by William Eric McFadden



The Athens County Amateur Radio Association (ACARA) participated in the 2016 ARRL Field Day with 100-watt stations at the Athens County Fairgrounds with the callsign W8MHV. For the first time, the group was able to set up the stations inside the large brick building on the Fairgrounds for protection from weather and insects.

The club participated in class 1A, meaning one transmitter, club or non-club group, power output of 150 watts or less. A total of 577 QSOs and 1,170 bonus points resulted in a score of 2,052 points. A breakdown of QSOs per band can be found below. The ACARA earned bonus points for 100% Emergency Power, Media Publicity, Public Location, Public Information Table, Alternate Power, W1AW Field Day Bulletin, Educational Activity, Satellite QSO Completed, Site Visitation by an Elected Official, Site Visitation by a Representative of a Served Agency, Youth Participation, Social Media, and Web Submission.

The ACARA Field Day operation took place at the Athens County Fairgrounds. Power for both the HF station and the 6m VHF station came from the beautiful solar-demonstration trailer generously provided by Third Sun Solar Power (link). Dan Pfeiffer, Chief of Operations, Athens County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center, provided the 50' trailer-mounted tower to support the 80m/40m fan-dipole HF antenna.

Both the HF station and the VHF station were set up in the large brick building at the Fairgrounds. The HF station consisted of a brand-new ICOM IC-7300 transceiver provided by Carl Denbow, N8VZ, and an ICOM-specific LDG automatic antenna tuner provided by John McCutcheon, N8XWO. As a back-up, Drew McDaniel, W8MHV, provided an Elecraft K2/100 and KAT100 ATU. An 80/40m fan dipole was suspended as an inverted-vee from the 9-1-1 Center's 50' trailer-mounted tower; the 80m legs were oriented north-to-south to provide east-west directivity and the 40m legs were oriented east-to-west to provide north-south directivity. A 10/15/20/40m trap dipole was supported as an inverted-vee by KC8JXA's 40' W8ERD military-mast with north-to-south orientation to provide east-west directivity.

The VHF station consisted of John McCutcheon's IC-7410 and a homebrew two-element 6m yagi mounted on a homebrew 20' mast; the yagi was aimed using an armstrong rotor.

Logging for both stations was by laptop PCs running N1MM Logger+. The HF logging PC was interfaced with the IC-7300 and tracked band and mode changes.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson visited on Saturday afternoon and seemed impressed with what he saw. (Thank you, N8VZ, for inviting the mayor.)

Likely as a result of the leg-work by Bob Curtis, KD8FRQ, the Field Day operation was visited by two reporters: Larry Di Giovanni from The Athens Messenger and Dennis Powell from The Athens News. Mr. Di Giovanni seemed quite interested and actually made an HF SSB QSO for the club. The resulting articles are available online: 'One Alpha Ohio': Athens Hams Take Over Fairgrounds for Field Day by Larry Di Giovanni and Radio Club Competes with a Purpose by Dennis Powell.

One word to describe the weather for this year's Field Day would be "HOT"; two words to describe it would be "BRUTALLY HOT". Fortunately, antenna set-up finished before the temperature reached its Saturday peak, antenna tear-down finished before the temperature reached its Sunday peak, and the shade and flow-through ventilation of the large brick building kept temperatures at the stations relatively comfortable.

Propagation conditions weren't ideal for this year's Field Day. Although solar numbers didn't indicate any disruptions to the geomagnetic field, the sunspot number was at zero and propagation on all the bands was variable and unpredictable with fast and deep QSB.

The goal for this year's Field Day was to get new or inactive hams on the air and this goal was met. DJ Amireh, KE8BCX, operated afternoon and evening shifts of HF SSB and returned to do a graveyard shift of HF SSB. Gary Carter, KD8MSR, operated an afternoon shift of HF SSB. Robert Riordan, KA4VNK, operated a shift of HF SSB. Miles McFadden, KD8MNC, did multiple shifts of HF SSB. In all, the HF SSB operators made well over twice as many QSOs this year (269) than last year (118).

With Drew McDaniel overseas during the event, the only HF CW operators were Mike Hansgen, K8RAT, and Eric McFadden, WD8RIF. Mike and Eric made a total of 305 HF CW QSOs but were unable to operate through the wee-hours of Sunday morning so the station was silent for several hours.

The 6m band was unproductive this year—only two 6m SSB QSOs were made despite significant attempts to scare up contacts.

Completely against his expectations, Eric succeeded in making a satellite QSO this year—he succeeded in making a QSO through the relatively new Chinese FM-satellite, LilacSat-2, using his Yaesu FT-60R HT and Elk log-periodic antenna; Eric had the help of Bob Moore, KC8KSM, as logger.

There had been high hopes that the brand-new ICOM IC-7300 would be an excellent Field Day HF transceiver. These hopes were based on reviews and reports about this ground-breaking new software-defined transceiver and by the tests performed by noted receiver expert Rob Sherwood, NC0B (link). Unfortunately, the IC-7300 was not found to be an ideal transceiver for use in the Field Day environment. Here is Mike's report on the IC-7300's receiver:

We experienced significant compression of received signals on all the HF bands on which we were operating the IC-7300 during the first 9 hours of the event. This is probably the result of intermodulation distortion originating from reciprocal mixing products of strong adjacent frequency signals appearing in the passband of the receiver. To the listener it produces distorted audio with gain compression. This condition was present on both SSB and CW signals. The distortion was more severe on SSB than CW.

We attempted to correct the RMIMD problem by reducing the RF gain, inserting attenuation and turning on the Intercept Point Plus function. None of these helped much.

From late Saturday night until the end of the event the receiver performed better. We were able to make many more contacts at faster rates. I have been on many Field Day sites where receivers were severely affected by IMD from start to finish. I would say that the IC-7300 handles the strong signal environment better than a lot of radios used on Field Day. But I cannot recommend it as a good choice for this event.
On the Wednesday after Field Day, Rob Sherwood posted the following on the IC-7300 Yahoo Group in a thread on IC-7300 performance during Field Day:
My web site data does not test for a Field Day environment except for phase noise / RMDR data. The front end of the 7300 is relatively simple, as I believe it only has 1-pole front-end filtering. If the 7300 is tuned to 20 meters, the front-end attenuation is only 10 dB at 7.2 MHz and 18.0 MHz. That obviously is going to be an issue on Field Day. Likewise the Flex 6300 has no front end filtering other than a 1.7 MHz high pass filter and a 54 MHz low pass filter. Without bandpass filters, the Flex 6300 has troubles, unless the FD antennas have extremely good isolation. Last year on Field Day in Elizabeth, CO a Flex 6300 was replaced with a 706MkIIG on Sunday for the same reason. It could not handle the local RF without a bandpass filter. A 706MkIIG isn't what one could consider a contest radio, but it apparently has a reasonably good front end. I have run a 706MkIIG mobile for years up through the present, and as 1C from battery on two FD weekends 10 & 12 years ago.

I ran a 7300 on Field Day, but only as 1D from my home station with a minimal 6-hour effort. 97 contacts were made on 15 meters, with a 5-element monoband yagi at 70 feet. I never saw a signal over S9+20, and I had no need for the preamp or IP+. I spent almost all my time on 6, 10 and 15 meters, with only a handful of Qs on 20, and only 2 on 40 meters. I felt the 7300 worked very well in a normal home station environment. If I had been more ambitious I could have operated portable with a battery and a wire from some location on the Pawnee Grassland near my QTH, but it was 94 degrees in the shade!

Others have reported reasonable results with the 7300 during Field Day, but when using bandpass filters on the radio when running 2A or higher.

With the architecture of the 7300, and an overload point of -10 dBm for an out-of-passband signal with no preamp, one would expect issues on Field Day. Likewise if you have another ham within say a mile of your QTH. The worst operating environment for most hams is Field Day, unless you gave have another ham very close to you or you operate a multi-transmitter contest station.

Rob Sherwood
On the other hand, the IC-7300's ergonomics were found to be top-notch; the CW memory keyer was very easy to use; and the band-scope was useful, particularly on less crowded bands such as 15m.

QSOs per band:

Band CW Phone
80 103 101
40 59 129
20 131 20
15 12 19
10 0 0
6 0 2
Satellite 0 1
Total 305 272

Saturday dinner, Sunday breakfast, and Sunday lunch were artfully provided by Miles McFadden (KD8KCN) and the Athens' Own (link) mobile kitchen.

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, ACARA president and Field Day Chairman, wishes to thank the following who helped make this a successful Field Day:

Eric McFadden sends very special thanks to Third Sun Solar for the use of their solar demonstration trailer and to Dan Pfieffer for the use of the 9-1-1 Center's 50' crank-up mobile tower