Airborne Checkin On HAM Radio Net

On my morning drive in to work I usually tune in and listen to the SARA (Stanaslaus Amateur Radio Association) Morning Traffic and Information Net on my HAM radio.  A net is when a group of HAMs get together on the radio and take turns speaking to each other.  This net is used to talk about the weather we can expect that day and any traffic information for the commuters.  Otherwise people just talk about what they are going to do for the day, their Aunt Edna, or whatever.  I check in every now and then but mostly just listen.

This week I decided to check in from my powered paraglider.  HAM radio operators get a thrill out of new or unusual contacts (contact with someone via radio).   So here is a short video of that flight.  I added my usual artistic flair by adding some music to make it less boring.  Enjoy!


Even More Ham

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.


Moron Ham Radio

Um… I mean more on Ham radio.  Why Ham radio?  I’ve never really been interested in it up until now.  Most of my friends who fly PPG use Ham radio to communicate with each other.  I could be like a lot of guys and just use the Ham bands ilegally but that’s not who I am.   I’ve been studying for the Technician license which will get me the privileges I need to legally use the same frequencies my buddies use.


I’ve selected the Yaesu VX-6R as the radio I want to use.  The features I like are the small size and the fact that it has about a zillion features.  One of the features I really like is it’s dual watch feature.  I can input two frequencies, a main frequency and then a frequqncy that it will monitor every 5 seconds.  If it senses a transmission on the second frequency it will switch over to that other frequency until the transmission is complete and then it will switch back to the main frequency you are monitoring.  I plan to set the Ham frequency the other guys use as the main frequency, and then set the aircraft frequency our local airfield uses (MULTICOM) as the secondary frequency.  As far as what frequencies it can pick up, well, almost any radio frequency.  From AM/FM, to weather, to police and fire bands, aviation bands, and most of the Ham bands.

I’ve also been listening to a local repeater in the area.  They have a group or “net” that meets most mornings and radio out traffic and weather and talk about what their plans are for the day.  So after I’m licensed I’ll probably hook up with them and maybe learn a little more about Ham radio.  I’ve got a friend who is a broadcast radio engineer who will also be MORE than eager to answer any questions I have.