Sunday, July 10, 2011

B-17 Radio Room Workday July 9, 2011

Wow, we had a great workday out at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum Saturday.  I was joined by fellow HAMs Steve -K4SDJ, Kevin-KW4B, Bill-K4WP, Mark-KA4CID, Bob-N1HNR, and John-KJ4WBF to get us a little bit closer to our goal of finally transmitting from the radio compartment of our B-17 "City of Savannah" this upcoming week.  We had quite a few things we wanted to accomplish so we split up into teams.  Steve, Bill, and Mark installed the connectors on the antenna feedline and got everything in our lighting arrestor junction box in order and tested.  Kevin and I teamed up to install our antenna pulley system on two tall light posts in the Memorial Garden with the aid of an incredible man-lift, crane, tractor, machine sort of thing.  Wow that beast made easy work of getting up to the top of the posts to work.  Thanks to Bruce Johnson at the museum for getting that for us!  Not only was it useful, it was downright fun!  Bob Hearn-N1HNR acted as our spotter and runner for the day.  What a great team effort by the radio group!

Once the pulleys were complete we all raised the G5RV multiband antenna.  It's up in a flat top configuration at about 20 feet or so with the broadside East/West.  We plan to add other antennas in the future but this will get us on the air for now.  Kevin and Bill tested the antenna with the analyzer and then we connected the feed line to the lightning arrestor in the junction box. 

Throughout the course of the day I worked with Rocky and Jeff to finish up the electrical distribution of the 12v and 24v from the aircraft battery system to the radio compartment.  These guys are great to work with.  Of course we were all in the military and speak the same "language".  Well, Jeff was in the Navy so he has a slightly different dialect than Rocky and I! 

It was a great moment to apply the 12v power and watch the amateur radio equipment come on.  It was even greater to throw the 24v switch(s) and see the WW2 era BC-348 Receiver come to life!  The wonderful sound of the internal dynamotor spinning at 4500 rpm delivering 220vac to those vacumn tubes was sweet.  It was a thrill for the electrical team and the radio team to achieve this common goal.

Now that we had things powered up it was time to hook up that antenna and actually see if we could here anything.  We started with the new Kenwood HF transceiver and were pleased when we began to hear lots of HAM radio operator activity all across the frequency spectrum.  Things are looking good.  Next we went ahead and connected the antenna to the WW2 era BC-348 Receiver that one of our team members has meticulously restored inside and out over the last year.  Carroll Baker-WX4Y is an electronics engineer by trade and did a marvelous job of rebuilding this reciever on his own time and with his own money in order to donate it to the project.  Well done Carroll!

This 60+ year old radio is working just fine and we were hearing lots of HAM activity on sideband as well as shortwave stations on AM.  Once we were satisfied that everything was working as planned we went ahead and shut things down and I spent the next hour or so re-routing some cables and dressing things up a bit under the radio operators table.  We've already started documenting and diagramming our installation so that we have a record of how things are wired and routed, etc.

So with all the work we did on Saturday, we are very well positioned to attempt our first official transmission from the compartment using our newly assigned callsign of WW2COS.  We plan to do this on Wed, July 13th around 4:00pm.  This first transmission will be very special indeed as we will be communicating with another group of HAMs from the Shreveport Amateur Radio Association who will be setup to operate from outside the B-17 "Miss Liberty" at the Eighth Air Force Museum on Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.  Thier B-17 is also undergoing a restoration and the two museums have forged a partnership to collaborate on the two projects.  Let's hope HF propagation conditions cooperate on Wed so that we can have a successful event. 

Here are several pictures of the various work that was done on Saturday.  What an honor and a privilege to be involved with such a great project!  Will certainly post another update after the event on K4GTM
Kevin-KW4B and Guy-K4GTM up on the lift to install the pulley system for the antenna

The incredible man-lift

Guy-K4GTM up on the lift

Kevin-KW4B, Bob-N1HNR, and Bill-K4WP testing the antenna

Bill-K4WP trying to explain to Jerry, the project manager what the heck it is that us crazy radio guys are doing!

Steve-K4SDJ and Mark-KA4CID with our antenna lightning arrestor junction box

The view from up on the lift

Rocky admiring his electrical work as we powered up the radios
Kevin-KW4B testing the Kenwood HF amateur radio

I told you it was a monster lift!

Guy-K4GTM tuning the WW2 era BC-348 receiver in the radio compartment

The BC-348 receiver that Carrol-WX4Y restored and donated to the project

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