CQ CQ this is AF6IM parachute mobile on 3885 AM QRP

The link below has photos that show how our radio gear is mounted. You can click on the photos in this link to enlarge them and will see more hardware detail. Extreme care must be taken to be sure that radio gear cannot snag or interfere with main chute, reserve chute, or emergency cutaway hardware. A misrouted cable or strap can be fatal. We go though extensive pre jump inspections. Long written checklists are used. Non ham skydivers think we are nuts. We have never seen anybody besides our team use written pre-jump safety checklists despite their proven benefits. You really want to find gear problems on the ground, not in the sky. Even with extensive safety checks gear can malfunction. Mark AF6IM, who just turned 64, has had only two main chute malfunctions in his 45+ years of jumping. One was on old military surplus gear and the other was on modern sport gear. Both times he cut away the main canopy and safely deployed his reserve chute. A cutaway in the 21st century isnt done with a knife. Modern rigs have a reliable system that releases the main canopy when a cutaway handle is pulled. It was more complicated in the early days of sport parachuting when military surplus gear was used. A cutaway on the old gear involved a sequence of hardware release operations. The newer gear is far more reliable and safe.


Interview on day of BC 611 jump (10/12/13) can be seen in link below. Mark AF6IM is being interviewed by Michael Wright K6MFW who is also an experienced skydiver who has made several HALO jumps from 30,000 ft!


Exit video, AF6IM is in blue and gold (Go CAL) jumpsuit, KF6WRW is in black and yellow jumpsuit. This was shot on a different jump from the BC 611 one.


Here is a video of an earlier jump in which Mark operated 2M analog FM, 2M DSTAR and 1.2 GHz FM. Got QSOs in all modes.


Here is Bob Burmeister AG6QL at the dropzone listening for  AF6IM

Mark writes:

Photo below was shot on Saturday Oct 12, 2013 by Capt Jim Wilson RCAF. We exited at 13,500 ft from a Beechcraft King Air C90 operated by Bay Area Skydiving flying out of the uncontrolled airport at Byron CA. We did a few seconds of freefall to stabilize and then deployed our chutes.  It was a nice day and temps aloft were not as chilly as usual. The views were just spectacular. I could see several aircraft below us during our descent but none posed a collision hazard. The entire Sacramento River Delta system was visible and it looked gorgeous.

Jim Wilson is a truly superb canopy flyer. It's very hard to get shots like the one below. Most in flight canopy shots you see are shot from the ground as a jumper is landing or from behind if its and air to air shot. Jim used a special high aspect ratio large surface area canopy which enabled him to fly around me while shooting pix from his helmet mounted Canon SLR digital camera. He used tricks such as flying right ahead of me then twisting his lines so that he was facing backwards towards me while his canopy was flying along with mine. My flying job was easy, just steer into the sun and hold a steady course while he maneuvered close to me. His was a lot more complicated.
After opening my chute and completing my gear safety checks, I took off my helmet, stowed it, unzipped the genuine WW 2 BC 611 canvas carrying case affixed to my harness, removed the 611, extended the antenna and started calling. Acoustic sealing on the headphone was decent and I had no trouble hearing. What I did hear were very weak voice signals and some weak clashing carriers, nothing intelligible despite my best listening efforts. I kept trying down to about 9000 ft. I was beginning to think my receiver wasn't working properly when I heard Rebar N6DB working from the Stanford club station. N6DB boomed in very loud and very clear on 3885 KHz AM. He was about 40 miles away but could just barely hear me, not enough for a real QSO. I continued to hear other very weak unintelligible sigs. N6DB continued to come in strong. I think the BC 611 just doesnt have enough radiated power for reliable comms from aloft.
Special thanks to Bob AG6QL and his son Bob K6CBB for helping me acquire
a BC 611 on short notice and loaning me a genuine Army canvas BC 611 case to carry it in. They came to the DZ and did copy me very weakly on their BC 611 during my descent. I was unable to copy them clearly enough to claim a legit QSO.
I had a sked to work the ARRL Pacificon hams during the jump on VHF so at about 8800 fet I stowed the 611, put my helmet back on and made some 2M FM contacts using a Kenwood TH F6A HT.
As Jim and I flew around the countryside to get good sun angles for the photos, we journeyed quite a distance away from the DZ. With a roughly 3:1 glide ratio on my chute (A Triathlon 210) I could fly about seven miles from my exit point at 13,000 feet. Jim's special canopy (custom made by Performance Designs to challenge the world distance record for parachute flight) could probably fly at least 15 miles. We kept an eye on the DZ however, and started heading back home after we got some good shots. Both Jim and I made nice stand up feather soft landings right on the DZ. Winds were very light during this jump but kicked up quite a bit later in the afternoon. We were fortunate. It's no fun landing big chute in high winds. You can end up flying backwards relative to the ground. For windy conditions I switch to a smaller canopy that has higher wing loading and can penetrate significant winds.
The BC 611 transmit power is around 300 mIlliwatts. The antenna when fully extended is only a few feet long. Radiated power must be really low. I don't think we can overcome the noise on 75M at any appreciable distance. A better antenna, such as a trailing wire, would help but then it wouldn't be a true OE BC 611 setup. Our jumpers have used jettison-able trailing wire antennas for our 20 M PSK 31 beacon flights. We equipped them with acoustic beepers to help find them after they are released and it worked well. The reason we release them is so that there is zero chance of dragging one across a power line on approach if we have an unexpected off DZ landing.
We won't give up though. Another BC 611 jump will be done. Thanks to all the patient hams who tried to get a QSO with us on 3885 AM. Sorry we couldn't connect but we sure tried. I think the only realistic chance of making BC 611 parachute mobile QSOs will require the use of a far better antenna system aloft. We will work on it. Suggestions are welcome.
Our group website is www.parachutemobile.com
Mark Meltzer AF6IM at 10,000 ft over Byron CA with BC 611 radio