XH  59       59        905km
23/09/2013 16:02 F5SE/P          JN19XH  539      519       905km (70cm)
23/09/2013 16:07 F6IHC           JO10OQ  58       55        804km
23/09/2013 16:09 F5JNX           JN37PV  589      599      1194km
23/09/2013 16:11 F6ACU           JN38FC  599      599      1128km
23/09/2013 16:17 DJ3OS           JN49FL  51       57       1202km
23/09/2013 16:19 F1NPX/P         JN29DH  57       59        927km
23/09/2013 16:22 F5MFO           JN19IB  579      559       834km
23/09/2013 16:29 DF7RG           JN68HG  569      569      1534km
23/09/2013 16:30 OK2BY           JN69JJ  559      559      1501km
23/09/2013 16:34 DK1KW           JN58RE  529      559      1459km

I even had a QSO with F5SE/P (JN19xh/905km) on 432MHz – but more about my 70cm exploits later…

At 16:35z, I glimpsed a comment from Pista, HA1FV (JN87jj/1858km) in the ON4KST chat that he could hear me – but I already knew because, to my amazement, I could hear him calling! The signal was quite weak but an easy QSO resulted, most certainly via tropo from the duration and “sound” of the transmission – unfortunately I didn’t have the audio being recorded at the time, so no clip.

Some minutes later I was still getting over the shock of working Pista, and struggling to receive a French station who’d faded into the noise, when I heard “S51ZO S51ZO?” being sent on CW. I had half a mind that it was a wind-up, but went on to work Joze, S51ZO (JN86dr/1856km) very easily – I was amazed when he confirmed the QSO later in the KST chat! This time I remembered to turn the audio recorder on right at the end of the contact, so got a brief clip that indicates how good a signal it was:

Conditions were getting better all the time and I was very pleased, shortly after S51ZO, to work Frank OE3FVU (JN78ve/1754km). Signals were slightly down during our contact, although it was easy enough, but I made this recording of Frank very soon after:

More nice contacts followed, including many to the south of Germany and Austria:

23/09/2013 16:37 HA1FV           JN87JJ  519      529      1858km
23/09/2013 16:43 F5LEN           JN38BO  54       54       1081km
23/09/2013 16:45 F2GL            JN17ST  549      569       957km
23/09/2013 16:50 S51ZO           JN86DR  559      579      1856km
23/09/2013 16:53 DK2HZ           JN48RW  539      539      1291km
23/09/2013 16:55 DL2DN           JN48MX  599      599      1261km
23/09/2013 16:56 F6AFC           JN38CM  599      599      1091km
23/09/2013 17:00 OE3FVU          JN78VE  52       51       1754km
23/09/2013 17:01 DL8SCQ          JN48RV  59       59       1293km
23/09/2013 17:02 F6GYH           JN27TS  59       59       1092km
23/09/2013 17:04 DK2RY           JN59KN  59       57       1364km
23/09/2013 17:05 F5FIM           JN38IA  59       59       1149km
23/09/2013 17:06 F4ABV           JN39FD  59       56       1079km
23/09/2013 17:07 DL6SDH          JN48RW  56       56       1291km
23/09/2013 17:08 DL4NC           JN59KO  54       52       1362km
23/09/2013 17:09 F2LU            JN38UH  59       58       1201km
23/09/2013 17:46 DL8FL           JN48XS  579      579      1332km
23/09/2013 17:48 DL6YBF          JO31OX  559      559      1054km
23/09/2013 17:49 DL5FDP          JN49LP  539      539      1230km
23/09/2013 17:52 F6DZS           JN18EV  539      539       821km
23/09/2013 17:55 DL5MAE          JN58VF  59       59       1480km 5 watts!
23/09/2013 17:57 DL5MAE          JN58VF  579      559      1480km (70cm)
23/09/2013 18:12 DL6WU           JN49HT  599      559      1201km
23/09/2013 18:14 DL5GAC          JN47UT  599      599      1359km
23/09/2013 18:36 LX2LA           JN39CP  59       59       1043km
23/09/2013 18:46 OE5XBL          JN68PC  59       59       1587km
23/09/2013 18:48 OE5XBL          JN68PC  51       539      1587km (70cm)
23/09/2013 19:04 OE3DSB          JN78FA  52       55       1670km
23/09/2013 19:07 LX1DB           JN39CO  59       59       1044km
23/09/2013 19:13 DJ0QZ           JN49LM  59       59       1234km

Did you notice the two 70cms contacts in the log, with DL5MAE (JN58vf/1480km) and OE5XBL (JN68pc/1587km), and earlier with F5SE/P? The FT857d I use can run about 20 watts on 432MHz but I don’t have an antenna for 70cm. However, I know from past experience that 2m Tonna antennas, such as my 11el, are not too bad a match on 70cm – So these QSOs were made with the barefoot FT857d into the 11el 2m antenna! It’s a slightly complicated process to switch bands, because I have to disable the 2m masthead preamp and apply an offset to the antenna azimuth because the pattern is skewed on 70cm, but it worked 😀 Here’s the audio from the ‘MAE and ‘XBL QSOs with us QSYing from 2m up to 70cm:

At around 19:15z I was tuning around the band and came across a CW signal that sounded a bit “DX-ey”. I was astonished to hear, very clearly, “OM2VL OM2VL OM2VL”, but was so excited I a) immediately forget his call, and b) initially forgot to switch the rig from SSB to CW. It was a brilliant QSO with Laci, OM2VL (JN87wv/1909km), but the chaos is adequately heard in the following clip 😀 About ten minutes later I could hear Laci very clearly on SSB, and on telling him that in the KST chat he asked me to call again for a very nice SSB QSO:

This was the peak of the opening for me and conditions very slowly started to drop off, although a number of great contacts followed for the rest of the evening through to the following morning, including a fantastic CW QSO with Zvonko, 9A1CAL (JN86dm/1867km).

I heard a little later from Moma, YU1EV (KN04cn/2246km), that he had heard me 539 during my QSO with 9A1CAL – it’s such a shame I didn’t hear him call!

The rest of the log is here:

23/09/2013 19:17 OM2VL           JN87WV  559      599      1909km
23/09/2013 19:20 OE5HSN          JN68PC  55       55       1587km
23/09/2013 19:28 OM2VL           JN87WV  55       59       1909km
23/09/2013 19:48 9A1CAL          JN86DM  519      519      1867km
23/09/2013 19:49 DL8MFL          JN58OA  599      599      1450km
23/09/2013 19:52 DH1VY           JN39KF  599      599      1104km
23/09/2013 20:01 DF6MU           JN58WF  599      599      1485km
23/09/2013 20:06 DD7PC           JN49AX  569      529      1156km
23/09/2013 20:07 DJ5NE           JN59LW  559      559      1357km
23/09/2013 20:09 DL4NAC          JN59SV  599      599      1398km
23/09/2013 20:11 DL2GWZ          JN49HQ  559      559      1206km
23/09/2013 20:15 DK3IK           JN39JF  549      559      1098km
23/09/2013 20:17 DM5TI           JN68FF  579      559      1525km
23/09/2013 20:20 F4JVG           JN16NL  529               1021km
23/09/2013 20:22 OK7GU           JN69QT  529      529      1526km
23/09/2013 20:24 OK1PGS          JN69JW  529      559      1482km
23/09/2013 20:28 DL1NBM          JN49MV  599      559      1227km
23/09/2013 20:56 DL1MAJ          JN68AH  599      599      1493km
23/09/2013 22:00 DK3EE           JO41GU  55       529      1146km
23/09/2013 22:47 HB9EOU          JN37JC  52       51       1205km
23/09/2013 23:09 OE9MON          JN47VM  57       57       1379km
24/09/2013 07:57 OK1TEH          JO70FD  RO       RO       1590km
24/09/2013 08:52 DL6NAA          JO50VF  55       55       1405km
24/09/2013 11:18 OE2JOM/2        JN67NT  58       51       1589km
24/09/2013 11:24 OE5XBL          JN68PC  55       55       1587km
24/09/2013 11:44 ON4PS/P         JO20KQ  559      559       918km
24/09/2013 11:46 DJ5BV           JO30KI  559      569      1064km
24/09/2013 12:00 DK2EA           JO50UF  419      539      1399km
24/09/2013 12:21 DL2AMD          JO50VV  559      559      1387km

Finally, my > 800km QSO map for the period 22->24/09/13:

Tropo 22-24/09/13

Tropo QSOs made from 22-24/09/13 by EI3KD > 800km

So that’s it, after 40-odd years of being a “2m addict”, the band is still capable of amazing and exciting things. Not many hobbies can do that, eh? 😀