During the late Winter and early Spring of 2018, I decided it was time to retire my 44-year old. trusty, reliable and somewhat bent up Radio Shack (Archer) VUF-125 Log-Periodic with sawed off UHF elements. In the early spring, a major vendor of TV/FM/Cable equipment put on sale a long-range, light-weight VHF/FMBC/UHF antenna for an almost too good to be true price. So, I bought one.
Solid Signal: HD8200XL. Cushcraft 2M/70CM Yagi and Ringo Ranger 2 above it.|
Operating practices and procedures:
- My receiver was a RTL-SDR USB connected to a Windows 7 Dell Optiplex Desktop (exception 2 captures in 2018 from the car)
- No recording was done with the RTL-SDR (issues and not reliable).
- If Ham bands (10, 6 and/or 2-Meters) were experiencing excellent conditions, focus was on them, not FMBC. For the most part, if Es were occurring I tried to monitor FMBC.
- I made the mistake of using the same computer for the RTL-SDR and an interface to one my Ham Radio rigs. I could not operate both at the same time. I will not do that next year.
- All stations captured were identified by full call letters, reference to location, slogans, local oriented commercials, RDS and/or PiCodes (Radio Broadcast Data System Program Identification Codes).
- Resources used were an April 2018 FCC Database downloaded, filtered and modified from an Excel spreadsheet developed by Bob Colyard (founder of DXWorld that passed away last Spring), the Searchable Online Directory provided by Worldwide TV FM DX Association, FM Fool and Radio-Locator.com.
- MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) measurements from the G7RAU Website or his rauMUF software, in addition to SE-PROP by K9SE.
I remind everyone that I am a Ham first. This is a sideline activity, but something I enjoy doing. I have been an AM/MW/Shortwave listener for over 55 years, VHF/FMBC/TV DX’er for over 45 years (don’t admit a CB’er too for that long), and a Ham for almost 40 years. I earned VUCC’s (100 Maidenhead Grid Squares) on 6 and 2 Meters in 1988. While in Texas, I worked 43 states on 2-Meters and over 200 Grid Squares terrestrial and all on Single Sideband or CW, plus a North American DX record on Tropo. On 6 Meters, I worked over 60 DXCC entities and well over 550 Grid Squares. In my over 35 years DX’ing on 2-Meters, I found that identifying VHF TV stations on Channel 6 and FM Broadcast in many cases led to 2-Meter openings to the same general locations of identified broadcast outlets.
The map shows Maidenhead Grid Squares captured during the past 2 years. Several single squares were heard multiple times, especially near metropolitan areas, but was surprised by the large number of smaller towns copied. The plots are to the center point of the grid square heard, not the actual point.
A surprise on these results. Although the distribution for the 2 years were somewhat different each year, the average and median frequencies were about the same for both years.
The average frequency captured was 95.8 MHz, the median was 93.3 MHz.
My first year I spent my time watching Es build from the commercial low end of the band where RDS and PiCodes were prevalent.
In 2018, I experienced better RDS/PiCodes on the low end. I still focused on low end commercial stations beginning at 92.1 MHz.
I was always looking at the low end of the broadcast band looking for the first indications of Es, then moving up the band as it was evident that it was intensifying.
For 2 years they measured MUF for all captures was 101.6 MHz (+/- 0.6 for 2 years) and the median 99.9 MHz (almost no change both years).
Since I had a fair sampling of FMBC captures, I could do a sampling of these to see if a trendline could be determined.
Indeed a Trendline was identified. The trend was the shorter the distance, the higher the MUF. In addition, after 2 years, there appeared to be what I would call a “Sweet Spot”, a cluster of distance and MUF. The “Sweet Spot” is 1,000 miles and equates to an approximate MUF of 100 MHz.
Once 900-mile distances appear, MUF increases significantly. In 2018, although a higher MUF was experienced it did not equate to a 2-Meter opening (Pacific Ocean).
I did not experience any 2-Meter Es this season. I only heard a couple of short bursts to my east. That was unexpected and disappointing. There was only one very high MUF event that I could determine, and it was out to the Pacific Ocean.
73 Art Jackson KA5DWI/7