Since I got my pilot license back in 2016, I’ve been wanting to bring the radio in the cockpit for some airborne mobile ops. Although I did set up some APRS tracking of me flying once, I’ve been putting off figuring out all the logistics of some basic 2m operation in the airplane.
While I’ve found some people who have installed a mobile radio into their aircraft, I rent the airplane I fly, so I need something portable. This means there are really two main aspects that need to be handled in terms of making it happen: managing audio with the radio and optimizing the antenna situation. I’ve solved this by using a handheld radio with Bluetooth audio capabilities and a custom suction cup mount for the antenna to keep it vertical and near the window.
Well, my first September VHF Contest could simply be described as rough. Unlike my other reports, I’ll cut to the chase up front and say I only made six contacts during the weekend with a claimed scored of 42. While this probably sums up my frustration, there is a lot of backstory to how things went which I think is worth diving into.
My original plan was to spend Saturday in EN20 given its relatively needed status (at least compared to other nearby grids) for FFMA ops. I selected the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area since it was 1) fairly close to my QTH in Kansas City, 2) a public place that I believed I’d have no hassle utilizing, and 3) was not in a river basin like many of the other public parks/areas nearby. I sent out a post on the FFMA groups.io advertising this operation and got some good feedback from other hams needing the grid, so I was really excited to make this work out.
As is the seemingly the craze in ham radio, I recently picked up several LiFePO4 batteries of varying capacities to use with my Yaseu FT-991a. I was able to get these as part of the Amazon Vine program, so there is no particular reason I chose the models in question: Power Queen 10Ah and SOKERDY 16Ah. For a similar reason, I got a (rather beefy) charger that supports varying chemistries from the SUHU brand (all these links are Amazon affiliate links).
Both batteries have a built-in Battery Management System (BMS) that essentially protects the cells from mistreatment including over and undervoltage. After the 2022 CQ WW VHF contest, which was the first I ran them to empty, I tried to charge them on the LiFePO4 setting on the charger, but it would not detect either battery. After putting a multimeter on them, I realize the BMS cutoff the terminals entirely to protect the low voltage condition. I would have expected this to reset after the load was removed for a certain amount of time but apparently not.
After remembering the battery charging had a “12V Supply” mode (which seemed useless to me when I bought it), I thought it was worth connecting them to the supply to see if this higher voltage would “kickstart” the batteries. Voila! It did! It seems only a second or two of 12-14V power is required to get it out of protection mode.
This is a clunky solution though as the charger requires a long button press to switch modes. It is probably better to not let the battery voltage get this low for battery longevity anyway, which is my solution going forward (and partially why having a simple voltmeter like I desired in my 2022 Field Day Report is handy). But in any case, keep this in mind if your LiFePO4 battery dies and the charger won’t detect it. It probably just needs a high enough voltage to get it out of this protection.
Please do this at your own risk as you are essentially forgoing any sort of controlled charging for the couple seconds it is connected. I take no responsibility for any undesirable result of trying this. Make sure you don’t leave it on too long or you could damage the battery!
Another Kansas QSO Party is in the books! I had a great weekend traveling through southern Kansas activating six counties along the way as 1×1 W0P. I used the same setup as described in my 2022 Field Day Report except I operated from the backseat of my car instead. I addressed some items I discovered during Field Day and CQ WW VHF contest operations as well. I was strictly SSB this year with all operations on 20m and 40m as a rover station.
After buying my Yaesu FT-991a and using it for Field Day, I realized that some functions are a bit annoying to control. In particular, getting the voice keyer going requires the display to show the specific recording buttons for operation. This blocks the waterfall as well as other quick settings which is not ideal. After looking online a bit, I came across a webpage from YO5PTD and GitHub project from PY2RAF giving some details on building your own version of the relatively pricey Yaseu FH-2 keypad controller (affiliate link).
As I did last year, I’ll be operating the Kansas QSO Party once again this year as a rover station on 20m and 40m SSB. Throughout the weekend I will activate six counties under the special event call sign W0P. Two of these stops are also planned to be at parks under the POTA program.
As I will be the only operator in Cowley county for the QSO party, I will prioritize my time at that stop. Follow me as W0P-6 on aprs.fi. Thanks to Bob, W0BH, for his excellent job of organizing the Kansas QSO Party.
For my first CQ WW VHF contest, I decided to try my hand at some VHF roving. I set out to hit four grids around the Kansas City area using my Par Electronics 6m Moxon, Diamond 5 element 2m yagi, Max-Gain Systems mast, new Yaesu FT-991a, and new 10 Ah and 16 Ah LiFePO4 batteries.
My first stop was EM38 at the Odessa Reservoir outside of Odessa, Missouri. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, the area was very quiet. A few fisherman left shortly after I arrived leaving me alone for a few hours out in the hot sun. My setup in the car included a backseat tray for the laptop (Amazon affiliate link) and the radio on the seat next to me. This worked fairly well (the shelf was excellent in fact), but I desired a better “shelf” of sorts of the radio so that I didn’t have to turn 90 degrees to use the radio. This was one of the key takeaways that I have since solved (see my upcoming 2022 Kansas QSO Party report for details on that). At this spot, I made a total of 21 QSOs including four on 2m (one SSB and three FT8) and 17 on 6m (three SSB and 14 FT8).
For Field Day this year, I decided to run a solo HF operation from Tuttle Creek State Park (K-2353) in Manhattan, Kansas. At Dayton Hamvention, I bought a Yaesu FT-991a to use for HF and VHF/UHF given that my recent interests have been a lot of car-portable and roving operations. For antenna, I used my Pacific Antenna 20/40m trapped dipole and Max-Gain Systems mast as I did for the 2021 Kansas QSO Party. My goals for this Field Day were to test out the new radio setup and just get out of town for some solo camping. Continue reading
Operating from Fall River State Park in Greenwood County, Kansas.
For my first time participating in the Kansas QSO Party, I decided to operate as W0V, a 1×1 rover station activating several counties at different state parks around Wichita. By operating from state parks, I figured I’d have decent locations to operate from that would also let me submit to the Parks on the Air (POTA) program for credit as well. This ended up being helpful in the end for standing out in some pile-ups.
I drove down to the Wichita area on Friday night and stayed in a hotel in anticipation for an early start the following morning. My plan was to be set up by around 8:30am so I could be on the air right at the start of the QSO party. I would visit three parks throughout Saturday, return to the same hotel for the night, then go to two more parks Sunday before driving home to Kansas City.
For my first Kansas QSO Party, I’ll be operating as a rover station under the special event call sign W0V on 20m and 40m SSB and FT8. I’ll be traveling to the Wichita area hitting up five counties throughout the weekend. I am also planning for each of my operating locations to be a Kansas State Park qualifying for the POTA program.
Click here for the map of my planned route (thank you Bob, W0BH for creating this map and managing the QSO Party!).
Saturday 8/28 (9am-9pm CDT):
- Greenwood County – Fall River State Park (K-2338)
- Woodson County – Cross Timbers State Park (K-2334)
- Butler County – El Dorado State Park (K-2336)
Sunday 8/29 (9am-3pm CDT):
- Kingman County – Cheney State Park (K-2331)
- Reno County – Sand Hills State Park (K-2351)
I’m planning to run APRS during the weekend as W0V-6, so track my location in real time on aprs.fi. I may also post updates throughout the weekend on Twitter @kd8rtt.