Spring 2008 Issue

Spreading the
Good News
About VHF!


FCC amateur radio licensee statistics tell the story of the continuing decline in the number of licensed hams. The question in many of our minds is how to reverse the trend. WB2AMU suggests some ways in which we can use VHF to tell our stories.

By Ken Neubeck, WB2AMU

Setting up a 6-meter station for Field Day requires only a moderate amount of effort. Seen here is a three-element Yagi that is up 15 feet on mast sections overlooking Long Island Sound during a recent Field Day effort that was conducted by the Peconic ARC. This setup has worked very well for line-of-sight operation as well as major sporadic-E openings. (Photo by the author)

At this point in the first decade of the new millennium, the amateur radio hobby appears to be at a crossroads. Will the hobby continue to grow and remain relevant? While there has been a significant number of hams upgrading to higher class licenses recently, there has been little increase in the overall number of approximately 650,000 licensees in the United States. It would seem that there is a need to encourage newcomers to join the amateur radio ranks by showing them some of the great things about the hobby, while also improving the publicís perception of ham radio operators.

The VHF aspect of the hobby plays a major role in creating excitement and interest. Indeed, it is almost like missionary work, spreading the word about the fun that can be had on the VHF bands. This includes talking to friends, giving talks at radio clubs and ham events, and writing articles on the subject.

Having participated in several different aspects of VHF operating over the past 15 years, I think that the following list represents some of the positive points of VHF that can be used to sell this aspect of the hobby to experienced hams and newcomers as well:
 

1. The shorter wavelengths associated with the VHF frequencies makes it easier to construct smaller antennas that have significant gain.

2. Because of the smaller antennas, it is easier to set up portable stations, including on hilltop locations.

3. The VHF bands have some very interesting propagation modes that add to the excitement of the bands.

4. The grid-square concept leads to making certain areas of the United States and the world interesting places from which to operate.

Indeed, after a period of years it is possible to become jaded by only working DX on the HF frequencies. HF operating often means trying to have a long enough antenna or a big antenna setup, along with a base station transceiver, etc. This can get pretty tough when you have limited available space. Additionally, HF band conditions are predictable with regard to what point we are at in the solar cycle, and there are not too many surprises. In contrast, VHF operating does bring surprises. There are many things VHF operators know that could easily infuse new life into the hobby by spreading the word. This article will explore some of the specific areas.

Field Day: Promoting VHF Activity

Field Day has always been thought of as a traditional approach to showing new hams what the hobby has to offer. In general, many clubs take advantage of the fact that a VHF station does not count in the number of transmitters. There are both good and bad aspects of using a weak-signal VHF station for Field Day to expose operators to the VHF bands.

The good part is that since Field Day takes place at the end of June, there is an excellent probability that there will be sporadic-E propagation on the 6-meter band sometime during the 24-hour operating period.
 

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