Creativity Opportunities

In social media circles there has been much discussion about Field Day in light of COVID-19 restrictions.  Many traditional club operations are going to be cancelled this year due to social distancing requirements and the need to protect ourselves and especially vulnerable members of our population, of which there are many in amateur radio.

Folks are going to continue to participate from home this year.  Many people undoubtedly are going to recreate the “traditional” FD experience they are accustomed to, operating in their backyard, perhaps in a tent with temporary antennas, emergency power, a grill, and some cold 807s.

Participants operating at home must operate either as D or E class.  D class stations use commercial power while E class uses emergency power sources.  D class stations cannot contact other D stations for points.  E class stations can contact any other class station.  For those wanting to operate in their backyard with tents, emergency power, and temporary antennas, with the way the rules are currently written, they are required to operate as E class.  This puts them in competition with other E stations that choose to operate in the comfort of their homes using permanent antennas.  This would include antennas like a rotatable beam on an 80′ tower. So participants choosing to operate in their backyard with what would otherwise be a common field station, as 1E are at a disadvantage.  It would be more fair to allow backyard stations to operate as class B.

There have also been calls for ARRL to remove the D class contact limitation.  This would give D stations more opportunities to make contacts than they usually could, but considering the unprecedented situation this year and the likelihood of a large majority of D class stations, it would seem removing the restriction would make sense.

ARRL has noted they will not publish aggregated club scores.  Doing so would be a benefit for clubs that are unable to have their normal FD operations and have members operating from home.  There could be an “Aggregate Club Home Score” reporting category created.  Considering that all FD score data is probably stored in a database, producing such a reporting category would be trivial.

Undoubtedly there are other one time tweaks and adjustments that could be made this year in light of the situation we’re in.  I can’t understand why ARRL hasn’t been more flexible and creative this year and used the circumstances as an opportunity to officially recognize the flexibility and creativity of participants, and instead has ironically asked participants to be creative, but stay within the lines of the current rules.


This article was originally posted at Radio Artisan.

Answers to Top 10 Field Day Questions

Answers to the top 10 questions at Field Day, with questions omitted (and with 5 bonus answers):


15. Snakes.

14. Yes, I still hear the interference.

13. Behind that tree over there.

12. Because he knows his callsign and you don’t have to tell it to him three times.

11. Hit Return.

10. Hot.

9. Try rebooting it.

8. It doesn’t matter.  It’s not up high enough to have any directivity.

7. Just say QSL.

6. Rain.

5. Yes, this frequency is in use.

4. It’s on the sign right above the rig.

3. I filled it up an hour ago.  It’s good.

2. Yes, it’s done in the middle.

1. Hamburger.


This article was originally posted on Radio Artisan by a team of laptop-equipped squirrels.

Why We Like Field Day

This past weekend I spent Field Day with two long time friends.  It wasn’t the biggest, best, most-attended, highest-scoring Field Day I’ve participated in, but it was good to do this annual ritual.  I’ve always loved Field Day, and it’s perhaps my favorite event.  I think my initial attraction to it was combining camping and the outdoors with my love of radio.  Today I see it more as something that brings everyone in our diverse hobby together.  Field Day captures nearly all of the components or

facets of our hobby into one event: casual operating, contesting, learning, construction, emergency operations, construction, socializing, and of course, eating good food.  No matter what each of us does in amateur radio or what modes we like, there is a place for everyone at Field Day.

Setting up for Field Day is stressful, no doubt about it.  For those of us involved in organizing these events at one time or another, you question whether it’s worth it.  Then there’s the weather, often rainy, sweltering, or a combination of both.  There’s never enough time to setup and you never seem to have enough hands to help out.  But when everything gets underway, it’s all worth it.

Field Day recharges me for another year of operating.  Now that I’m back in the home QTH and off today, I’m thinking about the next Field Day… what can we do better and easier, and make more fun.

Cool Field Day Visit

A few days ago I received this announcement from the ARRL Eastern PA Section Manager, Bob Famiglio, K3RF:

“As EPA Section Manager, I have received a number of invitations to visit the field day sites of ARRL affiliated clubs.  As an ARES District Emergency Coordinator for many years, I enjoyed visiting field day sites in my five county district from time to time. The challenge now, however, is how do I visit sites throughout the EPA section during the actual operations?  I would have to sprout wings.  But wait, maybe I can.

As some of you know I hold an FAA private pilot certificate. I am
fortunate to be acquainted with another ham pilot, Jim Goldman, W3JG.
Jim is not only an experienced pilot, but also owns his own late-model
Cessna 182 aircraft.  What’s more, Jim’s aircraft was professionally
fitted with an extra antenna for 2 m and 70 cm. Having had the pleasure
of flying with Jim in the past, I suggested that we plan a field day
trip as a salute to as many ARRL club sites as we could comfortably
visit from the air. Jim likes the idea so we are on. Naturally,
weather, flight restrictions and safety considerations may limit what
we can do in certain instances. However, our tentative plan is to fly
over as many field day sites as practical, perhaps dip a wing in salute
and provide a contact as aeronautical mobile as well.”

Jim goes on to talk about frequencies, logistics, and how to request a fly-by visit.  I think this is a wonderful idea.  It’s great to see such creative thinking in amateur radio and ARRL leadership.

Personal Growth

Each year I post an article with tips for Field Day organizers, but admittedly most folks who volunteer to lead such events already know how to organize a good Field Day event.  Something I see year after year but is rarely talked about is personal growth from these events.  What does personal growth have to do with Field Day, you ask?  By personal growth, I mean learning new things, becoming more technically proficient, and become an overall more skilled operator.  You see some folks who come one year who are nervous about getting on the mic, they observe others operate, and during a slow period they may get coaxed into operating awhile.  They get the hang of it after an hour or two and do fairly well.  Next year when they come back to Field Day, they readily volunteer to operate and can belt out 60 or 70 QSOs an hour, with someone logging alongside.  The next year they can operate and log all by themselves.  Perhaps later they will branch out and do digital modes or CW.  There’s a learning process going on, and it extends outside of Field Day where skills and techniques learned are applied to everyday operating or perhaps casual contest operating.  Ultimately these people become a key part of the Field Day organizing process, readily becoming a resource and providing expertise to others.

Unfortunately there tends to be an element at annual Field Days who don’t grasp this concept.  They don’t listen during the demonstrations of the logging program during the preparation meetings or at the final pep talk before Field Day operating kicks off.  They don’t want to know how the rigs work, they will depend each year on someone setting up the band, mode, and tuner before they operate.  Some may drive into the site several hours into the event, hop in an operating position in prime time hours, eat some food, and leave.  Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to be a casual operator, but if you’ve been at your local club’s Field Day for the past decade, you owe it to yourself and those who are putting a lot of effort into the event to help out, learn, grow, and contribute.

Get to know the logging program.  Most clubs these days tend to use free logging programs.  You can download them from the Internet, install them, and get to know how they work.  Undoubtedly you’ll be able to use the Field Day logging program in your own shack.

Learn about antennas.  There’s a reason why Miracle Whip or Buddipole antennas, while very portable, easy to setup, and convenient, are horribly lousy antennas for Field Day.  Yes, everyone does believe you worked Europe with one, which by the way, was on 10 meters when it opened up one day ten years ago.

Watch others making QSOs.  Some guys can’t make a QSO to save their life, and others can stack up QSOs like cordwood.  Band conditions certainly help, but you’ll notice some ops just take the mic and do short CQs, they skillfully adjust their verbaige in order to make the best use of frequency time, they manage pileups well, and they use proper phonetics and at the right times.  They amass QSOs effortlessly.  Other operators just can’t seem to get it together.  They do long 40 second CQs in which they say CQ numerous times, but say the callsign only once or twice.  They’ll wait a long time in between CQs.  When someone does answer they’ll waste time giving their own callsign, perhaps multiple times.  If they don’t copy the station on their first call, they’ll spend 30 seconds telling the station how weak they are, wasting precious time that could be used for the station to try again.  While no one is asking people to have the communications efficiency of an air traffic controller, you can have a lot more fun with less effort by adopting a few simple techniques.

Learn about the equipment.  Field Day is a great opportunity to see new rigs in operation you’re not familiar with.  Ask the owner of the equipment to show you how the menus work and find out what they like and don’t like about the rigs.

Bring a pair of headphones, a “Y” adapter, a notepad and pen, and ride shotgun on the CW station.  CW contesting is probably one of the most intimidating things in amateur radio, if you’ve never experienced it.  Sit alongside someone running CW on Field Day and just listen and try to copy callsigns.  After you attempt to copy a callsign, look up at the logging program screen and see what call the lead operator copied.  You will be amazed at what you can pick out and how you eventually get the “rhythm”.  Before you know it, you’ll want to hop on the keyboard and give it a try.  It’s addictive.

Network and help out.  While most clubs welcome people to come for a short period of time and operate, if you’re a regular annual attendee, you owe it to your club to stick around longer and talk with folks, get to know new members, and help with the clean up.  If you’re a seasoned amateur, you owe it to the hobby to help others become seasoned operators.