by William Eric McFadden



Once again, the Athens County Amateur Radio Association (ACARA) put forth a Field Day effort. The ACARA participated in the 1996 ARRL Field Day with a solar-powered, all-QRP effort at the Athens County Fairgrounds with the callsign W8MHV.

The club participated in class 1A-Battery, meaning "One transmitter, Club or non-club group, Power output of five watts maximum". A total of 335 QSOs resulted in a score of 3985 points. A breakdown of QSOs per band can be found below. The group earned bonus points for 100% Emergency Power, Media Publicity, Public Place, Information Booth, W1AW Field Day Message, Natural Power, Packet Radio, and VHF/UHF.

The HF station was set up in the bandstand, and consisted of the W8MHV's new Index Labs QRP Plus (QRP++). A bank of gel cell batteries, charged exclusively by solar power since FD 1995, powered the station. A fan-dipole for 80m and 40m was suspended between the flagpole in the infield of the horse track and a large tree. A heavy rope was suspended between the flagpole and another tree to supported a full-wave 40m delta loop. A full-wave 20m delta loop was hung from yet another tree, and an 15m/20m fan dipole was suspended between two trees. The two delta loops were very good performers; often switching to the loop allowed us to make the QSO we couldn't with the dipole. A CMOS Super Keyer II was used, as was a Bencher iambic paddle. Logging was to a '286 subnotebook PC, with paper backup. This station was used exclusively on CW by Mike Hansgen, AA8EB; Drew McDaniel, W8MHV; and Eric McFadden, WD8RIF. (W8MHV and AA8EB did most of the operating.) The QRP++ was surprisingly affected by strong signals on the band. Even with the 20 dB attenuator on, whole sections of a band were rendered unusable by strong signals in the IF passband but outside the AF passband. This was a disappointment to the rig's owner W8MHV and to WD8RIF who owns an original QRP+. A side-by-side comparison of the two rigs was not conducted.

The VHF station was set up under the awning of the camper owned by John McCutcheon, N8XWO. An all-mode 2m rig by Kenwood was used for 2m FM and SSB, and WD8RIF's QRP+ and N8XWO's TenTec 6m transverter was used for 6m SSB. A 50' rotatable carbon fiber mast was erected and supported a 4-element 2m yagi and a rigid 6m dipole. This station was operated by N8XWO and John Biddle WD8JLM. Stations throughout the Ohio Valley were worked on 2m, as were stations in Michigan and New York. Stations as far away as Nova Scotia and south Florida were worked on 6m.

HF packet was tried, using WD8RIF's QRP+ and older KAM, but only BBS were heard. A 2m packet QSO was successfully made, however, earning us the 100 point packet radio bonue.

An attempt to earn the satellite bonus was made. A 10m/15m fan dipole was suspended between the bandstand and a tree, and WD8RIF's QRP+ was used to try to work RS-12 on Mode K (15m up, 10m down). Strong signals were heard on the downlink on two passes of RS-12, and signals were heard on the uplink were heard, but no one came back to Eric's calls. The combination of low-power and low dipoles may have been the cause, or maybe the uplink/downlink windows were just too crowded.

The weather cooperated pretty well. During setup, the temperatures were hot and it didn't rain. However, horses and sulkies on the track raised great amounts of dust, coating the equipment. Fortunately, the horses were off the track by the start of the event. The bandstand roof served to keep temperatures down during the day, and a nice breeze blew until about 6pm. About 9:30pm, a thunderstorm arose, forcing the group off the air for about an hour. However, this gave them time to watch and admire nature's gorgeous light show. The bandstand roof was high enough that the blowing rain entered the bandstand, but the group was able to keep the gear dry by covering it.


Once again, QRP power levels were not found to be much of a problem. Stations heard were almost always able to be worked with one or the other of the antennas.

The receiver in the QRP++ was a big disappointment. As indicated above, it was extremely sensitive to strong signals in the band. There were no other FD groups in the area competing, so all of the out-of-passband AGC action the group experienced were from distant stations. This behavior had not been noticed by W8MHV during routine operations outside of Field Day. Through email correspondence with other QRP++ owners Drew and Eric have learned that other groups used the new QRP+ at Field Day and didn't experience this problem. Drew and Eric also learned of a resistor-swap mod that is supposed to help with this problem. Drew didn't don't know whether this mod had already been performed on his rig.

The 50' mast, yagi, and rotatable dipole for VHF was a killer combination. The QRP power wasn't found to much of a handicap. The QRP+ and TenTec transverter was found to be a good combination. However, when the 6m station was in use, the HF station could hear the SSB signal throughout the 20m CW band, indicating the possibility of poor shielding in the transverter.

Once again, the computerized logging/duping was found to extremely useful. However, the little PC went through several sets of AA batteries during the event, indicating Drew needs to make an appropriate higher capacity external battery for it.

QSOs per band:

6010 SSB
2023 (5 FM, 18 SSB)


Field Day '96 results were posted in the November, 1996 QST. The ACARA achieved a 3rd out of 22 entries in class 1A-Battery with 3985 points. The 1st and 2nd place efforts had steller scores of 8630 and 8530 points, respectively.

Visit the NorCal Field Day Reports Page for more reports.