My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Surfin': About Airplanes

Read about my fascination with airplanes in this week's installment of Surfin'.

Oh yeah... there is an Amateur Radio connection in there, too!


  1. Stan,

    Great column this week. I've been a licensed instrument rated private pilot for 20 years, though not currently active. We live under the approach path for Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson and see lots of low flying hardware. Some of it is incredibly loud and always a joy to behold audibly or visually. We never tire of the experience, unlike many other residents. So, just as you do, we are constantly looking up and often bolting out the door to see what made that new throaty jet sound. Highlights of the past year or so are seeing Air Force One fly right over the house at several thousand feet, and a number of passes by E3 AWACS aircraft. The usual traffic is the A-10 Warthog, F-16's and lots of C-130 cargo aircraft. The FA-22 has also visited making a pass in formation with vintage warplanes.

    Of course, all this activity makes for lots of Mehrton effect on 2M SSB and 432 SSB. The effect is noticeable on local stations as well as Phoenix stations 100 miles distant. As a teenager I noticed it on TV stations around Pittsburgh, so the effect has been around to those in the know for a long time.

    Another ham and I received permission to use 2M handie-talkies on commercial flights back in the late seventies and we talked to the guys in town for several hundred miles from a seat near the window at 30,000 feet. In my own plane(9500 feet) I would talk to stations in Tucson with a HT from over 100 miles out. It helped to have an extra external antenna with a BNC connector for hamming.

    I've even made a parachute jump and talked on a 2m HT while under canopy. Somehow I just can't separate flying and hamming.

    Keep up the diverse and interesting columns.


    W7KMV - Den

  2. Steve, ref: Response to “Surfin’: About Airplanes”

    Your article reminded me of the time I flew commercial to New York back in the early '70's. I took my HT with me. I checked the regs and at that time it was up to the pilot in command if such transmissions were acceptable. The captain allowed me to communicate on 2 meters. At 30 thousand plus feet up I was able to chat with a ham near Detroit while I was over Ohio. The captain even sat next to me to listen. The rubber duck antenna was pressed against the window running 5 watts.
    A couple of years later I was doing my first cross-country solo for my private pilot's license. I had my base 2 meter rig on the dash and made a few contacts.
    Antenna height sure makes a difference.....
    N4NSS - Kyle

  3. Stan--trust me, you are not the only one who stops and looks up. I'm in the landing path for IND and at night, I can see lots of stuff up there heading in. My 12 yo nephew in Orlando must have eyes like a hawk because he can spot the tail colors and identify a plane before my old peepers can even lock in the general vicinity.

    When I lived in Columbus, OH (CMH), I was about 1 mi south of the flight path and used to sit in the front yard just watching the planes in and out.

    Even wonder what Wilbur and Orville would think if they could see the Blue Angels? Or how Fessenden would shudder at Howard Stern?

  4. Stan,

    Brings back memories. I the early seventies I had a summer job as an engineering intern with the Port of New York Authority. Most of the time, I was at one of the three airports, JFK, LGA or EWR. At LGA the office window overlooked the general aviation ramp and the runways. Vividly remember a P51 Mustang parked there and then watching it takeoff. Also the track that went from the Marine Air Terminal ramp into the water where the flying boats had once been brought ashore and launched.

    One day the full time engineer and I at lunchtime visted a then new Pam Am 747 with the nose only (the entire aircraft would not fit) in the hanger. Got to sit in the pilot's seat. I was a student pilot in Cessna 150s so that was something! Another lunchtime was spent in the cab of the tower. Another day at LGA I drove a PA maintnence pickup across the taxiway and runway at LGA - my student pilot experience with TEB Tower and ham experience made the radio work easy. For that matter, the first time I used the 150's radio at TEB amazed my instructor since using the radio and mile was second nature. He didn't realize that the 2 meter ham experience with the converted dynamotor Motorola FMTRU140D in the car worked just like the plane's crystal controlled radio! Another day at EWR we had to inspect some facilities just of the end of Runways 4L & 4R. The jets were on approach about 200 feet above us!

    Rented planes out of TEB for a few years, and had an aero QSO with a homebrew 2 meter AM rig running 50 milliwatts or so, built out of a QST artical a a couple of years eariler. WA2FUI aero mobile as a private pilot was cool, even though that 50mW rig didn't get many responses!

    After a few years, didn't fly anymore until a 3 years ago when I again got current. APRS with my Kenwood D7 worked fine as a tracker from the rented Cessna 172. Then about a 1-1/2 years ago, bought 1976 Cessna 177B N16019. Used the D7 in the Cardinal, and then got a D700. There's a spare antenna on the belly that a previous owner had installed to use an aviation HT as a backup should both aviation radios fail, and it works fine, albeit the mismatch, on APRS.

    73, Ken W2KB