In my last blog entry I talked about taking the Amateur Radio test up in Granite Bay. I didn’t go into much detail on the testing process so I’ll add a little about that here. The local club in Granite Bay gives tests every Saturday at Raley’s. Yes, Raley’s. There is a community conference room at the back of the store and this is where you’ll find the local Amateur Radio club every week. When you first walk in you are given a packet with some forms to fill out. Simple stuff like name and address and FRN number if you have one. The FRN number is how the FCC identifies you in their database.
In the packet is the actual test and answer sheet. If you’ve ever taken standardized tests in school where you fill in the bubble it’s very similar. Don’t write in the test booklet, completely black in the answer number. After you’re done with the test you hand it to the graders. It is a group of three people who are usually “elmers” or older more experienced Hams. They each graded it as a cross check. When the last guy checked my answers he gave me a big smiling “thumb’s up!”
After that they told me it would be a week to 10 days before my license appeared in the FCC database. This can be checked on the FCC’s website. I had the page bookmarked and checked every morning and evening this week. This morning before work, my name was not there. On a whim I checked when I got to work and there I was!
Now that I have a call sign I am legal to talk on Ham radio. I have a good friend who will be in my area this evening and we are going to try to arrange it so that he will be my first radio contact. We are going to communicate via what is called simplex. This means we will be communicating radio to radio not using any repeaters. Repeaters allow to boost your range. We’re going to keep it simple for tonight. He’ll be within a couple miles of me anyway so simplex should work just fine.
One other thing I’ve done is request a vanity call sign from the FCC. This will allow me to use a slightly shorter and more meaningful call sign. Since I’ve been a pilot for years and years I’d really like a call sign that begins with N. I’ve put in the application and will update here when it comes through.