FT5ZM Propagation and Terrain Analysis at KY6R

I’ve given several presentations that included HFTA plots on how my QTH is basically down in the folds of the beautiful hills that surround Orinda. My last ATNO was SV2ASP/A on January 1, 2013 (putting me on the DXCC Honor Roll), and FT5ZM is my next chance at the next ATNO – which would be #332/337.

Well, yesterday, my wife Kat and I took a wonderful hike from Orinda up to the Sibley Volcanic Preserve that is off of Skyline in Oakland. The elevation rise is 1500 feet and very quickly / very steep (please click on any image in this blog to expand):


And here is what we saw half way up the hill, looking down at my QTH:


You can see Mt. Diablo in the background – which is almost due East from my QTH. The golden gate bridge is almost due West of my QTH. What I have learned is that 240 – 270 degrees – which is the path to Amsterdam just happens to be along a valley where my takeoff from my “lowly” QTH is actually just about the best (unencumbered by hills) as any direction. You can see this in a 360 azimuthal plot that has data from Microdem and HFTA 1 degree “fans”, turned into an “antenna.13” file by a utility that Stu, K6TU wrote, and then visualized using HFAnt:


The short path to Amsterdam happens to be between 240 and 270 degrees, and because I have a Moxon on 20 and 15M – that has a fairly wide “cardioid” lobe, I will be able to exploit the best path to Amsterdam in a way that I can’t in any other direction. HFTA shows this:


And another picture that is worth 1024 words:


The arrow points almost directly to the golden gate bridge, and there is a deep “v – notch” right where the Caldecott Tunnel is – so, even in my severely limited QTH – (as far as being down in a hole) goes – FT5ZM – which is a path that supports other “needed” entities is a good path for me.

Here is a birds eye view of what I need – and you can (sort of) see how the FT5ZM path is pretty clear:


This would partially explain why I was able to work VU7RG in 2007 on 40M CW and SSB in that direction using phased verticals, and TO4E way back when in that same path – which would be great for Tromelin. The toughest path for long distance is the NE, which looks like this:


This is the path where you see how it gets chopped off terribly, because the hill is even worse than it seems here. It is a ridge that rises 200 feet above my QTH and very steeply. This is why the 360 degree AZ plot above shows 0 – 90 degrees pretty much wiped out as far as low angles go. However – I have done quite well on the LP to the DX that I can’t hear on the SP in this direction. Of course, the DX station has to be beaming this direction – and I certainly never heard a peep out of FT5GA – when they were on Glorioso. To compound things, at the lowest part of the sunspot cycle, only low angles give any possibility of making the Q – so for me – FT5GA was impossible. So – for those of you who have asked “Why don’t you put up a 70′ tower and MonstIR?” The answer is simple – while it would be an improvement – the ROI would be terrible – especially since I was able to earn Honor Roll with much simpler antennas – but more tenacity and patience than most DX-ers I see posting on the social media these days.

Here is the last direction that is worth showing – Navassa, South Sandwich and Bouvet on the Short Path:


I do very, very well in this direction. I worked XR0ZR on many bands – even with my KPA-500 out of service and only running 100 watts. I literally have another “notch” that allows even 160M access to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

KH5K would be an issue – since there are hills in that direction, but because it is so close – I actually need higher take off angles, so low horizontal antennas or verticals (with their 20 – 25) degree take offs work wonders in that part of the world.

Taking the hike was most excellent because I could very much visually see exactly what all my analysis and modeling has been – but from a personal “birds eye view” – and on a gorgeous Fall day with nice Fall color popping out here and there, and while get much needed exercise. Here is a parting shot – coming down the long steep trail – (where you can see the top of a bright yellow gingko tree that is exactly aligned with where I am standing) – which is the direction of where FT5ZM will be when they fire up in January:


If we are lucky enough to have an SSN of at least 100, here is what VOACAP predicts:


The morning grey line lines up perfectly for Amsterdam, as long as the team can say “NA West Coast Only” at that time. This will be another really difficult path – but if they run it like FT5XO did, then no sweat. FT5XO had phased verticals, but also did have amplifiers on the low bands.


The biggest problem will be the amount of time that the US is in daylight or darkness with FT5ZM. I think this means the openings will be only a couple of hours twice a day. Here is what the N6BV Propagation tables say – and I used High for the prediction – which means its optimistic:


Wow – I think North America will not do so well, unless FT5ZM devotes a 24×7 station on 20M for ATNO’s. When NA has propagation – every place in the world will have better propagation. Hopefully this won’t end up being frustrating. My only hope is that I had worked FT5XO with much lesser antennas than what I have now – and propagation back then was about half what it will be for FT5ZM, and I worked FT5XO on 80M – through 17M.

I have a shortened hatted and top loaded vertical on 160M (63′ tall) full quarter wave vertical on 80 (the 63′ tall vertical again with 76 buried radials, phased verticals on 40M with 44 buried radials each, my choice of the 63′ vertical or 40M phased verticals on 30M, and a nested Moxon on 20 and 15M – where it acts as a rotatable dipole on 17, 12 and 10M.

I have a killer 4 element 20M mono bander that I have designed in EZNec and all of the aluminum to build it. I even have 4 “starter” elements left over from the 2 over 2 17M stack that I had up a year ago. This might be the best time to get 4 elements up on 20M. HFTA likes that idea a lot:


I truly think that we are having our last fun with Cycle 24 right now – this “second peak”. I am guessing it will be like 2011 – where the second half of October – through almost the end of December, we had high band openings on 12 and 10M every day to just about every part of the world. It almost seems what we have now is even better. But I think it will peter out – a month before FT5ZM, but that it will still be twice as good as when FT5XO was active – which gives me moderate to good hope.

Here is what my OWA design looks like in EZNec:


Hmmmm. 4 elements on 20M with my KPA-500 amp – that might be what I need to ensure a Q with FT5ZM! (Oh – please don’t ask me why I don’t just buy a SteppIR. The answer is – “Because I like building antennas and futzing in my back yard – even more than I like DX-ing!” . . . )

I hope they run multiple stations on the most productive bands for ATNO’s. Usually its 20M . . . . but not always.

~ by ky6r on November 18, 2013.

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