Just when you thought there are no more challenges in Ham Radio, along comes Brian WA1ZMS with another First! — Layne AE1N
04/18/2018 – ARRL release
Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, in Virginia, saved the lowest band for last. On April 11, he completed a CW contact on the new 2200-meter band with K3MF in Pennsylvania, wrapping up a sweep of completed contacts on all 29 Amateur Radio bands. Justin is a bit of an old school guy — he worked K3MF on CW, and now he’s awaiting a QSL card. A paper QSL card.
“Wow!” Justin told ARRL. “Not an easy QSO. Had to use TMO reporting, but we did it as if it was an Earth-Moon-Earth QSO.” In TMO reporting, T = Signal just detectable; M = Portions of call copied, and O = Complete call set has been received. Justin used his Icom IC-7300 for his receiver. “I needed the AGC on to keep the static crashes from blowing my ears off,” he recounted. His antenna for both receiving and transmitting was a 160-meter dipole feed as a Marconi T antenna against ground. “A 2.5 mH variometer built on a 5-gallon bucket is used to tune the antenna to resonance,” he explained. “Ground impedance at 136 kHz is around 40 ohm, so most of the RF is lost as heat in the Earth.” Justin said it took several hundred dollars’ worth of ground rods and copper wire to attain the 40 W ground impedance given soil conditions at his location.
“I started with 100 W,” Justin said. “K3MF had trouble hearing me — his QRM was 20 dB over S-9. So we set up a new sked. I added the kW amp on my end, and as soon as I hit 600 W, all of the smoke detectors in the house went off from the RF.” He said he had to stay at 500 W for the contact. Reception was a challenge as well. “All light dimmers need to be off, so I can hear anything,” he said. Input to the antenna system is one thing on 136 kHz. Effective radiated power (ERP) is another. Justin’s ERP was 500 mW, just 3 dB below the FCC limit for the band.
Justin said he started working his way through the bands at the high end of the spectrum, those allocations above 24 GHz. “By the time 2002 came around, I had managed to have built enough millimeter-wave gear to complete formal QSOs, with QSL cards, on all the bands at the time,” he told ARRL. “On the bands above 24 GHz, I had to build two stations and pass one off to K2AD, W4WWQ, or WA4RTS to be on the other ends of these VUCCs and QSOs.”
To consider it a valid contact, Justin said he used the New England Weak Signal Group (NEWS) guideline of at least a 1-kilometer distance on each band. “While at first this seems very easy, very few hams have even had a QSO across a benchtop on bands like 134 GHz, much less over 1 kilometer,” he said.
By 2003, Justin had confirmed contacts (and paper QSLs) on each band from 1.8 MHz to 300 GHz. He submitted his cards to NEWS, which presented him with a framed award and plaque — the very first “Worked All Bands Award.”
Since then, a few ham bands have changed. For example, the 2.5-millimeter band shifted from 120 GHz to 122 GHz, and the 2-millimeter band moved down from 145 GHz to 134 GHz. “In order to stay current with the award, I built gear for those new allocations as well and made QSOs, VUCCs, and more DX,” he said. Throughout this process, he earned the first-ever ARRL VUCC Awards for 47 GHz, 76 GHz, 122 GHz, 134 GHz, and 241 GHz, and even went so far as to make the first contact on a less-than-1-millimeter band, 322 GHz. “Many world DX records were made as well along the way,” he said. “The most rewarding one for me was 114 kilometers on 241 GHz.”
When 630 and 2200 meters became official last year, Justin had his work cut out for him. As one of the ARRL WD2XSH Experimental stations, he made quick work of 630 meters, working NO3M on SSB the day after the band opened for Amateur Radio work. His CW QSO on 2200 meters came last week — about 250 kilometers (155 miles). He’s hoping to see the QSL card this week.