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A Ham Pilot Encourages Making Amateur Radio Your Own

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A Ham Pilot Encourages Making Amateur Radio Your Own

29 July 2020
by TJ Johnson, K9KJ, ARRL Life Member

When people find out that I am a ham radio operator, it is inevitable -- the classic questions get asked: What do you do with ham radio? Who do you talk to?

I think these questions have been answered in some way by just about every ham, and sometimes they are hard to answer. Some love CW (Morse code), some love to ragchew (ham jargon for a long, enjoyable conversation), and some exclusively use digital modes. For me, it's not so much who I talk to, or what I have to say, but it's more of the challenge of operating in different environments. I really enjoy mobile operating, operating from a low-power (QRP) station in my backyard with homebrew (more ham jargon, for “homemade”) antennas, and even operating out of an airplane!
Photo above: (left to right) Ham pilots Bob Johnson, W9XY, and TJ Johnson, K9KJ.

In 2017, I made it a point to partic
ipate in ARRL Field Day from my Cessna 182 airplane with my good friend Bob Johnson, W9XY. We didn't do too bad. We only spent about 2 hours, but we made over 100 contacts! Not bad for a wire hanging out the side window, but it was interesting to see what performance would be like with having the tallest antenna!

I also mentioned I like mobile operating, and some hams would be surprised that I mainly operate CW when mobile. It’s not that unheard of and I have actually made contacts with other mobile stations while mobile!

Some hams can invest a lot of money in antennas and equipment and have some great property to put up some beautiful towers and make contacts all around the world, but for me, I like the challenge of trying to do something with limited capabilities, antennas, and equipment. I even bought a CW kit for 40 meters that fits in a 2-inch by 2-inch acrylic box and puts out 5 watts. The project was really fun to put together, and I enjoyed the experience of making contacts with something that I built.

I really enjoy antenna building as well. When the weather is nice, I like to operate one of my QRP rigs in my back yard and try out one of my new creations. One of my first antennas was made out of surplus aluminum parts. It wasn't pretty, but I made a whole lot of contacts with that antenna on 2-meter FM.

That's the beauty about ham radio. You can make it whatever you want it to be. Whether you like building, digital modes, old-school CW, or radio contesting, everything is right there for you to grab hold of and do something with it.

ARRL Resources for Learning More

The ARRL Operating Manual

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