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Member: ARRL, Huntsville Amateur Radio Club (HARC), North Alabama Repeater Association (NARA)


Generally an A index at or below 15 or a K index at or below 3 is best for propagation. See this article.


  Currently operating fixed and mobile in the Madison, Alabama area (EM64OQ).  I am a stones throw from Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama and am fortunate to fly in and out of the airport at the home of America's space program.  Many of the aircraft I fly come equipped with HF radios so I occassionally come up on the bands and operate aeronautical mobile.  My son is also a licensed Amateur Radio operator and is active on HF as KG7NJQ.


Running down the left side of the CH-47F Chinook helicopter fuselage - the long black bar above my head is the HF antenna.





  Amateur Radio was introduced to me by my Uncle Maurie - W6PNW (SK) at the age of ten.  For Christmas he gave me an old Model 14 Kleinschmidt Teletype and my grandfather gave me a National 125 receiver.  That was 48 years ago.  I actually got my Novice license on 6 August 1988 and the original callsign was KB6ZVP.  After quickly upgrading the Technician, I spent a 2 1/2 decades as a Tech Plus, mainly on the Satellites with Packet Radio and other terrestrial digital modes then took an extended hiatus to serve my country.

  My son received his Ham ticket (KG7NJQ) on 26 June 2014 which fired up my interest to get back into ham radio and upgrade to Extra.

  I upgraded to General and immediately to Extra Class during the same testing session on 27 June 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  My new callsign is AF7KE.



Airborne Ops


The aeronautical mobile ham radio station - a CH-47F Chinook helicopter.



  I am truly fortunate to pilot the latest version of the Chinook helicopter, the CH-47F, and travel worldwide delivering brand new airframes.  When not too busy performing Instructor Pilot or Test Pilot duties I sometimes get the chance to come up on 20 meters while airborne for a chat with anyone who is interested.  Usually, I check-in and monitor the various Nets on 14.300 Mhz.  To learn more about the Chinook helicopter please visit www.Chinook-helicopter.com.

 While airborne, I utilize the AN/ARC-220 Advanced HF Aircraft Communications System manufactured by Rockwell Collins.  I usually set it to maximum power which is 400 watts. 

  Occasionally, we have a spare radio aboard and I can use one of them to work 2 meters or 70 centimeters.  With the newer technology I can work repeaters as well as come up on the National Calling Frequency - 146.520.

  Unfortunately, I do not have a regular schedule.  I just pop up on the air and reach out to anyone who may be listening.



  In the photo: AF7KE working 20 meters over Texas.



Ground Ops - HF


Initial installation and testing of Yaesu FT-897D and Amplifier remote control.



  While on the ground, I operate mobile out of the truck, covering all bands from 40 meters thru 70 cm, but mostly 20 meters.  The truck is a 2013 GMC 2500HD powered by a Duramax Diesel powerplant.  It is very powerful engine yet delivers 20 MPG City/28 MPG Highway at 65 MPH.

  On top of the truck there is a Little Tarheel HP on a Lift and Lay mount.  Hand crafted steel support beams were added to the inside of the cab roof to handle the extra weight of the mount and antenna.  It is a rock solid antenna system that I can lay down at the push of a button in case there is low overhead clearance on the road.

  The transceiver is a Yaesu FT-897D.  It can produce up to 100 watts on all HF bands thru 6 meters, 50 watts on 2 meters and 20 watts on 70 centimeters.

  The equipment that brings the antenna and radio together - and makes it a real pleasure to operate HF while mobile - is the Tunematic antenna controller manufactured by JT Communications.  This amazing device senses the frequency and SWR and sets the antenna to the correct length.  So far, on 40 through 6 meters, it has not failed to set the antenna length correctly and the SWR is near 1:1 on all bands.  If you are looking for painless, on-the fly, rapid frequency changes while working the HF bands the Tunematic is truly the way to go.

  From the Huntsville area, I have worked up and down the east coast and all the way west to Hawaii and east to most of Europe - on 100 watts mobile.

  If you are not using a Little Tarheel antenna and the Tunematic for control and find yourself working too hard to make contacts - this just may be what you are looking for... (you can find them on the web).

  As an upgrade in November 2015, I started the installation of a 500 watt capable Ameritron ALS-500M no-tune all band HF amplifier.  I am still in the installation and test mode but all indications for now are that it an acceptable amplifier.  Initial testing revealed it does not affect the vehicle sub-systems at full power on 20 meters, which was the chief concern with todays advanced electronically controlled vehicles.  I'm either lucky, or the extensive use of 1 inch braid cable for RF bonding is working.  More to follow on this as time goes by.



The truck while in Decatur, Alabama (June 2015).



Tunematic installation in center console. Note the 1 inch wide braid cable used throughout the vehicle for RF grounding.



Antenna and Tunematic Controls added to the center console.

The switch on the left is used to raise and lower the HF antenna.

The control pad in the center is used to automatically tune the HF antenaa.

The Yaesu FT-897D audio was fed into the truck's stereo system via the Aux Input.



Little Tarheel HP (up to 500 Watts) installed on the truck.



Interior view of HF antenna support enhancement on the truck roof.

The thin skin of the roof is not strong enough to support the mount and antenna.

Two C-channel steel bars were added to give the required support.



Initial installation and testing of the Ameritron 500 watt amplifier.



A laptop mount manufactured by RAM Mounts was added on 2 June 2017.


  About the RAM Mount.  Not so funny thing...  I paid extra to have the unit shipped second day air ($45.95).  That would give me ten days to install before the Alabama QSO Party started.  After I ordered it I received an email stating it would not ship for four business days.  Toss in Memorial Day weekend and that meant seven days after I ordered it the item shipped.  An email to RAM Mounts Tech Support questioning the charge verses shipping went unanswered.  This left a bad taste in my mouth...

  It finally arrives.  My first impression after opening the box was "send it back".  I was billed $436.40 and got a box full of little parts separated into little plastic bags and instructions that seemed conceived by a child in some distant bathroom stall.  However, I endeavored to persevere since I really needed it for the Alabama QSO Party and that started in the morning.  Rush, rush, rush...

  Ignoring any confusion added by the instructions, the installation of the base plate was straightforward.  It mounts under the two front bolts used to secure the front passenger seat.  It is solid and when used with the stabilizer foot it securely holds the system in place minimizing any vibration induced movement.

  By the way, the stabilizer foot comes with the unit - RAM Mounts part number RAM-VB-159-SW1.  The website recommends you use it, so you are led to believe you need to order one.  Now I have two.  The cost to ship it back exceeds the value of the item. 

  Then came assembly and installation of the Upper Telepole and Swing Arm assemblies.  Remember, forget the little scraps of paper that should be instructions.  If you have sufficient mechanical experience one can assemble this thing in due time.  It took me about four hours to lay it all out and determine how it fits together.  Once assembled it is a decent unit from the floor up to the point where the laptop tray is mounted.

  Laptop tray.  Up to this point the unit is rock solid and acceptable once installed.  The tray requires a whole lot of thinking, many breaks and an air conditioned environment to put it together.  Over an hour of actual work time.

  I discovered I was sent incompatible parts in the process.  For a separate charge I had ordered the RAM Security Pin Lock Kit to firmly engage and secure a laptop.  This is needed to prevent the laptop from falling out of the tray while in motion.  One needs to understand... this is a mount system designed to go into a vehicle so one can use a laptop in the vehicle.  However - one has to purchase a separate part to hold the laptop in place.  Expletive deleted.

  In the end, there is a wrench like knob that is supposed to fit into a nut like knob so one can tighten the security device down to lock in the laptop.  They sent me the wrong parts and it did not function.

  An email to Tech Support took over a week to be answered, but the replacement parts did arrive and now that functions properly.

  In the same email I discussed the sloppiness of the ball mount assembly that attached to the swing arm.  There is considerable play and this is due to bad manufacturing.  The part is forged, not machined and therefore has about 3/16 inch play when the knob is fully tightened.  They sent me replacement parts.  They are exactly the same parts as the original.  So I will have to find a solution myself.

  For charging me second day air and not refunding it, poor and slow tech support, poor quality control in manufacturing and all the unnecessary bolts, nuts, screws and pieces left over that don't belong anywhere - I give Ram Mounts a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5.  I  would not order from them again unless they significantly improved their product (better instructions and eliminate the sloppiness in the tray mount) and developed a responsive tech support.

  Jean (KG7NJQ) and I did manage to use the mount during the Alabama QSO Party on 3 June 2017.  Only with him sitting behind the laptop to hold onto it did I feel comfortable enough to drive.


Side view of Ram Mount.


The Base Plate for Ram Mount's laptop mount attaches under the front seat bolts.



Jean (KG7NJQ) operating mobile during the 3 June 2017 Alabama QSO Party.



3 June 2017: Outfitted with a Ram Laptop Mount for the Alabama QSO Party.



Mobile Ground Ops - 2 meters and above


  For 2 meter and 70 centimeter operations, a pair of Yaesu FT-400DR transceivers were installed under the rear seat.  The control heads were installed up front near the drivers seat.  These radios have the capability of producing 50 watts on either band.

  One radio is set to conduct APRS operations on the 2 meter band while the other band is tuned to the local repeater I like to monitor - 145.330, minus .600, 100 Hz PL tone.  I don't talk a lot, but I am always listening.

  The second radio is set to the National Calling Frequency - 146.520 and to Huntsville Approach Control - 125.6.



Dual Yaesu FT-400DR tranceivers mounted under back seat, center.



With the seat removed it is easier to see the dual Yaesu FT-400DR tranceivers.



Interior view of Tri-Band antenna support enhancement.

Five inch aluminum plates were added to provide support for the antennas.

Again, the skin of the truck is just too thin.

Ultra-Black adhesive was used under the plates to help absorb vibration and noise.



Mobile Ops Power and Distribution


Left and Right Hand Batteries installed in truck bed.



  Two large capacity deep cycle AGM batteries were installed in the truck bed to supply up to 200 amps of direct current.  Each SLI31AGMDPM battery has 1150 cold cranking amps and 205 reserve hours (10 amps for 20 hours).  Each are protected by a 100 amp marine rated circuit breaker that can be seen in the photographs above (has small yellow lever to reset breaker if tripped).

  To the right of the circuit breaker, as shown in the left photograph, is a common binding post where power from both batteries is connected and routed forward to the cabin.

  To the right of the binding post is a marine rated 160 amp Automatic Charge Isolator Relay (ACR).  This handy device isolates the two auxilliary batteries from the main engine start battery unless the engine is running and the alternator is suppling power to charge (at least 13.2 VDC).  The ACR provides immediate over-voltage protection in the event the vehicle charging system voltage exceeds 16 VDC.

  Marine rated devices were chosen to mitigate the effects of operating in hot and humid climates.  In those environments corrosion is an on-going battle.

  The vehicle is outfitted with dual 160 Amp alternators.  One alternator is used to charge the engine start battery. Power to charge the auxilliary batteries is fed from the engine start battery via a 150 amp marine rated circuit breaker in the engine compartment and 4 gauge marine rated cable to the ACR then to the binding post in the bed of the truck.  From the binding post, 6 gauge cable is used to connect to the two individual battery circuit breakers.

  Referencing the next photograph, power is supplied via 6 gauge marine rated cable forward to the cabin area. There it connects to a marine rated fuse block and then is distributed to the various transceivers and support equipment.

  The power requirement for the Yaesu FT-897D is up to 20 amps.  The Ameritron ALS-500M can require up to 80 amps.  Each Yaesu FT-400DR transciever would consume 20 amps at full power.  The designed 200 amp supply is more than adequate for the mobile operation.



Power Distribution and Fuse Block mounted under rear seat, left side.



Home QTH Ground Ops - 2 meters and above


The VAK-1 and BAG-1 from The Mast Company



  The kit shown above was obtained from The Mast Company - www.TMastCo.com.  The VAK-1 Kit includes a base made of composite material resembling wood (more like a plastic) that insulates the assembly from the ground, a bag of eight D-rings for guy line attachment, two guy wire plates with five holes (allows the option of using three or four guy lines, four steel spikes to secure base firmly to ground, and nine 48 inch heavy duty aluminum poles, as well as a how-to and suggestion booklet.  The BAG-1 comes separate and holds the entire VAK-1 Kit plus whatever else you may need to add (guy lines, guy line ground stakes, etc.).  This kit was purchased 31 October 2016 for $224 which includes the $54 for shipping from Raleigh, North Carolina to Madison, Alabama.  This is similar to the ones the armed services used for many years - only a hundred times better in design and strength.  It makes for quick and easy portable antenna setup.  When installed properly it also can function as vertical antenna on the 20 - 60 meter bands.  Henry Pollack (K4TMC) is friendly, courteous and very responsive to customer needs and he built a great kit.





AF7KE world-wide logged contacts as of 16 October 2016.



  Unfortunately, all of my logboks and QSL cards prior to 2014 were lost to time.  However, that's OK.  I still enjoy Amateur Radio and am building up a new logbook.  I started using the free Log4OM software suite a few years ago.  It is a pretty good program and has a vast amount of great features.  It also produces a pretty map showing little red dots for all your contacts made.  Above is a very reduced size of the map it produces.



QSL Card Information


AF7KE QSL Card - November 2016.



  I really prefer LoTW for QSL confirmation.  With today's internet it is the fasest way to confirm a QSO.  I also use eQSL and will electronically deliver a card - usually on the day we make the contact.  I also send and receive cards the old fashion way (because its still way cool) via the ARRL QSL Bureau.  I will send a card to you via snail mail if you give me a bonafied mailing address. And I would love to have yours on my wall...




8155729 Last modified: 2017-06-13 01:13:59, 34297 bytes

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Grid Squared Award#15938
Granted: 2017-05-03 23:00:01   (AF7KE)

World Continents Award#14178
Granted: 2016-06-19 06:15:02   (AF7KE)

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