Saturday, 22 June 2019

Kenya Airways Ops LDOC Frequency 13330khz Nairobi

I was beginning to think that the only aircraft ops I could hear these days on short wave was via Stockholm Radio (oh and my latest exciting catch of Saudi Airways on 8968khz)

But on the latest arrival in my shack, the XHDATA D808 from Australia, I was tuning around its extremely user-friendly memories when I came across some South African sounding voices on 13330khz. Turned out to be Kenya Airways Ops control in Nairobi selcalling KQ250 en-route to Seychelles and KQ 211 inbound from Mumbai with METARS/weather reports.

So this was on 17th June 2019 at 1755UTC on the XHDATA D808 indoors on its telescopic whip.

The XHDATA is simply superb for a quick check on each memory channel and then a quick tune up and down a few khz of each channel and all without the need to switch between VFO and memory mode which is what I have to do on the Tecsun PL660.

I am going to do a review on this latest radio to come out of China later on, but I have had my eye on it for about a year, since reading about its very well implemented VHF airband, and FM RDS which are both features I knew I would use a lot.

I've also had some great catches the last few evenings on 8879khz with Mumbai radio working lots of aircraft travelling from the Gulf to India. Qatari Airways, Express India, Singapore Airlines..... it's been superb.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Small, passive HF Loop made down under

A while ago a radio listener from Australia contacted me with photos of his passive HF loop whose creation my blog had helped inspire. I thought I'd posted photos on my original page Inductive vs Transformer coupling but I'm forgetful and scatty and had forgotten. It's a far more attractive loop than my own and shows you what a professional finish can be gotten from homebuilt antennas.

I really like this concertined plumbing pipe for small loops. It looks well professional and much better than the thinsulate grey plastic pipe lagging I've tried before. I shall have a scratch around the plumbing suppliers to check it out.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Saudia OPS LDOC Jeddah 8968 khz

Thanks to Mike at HF Aero Blog I have just heard my first HF ops frequency for years, apart from Stockholm. Caught Saudia OPS in Jeddah talking in English to SVA806 as it started its descent for Dhaka. So this was 31.May.2019 at 1722UTC.

I miss the written frequency guides of the 1980s and 1990s and also the Airwaves frequency guides from Photoavia Press, and to be honest I have been a bit lost without them. Internet stuff is mostly decades out of date and I haven't found any blogs that are useful for HF frequencies. Sure I know the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, MID, SEA, INO, PAC ATC frequencies. And several military SSB ones for German, French, Portuguese, Spanish and USAF. But my main interest is civilian stuff, and then mostly the OPS/LDOC side of it.

There's a Russian LDOC freq active on 11193 khz I think. Anyone know of anymore???

It can't just be Saudia and Aeroflot who use HF!

I will try and blog EVERYTHING of interest here.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Homemade HF magnetic loop for SWL / Receiving Inductive vs Transformer Coupling

fig 1


fig 3

fig 4
fig 5
I can't believe my last post was almost a year ago! Anyway, I wanted to share a new design skill I have learnt for coupling my small magnetic loops antennas. As those of you who have read my previous posts might know, I have been using these homemade passive tuned loops for years now, as they are consistently the best type of aerial for urban dwellers like myself who can not or don't want to put up elaborate outdoor aerials or ground rods for earthing them. They are easy to make, can be built for less than $10, and are much more enjoyable and satisfying to use than any commercial aerial I've tried.

Up until now, the main 35-40cm receiving loops have been coupled to the radios inductively. This means I have made a second loop from a piece of coaxial cable or insulated wire about 1/5 the diameter, which is then connected to a coaxial feed cable, very close to the main loop but not physically connected to it (this is inductive coupling) and away you go. (see fig 1)

Recently I have decided I want to try to amplify the loop a little, and I have bought a 9-12v low niose amplifier (ready-made), and small variable resistor (to adjust the gain). But in looking at commercial loops like those from PK Loops in Australia, and AOR, I have noticed they do not have these somewhat unsightly secondary loops in their design, and I have wanted to trhy a different coupling method to smarten things up a bit.

I'm not heavily into technical jargon as it overwhelms me and puts me off starting new projects when the instructions full of it. Usually what these articles are saying is very easy and straightforward, but the complicated language lowers my confidence and makes me think it is too technically demanding.
But as I have got older my confidence is improving and if you look around carefully you will come across one or two articles that are easier to understand and ebncourage you to have a bash. Hence my reason for blogging about loop aerials for so long.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have ditched the ugly second loop and gone over to transformer coupling. It is way easier and give the finished loop a cleaner, more professional look.

All you need to do is buy a small ferrite ring (toroid). A T130-2 is 1.3inches in diameter and perfect for the job. I bought two from Bowood Electronics for just over £5 incl postage. Personally I would have thought that for receiving only it wouldn't make too much difference what toroid you used, just so long as you can get half a dozen or so turns or wire and your main loop through the centre.

A word about toroid sizes: a T130-2 is 1.3 inches diameter, a T30-2 is 0.3 inches diameter. The first number relates to the diameter in inches. I can't remember the second one, but again for SWL I don't think it matter enormously. You just need a ring of ferrite.

I searched high and low for information about this as I wanted to know how many turns I needed, what type of wire, how the turns should be wound etc etc In the end I got the gist of it, and learned through reading and trial and error that for max efficiency it works best when the turns are evenly spread around the whole circumference of the toroid. I tried two or three and could tell that compared to the inductively coupled loop certain frequencies wouldn't peak up properly. I increased up to 15 and it was worse! Finally, through a long process of trial and error, I found that for my small 1 foot loops I needed 7 turns of wire (I used the blue wire from standard twin-core 5 amp electrical cable).

One end of the wire goes to the coax braid, the other end to the centre core, and then just plug the other end of the coax feed into the radio.

This new form of coupling seems to produce results just as good as the inductively-coupled loops. Better to my ears in fact as there seems to be less noise. Now, if I were to test the SWR, I could'nt guarantee the transfomer coupled loops were any better. They may even be worse. But I'm a SWL not a radio ham, Im not obsessed with measurable figures and standing wave ratios,'and my loops are for receive only, and I have listened to extremely weak sideband signals on the same loop, swapping from one coupling method to the other, and honestly, I couldn't tell any difference.


Anyway, that's enough for this afternoon. Let me know if you have any comments, questions, suggestions etc I love hearing from anyone interested. If you have never made any stuff yourself, take my word for it: IT IS TERRIFIC FUN. You'll save hundred of pounds, the finished product can be made to look pretty decent with only easily obtained bits and pieces, and using it will give you a buzz no commercial product ever will.☺

I realise I have not put any construction details for the loop so I am attaching a png from Mike at Merseyradar. who kindly did a diagram for me.

The main receiving loop is 35cm diameter and has two windings with a switch to select whether you choose one or both of them. It is tuned with a small variable capacitor that I bought on eBay and the two gangs of the capacitor have been joined together to give what I think is 760 PF capacitance but it maybe 1000pf as I'm afraid I bought it years ago and don't have the purchase details anymore.

If you were to use only a single loop winding and omit the switch then you would get a tuning range of approximately 5 to 30 mHz. But with solar activity so low over recent years I really needed it to tune down to the shanwick Night-Time frequencies in the nighttime frequencies in the 2, 3 and 4 MHz band. Oh and I also like listening to the maritime calling frequency of 2182 kilohertz, so 2 MHz seems an appropriate place to stop for my requirements. 

I also want to update you about the plans to amplify the loop as these have unfortunately been a huge waste of time! Hours of work and waiting for components to arrive from China just resulted in a whole lot of noise being pumped into the system and the whole loop became completely unusable. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that if you are turning to a loop because an outdoor antenna will be too noisy than the last thing you want is amplification. 

It may be different for a professionally constructed loop like those from aor or PK in Australia, but I strongly suspect after years of having tinkered around with aerials for shortwave listening that any performance improvement as a result of amplification would be marginal at best. So my advice would be to forget about any expensive commercial product and have a bash at building one of your own. It's so much more rewarding in every way. 

And if you do have any stories to share about your experiences with loop designs please feel free to comment. 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

HF Aero Logs February 2018 incl 8894 khz Algiers

30JAN18 1009Z 5708khz French Navy HR clg "Armour"
05FEB18 0825Z 5687khz German Air Force GAF083 dep.0809 selcal AJFL alt freq K, M
05FEB18 1035Z 11217khz GAF083
06FEB18 0731Z 6535khz TAM8084 Sao Paulo - LHR wkg HF Oceanic FL330
12FEB18 1836Z 8903khz Air France 804 wkg Niamey FL400
13FEB18 0940Z 5690khz Irish Coastguard SA wkg C252 ops want you to call us on 125.025 VHF
16FEB18 1830Z 8861khz TUI5052 Sal-Brussels wkg Canarias nxt call 133.0 and selcal chk
16FEB18 1834Z 8861khz JMK417 clg Johannesburg Oceanic no reply
17FEB18 0745Z 8894khz 7T-VJB wkg Algiers req selcal chk after landing from Montreal
17FEB18 0835Z 8894khz 7T-VND Twin Oter wkg Algiers on 335radial 150nm from VOR "IMN"
19FEB18 1639Z 11300khz Emirates 702 wkg Mogadishu FL390
19FEB18 1847Z 8861khz Cabo Verde 691 from Boston wkg Sal Oceanic ctc now Sal 128.3
23FEB18 0720Z 8894khz ZS-DIH wkg Algiers (Let 410 of Red Cross)
23FEB18 0722Z 8894khz Royal Air Maroc 290 to Casablanca FL340
23FEB18 0723Z 8894khz THY538 Ougadougou to Istanbul wkg Algiers climb FL350
25FEB18 0735Z 8894khz ZS-DIH Red \cross Let410 wkg Algiers req Hassi Mesaoud weather

Monday, 16 October 2017

Extra Large, cheap, Conver Tarot de Marseille tarot cards by Bounty Books

I have been studying RWS type decks for several years and had started to become less and less attracted to the rather negative pictures in cards like the 5 of Swords, 5 of Pentacles, 3 of Swords, 5 of Cups, 9 of Swords, 10 of Swords etc etc. I like the daily card tarot draw, but used to dread it when I saw these particular images and their negative connotations. I had also, more interestingly, started to wonder if 3's and 5's were inherently negative after all. I have a little knowledge of numerology and what I had didn't tie in with the tarot 3's and 5's. In short, I had begun to question the validity of RWS type decks. And then I came across a book by Carl Sargeant about the tarot and personality in which he argued the case for going back to older style Tarot de Marseille styled decks.

My first TdM deck was an expensive one from Yves Renauld - a Madenie from 1709. The engravings are beautiful, really very artistic. But the deck is small and far too nice to take away on holidays. And so I began to look for a travel deck. It had to be cheap in case it got stolen or lost or damaged. But I wanted it to still look like the old woodblock and stencil images from the 18th century. And I wanted a sturdy box if it was to get bashed around in my luggage.

I settled for The Tarot Deck, published by Bounty Books in 2015 (a division of Octopus Publishing). I bought it new, online, for under £7.00 including postage. And it has been the best tarot purchase I have ever made.

The two of coins follows:

It shows that it is a Nicholas Conver tarot from 1760. I have no idea what type of Conver it is. The Valet de Deniers is written without an "s" on the word denier. And he is different from the Valet in the Heron printing: his features are harder, the eyes less round, and the hair is slightly different as well. The whole topic of TdM versions is hugely complex and I am no specialist.

Another thing I must say is that the Heron is a photo reproduction of the Conver. It is beautiful and the light blue paintwork is exquisite. But as the cards are photographs of the museum originals, they reflect the aging of the cards, and so the black paintwork of the swords is extremely faded. I have a similar problem with the Pierre Madenie facsimile: the ageing paintwork does nothing to enhance the beauty of the deck. However, at the other extreme, a lot of modern renditions of the TdM tidy up these imperfection too perfectly, and they look crisp and modern and somehow false as well. This Bounty  Books printing strikes a nice balance: there is no fading or aging paintwork, and yet you can still admire the historic production method of wood-block and stencilling. The colouring looks a little hurried, but all in all and especially given its terrific price and wonderful jumbo size, I think it is an exceptionally good buy, and the more I use these cards, the more I admire and appreciate them.

This is the Bounty Books version of The Hermit. I am guessing that the software has changed the skin tones in places, as The Hermit has a large, rather ungainly red patch of sunburn! Too many solitary hours spent up on those mountain-tops I guess! One or two other figures have darker areas of flesh in places, but these are mostly quite natural-looking, nothing too much to worry about. The Hermit is the most extreme example of this colour variation.

With these colouring anomalies, I am half-inclined to wonder if perhaps they have been re-drawn and then coloured by software, a bit like the Mary Packard Madenie Tarot de Marseille, but I may be quite wrong about the re-drawing.

I love this deck and am using it in preference to my Madenie version as I like the large card size so much more and feel it adds to the tarot experience. Up until now I hadn't been a fan of large cards. I thought they were showey and pretentious and having small hands I preferred smaller cards. But having now had these larger cards for several weeks I am a convert. By the way, the Bounty Books cards measure 146mm x 81mm.

My only issue with them was that they would not shuffle well. Which leads me to the cardstock: the cardstock is quite thin, but I personally prefer it to the cardboard feel of the Madenie facsimile that has always felt a bit unnatural to me. But it isn't the cardstock that makes them hard to shuffle. It is the waxey characteristic of the cardstock. I believe the Thunder Bay Press version, which is considerably more expensive, is laminated, and videos at Tarot Zam on YouTube give the impression they will shuffle quite smoothly as a result. But I didn't want to spend that much, didn't like the Thunder Bay Press box, and didn't particularly want laminated cards as I felt they were less authentic (would cards in 1760 have been laminated!). But I came across a tip on the internet that card magicians use to enable their decks to fan and shuffle beautifully and they now shuffle like a dream. In fact, they shuffle better than any other cards I have ever owned. The tip is to write a large letter "X" on the back of each card with Dove soap, and to shuffle them like crazy. I also found I had to rub each card quite hard against the one behind it to get the soap nicely across as much of the card surface as possible.

I understand it has to be Dove soap and that other varieties will make things worse!

Shuffling larger cards took me a bit of getting used to. I can't shuffle them lengthways like most other tarot decks. I've tried riffle shuffling but it's early days & I'm not getting too far. I have settled mostly on a widthways shuffle, either in my lap (awkward) or more successfully by holding 2/3 of the deck in my left hand, the other 1/3 in my right hand, and then slowly shuffling them into the left hand, a few at a time, in a similar way as you would if you were lengthways shuffling. The potential "problem" of shuffling larger cards has prevented me from buying larger decks for years. But the experience of a larger card is so much more enjoyable for me, and you can see so much more detail in a larger image, that I feel sure any difficulties you may encounter in learning new shuffling techniques will be far outweighed by the pleasure of the bigger, clearer images.

One last thing: the reverse sides of the cards:

I think they are very attractive. The example I have shown has a small triangle which shows you the correct way up the card should go. This arrow/triangle only appears on minor, numbered cards and only where there is some confusion which way is up! I do not read reversals and find this really useful. But I think if you read reversals it might hinder your readings. It only adds to my enjoyment of the cards, but I mention it here in case it might be an issue for you.

I hope you have enjoyed this little review and feel free to leave any comments. I always enjoy reading them. Adam