First the news: I had my first contact ever with an /AM (Aeronautical Mobile) station. It happened yesterday night, at 20.32 UTC, when DF1CHB/AM, officer onboard a Boeing 737-75B flying to Hurgada (Egypt), took some time to operate on 20 meters. Plane’s altitude, at the moment, was 11300 meters (so, 37073 feet). When I started listening to Cyril, engaged in other QSOs, airliner was above Tirana (Albania) and, when we greeted, as he had to stop operating and take care of other duties, he was on Southern Greece’ skies.
I can see by myself that, technically, it’s nothing hard. We can make QSO with ISS and orbiters in space, so a jet falls widely in the “feasable” range. However, let me tell that it’s an highly emotional experience. First of all, DF1CHB was using onboard comms system (check his QRZ.com profile for the detail, anyways main unit is a Rohde & Schwartz 400 watts transceiver), and such a load of engineering always charms old-fashioned heads like me. Then, not being in “DX machine” mode, he offered anyone he worked the time for a relaxed conversation, answering to lot of technicals (and not) questions on /AM operations.
It’s the kind of QSO you will remember for a long while, also because I deeply respect people like Cyril, able to conjugate a high skills work like aviation with our hobby. In his QRZ page, he states that operating ham radio happens only under certain conditions, because security comes first. This is remarkable, and deserves to be mentioned. He also scores another solid point as, even facing objective and subjective restrictions in operating, he didn’t loose the desire to go experimental. During the flight he was sending APRS on VHF, via an HT close to the cockpit window, with 1 watt power. An incredibile demostration of how radio passion can win any logistic, or mental, adversity!
As always, I’m more than glad to share a bit of audio from this experience. However, it’s not from my contact with DF1CHB/AM. Previous QSOs on 14325 kHz (that’s the QRG where it happened) included a quite unusual one with SV/LA3IPA/MM, who was on a sailing yacht in the Aegean Sea. As Cyril put it, despite the speed is different, navigation system on a boat, and on a plane, works exactely in the same way. Also ham radio does, and it was a true pleasure for the ears!
73 de Chris!
I looked for news on /AM operators (about /MM you can find clubs and bulletins, some of them really interesting, like A.R.M.I.), but have not came up with that much. I will try to give a better look. However, I learnt that another flight officer-ham radio colleague is Jerry, PH9HB. His QRZ.com profile is full too with /AM details. Will try to look for him!