(The article below first appeared in the IRTS newsletter in May, 1991.
It was written by Charlie, EI5FK, and it is about his experience of 6 metres
between the Winter of 1988 and the Spring of 1991............de John, EI7GL)

A Look at 50 MHz Since 1988

........By Charles Coughlan, EI5FK

F Layer

My first experience of F layer propogation was an opening to VE/W on the 21st of Dec 1988 with signals between 5/5 and 5/7. Most W/VE stations use huge power and very long antennas on 6 mtrs. 1.5kW is normal and 30 foot long antennas are very common. By the end of 1988, VE/ W/ G/ 9H/ KP2/ HC/ J52 and F were worked by tropo, Sporadic-E and mostly F layer propogation. 50 MHz is a very poor band for tropo with very few stations worked via that mode. What suprised me was the number of Sporadic-E openings on 6 when there was no Sporadic-E evident on 10 metres.
January 1989 saw some good aurora giving LA/ GM/ GD/ GI and several others. There was a lot of meteor activity during the Quadrantids shower into Europe. During 1989, it was not unusual to work 10 log pages in a single opening to W/ VE, with VE1YX full scale here and W's often 5/9 with my 80m dipole.
Openings to South and Central America were very common during 1989 and the Spring of 1990 and have been very scarce since although some fine TEP openings to Africa have occured. Feb/ March seems to be the best months for these openings allowing J52, ZS3, TR8, Z23, 5N and other countries to be worked. It is very strange that so few EI stations are on this band. What I also find so unusual is that I have no TVI on 50 MHz using up to 20 watts to a 5 element Yagi with direct feed, no balun. We have cable TV here, 17/18 channels.

Aurora - March 1989

The aurora on the 13th of March 1989 was most spectacular on 50 MHz. The TV carrier signals on 48.240, 48.250, 48.253, 48.260, 49.740, 49.750 and 49.760 MHz are great indicators of auroral propogation on 6 metres. That day, I had a nasty visit to the dentist in the morning and after five injections, I decided enough was enough and I was not going back to work. The aurora started shortly after I got home and it was something else and compared with the aurora on the 8th of Feb 1986. Counties worked on 6m that day were GW/ GM/ GI/ G/ F/ GU/ PA/ EI/ LA/ OH and SM. Ten pages of QSO's were logged using 144 and 50 MHz.
Between March and May of 1989, we had several TEP and F layer openings to Africa and South America. One of the most interesting QSO's on 50 MHz was on AM to LU8EEM who was using 3 watts to a small yagi. Ten LU's were worked that day.
The Summer months showed what a good band 6 metres is for Sporadic-E. The openings started in the begining of May and of course enabled most of Europe to be worked. SV's and 5B4's were also worked, probably by double hop Sporadic-E. It seemed very often that real DX calls were opting for 6 metres and it was often stated on 28.885 Mhz that it was easier to work rare countries on 6 metres than on HF. The Summer also provided auroral openings, not unusual for that time of year, contary to what many people think!

My First VK on 6M

The 1st of November gave me my first VK's on 50 MHz with 3 being worked that morning. Between the 1st and 2nd, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA were logged on 6m. What beautiful propogation! Next day, I heard the ZD8VHF beacon but did not get ZD8MB on the net so I missed out on that one. I learned afterwards while chatting to ZD8MB, Mick that he worked W5UN on 144 MHz EME (moonbounce) using a 15 element Yagi and 18 watts at the antenna. So dont give up on EME, if like me, you run low power to a small system.
November 1989 was wild on 6 metres. Page after page of W1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 0 and VE were worked and on the 10th of November, I finally worked K7KV on the West Coast. The next day, the following countries were worked : KP2, HH7, ZF1, HI8 and W. This type of propogation continued, supplemented with aurora of large magnitude. At this stage, all continents were worked on 6 mtrs with no sign of JA, ZL or DU.
The F layer openings continued through Christmas and as will happen every year at the end of December / beginning of January, Sporadic-E appeared. So there was never any real let up in activity. Winter 1989 saw OA, PZ, etc. via F layer plus the usual W stations. I must have worked 90% of the stations in the East of the USA at this stage. What was very strange was that only one or two openings to the USA occured after January 1990. Though we had some auroras, at this stage we were beginning to believe that we had gone beyond the peak of this solar cycle which has gone on record as being the fastest ever to rise to maximum.
Sporadic-E was not as great as 1989, which was to be expected as Sporadic-E is not as noticable during the years of sunspot maximum.
A lot of new European countries were allowed to work on 6 metres for the first time during 1990 and many firsts were easily worked. ON, LX, DL, OE, HB9, I and T77 were excellent signals during the summer. At the end of June 1990, several W's and VE's were worked via double hop Sporadic-E, although I prefer to monitor 144 MHz for openings of this sort. Sporadic-E was very scarce that year as stated already and only 3 or 4 openings were noted on 144 MHz.

Autumn - Winter 1990

I looked forward with great interest to the Autumn/ Winter of 1990 for F layer to return - it did not to any great extent, with just a handful of openings to the USA. Auroras were very scarce also. It got very depressing, so much so that I often considered taking down the 6m Yagi. The predicted Sporadic-E during the last week of December was also very poor, which led me to believe that we could have another peak of Cycle 22 during the spring of this year. It seems to be happening. During the end of January, the F layer to the USA and the TEP to Africa returned. G's were reporting VK's and W's were reporting VK's also. So far, the openings to the USA have extended to W0 and W8, not as extensive as before but they seem to be on the increase. On the 9th of February, the bubble burst. I arrived at the shack at 10:40 and heard KG6UH/DU1 very strong. I called him and exchanged 589 reports on CW. I then went on to work 4 more DU stations at huge signals, up to 5/9+20dB. I have it on tape. It would appear that this was the first EI/DU QSO, if you have any other information, please let me know.
Only the other day, I worked 6W1QC who was delighted to work his first EI - he was 5/9+10dB. At this stage, I really dont know what to expect. This solar cycle is unlike any we have experienced so far. It is completely unpredictable at the moment and it is possible what we might have 3 peaks during this cycle. I always thought that DU would be almost impossible to work on 6 mtrs and that JA would be far easier. How wrong I was!

Looking Ahead

I dont know what the future holds but one things for sure, I am looking forward to the aurora maxima which should occur one year or so after the peak of this cycle.
I hope this will get you interested in a very strange band stuck between HF and VHF with many modes of propogation - F layer during the years leading up to solar maxima, aurora and Sporadic-E at any time, TEP during the Spring and Autumn and excellent meteor scatter during the showers, even minor ones. Tropo is also possible but unless you use a similar lenght yagi on both 2 and 6 metres, it is really impossible to compare them both, although I have noticed Aurora on 6 mtrs when it is not present on 2 metres - that is with a 12 foot, 4 element on 6 metres giving approx 8-9 dB gain against 2 by 19 element 22.5 foot long yagis on 2 metres with approx 17 dB gain.

Countries Worked

To finish off, I will leave you with a list of counties, 59 in total, worked since the Winter of 1988. The callsigns are the first stations worked in their respective countries.
If you would like to know nore about the band, the lads on 28.885 MHz are a great help. K1JRW is always on during the day and reads the WWV update shortly after 18:18 daily. Ted, G4UPS, is on 3.718 MHz in the mornings around 08:30 and is a wealth of information.

73's de Charles, EI5FK.

The EI5FK station on 50 Mhz is a Kenwood TS-680 with a 5 element home brew beam fed with RG8U cable at 30 feet.

(The article above first appeared in the IRTS newsletter in May, 1991.
It was written by Charlie, EI5FK, and it is about his experience of 6 metres
between the Winter of 1988 and the Spring of 1991............de John, EI7GL)

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