Saturday, March 19, 2016

2015 in review, the Yaesu FT-817 redux and other things

I've been a very bad boy! I have not kept up with this blog as I should. I am going to try to do better henceforth.

OK, quite a few things have happened at the Bent Dipole Ranch over the last year. In June 2015 we lost our Aunt Betty (Pat's aunt). Betty was 83 and had suffered a broken ankle in Sept of 2014. She could no longer live with us so we bit the bullet and placed her in a very nice skilled nursing facility.

Pat and I had been Betty's care givers for 15 years. Betty was mentally challenged (she had the intellect of a 5-6 yr old) and required constant care and supervision. We took her into our home late 1999 after the nursing home she was in in Pennsylvania was deemed not fit for occupation due to extremely negligent owners/staff. She was "Our Betty", mental disability and all. Even with her special needs she was never a problem for Pat and me. We took her everywhere and even gave her her first flight in a commercial airliner when we went to visit our daughter, Gwen, when she gave birth to our grandson K.C.

The one thing that made Betty unique was her smile! You just couldn't help falling in love with her once she gave you that smile! Ask anyone who knew her what they liked most about Betty and the immediate answer was "her smile".

At her memorial service Pat gave a short eulogy saying that Betty came to the metro Atlanta area from Pennsylvania and conquered the South with her smile! Something no Union general accomplished during the Great War of Northern Aggression!!!

Pat and I both miss Betty. We would watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy after dinner and she would try and guess the answers. She loved to watch the "rowboats"....meaning that she liked to watch the robot wars on TV. She also liked Shooting USA and any of the shooting shows I liked to watch. Several times she accompanied Pat and I to the gun range just to watch us shoot. She loved it and we loved her. RIP and God Bless, Betty......we'll see you again sometime in the future.

As 2015 progressed I became more detached from the ham radio hobby. Earlier last year we had decided to sell our current home and move into an RV and do some traveling. This sounded good but in truth we came to realize that we would never be able to buy a new RF ($80K) and I want no part of a used RV. Too many problems.

In an effort to downsize our "stuff" (in preparation to move into the RV) I sold off my K3 station. I replaced the K3 with a new Yaesu FT-991, which is smaller, and more flexible than the K3/P3 combo. The 991 gives me 70 cms which the K3 does  not. So far I have not regretted that sale and I am more than satisfied with the 991.

A few weeks ago Pat and I sat down to discuss our upcoming procurement of an RV and we finally realized we were not flush enough money wise to go through with the idea. We have down scaled our plans to encompass purchasing a new 16 ft SCAMP trailer which we could pull with the Chev truck.

Dale Parfitt, W4OP, and I got together about a year or so ago. Dale is an absolute genius when it comes to homebrewing ham gear or restoring comm gear. I had procured three SBE 34 SSB transceivers along with a SBE-34 carcass to be used for parts. I gave him two of the 34s to restore. One for him and the other for me. I told Dale not to do a complete restoration, just get the rig working and I'd be stratified. Dale was OK with that and drove off with two SBE-34s and the carcass. I a month or two he e-mailed me stating that he  really didn't need to restore one for himself, but would restore one of the rigs for my use! WOW! A complete W4OP restoration for my shack!!!

It took a while but Dale did an outstanding job of restoring the SBE-34 that was manufactured by Linear Systems, the last producer of this series of radios. It looks spectacular and plays great. Dale also added all the factory mods including the circuitry for the power meter to act like an S-meter on receive. I cannot thank Dale enough for his gift to me. The other SBE rigs? They were given to several members of a group of boatanchor oriented hams for spare parts. Small price to pay for an outstanding example of an iconic 40+ year old radio! Thanks Dale!

About mid summer I was able to trade off a partially built Elecraft K2 w/options. I had procured this rig from a local ham when we lived in PA and had not competed the kit. I also received a non-working FT-817 withe the trade. I was told that it had suffered a "power incident" and it would receive but not transmit. I sent it off to Yaesu in California for repair. About 5 weeks later I got a call from the Yaesu service manager that the cost of the repair on my newly acquired FT-817 was a whopping $73 not counting return shipping. I was ready to plunk down up to $300 thinking it would be worth it for a factory restored 817. So the $73 price tag was music to my ears.

The 817 arrived in pristine shape. I now use it as my home rig, mostly for 2M FM. The other 817 (which is fully tricked out with the dual filter mods and a DSP unit by W4RT) is my go-rig and lives in a backpack with the accessories needed to play QRP mobile/portable.

OK that is it for now. I will do my best to keep posting on a regular basis. I have several topics that I need to place on this blog. So until then, Vy 73 and have fun on the air.

Rich  K7SZ

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My devotion to the Yaesu FT-817

About 3 days ago I bought yet another FT-817. This time (unlike the first two radios) this 817 it was the "ND" version which features on-board digital signal processing. I sold off the first two 817s to finance other radios that I had an interest in. All things being equal, I should have just kept my 2nd FT-817 since I had the CW/SSB filters and the BHI DSP unit from W4RT.

My love affair with the 817 goes all the way back to the early 2000s when I procured my first unit from Universal Radio in Reynoldsberg, Ohio. I had this one fitted out with the 500hz CW filter and used it on trips, vacations, and the occasional Field Day outings. Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) found a padded cooler that would hold the rig, V/UHF Mirage linear amp (40w on 2m and 35w on 70cms) along with an HF antenna and coaxial feed line, CW paddles, straight key, mini-log book, and a whole bunch of other "stuff" that was designed to help me have fun with the rig while on the go.

The second FT-817 was procured from e-bay. I'd had it about 3 months when the driver went south and I had to send it to Yaesu USA out in California for repair. After $140 including parts, labor and postage both ways, I had my little gem back. I then sent it to W4RT to have them add the 500 hz CW and 2.3 khz SSB filters and the BHI DSP unit. I also upgraded the pathetic 1400 aHr rechargable pack with a pair of 2400 aHr packs from, of all places, Radio Shack!! This is the rig I used while house sitting at my daughter's place in Tampa. The housing area had definite "no antenna policy" but that didn't stop me. Oh, no....Up went 30/20m dipole and an 80/40m dipole into a handy palm tree. Height at the feed point was about 15 ft off the ground! It was still enough to allow me to work the K5D DXpedition on Desecheo Island on 3 bands with only 5w output from the 718. Not bad. Unfortunately, I sold this rig to finance yet another radio set that I thought I really needed. OOPS....bad move.

So, that brings me up to earlier this week when I took the plunge, went to HRO and picked up my new FT-817ND. This new radio will eventually receive a 500 hz CW filter  and the 2.3 kHz SSB filter, along with a Heil HC-4 mic element (I saved one from the last time I ordered one from Heil....they no longer offer these elements).

My very first accessory will be the Tactical Transceiver Bag from AMP-3 ( which is the first intelligent bag system I have seen for this rig, especially for an ARES/RACES go-bag. There is room for a lot of "stuff" in that Tac Transceiver Bag, including a 7aHr gel-cell battery, coaxial cable, and all sorts of operating goodies.

Next comes the Mirage BD-35 dual band linear amp (FM only) from MFJ/Mirage ( The small form factor and extremely light weight make this linear a must-have for anyone needing more than 4-5 w output on V/UHF bands.

At a future time W4RT will get the rig to install the 500 hz and the 2.3 kHz Collins mechanical filters ( I already have the mini-paddles along with a small straight key.

One thing I will need to procure is a netbook-type mini-computer for the go-bag. With the emphasis being placed on using FLdigi and other digital modes on our ARES deployments I need a small computer to meet these ARES requirements.

Long ago Fair Radio Sales in Lima, OH, sold a set of fiberglass poles that fit together to yield a portable mast about 16 ft long. Included with this mast set was a ground plane antenna cut for around 80mHz. By trimming off the radials and the primary radiator I got the ground plane antenna to resonate on 146mHz with no trouble at all. This antenna also had about 25 ft of 50 Ohm coaxial cable in the kit so I have a ready made mobile antenna system thanks the the Israeli Defense Force!  That Israeli mast system was so cool I obtained another set so now I can go up over 30 ft using all the sections including the the antenna.

Personally, I like the 817 a lot. Several folks I have talked to wanted to know why I didn't buy an Elecraft KX-3 transceiver. Simple answer: the KX-3, while a really great radio, is way too expensive. At a cost of $1000 for the bare bones rig, you rapidly escalate that price tag as soon as you start adding crystal filtering, and other options. Besides, I could not even imagine me taking a $2000+ radio out into the bush. Not gonna happen. My K3 lives in my shack and it stays there....I have no desire to drag my K3 out to Field Day, etc. While the KX-3 is a great radio with outstanding specs, unless you are on a DXpedition or living in a condo and have your shack in a closet, I cannot really see the need to procure a KX-3.

I honestly think that the FT-817 is the most flexible radio set currently on the market. It gives you access to all the HF bands from 160 to 10 n, 6m, 2m and 70cms. All modes (AM/CW/SSB/Data), access to the MF and SW broadcast bands, the commercial FM freqs, along with air band. In short the tiny package makes the FT-817 my personal choice of a go-anywhere rig at a very reasonable price.

Vy 73

Rich, K7SZ

AMSAT 2014 Symoisium

As I sit here at my daughter's home in Maryland ruminating over the past weekend's events while attending the 2014 AMSAT Symposium and annual meeting, I am exceedingly glad I had the opportunity to attend. The last symposium I was able to attend was in 2008, the year we moved from PA to GA. The 2008 event was held in Atlanta so there was virtually no travel involved. Sweet!!

Over the years I have been an on-again off-again member of AMSAT, depending upon my interest in space communications at that time. I have always been interested in the space program and satellite communications, but more often than not I did not have all the gear I needed to do SatComm justice.

Finally, in the early 1990s I obtained a nice, fully loaded Yaesu FT-726 and I went after the "birds". Over the next few years I did a lot of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite contacts (QSOs) and enjoyed the experience very much. With the launch of AMSAT/OSCAR thirteen (AO-13) in a highly eccentric orbit to continue with meaningful SatComm work I'd have had to invest close to an additional $1500 in my station to equip it with the necessary bits and pieces (not to mention steerable, as in AZ-EL, antennas) that I felt the time had come to go another direction in my ham radio career.

With the launching of several of the "FM repeater satellites" in LEO which you could work with a handheld V/UHF radio and a simple antenna, I decided to jump back into the fray. While the FM sats were fun, on the horizon, thanks to AMSAT, was the "cube-sats" which were almost the ultimate in miniaturization. Being only 100 mm on a side (approximately a 4 inch cube) these cube-sats could be cluster launched from the International Space Station (ISS) providing a variety of satellites and modes at a reasonable cost.

In my interview with Keith Baker, KB1SF, AMSAT treasurer, Kieth gave me a great line from the movie "The Right Stuff" concerning the cost of operating in space: "No bucks, no Buck Rogers". How true that statement is. Space exploration and, in our case amateur satellite launches, are extremely expensive. The bigger the satellite the bigger the price tag to loft it into orbit. The days of getting the USAF or NASA to piggy back one of our birds on an upcoming launch vehicle for free were OVER! One figure I heard quoted this weekend concerning cost of launching a ham satellite was $100,000 per kilogram of satellite weight! That is outrageous but none the less true. You wanna play, you gotta pay.....plain and simple.

 Recently I have had other hams question my reasoning as to my support for AMSAT. After all, AMSAT is our "ride" to the future. They keep ham radio in space. Period. If we don't have AMSAT, we don't have an amateur space program. To which they replied (paraphrasing now) "there aren't any satellites available to work, so why should we join?" To this I say wander on over the the AMSAT website ( and take a look at the number of active satellites currently on line..You will be amazed.

More amazing than that is the saga one of the older birds, AO-7, first launched in November of 1974. It functioned until the batteries succumbed to the hostilities of space in late 1981. Everyone on the AO-7 command team thought that this satellite was gone...dead.....stone cold dead. THEN, in June of 2002, Pat Gowen, G3IOR, in England heard the downlink beacon of AO-7 and alerted AMSAT! AO-7 was back!!!!! Totally inoperative for almost 20 years, the old girl decided to come back on line as long as the solar panels were in direct sunlight. In eclipse (the satellite is in darkness) the birds shuts down and then reawakens when sunlight once again strikes her solar panels. AO-7 is not fully functional as it first was but it is usable and it is currently the only LEO mode A satellite in orbit. Mode A referrers to the uplink/downlink pairing, in this cases 2m up and 10m down, making it a great teaching tool for schools. The gear to operate through AO-7 is very simple: a 2m transceiver capable of CW or SSB emissions and a 10m receiver capable of receiving CW and SSB. Simple antennas are the order of the day.

AMSAT membership costs $44/year. Compered to ARRL dues at $39/year it is more expensive and where as you get QST each month you only get the AMSAT Newsletter once every 3 months (quarterly). The thing is, the money you give to AMSAT in dues goes directly to support research, development, fabrication and launching of the ham satellites. Of course $44/year per member doesn't really make up the costs of all this. For that AMSAT relies on fund raising and grants. The cost of procuring certified-for-space-flight sub assemblies and parts  for a satellite are unbelievably costly. Many times commercial satellite companies and developers would toss AMSAT a bone by giving them needed space certified gear. This drastically cuts fabrication costs. Even then it takes a lot of cash to orbit one of our birds.

So, my hope is that you who read this posting decide to support AMSAT. Drift on over to and look around. If it tickles your fancy send in your yearly dues and get busy on setting up a simple SATCOM station. 

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fury! A GREAT movie!!

I love tanks! No, really I do. Had I not gone into the USAF out of college I would most likely have enlisted in the Army (ours, not theirs) and become a "tread-head".

The movie "Fury" staring Brad Pitt is a blockbuster. Pat and I saw it this evening (Thursday) one day ahead of it's normal opening at a local theater. It was well worth the money and I have to say that the attention to detail in the props, sets and actors dialog was phenomenal. Even the radios in the M4A3-E8 (the "Easy Eight") were original!

I won't give away anything but I will say go see this movie. It is truly and epic movie about tank warfare at the end of WWII in Germany. The tactics were spot on. The actors were definitely believable. Don't know where they found all the tanks for the scenes but someone knew someone who had a stable full of German and US Army tracked vehicles.

The sound and special effects were dazzling. Great movie.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Some thoughts on MilCom gear

It's not a secret that I like, no, make that "love", military comm gear. Over the years I have had my share of ARC-5 sets, a really nice PRC-74B (thanks to Mark Francis, KI0PF), a BC-611 HT (thanks to Breck Smith) several GRC-109 Special Forces/CIA radio sets, and many others. All were working rigs. No "hanger queens" in my shack!!! Unfortunately as time marches onward one reaches a point where collecting and using all these radios becomes somewhat problematic.

First there is the space required to house some really big and heavy radios. Then there is the time spent trying to get them on the air using 70 year old schematics and books on surplus radio gear. Finally there is the availability and pricing of said gear. It seems over the last 30 years or so that Uncle Sam has gone to extremes to insure most of the outmoded/surplus radio and electronic equipment goes through some form of "rigorous" de-milling (the process whereby the gear is completely smashed, ground up under the treads of a tracked vehicle, melted down or thrown overboard). That is bad for two reasons. First it is equipment paid for by the American tax payers...why not let it revert back to serious military collectors and radio enthusiasts? Then there is the idea of preserving the history of military communications that has constantly allowed the armed forces of the United States to win wars and protect the country.

Unfortunately a lot of this historical comm gear has become very hard to find in an unmodified state. Take for instance the ARC-5 radio sets used in aircraft during WWII. Various manufacturers produced hundreds of thousands of these radio sets during the war. The surplus radio market was flooded with these rigs after VE and VJ day, much to the delight of the frugal ham radio operator. Over the intervening 70 years the supply has literally dried up and today it is almost impossible to obtain an ARC-5 receiver or transmitter in an unmodified condition. There are collectors out there in MilComm radio land that pay outrageous prices for pristine gear to add to their collections. Additionally there are military vehicle collectors that require the proper radio equipment to include in their jeeps, half tracks, tanks (yes....there are a lot of tanks in the hands of civilian collectors), and aircraft. This secondary market means that finding unmodified MilComm gear is even harder.

Recently I had the opportunity to purchase several pieces of MilComm gear from the estate of a deceased ham in the local area. At first I was elated that I could possible procure a working AN/GRC-109 spy rig along with a AN/PRC-47 HF SSB transmitter/receiver station. After a few hours and several e-mails to the  principals who were off-loading this gear I decided I didn't really need any more gear. As a matter of fact I have too much radio gear as it stands now. 

What I need to do is off-load a bunch of my stuff. After all, I ain't gonna live forever! I have thousands of pieces of electronic components loaded into several hundred plastic bins in the once-shack/workbench at our place in GA. I have no way to categorize these items, let alone figure out their actual worth. I am no longer building or modifying gear so these things need to find a new home, along with several rigs in various stages of modification/completion. (Anyone need an Elecraft K2, fully loaded, or a couple of Argonaut about a Heathkit HW-16??)

I guess what I am trying to say is that all this "stuff" is non-essential to my current status as a ham radio operator. I find very little time to get on the wonderful station I currently have, let alone jump into a long drawn out saga of getting more non-essential gear working that will just sit on the bench.

Don't get me wrong, I love electronics, ham radio, and building/modifying radio gear. But, truth be told, I no longer wish to actively engage in the workbench side of the hobby.

Sorry if I sound morose. That was not my intention. I am perfectly happy with my current level of participation in the ham radio hobby. Both Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) and I are active with our local ARES unit and maintain our deployability standing within that group. I do not fancy myself a "real" DXer, although I do manage to work a new one once in a while. I am no speed demon on CW but I find that working CW DX contacts means more to me than SSB contacts. No, I still don't have the necessary QSL cards accrued to qualify for basic DXCC. However, I know in my heart-of-hearts I have made DXCC at least three separate times using three different call signs while overseas with the USAF. For some unknown reason the local DX club (of which I am an associate member) doesn't like to recognize me as a "real" DXer. It doesn't matter to me. Will I ever get DXCC confirmed via the ARRL? I seriously doubt it, as I just do not care whether I submit the necessary cards.

OK, time to go. I am writing this while sitting in a motel room in Wilkes-Barre, PA. We attended a family reunion this weekend and are now headed to Lake Carey then to Williamsport to meet with Dr. Paul Shuch, N6TX, head honcho of the SETI League. Finally, headed back home to Dacula, GA. I miss the dogs and my cats. I have to admit that I am no longer the road warrior that I was 10 years ago. The long (1800 mile) trips are better met with air fare rather than wear/tear and gasoline for the truck.

Don't forget the upcoming CQ VHF contest at the end of September. I plan on being on for part of that contest using my IC-202S feeding a 10W linear amp into a 13 element long boom Yagi and my TR-600 at 10W output into a Ringo Ranger for 6 meters. Certainly no "high speed-no drag" contest station but I like it!!

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Monday, August 18, 2014

My love affair with the Icom Bookcase V/UHF Rigs

A little over 30 years ago, while stationed at RAF Mildenhall, UK, I discovered the ICOM IC-202S 2M SSB/CW QRP rig. This being England (oops...sorry....the "UK") I found a very large group of British hams that loved to work 2M simplex on both the FM portion of the 2M band (remember their band allocation was from 144 to 146MHz, a full 2 MHz short of what we enjoy in the States) and the low "DX" end of the 2M band.

With my trusty IC-202S and an 11 element Yagi up about 6 ft off my roof, I was able to work all over the UK and into mainland Europe. I was thrilled about using only 3 watts of RF to work some rather exotic grid squares during my time in the UK. I had no linear amp for 2M so I did this all with the IC-202 running barefoot with 2W of CW and 3W PEP SSB.

Upon returning to the states I was a bit disappointed to find that hardly anyone worked simplex on FM. The SSB portions of 2M were exceedingly sparse pickings except for contests. All in all it was a very big let down from my heyday in England. Too bad, as the my fond memories of operating in the UK left me wanting.

The IC-202S featured 3W PEP output on SSB and about 2W output on CW and was initially set up to cover 144.0 to 144.4 MHz in two 200 kHz portions of the band. This rig was a VXO controlled radio and therefore had no phase noise, so prominent in the early synthesized radios of the time.

My little 202S also had a XTAL in place for the LEO satellite portion of 2M. It also boasted both USB and LSB (the original models 202 and 202E, the "European" version of the rig) had only USB. The LSB enabled the user to work via the LEO birds that had inverting transpondsers (ie: 432 MHz uplink USB and 145 MHz LSB downlink).

All in all these tiny radios (they weren't really a handi-talkie) served the VHF/UHF community very well over the four or five years that they were offered by ICOM.They were quite popular in the UK and mainland Europe, also very popular in Japan. However, they didn't catch on well in the US. I really don't know why,as they certainly offered a great bunch of fun in a small package and were priced right for the majority of us hams living on tight budgets.

Over the years I have had the entire collection of the ICOM bookcase rigs: IC-202 (2M), IC-502 (6M), IC-402 (70cms) and the IC-215 2M FM radio. All except the model 215 were SSB/CW radios and had a massive output of about 3W PEP.

A little over two years ago I became the owner of the entire set of bookcase rigs thanks to a friend of mine's generosity. Unfortunately, about 18 months ago we had fallen on hard times and I sold off the entire set to get some funds to bail us out financially. One thing about these rigs: they hold their resale value very well.

Last week I cam across an e-bay auction by Russ, N5WS, who had the entire set (except for the model 215) and managed to pick up the IC-502 for 6M along with a IC_20L 2M 10W linear amp for the IC-202S. I had managed to find a 202S locally and I traded for it, so now I had the two SSB rigs I needed for my portable/rover project. Additionally, I found an IC-215 2M FM rig buried in a box from our move 6 years ago from PA to GA. Now all I need to find is the 402 for 70cms. These rigs are quite rare and I have only seen three of them in over 50 years in the hobby!

So here I am sitting with the 2M, 6M SSB.CW rigs and the 2M FM rig  trying to visualize some form of cabinet/portable container that would allow me to pack all these rigs together, along with their linear amps, power supplies, mics,antenna switching and SWR monitoring. This is where Paul Kelly, W4KLY comes in. Paul is a very talented and adroit word worker and I have seen some of his creations which I can personally attest are just out of this world!!. Paul and I will be working on some form of container to house these three radios  so I can hit the road or hilltop and have some fun playing ham radio on the high bands.

Stay tuned. This is about to get interesting.

Anyone interested in checking out these ICOM bookcase rigs just Google "ICOM IC-202S" and stand back!! There is also a Yahoo group that caters to these little fun rigs. Log onto Yahoo Groups and look for "Icomportablerigs".

Till next time: Have fun, fly some rockets, and dig out the old V/UHF gear that is gathering dust in the attic or closet, and get on the air!

vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Catch Up

Well, it's been a while since my last posting. Things have been going at breakneck speed around the Bent Dipole Ranch. To wit:

1. In February Peppermint Patti and I flew out to Hill AFB, UT to take part in our granduaghter, Kielan's, wedding. It was a "Steam Punk" theme....Luckily I don't have any problem with being the center of attention in times like this. It just goes with the territory! We had a grand time. Patti and I were dressed as "adventurers": she the female version of Indiana Jones, and me....well, lets just say I was a cross between the Great White Hunter of the African veld and the commander of a troop of HM's Bengal Lancers, circa 1850!

It was wonderful to see Kielan again. Unfortunately the trip was a short one and we flew back to Atlanta in a few days, leaving the cold, barren mountain peaks of Utah behind us. To be truthful, the scenic landscape of the area around Hill AFB was right out of National Geographic Magazine.

Having procured a 13 year old Chevy 1500 pickup in January, Patti and I decided to drive out to Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, TX to participate in Kielan's graduation from USAF basic training in late April. We put about 3600 miles on the old/new truck during this trip. We drove from the Atlanta area to New Orleans, LA to stay overnight with our daughter, Maja, who lives in the French Quarter. From there we drove to Lackland AFB for Kielan's graduation ceremonies. After spending a few days in Texas, including an all-day trip to San Antonio and their beautiful river walk, we drove back to Atlanta. Most of the return trip was in driving rain as there was a huge weather front that was moving with us! Never so glad to be back home as when we pulled in the driveway from this trip.

 Kielan was the first of the fifth generation of my family to become a member of the USAF. Uncle Don Stewart was a flyer in WWI, his son (my cousin), Malcolm Stewart, was a pilot in WWII and Korea and retired as a Major in the mid 1960s. I enlisted in 1967 and served 20 years and met and married Peppermint Patti in England, where she was serving as a chapel manager at RAF Lakenheath. Our daughter, Gwen, married Kyle Stanfield, who served two enlistments in the USAF as a crypto maintenance troop. Kielan, Gwen and Kyle's daughter, enlisted in the USAF in 2014 and is currently in training at Keesler AFB, MS (near Buloxi, MS). Upon completion of her technical training she will be going to Misawa Japan on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido as her first duty station. Having spent over 6 years in Japan myself, I can hardly wait to cllimb on a USAF transport and "hop" to Misawa!!

Our trip back from Lackland AFB included a two day lay over with Maja in New Orleans. We went to the National WWII museum, which is something EVERY person in America should do. The exhibits were phenomenal to put it bluntly. We had several great meals in the French Quarter. NOLA is the only place I have ever found that will give you a "to-go" cup for your drink or beer!!! Go figure!!

On the home front, Pat and I have started thinking seriously about her retirement and what we intend upon doing in about 2 years. Plans include selling our current home, buying a large RV and do some traveling to include being "camp hosts" at various national parks for a few years. It's sad to think of leaving this place, especially since we just spent almost $10K on upgrading to a new HVAC system, installing new efficient replacement windows, and new flooring. Oh, yeah, lets not forget the tower and some great antennas!!

We had two of our grand sons with us this summer. Casey James, our son, Jamie's boy, was here for a couple of weeks. KC, Gwen's son (and Kielan's brother) was here for a couple of days. Unfortunately he was not here long enough to participate in the July Southern Area Rocketry (SoAR) groups launch date. However, Casey James was present and he and "Pop-Pop" had a great day launching rockets at a sod farm north of Atlanta.

SoAR is our local rocketry club and they have at least one launch date per month (weather permitting) and sometimes more. I had procured some ready-built rockets (Estes) and some motors which is what Casey and I launched that Saturday. I also had a scale model of an Army Honest John rocket which I had built over a year ago. First flight was great. The HJ went up about 800 feet and returned after the parachute deployed. HOWEVER, the second flight was a little less perfect and a whole lot more dramatic! The HJ left the launch pad as planned, going vertically like a bat outta Hell! After engine burnout the deployment charge fired to deploy the chute for a return to Earth. Unfortunately, the rocket motor was not secured well in the aft end of the rocket and when the deployment charge fired off it blew the motor out of the back end of the rocket and failed to pop off the nose cone and subsequently deploy the recovery chute! My Honest John became a "lawn dart" and buried itself, cone first, into the sod about 1.5 inches! I was bummed! The HJ now sits on my bookshelf, retired from flight, complete with the dirt still on the nose cone!

Well, it's getting late and I need all the beauty sleep I can have. Therefore, I will close this posting with the promise to not be so late with future posts on the blog.

Oh, one last thought: I am currently contemplating outfitting a rocket (one of the LDRS type) with an altimeter (yes, they make them for  model rockets), a small processor and a VHF transmitter and marry the hobbies of ham radio and model rocketry for some tests. Oh, yeah....LDRS stands for Large Dangerous Rocket Ships, which are capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet (that is close to 4 miles for you mathematically challenged out there)!  When you get into the really big rockets (LDRS types) most of them have an electronics  bay incorporated into the rocket body that houses the altimeter....this is used to fire off a pyrotechnic charge to deploy the recovery chute. If you are interested in LDRS, check out the Discovery Channel's programming....they filmed the LDRS launches in 2003, which they occasionally air as a filler for air time. They probably have it on a DVD for sale at the Discovery Channel site. Check it out.

'Till next time, get on the air, launch some rockets, take some pix and have a ball.

Vy 73,
Rich K7SZ