by Tim Bratton K5RA
What exactly is the American Radio Relay League Field Day?? Is it a radio communications and emergency preparedness exercise? Is it a radio operating contest? Is it a vehicle to experiment with new technology? Is it an activity to promote amateur radio? Is it an outdoor activity like camping? Is it a social event? Answer: it is all of the above. Each Field Day activity is whatever the participants want it to be.
First held in 1933, Field Day is an operating event with enormous popularity. If you research the history of Field Day, you can find many local club groups that have participated for decades. One east-coast ham received a plaque in 2017 for participating in Field Day for fifty continuous years. That man loves Field Day and so do a lot of other people!
In 2020, even with the COVID pandemic keeping people at home and away from group activities, ARRL Field Day had 18,886 participants and 10,213 entries. In 2019, a year more representative of Field Day activity, over 36,400 radio operators from all 83 ARRL/RAC sections and several DX countries participated in the Field Day event.
In 2019, there were over 3,100 entries whose stations made over 1.1 million QSOs in the 24-hour event. Class A (stations set up in the field running on emergency power) had 1110 entries. Class D (home stations, commercial power) had 769 entries. Class E (home stations on emergency power) had 452. Class F (Emergency Operating Center (EOC) stations) had 196. Class 1A (one transmitter Class A) had 142 entries. Class 2A had 358 entries. Class 3A had 309 entries. Class 4A had 141 entries. Over the years, the maximum number of simultaneous transmitters for any club has typically ranged from mid-teens to mid-twenties. Since 1963, the Richardson Wireless Klub or Richardson Amateur Radio Club has operated in Classes 1A, 2A, 3A, 2F, and 3F.
RWK and Early Field Days
The participants make Field Day the event that they want. In the 1970s and 1980s, RWK had many members whose primary interest in amateur radio was competing in radio contests and working DX. “Competing” is the operative word. The Klub leaders would organize equipment (radios, towers, beams, generators, and infrastructure) and teams of highly skilled operators (able to make, dupe, and log over 90 CW QSOs per hour or 200 SSB QSOs per hour).
Some Klub members would partially dismantle their elaborate home stations, and re-erect them in the field. Imagine having at your home two sixty-foot towers, one with a big tribander (usually a Hy-Gain TH-6) and the other with a two-element 40-meter beam (often a CushCraft “shorty forty”), and a full-size 80m dipole. And your rig would be the top-of-the-line transmitter-receiver or transceiver, like Collins Radio S-Line (1960s-1970s), or Drake 4-Line or Signal/One CX-7 (1970s-1980s), or best Icom/Kenwood/Yaesu HF radios. In this period, the Klub would deploy to the field and participate in Field Day with the goal of winning their operating class (1A, 2A, or 3A).
A point of some pride is the number of club members who participated in RWK Field Day. Any member who wanted to operate would be “in the chair” at an RWK Field Day station making SSB or CW contacts. In the dark ages before computerized logging software, incoming calls were screened by a second operator at each position with a pencil and one or more “dupe sheets,” paper pages with bins for call signs by areas and prefixes. The “duper” listened for the calling station, checked the dupe sheet to see if the call was previously logged, then signaled the operator to complete the QSO, or send “B4” if the contact was a duplicate. Typically, RWK had about twice as many operators as other clubs in their operating class.
As RWK membership interests evolved and some members moved on to other clubs, the RWK’s Field Day evolved from a contest event to an amateur radio public relations and/or social event. Over the last five years (2017-2021), RWK has focused on emergency preparedness, operating in Class F at the Richardson EOC four times, and once (2020) in Class 2A. Even with less emphasis on making large numbers of QSOs, RWK places consistently in the upper half or upper two-thirds of class entrants. Field Day is what you want it to be.
RWK Results Over The Years
Below are the results of RWK Field Day activities found in the fall issues of QST for the last six decades. Results of other North Texas clubs are sometimes included, along with results from some other clubs, and clubs with whom we have competed for best Field Day performance.
Field Day results reported in the Dec 1952 QST show no Dallas-area club station entries. TI made their first silicon transistors in 1954, and the integrated circuit in 1958. Collins Radio introduced their S-Line in 1958. The late-1950s would have been the start of an amateur radio explosion in North Dallas and Richardson due to the influx of electrical engineers and technicians who moved to the area to work for Collins Radio, TI, and other engineering companies.
I found the first entry for a Richardson club in 1959. Field Day results reported in the Dec 1959 QST show K5DMM, Richardson ARC, placing 59th in Class 4A with 20 operators. K5DMM was Carroll E. Smith (SK), a Texas Instruments employee who was very active in both the RWK and the Texins ARC. Carroll upgraded to K5DM, which is now the call sign of Texins ARC. K5OJI, former call of Texins ARC, is still an alias for K5DM in the QRZ app.
Field Day results for 1960, 1961, and 1962 show K5OJI, Texins ARC, operating in Class 2A, with 5 to 14 operators. No Richardson club activity found.
Field Day results reported in the Nov 1963 QST show W5LNI, Richardson Amateur Radio Club, placing 36th in Class 2A with 12 ops. Field Day results reported in the Nov 1964 QST show W5QJR, Richardson Amateur Radio Club, placing 101st in Class 1A with 10 operators. W5QJR is Robert T. “Ted” Hart, the inventor of the Omega-t Systems Antenna Noise Bridge, a device for determining impedance of an RF circuit using a receiver as the null detector.
Field Day results reported in the Nov 1965 QST show W5BKU, Richardson Amateur Radio Club, placing 52nd in Class 1A with 10 operators. W5BKU was James C. Eastwood. Field Day results reported in the Nov 1966 QST show K5DMM, Richardson Amateur Radio Club, placing below 100th in Class 2A. Richardson Club not found in 1967.
Field Day results reported in the Nov 1968 QST show W5KYD, Richardson Amateur Radio Club, in 58th place in Class 3A with 14 operators. W5KYD was Howard Sartori (W5DA). He developed and marketed solid state replacements for vacuum tubes which he called Fetrons. W5FC, Dallas ARC, placed 56th in 3A with 22 ops in 1968. The difference between DARC and RARC scores was 15 points out of 6000. Maybe that event provided motivation for the RWK. The next decade was one of remarkable success for K5RWK in Field Day competition.
Field Day results reported in the Nov 1969 QST show K5RWK, Richardson ARC, placing 6th in Class 2A with 22 operators. There are photographs on page 55 of K5RWK antenna erection and an operating position. The copy in the CD-ROM archive is not good enough to reproduce here. The results for the next 16 years are summarized below.
1969 Richardson ARC Class 2A 6th place 22 operators 1970 Richardson ARC Class 2A 3rd place 22 operators 1971 RWK Class 2A 1st place 20 operators 1972 RWK Class 2A 3rd place 25 operators 1973 RWK Class 3A 2nd place 17 operators 1974 RWK Class 1A 3rd place 22 operators 1975 RWK Class 2A 2nd place 17 operators 1976 RWK Class 3A 1st place 33 operators 1977 RWK Class 3A 2nd place 45 operators 1978 RWK Class 3A 2nd place 48 operators 1979 RWK Class 3A 2nd place 50 operators 1980 RWK <NO RWK ENTRY – HEAT WAVE> 1981 RWK <NO RWK ENTRY – RAIN STORMS?> 1982 RWK Class 2A 1st place 53 operators 1983 RWK Class 2A 4th place 48 operators 1984 RWK Class 1A 13th place 25 operators 1985 RWK Class 2A 9th place 30 operators
Here are some QST entries that you may find interesting…
Below is from QST Nov 1970. RWK placed third in Class 2A.
Below is from QST Nov 1971, Field Day results for Class 2A. RWK placed first in Class 2A!!
In Field Day 1974, Richardson Wireless Klub placed third in Class 1A with 22 ops. Glen Zook (K9STH – SK) and others assembled a station and made contacts through the OSCAR 6 satellite for K5RWK. Twenty-five other stations in the 1974 Field Day exercise reported making OSCAR QSOs.
In 1976, K5RWK won Class 3A with 33 operators.
In the Nov 1980 QST Field Day results, I did not find an entry for RWK. N5TP (Travis “Pete” Peterson), operating as Texas Heatstrokers – Richardson Solar Div, placed 34th in Class 1A with 24 operators. Pete told me recently that 1980 had an awful heatwave, with daytime highs reaching 113 deg. F on Thursday and Friday before FD. The Klub voted to cancel the FD effort. In the Nov 1981 QST Field Day results, the commentary states that in North Texas, rain replaced the 100-plus temperatures of Field Day 1980. That might explain why there was no RWK entry that year.
Below is from QST Nov 1982, Field Day results for Class 2A. K5RWK, Richardson Wireless Klub, placed first with 53 operators.
I found no entry for RWK in Field Days for 1986 – 1988 and 1990-1994. In 1989, RWK placed 21st in Class 1A with 21 operators. At this time, there was apparently a change in the interests of the RWK membership. The members with interests in contesting and DXing had moved to other clubs like the North Texas Contest Club and the Lone Star DX Association.
In the period 1995 through 2002, RWK participated in Field Day, but not with the intensity of the 1969-1985 period. Participation was in Class 1A or 2A (2001 and 2002). Ranking was between 83rd place and 128th for Class 1A with 12 to 34 operators, and between 100th and 250th in Class 2A with 30-50 ops.
In Millennial Year 2000, VA3PRC, Capitol Region FD 2000 group, placed first (and only) in Class 35A with 190 operators. Yes…THIRTY-FIVE transmitters operated simultaneously! Incredible!
I did not find RWK entries for Field Day in the 2003 through 2009 years.
In 2010, K5DM (see results from 1959), operating as the Texins ARC/Richardson Wireless Klub, placed below 100th in Class 1A with 21 operators. In 2011, K5DM, operating as Texins ARC/Richardson Wireless Klub/UTD ARC, placed 78th in Class 1A with 14 ops. In 2012, they placed 94th in Class 1A with 15 ops.
From 2013 to 2021, the RWK again operated with their K5RWK call sign.
2013 RWK Class 1A 68th place 23 operators 2014 RWK Class 1A 47h place 33 operators 2015 RWK Class 1A 28th place 65 operators 2016 RWK Class 2A 121st place 52 operators 2017 RWK Class 3F 3rd place 20 operators 2018 RWK Class 2F 6th place 60 operators 2019 RWK Class 3F 11th place 20 operators 2020 RWK Class 2A 104th place 12 operators 2021 RWK Class 3F 18th place 30 operators
Perhaps RWK evolved to a more “social event” and “amateur radio public relations” Field Days in the late 1990s, then to emergency operations drills in the mid-2010s. Field Day can be whatever you want it to be.
Author’s Note: Researching over seventy years of ARRL Field Day results (1933 and 1934, then 1952 through 2021) printed in QST has been a laborious task. The process has involved finding the results (usually, but not always, in the November issue), scanning several hundred to over one thousand entries for each year looking for North Texas clubs, then counting numbers of entries in a class to identify the rank of each station. I hope I have not made too many mistakes, in particular oversights, especially missing an RWK entry that was there. You can search QST on CD-ROM or ARRL Periodicals on DVD, but swapping the discs and loading files, finding which month the results are in, then scrolling through pages one at a time is not easy. If you are an ARRL member, you can search QST archives, including those for Field Day, and search for articles by title a year at a time at http://www.arrl.org/arrl-periodicals-archive-search . Search all months for “Field Day” in the title. Only one year or two they called it “FD”, which had me confused for a few minutes. Articles are returned as PDF files.