Single exam for Full UK licence?

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In the 2019 Report of the RSGB Examinations Standards Committee there is the following extract:

“4.3 Single exam for Full licence

The Examinations Group have prepared a draft syllabus, based on Syllabus 2019, for an exam that will provide direct entry to a Full licence, like the old RAE. This has now become possible due to the availability of online exams, which facilitates the construction of different types of exam from the questions in the bank. The ESC has agreed that the syllabus will be put out for consultation in the UK amateur radio community. This consultation will take place later in 2019. An important question, which is yet to be resolved in EG and ESC, concerns what form any practical examination might take, and we will look to the wider community for guidance on this.”

I was listening to a net the other day during which someone suggested that this approach might be “elitist”; in other words someone who gained a full licence in one go might be considered “superior” to those who had taken the current Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced exams to get a UK amateur radio licence.

I think it would suit some to take one exam and do not think anyone being successful by this method would be seen as elite. When I took the old RAE in 1975, I gained a Class B licence, which was for 144 MHz and up. I had not passed the Morse test and so my licence was restricted, but I was never treated as inferior by Class A amateurs. I did take the Morse test in 1981 to work more DX on VHF, but that was the only reason; not because of an inferiority complex.

In order to pass the RAE, I took a year’s weekly evening class at Southend College, commuting to Southend weekly on the train straight from my job in the City. The course was taught by Charlie, G8GUO. I wish I knew what happened to him, so if anyone knows, please put me in the picture. Did he give up radio, get a new callsign, even emigrate. I wonder? I was very grateful to him for getting me through the exam, of which I have a copy, and which I might have difficulty passing now! 😊

I do not think it matters how a new amateur gets a licence. I welcome the Foundation exam as a way of coaxing in new amateurs. We need the new blood and it is great how the clubs are organising courses which did not happen under the old system. However, if someone puts in the work to pass a RAE style exam in one go, who are we to criticise?

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Late June tropo

IMG_1245Having missed out on all the Sporadic E on 2 metres save IK8EVE (JN71) on 1st June it was good to be treated to some decent tropo. Starting on the evening of 27th June, on 2 metres I worked with my 25 watts all on SSB:

DF2WF   JO30

DM8MM JO31

DF0WD  JO42

DJ6AG  JO51

DK5DQ  JO31

On 28th June in the evening on 2 metres:

SK7MW  JO65

SM7XWX  JO65

OZ6TY  JO55

OZ1BEF JO46

DL3TW  JO44

DL2RZ  JO54

On 29th June in the morning earlyish

DK3EE   JO41

SM7YES  JO67 and incredibly strong signal.

On 29th June, SK6VHF (JO57) on 144.404 MHz was audible until about midday but faded as pressure fell so that when we were down to 1012 millibars at 1700 I knew the event was over.

I did try my luck on 70 cms with my one watt, and worked on 28th June:

SM6CEN  JO67

OZ9FW   JO65

So, a little bit of fun finding and working a little way away. I seem to have some advantage with sea paths, being near to the Thames and Crouch estuaries, and reaching mainly stations near the coast in Scandinavia.

My 19 Set

IMG_1334I sold my Wireless Set no 19 this week. In many ways I was sorry to see it go as it was my first “rig”. I had it as a teenager in the late Sixties. It was my introduction to amateur radio as I had it tune Top Band and 80 metres. I listened to stations working on Top Band a lot. The 19 set did tune down to the medium wave as well with a bit of encouragement. Very possibly it was capable of broadcasting music, in AM of course, but I could not say. It was the era of pirate radio after the Wilson Government had outlawed the offshore pirate radio stations.

I was never a Top Band pirate. There were a few around, pretending to be legal radio amateurs. Because it was not so easy to check (we had no QRZ.com in those days) certain individuals used to “borrow” callsigns that would be new as they were issued in order. I guess new legitimate new licensees might have been accused of being pirates if their call signs had been pirated and already been worked by other amateurs.

My 19 set was made in Canada, and had Cyrillic labelling as well as English to suit our then allies.

The 19 set cost me £12.  That was a lot of pocket money. I had got used to seeing other “boat anchors” as the very heavy ex-military sets, transmitters, receivers and transceivers are called. My school ran an army cadet programme and in the “signals hut” there were a number of these sets. Cadets at various schools used to use this equipment to chat. Although I was not admitted to signals section as it was too much in demand to join, I could watch, and that is how I got the radio bug.

It was six or seven years after leaving school that I got my first amateur ticket, by which time I no longer used the 19 set. I believe it has gone to a good home with a fellow radio amateur who enjoys restoring old military radio gear, and who wants it for a militaria exhibition. I hope he enjoys having it.

Lack of activity on 2 metres SSB

IMG_1249We all know there is a lack of activity on 2 metres SSB (and I guess CW), and we have the same problem on 70 centimetres. However, the main thrust I want to make is about 144 MHz

I have quite an effective station on 2 metres. It is true I only run about 25 watts to a 7 element yagi currently, but I have quite a good VHF location for Essex at 68m asl and I reckon under flat conditions I can work up to 200 miles, so more than 300 km under flat conditions. I can reach the Scottish borders or well into Germany.

However, I often call CQ for quite a while without anyone coming back. I know from talking to other regulars they have the same problem, yet I know there is no lack of well-equipped stations who could come on and make life more interesting. One only has to be QRV on the first Tuesday evening of each month when the UKAC is on to hear dozens of stations calling “CQ contest” from up and down the country. Then again, as soon as there are decent tropo conditions and openings, there is more activity. Also, there are the “big guns” who come out for Sporadic E openings.

Part of the pleasure of amateur radio is just talking about radio, comparing notes, discussing the merits of various rigs and antennas, and talking about conditions. I really do not understand what fellow amateurs get out of just lurking, waiting for an opening and not talking to the rest of us.

Come on, everybody, get more active and enjoy talking to the rest of us. Share your knowledge and expertise and let us have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.

In praise of Kent Rigs

ft290rI am not a constructor with any track record of note, and do not have enough test equipment to be one. Radio is my recreation, and while I have quite a lot of technical knowledge, I have never considered electronics as a hobby.

So it is that when rigs go wrong, I need to send them to the repair shop. Two of my Yaesu FT290Rs (yes, I know, I like them) failed on the same day. I had used Kent Rigs before so telephoned Mick to check it was in order to send them to be mended, which it was.

Ten days after their receiving the rigs, I was told they had been mended and working superbly. This is marvellous and quick service for which I am very grateful. I recommend Kent Rigs if you need any of your equipment, of whatever age, fixed.

More October tropo

This was a week or so back, so I am reporting somewhat belatedly.

Starting on 24th October There was some enhanced propagation. In the afternoon on 2 metres I worked EI9KP in IO54, in Sligo, for a rare square. In the evening I worked:

F6DBI    IN88

F6FGQ  IN78

F9OE      IN78

And on 25th:

GJ7LJJ/P IN89

F6GPT   IN94

F4EZJ     JN05

And I heard EA2TZ who did not stay on frequency to work calling G stations.

I also worked on 24th with one watt on 70 centimetres F6FGQ immediately before the contact on 2 metres.

A limited opening but a nice one.

Tropo update October 2018

After several decades absence I have been operational on 2 metres SSB since the end of February 2018. I have been using an old Eighties FT290R and a small amplifier running only 25 watts to a 7-element antenna.

I have not observed any spectacular tropo openings, but last week we had some propagation into Scandinavia.

On 8th October in the evening I worked

OZ6OL JO65dj 878 km

SM7DTT JO65lj 923 km

SM7NR JO76rc 1091 km

And on the morning of 9th

SM7NR JO76 again with minimal activity from UK.

On 70 cms with one watt SSB from an FT790R I worked on the morning of 9th:

OZ9FW JO65co 882 km

And in the UKAC 70 cms contest in the evening of 9th with one watt:

SK7MW JO65mj 923 km

OV2T JO46qh 774 km

The opening seemed very localised. There was not much good propagation in between, at least as far as my location in Hockley, Essex was concerned. However, good results can be had with a modest station. I am hoping to have a bit more power soon.