Greater Wichita Area Field Day 2018

K0VABIn one of the most popular events for ham radio operators, each year in June hams from across America set up temporary stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio to the public and refine their skills in the ham radio science.  While some treat it as a contest, others use it as an opportunity for public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and practicing technical skills all in one single event.  Besides supporting my local ham club, my primary interest was the emergency preparedness niche.  Things like setting up an temporary emergency station and keeping it operational for a specified time.

It’s called Field Day and has been an annual event since 1933.

I enjoyed my first Field Day, participating with the Wichita Amateur Radio Club in the Greater Wichita Area Field Day 2018 on June 23-24.

Field Day antenna setupMultiple antennas and stations were set up at the Regional Fire Training Grounds at 4746 E 31st St S.  Antenna erection and setup began Friday at 1:00 p.m.  Saturday morning was set aside for the interior equipment setup, radio checks, and any last minute panics.  Then, at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Field Day operation began with our stations going live and on the air for the following 24 hours..

The contest aspect of Field Day is to contact as many other stations as possible while learning to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions.

And, we encountered many challenges throughout the weekend.  During set-up, it seemed we were missing some important components for erecting antennas such as guy ropes, stakes, and zip-ties while some of the radios were missing working microphones.  Then, as we attempted to go on the air, antennas did not cooperate with the radios ultimately leaving our CW station silent.  I’ve always thought CW to be a basic component of ham radio and presumably the easiest to implement.  I learned this weekend that is not necessarily the case.

Then in typical Kansas fashion, Saturday night provided us with thunderstorms and dangerous lightning.  I think we pretty well survived that event, but it did build up moisture in the antenna feed lines that caused some problems with static discharges the following morning, giving a few operators some unexpected electrical shocks. That seemed to encourage an early shut down of operations.

Don’t take my observations above as being overly critical of the organizers of our Field Day event.  I wasn’t part of the planning group and only provided limited on-site labor for setting everything up. The small group of guys from the Wichita Amateur Radio Club who put together this event in Wichita faced some pretty big hurdles and I think they did an outstanding job.  There were so many details, so much equipment, and logistics that made all this possible.  My kudos go out to those guys for doing a fine job.

For whatever reason which I don’t have an explanation, one of my biggest disappointments was the general lack of support from the local ham community and particularly the absence of most of the WARC club members.  I guess perhaps it’s typical in any group event, only a small portion of the people actively participate.  Does the 80/20 Rule apply here?

It seemed I saw pretty much the same small group of people working this event as I’ve seen working other ham events.  I guess many of the members are happy paying their annual dues to support some local repeaters in our area (which don’t seem to get much activity either) while sitting comfortably in their homes operating their stations. Granted, there were other Field Day events in our region and I know some hams were participating in those events.

Despite the above criticisms, I think the WARC Field Day event was a resounding success and I thank those who participated, planned, and did all the hard work to make my first annual Field Day a fun event to attend.

Numerous operators manned multiple phone stations on 20 and 40 meters making contacts from coast to coast.  Those contacts were made more challenging by some local interference causing some high noise levels.  Getting beyond that challenge, my personal experience was a difficulty in hearing signals on 40 meters exacerbated with allot of QRM.  I don’t know if that was because of the antenna or radio I was using, but things were much clearer once I returned home and reached out on my Icom 7300 and Alpha Delta dipole antenna.   Sure gave me a new found respect for my home station.

There was also a station set up to demonstrate digital modes of operating and training operators in using this mode of communication.  Others demonstrated using a handheld yagi antenna for making satellite contacts, a station set up demonstrating SDR (software defined radio), and even an interesting old school battery setup.

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