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The Friendly Skywaves


*Email: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

I’m writing this while sitting in an airport boarding “lounge,” waiting for a flight that’s been delayed by two hours due to maintenance working on “an issue in the flight control deck” (and the plane isn’t even a 737 Max!). The reason I’m mentioning this is because the airline on which I’m (hopefully) flying bills itself as the home of the “friendly skies.” And having this extra time got me to thinking about ham radio as the home of the “friendly skywaves.”

Sure, there are those among us who don’t meet that qualification, and sometimes they stand out from the crowd. But that’s the whole point. “The crowd,” the vast majority of hams are friendly and extremely generous with their time, knowledge, and even equipment. This even applies to competitors, as we learn several times in this issue.

In our lead feature on operating the CQ World Wide DX Contest CW weekend from a multi-op station in Siberia, the authors describe the friendships that develop through contesting together. In shorter stories within the CQWW CW results article itself, we read about two fierce competitors who have become close friends over the years, and who find that competing with each other deepens their friendship by pushing each other to do better each ensuing year. We also learn about one ham who reliably got a contest call each year from another station and — even though this was their only contact over the years — got so concerned when he didn’t get that call one time that he tracked down the other station’s email address and contacted him to make sure everything was OK. And on Facebook during the SSB weekend of this year’s CQ WPX Contest, Marty Sullaway, NN1C, commented on the friendships he was making as part of Team Exuberance, a group of young contesters operating from Tim Duffy, K3LR’s, superstation. Tim’s generosity in opening his station to a bunch of teenagers and taking himself and his usual operators out of the competition is remarkable but not uncommon (see last month’s “Zero Bias” for additional examples).

These experiences are far more commonplace than unfriendly interactions on the radio. So if you find yourself put off by the occasional grumpy (or even downright nasty) person on the local repeater or on some of the daily gripe sessions on 75 or 40 meters (turn the big dial!), keep in mind that such people are in the distinct minority and that the “friendly skywaves” are much more representative of our hobby as a whole.

It isn’t only on the air, either. May is Dayton month, when some 20,000 of our closest ham radio friends from all over the world gather to share their joint love of ham radio, to check out the newest radios, look for bargains or hidden treasures in the flea market, and share their knowledge with each other, either informally or in the many forums that stretch across three days of ham radio “immersion.” Even if you can’t make it to the green fields of Xenia this year, spring and summer bring us local hamfests all over the country (check out our listings, both here and on our website). Attendance at hamfests generally has fallen off in recent years, with online purchases becoming more popular (as with the rest of our purchases). We urge you to support your local hamfest. There is still nothing to compare with actually seeing and touching a piece of gear, talking face-to-face with the person selling it, and haggling over the price. Plus, you get to meet and socialize in person with your area’s hams and, if there are forums, to share in their collective knowledge and perhaps contribute some of your own.

“Nearly everything we do in ham radio requires more than one person to participate”

Amateur radio is often portrayed in the media — and sometimes in our own heads — as a solitary hobby. And while it’s possible to focus your ham radio activities on such solitary pursuits as designing and building equipment and antennas, the primary purpose of that gear is to connect people over the radio. Amateur radio is primarily about making contact with other people. It doesn’t matter if it’s a long ragchew, a public service activity, a quick contest QSO, or a simple exchange of signal reports or grid squares on FT8 (see this month’s “Digital Connection” column) or the microwave bands (see this month’s “VHF-Plus” column), nearly everything we do in ham radio requires more than one person to participate. So while it is possible to “do” ham radio alone, you’ll need to work at it.

Now if my plane would only show up … but not until the airline technicians have resolved that “issue in the flight control deck.” [Afternote: the plane did show up, and worked just fine. Thank you to the maintenance crew!]

In This Issue…

The results of last year’s CW weekend of the CQ World Wide DX Contest highlight this issue, along with a closer look at the multi-operator, multi-transmitter operation at RWØA in Siberia. Among our columns, “Math’s Notes” editor WA2NDM explores super capacitors, Emergency Communications Editor W4ALT discusses amateur radio’s role in public health disasters, Kit-Building Editor KØNEB looks at a kit with “a sense of direction,” while Homing In’s KØOV introduces “ARDF in the Appalachians,” this year’s U.S. and IARU Region 2 amateur radio direction finding championships in western North Carolina.

“Analog Adventures” editor KL7AJ discusses the ever-versatile op-amp, Mobiling Editor AA6JR takes us for a ride in a van that’s been customized for ham radio, VHF+ Editor K8ZR takes us hilltopping to work DX on 78 GHz and DX Editor N2OO challenges DXpedition planners to think small and simple. There’s much more, of course. Each page is packed with information on all different aspects of our very social hobby. So read more about a topic that already interests you, or discover something new. It’s all here, in CQ and on the friendly skywaves.

– 73, Rich W2VU

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