Antenna #1: 4 x 22 element DSFO222-22 yagis @ 106 ft
Antenna #2: 8 X 5 element LVA yagis sidemounted on another tower leg.
Antenna #3: 2 X 8 element rear mount yagis (DS222-8R) @80 ft. on a sidearm and rotatable from West through North to East. (NE array)
Antenna #4: 222-10RS Yagi for FM operation at 50 ft.
Receiver Ten Tec OMNI V with DEMI transverter and "bathtub sized" custom 222 MHz bandpass filter.
Driver amplifier is a Teletek solid state amplifier into a homebrew W6PO 8877 triode amplifier for 222 MHz
THE "OLD" 2007 222 MHZ ANTENNAS
The Rohn 45 tower is outfitted with eight short LVA yagis fixed on the SW leg of the tower, while a quad yagi array of 16 element DSFO222-16 yagis is located on the top position. The top LVA yagi was at 90 ft, while the bottom one was at 66 ft. This made for an effective station, but the quad yagi system was not up to par with what we had on 144 and 432. As a result, the 222 MHz contest totals were somewhat less than what we could achieve on the other two bands. A new array was the solution!
NEW 4 x 22 element QUAD YAGI ARRAY FOR 2008
222 MHz 100 ft. Rohn 45 tower. The top yagis are now 22 element K1FO designs all fed with Heliax LDF4-50A and rotated by a Prosistel PST-61A. The main feedline is 1 5/8" Heliax, with a second 7/8" run of Heliax to the 8 yagi LVA on the side of the tower.
The top antenna system was upgraded in 2008 from the 17 ft 16 element yagis to the 28 ft. 22 element design. The design was first characterized on a test range and tweaked to move the resonant frequency to about 223.5 MHz to insure very close to the maximum gain available, with good wet weather performance. The extended testing was done with spray bottles of water to completely cover all of the elements and record the amount of detuning when the elements were dripping wet. Performance at 222.1 did not degrade one bit, although the performance at 223.5 MHz dropped by about 0.4 dB. The increased antenna size over our old array of 16 element yagis amounts to an almost 2 dB improvement in performance. Switching from the old LMR-400 phasing lines to 1/2" LDF coax netted a bit more apparent gain. The end result is that the improvement is immediately noticeable. The W3CCX 222 MHz beacon is now always audible, and very close to the levels of the 432 and 144 beacon signals. In the past, the W3CCX 222 beacon was not audible all of the time during summer months. We could heaqr it about 50% of the time. Time will tell, but it is hoped that the modifications will put our 222 MHz results on par with 144 and 432, where bigger arrays in the past have netted better results on those bands.
THE ARRAY GOING UP!
For the September 2008 VHF QSO Party, the new array got a good workout. The result was 140 QSOs and 46 different grids, all with no real enhancement at all. The weather was rainy and with drizzle followed by some wind Sunday night as Hurricane Ike blew through Quebec.46 grids is a great number from this location. Last year we netted only 36 grids on 222 MHz. Very few stations have ever worked more than 46 grids on 222 without great conditions, so I would have to say that the array is working properly. There are some spots that have a geographical advantage for working grids. Spots like Spruce Knob are inland and close enough to many active VHF areas. K8GP worked 50 grids on 222 from there in 2007. K3EAR in FM19, KA1ZE, W3SO, W2SZ, and K1TEO can work over 40 grids on a dead band, but the farther East you go the harder it gets. Our spot in FN43 is not well situated for working grids, being situated next to the Atlantic Ocean with all the grids north and northeast of here having almost zero activity. N2CEI was the main operator this past September, and he noted that he never missed on any station that was passed along from 50 or 144 MHz. That is a great record. On Sunday morning, the big power amplifier went out with an HV arc. We finished the contest with 125 watts and did not notice any difference in working any sked stations with the lower power. We worked KO4YC easily with 125 watts, a distance of about 540 miles. In the time I have operated the new array, I have been impressed and can immediately hear the added gain over the old array. It is also a fact that the 8 X LVA on 222 needs to be expanded to keep up with this new long yagi H frame. It looks like 16 LVA yagis are in the future for sure. (It never ends does it?)
In December of 2008, the Northeast was hit with a horrendous ice storm. The brand new 222 array got a harsh baptism with about 1 1/4" of radial ice. The array was so loaded down that the rear boom sections got heavy enough to twist the H frame horizontal supports, and put a permanent 7 or 8 degree uptilt in the frame! The antennas were fine save for a few bent elements due to extremely heavy chunks of falling ice hitting the lower elements on the way down. We repaired the array this Spring, and managed to remove the torqued sections of the H frame so that the array is now aimed at the horizon again. The very heavy bracing on these antennas allowed the long booms to survive severe ice loading when the similar long 144 MHz antennas on an adjacent tower (modified Cushcraft 17B2s) had brace failures. Those braces have now been upgraded with the same design as in the new 222 MHz antennas. Keeping 30 ft long VHF yagis on hilltops in Northern New England can be a problem.
The bracing system for these 28 ft yagis consists of some heavy duty 3/4" x 1/8" wall extruded tube bolted as shown, and provides ample support for extreme icing conditions. The bracing adds considerable weight to each antenna, but makes the long boom design very survivable!
Here is a picture of the new 222 MHz antenna system. There are 88 elements fully rotatable using a Prosistel PST-61 rotator combined with 8 x 5 element 222 MHz LVA fixed to the southwest.
222 MHz operating position just before the VHF contest began in Sept. 2006. There are still tools and assorted boxes of parts strewn everywhere. You can see the 222 MHz exciter, another OMNI V off to the right, with an FM radio sitting on top. Above them are two rotor boxes for the quad array, and also the Northeast 2 X 8 element array. A third rotor, a Tic Ring rotor is hidden behind the yellow plastic box, and is used for FM on 223.5 and 440FM. The bandpass filter is visible on a a shelf in the equipment rack, with a Bird 43 and sequencer above it. The commercial Teletek driver amplifier is in the rack above the power meter, with the W6PO 8877 amplifier above that. A highly modified TS-830S above the rotor boxes acts as a second receiver on the band. The 8877 amplifier is fitted with an air switch and additional protective circuits to prevent transmitting without high voltage present, and also to cut out should the drive level become excessive. With tubes costing as much as they do, you cannot be too careful.
The bandpass filter is a requirement here on 222 MHz. There is a channel 13 transmitter line of sight to the northeast, 42 miles away, and a channel 11 transmitter line of sight to the southwest and only 20 miles distant. This past Spring (2008) the band was completely wiped out by S9 +20 video rfi from an unknown source. It was eventually found to be emanating from the Channel 9 transmitter in Manchester, NH. about 43 miles distant. Some defective solid state rf amplifiers were generating cross modulation products in the final amplifier stage. Getting it eliminated took much sleuth work, and several months of effort, but the band is quiet again, thanks to the efforts of the WMUR-TV technical crew. Now we wait for the DX to roll in! 2008 has been poor for tropo. There were two weak openings to the southeast and South Carolina. Not much happened inland to the west from northern New England, so the new array has yet to get a big workout. I am waiting for some aurora.
Another view of the 2008 222 antenna system. The 4 X 6 element side mounted yagis on the left are a new 144 MHz array aimed at VE1 land. The eight small rear mounted yagis on the right side of the tower comprise the 222 MHz LVA or Large Vertical Array. They are aimed down the eastern seaboard. There are a total of 16 yagis on this 100 ft Rohn 45 tower.
The 222 operating position is at the far end of the room. N2CEI is sitting in the operating chair, with W1SD next to him on 432, and WA1T in the foreground at one of three microwave positions, pondering the rf output meter for 2304 no doubt. Sandra, K4SME, from Downeast Microwave is discussing things with W1SD. Sandra, an RPI grad, keeps the computers running correctly. This room usually has four positions manned during high activity periods. It gets real busy!! We really need that air conditioner on the far wall. It gets hot without it! We even have exhaust fans and 4" air hoses to remove the hot air from the 222 and 432 KW amplifiers. Without those hoses, the place would be a good sauna. All we would need are those special rocks and some water to splash on them!
The 222 MHz band has always been an "orphan" band. Lately, the activity level has started to climb, and it is really a great band to build up your score. While the Japanese manufacturers do not make much gear for 222, there are plenty of transverter alternatives available. I have been surprised at 222 grid totals during the last Sprints. They have been not so far behind the 144 results. For example, in the 2008 Fall Sprints, I worked 92 QSOs on 144 with a kilowatt and good band conditions to VE3 and Ohio, and nabbed 68 QSOs a week later on 222 MHz, with just 300 watts and a dead band. So what are you waiting for? get on this band and use it. The sky noise is lower. There are no scanner birdies there. There are almost no computer birdies. It is a great band! I am a firm believer that you can work just as far, if not farther on 222 MHz with the same equipment as on 144. Aurora is quite common on 222 MHz, and is a great way to build up grids as the sunspot cycle starts to climb. Lately, others have been noticing that 222 MHz activity is on the rise in other areas outside of New England as well.