Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'm Blaming My Wife......

For this rotten cold I came down with starting yesterday morning.

Sore throat, headache, and my nose is running like a faucet with a blown washers in it.

And it's supposed to start raining Friday afternoon, and continue through Monday.

Where's my NyQuil.....I'm gonna hit the rack.......

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Last C-17 Is Being Assembled

Well, we all knew it was coming, but hearing about #279 rolling down the assembly line puts it in a new perspective.

I remember when they built the last 717 in 2006 (an MD-95/DC-9, really), and since I was working at Boeing at the time, we all stepped out of the office to watch it take off and fly away.

 It was the last commercial airliner to be built in Long Beach, ending a string that ran for over sixty years.

Mercedes Benz has taken over the Boeing facility on the East side of the Long Beach (LGB) airport, and supposedly Virgin Galactic will be building a small launch vehicle of some kind there.

I'm not sure what's going to happen over on the west side, where the C-17 facility is. Boeing has a large office complex on the East side of LGB, and there are many highly skilled workers on the program that will be available, so perhaps they'll keep parts of the facility going with upgrades and repairs for the C-17, or perhaps they'll do some F/A-18 work there.

Or, Boeing might follow the many, many businesses that just folded their tent, and left California for greener pastures, where the cost of living isn't so high, and the cost of doing business isn't stifled by a state government that can never seem to remove it's head from where the sun doesn't shine......

Yard Work and PC Work Today

Now that's dried out a bit (we got some rain over the weekend), I can finish up the back yard today. I have to finish the edging with my edger, and then get the weed whacker out to do the final trimming.

And then mix up some Roundup and spray the areas we're trying to keep clear.

I had a one gallon sprayer that came with a premix in it, but that ran out Friday afternoon. And then about 12 hours later we had the rain, so unfortunately, most of the Roundup washed away, and we still have some weeds along the driveway.

Roundup seems to work pretty well, as it "Kills The Root", and makes the dead stuff easier to rip out of the ground.

I've also used rock salt in the past with good results, but only use that where I don't want anything to grow, or to kill stumps. Just drill some 1" holes in the stump as deep as you can with a wood bit ("Paddle Bit"), and then fill the holes with salt. Add some water to get things started, and let Nature take over. Years ago, I bought some kind of chlorate compound from National Lumber (remember them?) that you did the same thing with, and then waited a couple of weeks. Once it was dry enough, you could light the stump with a propane torch, and it would start to burn, and continue burning, until the entire thing was gone. Pretty neat stuff, but I'm sure it's not available any more.

And on the PC front, I just finished up refurbishing a laptop and a desktop to take down to the Iowa for our Amatuer Radio use.

The desktop is a Core2 Quad running at 3GHz, with 8GB of memory (I remember when 8 Gig was a big hard disk!) and a clean installation of Windows 7 Professional. It also has an M-Audio "Audiophile 2496" soundcard that we'll be using with a SoftRock SDR receiver to use as a panadaptor for the Kenwood TS-850 that's our main SSB radio., along with a full suite of N3FJP software.

The laptop is an older Dell that somebody gave me that I added a bigger hard disk to, and maxed out the memory to 4GB, and installed Windows 7 Professional. We'll be using that on the "CW" station to do digital mode operation using the soundcard interface I built a while back.

I'll clean them up tonight and make sure all the updates are current, and lug them down to the Iowa Wednesday morning where we'll join them to the domain, and bring our station up a notch or two.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

72nd Anniversary of Battleship Iowa's First Commissioning on 22 FEB 15

And we'll be operating NI6BB 22 FEB 15 from 0900 to 1600 PST.

Look for on the bands from 40 Meters through 10 Meters, typically on a frequency ending in "61", like 14.261 MHz, +/- any QRM.

At this time we have seven operators, and one "guest" CW operator on the schedule, so we should be able to keep the phone and CW stations in continuous operation.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Great Panoramic Views of the Battleship Iowa

One of the guys in the Grey Radio Gang has a friend who takes numerous pictures of things, and then stitches them into panoramic views.

Pretty neat stuff, and he has some very nice interior shots of the Iowa.

And be sure you check his complete index, as he has some amazing panoramas of all kinds of things.

He has everything from Alcatraz to the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro.

Tons of stuff to see, and a great Internet Time Sink!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

LOTS of F/A-18 Actvity Out of Long Beach Airport

Typically, I'll see/hear a few Hornets leaving the field per month, along with the occasional C-17but this last week has been nuts!

On Sunday alone, I counted twelve departing F/A-18's, and there's been at least ten today.

I know there are some "activities" coming up at one of the old Los Angeles harbor warehouses (the Iowa staff sent a notice to all of us), and we used to see various drills being conducted at the MARAD facility next to Sea Launch, but nothing like this.

A couple of years ago I read a press release stating that the guys from NAS Los Alamitos would be conducting practice take-offs and landings from LGB, and to be aware that the aircraft used would be louder than the commercial airliners.

Yeah, just a wee bit louder.

I'm not complaining, as I don't mind hearing an F/A-18 blasting off to who knows where, but I'm curious about the greatly increased air activity.

And in further Long Beach news......

They started building the course for the Long Beach Grand Prix today, the Longies have the ports of L.A. and Long Beach tied up in knots, and Virgin Galactic announced plans to build a "small launcher" in some of the former Boeing buildings near the airport.

Back to yard work, and replacing a busted driveway light.....

Thursday, February 12, 2015

More Battleship Iowa Transmitter Progress

Well, we now have three "functional" transmitters after this Wednesday's work.

We found a dead 6AN5 tube in one the exciters, but replacing it didn't seem to help the output, so that one still needs some repair work.

And we still have to replace the chain-drives from the frequency set knob to the internals in most of the exciters, or at least in the ones that we can get up and running with enough drive for the power amplifier.

The original "chains" were little plastic things that look more like ladders than what you'd think of, and after sitting for 25 years in one position the plastic took a set, and turning the knobs results in the "rungs" getting ripped out of them.

We're slowly replacing them with real metal chains (like miniature bicycle chains) that our friends on the carrier Midway donated to us. Our lead Gray Radio Guy was down there last year, and noticed a bunch of exciters that were going to be scrapped, so he asked if we could salvage some parts. The guys on the Midway stripped out the chains, sprockets, and detent mechanisms and sent them our way, so we have a small supply of them now.

We also have some plastic chains, but I haven't talked to our guy who does the work to see if, or how well, they work.

And we're debating whether to home-brew a mast oscillator for all the transmitters and receivers so they're all on the same frequency.

I have several 5MHz Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillators here from some HP test equipment I stripped, and it would be a simple matter to box one up with a power supply, and feed it to the distribution amplifiers that are still in place.

The cables that used to bring the 5MHz master clock down to the transmitter room from Radio Central have been repurposed to connect the two portions of the bow-mounted Disc/Cage antenna up to Radio Central, so *if* we decide to set up a Master Oscillator, we'll have to mount one in Radio Central for the receivers, and one down in the transmitter room for the exciters.

And we had a group of SeaBees aboard from Port Hueneme in the morning, and one of them was an ET, so we took him around all the radio gear, most of which he knew.

Still much work to do in getting the antennas and cabling sorted out so we can run both the Amateur Radio station and the original gear, but we're starting to make some definite progress!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Holy Smokes, Two Thousand Pageviews In One Day!

Apparently my post on getting one of the Iowa's transmitters working again was re-posted on somebody's Facebook page, and now I'm getting a whole LOT of pageviews, and offers of help!

I'm humbled by all this!

I sure didn't get it running all by myself.

The "Grey Radio Gang" are the guys doing all the heavy lifting, and I'm just the guy that got handed the title of Lead Technician, primarily because of my previous work experience with high voltage and high power transmitters of various types.

Don't give me any medals or accolades.......give them to the team that's making this possible. I couldn't possibly have gotten this far without their support.

Battleship Iowa Superstructure Tour - Conclusion-

Sorry for not getting this up sooner, but I had some other things to do.

SO....let's see....where were we.....

After leaving the CEC, we went up several flights of ladders (narrow, steep stairs for the land-bound folks), and made our way to "CONN2", which is the highest point on the ship where it can be steered from.

In getting up there, we passed the room where the transmitter for the SPS-67 radar is located:

And I stuck my head in to grab a picture of the rack:

Looking at the hand made table taped to the cabinet, you can see that this radar operates in C-Band, and outputs approximately 50 dBm of power.

For those that don't "know" dBm, this equates to approximately 100 Watts. Since the chart doesn't specify whether this is peak or average power, but knowing just a bit about radar, I'm going to assume this is an average power measurement. Not knowing the pulse width and duty cycle, I can't calculate the peak power, but the Wikipedia article states that it's 280 kilowatts, which "seems" about right for a high-power surface search radar.

Note: Do NOT stand in front of the antenna when the radar is in operation!

There wasn't much else to see in this room, so I didn't take any other pix. We did stop by another radar room which was full of equipment, waveguides, waveguide switches, isolators, and other radar gear, but unfortunately I didn't take any pix in there.

Me bad!

After going up another couple of flights of ladders, we reached "CONN2", or the Number 2 "Conning Station" where the ship can be maneuvered from:

Once again, as in the Aft Steering Compartment, the ship's wheel is missing:

The one from this position is in some USN facility in D.C., and we're trying to borrow it back so we can make a copy.

There's an Engine Room Telegraph to signal speed changes from up here, along with a Shaft Revolution Indicator:

And a table listing shaft revolutions and speed in knots, showing that you can get pretty fine speed control by calling for a given number of shaft turns:

And a couple of weather repeaters:

The horizontal slits in the armor are the viewing ports to see where you're going:

The armor isn't very thick up here, maybe 2~3", and I have no idea what the "X" means that's on the covers.

There's also a Chart House up here, and the room designator indicates we're on the "08" level:

And the Chart House is pretty well stripped:

Steeping out shows we're pretty far above the deck here:

And you have a pretty nice view of the harbor where the Iowa is berthed:

The deteriorating structure in the above pic is some kind of duct work for one of the radars that used to be mounted on the platform above it.

One of those many things on the ship that need to be cleaned up/restored.

And what's a BIG ship without a BIG Ship's Whistle?

This one used to be steam powered, but nobody on the tour could remember what powers it these days:

One of the signaling lamps on the starboard side:

A close-up:

And her mate, on the port side:

And that's it for this crew tour, other than the LONG climb back down to the main deck.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Battleship Iowa Transmitter Reactivated After Almost 25 Years

Well, we finally got one of the transmitters fired up today after last being powered on in 1990.

Here's a view looking into the Transmitter Room, located "On Broadway", directly across from Engine Room #2. The exciter/power amplifier units are to your right, while the Antenna Couplers are all in the racks to your left:

And this is one of the Exciter/Power Amplifier sets:

The exciter is at the top, the Power Amplifier is in the middle, and the bottom unit is the high voltage power supply for the amp.

One of the "Grey Radio Gang" team members had installed new drive chains in the exciter a couple of weeks ago, and after verifying that the RF output cables did indeed go to where we thought they did, and verifying that when patched to the dummy load it was indeed connected to the load, we had the ships Electrician check the power wiring (440V, 3 phase) for shorts and grounds, made sure all the switches and knobs were set per the start-up guide, and proceeded to power it up.

Nothing.......dead as door nail.

Some checking revealed that one of the interlocks where the exciter slides in to the rack was stuck, and freeing it up, we were able to power up the exciter and power amplifier.

Power amplifier voltages and currents checked as normal, but keying up the unit and speaking in the handset revealed NO RF power output, and NO drive from the exciter. We then inserted a power meter between the exciter and power amp and confirmed we had no RF drive to the amp.

The first thing I checked was the 5 MHz reference oscillator source, which was switched to "External", and since the 5 MHz Reference Oscillators were removed from the ship when she was in mothballs, I switched it to "Internal", and we tried again.

Still no RF drive to the amp.

Since this exciter/amplifier pair had been more or less picked at random to be the first to be powered up, and had the drive chains replaced so that all the frequency set knobs worked, we then looked for an exciter that had at least the tens, ones, and hundreds knobs in working condition so we'd pretty much know what frequency we were tuned to.

We found an exciter that had those digits working, and proceeded to swap the two exciters.

Powering up the set after swapping exciters revealed a missing fuse, and after we replaced that, everything powered up as expected.

And this time we had RF drive to the final power amplifier.


How's about 950 Watts output @ 14.250 MHz into the dummy load, as measured by the built-in metering!

We still have quite a ways to go before we attempt to put one On-The-Air, but the results were quite encouraging for a transmitter that was last powered up sometime in 1990.

I'll be bringing in my power meter and spectrum analyzer so we can get a calibrated power measurement, and check the signal for spurs and modulation level, but BB-61 should be On-The-Air later this year with a BIG voice!