2020 my best ever year for Sporadic-E propagation

2020 was an absolutely excellent year for Sporadic-E on the 50 MHz, 70 MHz and 144 MHz bands. Already from the 30th May to the 1st June 2020 there was the best Sporadic-E openings I can remember, even better than my previous best VHF propagation experience way back on the 17th June 1989.

For me the 70 MHz band was the highlight this year, as it appears I am located too far North now to enjoy the 144 MHz openings. The higher mountains all around my current QTH are simply too much of an obstacle for my simple station.

Interestingly there was some very short skip via Es on 50 MHz, one QSO I had was only 406km away giving a MUF of around 133 MHz.

The Quad Band vertical Collinear has performed better than my 50 MHz horizontal loop surprisingly.

Once again I am frustrated by the weekly VHF Propagation forecasts from the RSGB that continue to wildly promote the Jet Stream as being the key factor for Sporadic-E propagation, this was one theory put forward by some amateurs, but it absolutely does not correlate with many observed openings, indeed the best opening I have ever observed in the past 35 years, from 30th May to the 1st June 2020, had no jet stream prediction for it from the RSGB VHF forecast.

Here in the shack a new equipment addition has been a SDSRplay RSP1A receiver which I use for monitoring both HF and VHF Band II FM DX, its performance has been good so far.

Remarkably the VHF Sporadic-E season has still not ended as I write this in January 2021, in September, October, November and December there were at least three significant long duration Es openings each month on 50 MHz around Europe, and even now in January there are still some. I cannot recall this ever happening before.

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FT-857D Tone Encoder problem

So I have a Yaesu FT-857D transceiver fitted in my car and here in Penrith, Cumbria IO84 we have had our local 2m repeater GB3EV on 145.700 MHz reinstated with a new radio and EchoLink connection (Node 528770), happy days as I have never heard the repeater so busy as now.

Problem, I cannot open up the GB3EV repeater using my car radio the Yaesu FT-857D using the Tone Encoder set at the required 77.0 Hz with 25 watts, yet I can open the repeater sat inside my car with a 1W handheld.

I checked the radio settings, checked the car coaxial cables, checked the antennas, listened to my transmitted audio, checked deviation all without any apparent problem.

Thank goodness for the internet and Google search, when I entered FT-857D Tone Encoder problem I stumbled across one page which identified this is a somewhat well known problem caused by leaving the programming cable attached to the radio.

I removed the programming cable and hey presto I can now use the Tone Encoder on my FT-857D to open GB3EV and presumably any of the other repeaters where I need to.

Just putting this here in case anyone else has the same problem!

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Carry bag for Yaesu FT-817/818

I have been looking here in England for a small carry bag for my Yaesu FT-817 which is also big enough to hold an iPad, phone, waterproof jacket, sunglasses, water bottle or hydration pack, torch etc., but not so large as a normal daysack or rucksack.

I have now found the perfect bag available in a range of colours from Black, Khaki and camouflaged and configureable as either an over the shoulder sling bag or by moving the supplied straps as a small backpack.

Runature MOLLE sling bag

The rear pocket is padded and it is into this that the Yaesu FT-817 fits perfectly.


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Correctly reporting VHF Propagation type on DXcluster spots

The 2019 Sporadic-E season (April to August) on the VHF bands 50 MHz and above has begun here in the Northern Hemisphere and it is generating lots of extra DXcluster spots, which is helping stations to know when and where the Sporadic-E clouds are forming.

Lots of DXcluster spots simply show the callsigns, frequencies, locator squares and mode all of which is somewhat useful, but the best spots also show the Propagation type, for example seen today

DX de PE1BIW 50313.0 LZ2CM JO32BT<ES>KN13OJ 1152Z

In this example the <ES> denotes Sporadic-E as the Propagation type and this information is used to generate E-mail alerts notifying subscribed Radio Amateurs of the ES opening and Live MUF software average MUF maps and alerts. This is great and very useful in particular for the rarer 144 MHz short lived openings each year.

However the problem is where Radio Amateurs misidentify the Propagation type or simply spot every contact as ES, I watched incredulously in recent days where the same G station put every 144 MHz QSO down as ES even when they were no more than one locator square distance away and there was no 50 MHz opening at the time. This resulted in false alerts and completely wrecked the MUF map, which then showed false data.

Many of the common VHF propagation types have set characteristics to help identify them, one key example is distance by type. I have therefore created a simple lookup table to quickly see which VHF propagation type/s is/are most likely for the distance of the other station being heard/worked. This shows at a glance if a Propagation mode is impossible and hopefully might assist others to properly report via Dxcluster.

VHF Propagation mode determined by distance between average ground stations
 0-50 km

 50-110 km

Line of Sight (LOS)

LOS plus diffraction

Mountain top stations maximum LOS is 110 km
 110-700 km Tropo Scatter (TRS) The most common VHF propagation medium
 110-500 km (50/144 MHz) Aircraft Scatter (AS) Exceptionally up to 850 km using 10 GHz
 250-1100 km Aurora (AU) Very distinctive with severe audio distortion
 500-2350 km Meteor Scatter (MS)
 200-4700 km Tropo Ducting (TRD) Requires high air pressure and often associated with widespread fog
 500-7000 km (50 MHz)

 Note minimum distance

Sporadic-E (Es) Seasonal April to August in Northern Hemisphere, sometimes confused with extreme Meteor  showers leading to widespread MS up to hours long duration. Triple hop required for maximum distance.
 1400-3600 km (144 MHz)

 Note minimum distance

Sporadic-E (Es) Seasonal April to August in Northern Hemisphere, sometimes confused with extreme Meteor  showers leading to widespread MS up to hours long duration. Must be preceded by widespread Es on lower VHF bands first. Double hop required for maximum distance.


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2019 new mobile digital voice modes?

In 2019 I have one amateur radio with a digital voice option rather than analogue capability and that is my Icom IC-7100 used at home with D-Star. On HF I can recall one time having heard another digital voice call and on VHF due to living in a rural mountainous area with few Radio Amateurs I have never heard any D-Star activity yet.

icom ic-7100

My local VHF 2m and 70cm analogue voice repeaters are almost not used by anyone these days, very few calls heard compared to 10 years ago and calling through them results in no answers, they are not linked to the Internet with resistance being very strong to that move from a long time previous repeater keeper.

Most days of the week I go for long walks with my Vizsla dog and always take my handheld radio, but rarely manage to find anyone to talk to which is frustrating. I have read all about competing amateur radio digital voice modes such as D-Star, Fusion and DMR (none being compatible with the others and no agreed standard between the main amateur radio manufacturers) and if I was to change my handheld to one of these it wouldn’t help my personal situation as I appear to be well out of range of any other repeater that might have even one of these modes.

In the last couple of weeks I have discovered ‘Network Radio’ which uses either your esisting Smart Mobile phones, or PTT enabled GPRS Android walkie talkie style mobile phones that look and feel like amateur radios, to link via the mobile cellular telephone 3G or 4G network or Wi-Fi to other radio enthusiasts (licenced or unlicenced) around the World.



Network Radio seems particularly popular and these Android operating system devices can also run other existing Amateur Radio apps such as Echolink too. The primary Network Radio app is called Zello which is free and is very well moderated.

The conversations I have listened to have been of an excellent standard with users being from the UK, USA, South Africa, Europe and Oman heard this morning all speaking in English and whilst you do not need to be a licenced radio amateur to use Zello everyone seems to have either an amateur radio callsign or an allocated Network Radio callsign of NR###. If you wish you can also set up your own additional ‘private’ channels.

Definitely going to give this a go and whilst from home and in town I have access to Wi-Fi I will need to see where I can get unlimited cellular data from when out walking with my dog or mobile in my car.


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