Friday, February 16, 2018

* On the Air and in the Air

There was a time when it was possible to listen to a radio receiver while traveling in a commercial passenger airliner.  And back then, it was also possible on occasions to obtain access to the flight deck and to talk with the flight crew while they were on duty.  However, those days are long gone, and tight security while in the air is the requirement these days.

            On August 28, 1977, my wife and I were flying from Perth in Western Australia towards Indonesia on our way back for another term of service in Southern Asia with Adventist World Radio.  As the large passenger airliner was nearing the islands of Indonesia, the Captain invited me into the Flight Deck and he gave me the use of one of the plane’s radio receivers.  I tuned to the longwave channel 341 kHz and heard the aircraft radio beacon with its beeps in Morse Code, identifying the letters XMX.

            I sent a reception report together with a do-it-yourself QSL card to the airport on isolated and lonely Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.  Exactly eleven years later, I received the previously prepared QSL card, duly signed and rubber stamped, together with a note acknowledging the delay.  The do-it-yourself prepared verification information was rubber stamped onto a large double folded card from Radio Australia, showing a Tiger Cat on the  picture side of the card.  The power of the air beacon transmitter on 341 kHz is shown as 100 watts.

            Back on August 23, 1982, our DX editor Adrian Peterson, together with his wife Violet and their two children, were again aboard a passenger liner flying from Perth in Western Australia to Jakarta in Indonesia.  During mid flight, the Captain of the passenger plane invited Dr. Peterson into the flight deck and gave him unlimited use of one of the plane’s radio receivers.   

            Among the stations that he tuned to on the radio receiver was the lonely medium wave station VKW on isolated Cocos Island with 50 watts on 1404 kHz.  The Captain phoned station VKW on the island below stating that he had a passenger aboard who was listening to the live programming from his station.  Our DX editor reports that the on-air announcer then interviewed him live, an interview that was presented in real time over medium wave station VKW.

            A QSL card from medium wave VKW on Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean is very rare.  The verification that was received in response to this unique reception report from a high flying passenger plane is a tourist picture postcard from Australia with blank QSL text rubber stamped onto the address side of the card.

            For our weekly feature about unusual, rare and unique QSLs, our DX editor Adrian Peterson tells the story about his QSL card verifying the reception of a low powered radio broadcasting station in Turkey.  Back in the year 1980, he was flying from India to the United States via Europe to attend meetings at the head office for Adventist World Radio in suburban Washington DC. 

            While the passenger airliner was flying high over Turkey, he was invited into the flight deck of the passenger airliner and given the use of one of the plane’s radio receivers.  He tuned the radio to 1590 kHz and heard the desired station, the low powered AFRS American Forces Radio Station which was installed in the American Air Base near Adana, in the Mediterranean corner of Turkey. 

            At the same time as he was seated in the comfortable high flying airplane, he could see in the distance the clear outline of Mt Ararat, covered in brilliant white snow.  Mt Ararat is a reminder of another method of travel, in a long distant era, with a huge wooden boat, Noah’s Ark, the remains of which are said to be in that area to this day.

            In due course, a do-it-yourself, self-prepared tourist travel QSL card, replete with American postage stamps, was received.  This card, with full QSL details, verified AFRS Adana, with just 10 watts on 1590 kHz.  Interestingly, the wavelength is shown as 61886.792 feet which is actually a mistake in calculation.  By moving the decimal place by two positions, the equivalent is indeed 1590 kHz.
            This unusual QSL card features a unique threesome: a receiver in the flight deck of a passenger airliner, a low powered medium ave station on the ground, and a wavelength measured in feet, not in metres.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 468)