Best Practices for DXpedition Operating
The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 35 from the DX University™*
This week, it’s more than a hint. I am addressing DXpeditioners directly. Heads up, guys! Several DXpeditions in recent months have caused serious problems, and to be honest, some of the operating has been very poor. (That’s a polite version of what I have been reading.) The reactions to this poor operating in many cases have been absolutely vile. In response, several large groups are moving to more effectively tie DXpeditioning operating techniques to funding – and for good reason.
Some of the DXpedition operators recruited for these operations seem to have forgotten – or never learned – how to manage their pileups. Much of the negative reaction is coming from DXers who see their opportunities for a QSO diminishing. Additional reaction is coming from non-DXers who have had their own operating unnecessarily disrupted by widespread pileups. In some cases, these non-DXers have gone to the source, the DXpedition frequency, setting off a circus there. The situation soon spirals totally out of control.
There have been numerous attempts in the “local media” to pinpoint the reasons for this behavior, but much of it has been off the mark. Increasingly though DXers are beginning to understand: virtually every instance of poor pileup behavior can be attributed to poor pileup management. The nature of a DXpedition pileup mirrors the skill of the DXpedition operator. A carefully managed pileup will run well with little disruption to the remainder of the band and a minimum of frustration. Though it can be difficult in trying situations to remember all the elements of pileup management, it must be done and done well. To begin, here are some suggestions for making the most of your pileup.
Best Practices for DXpedition Operating*
1. Check your transmit and receive frequencies before starting.
2. Use split operation from the beginning
3. Maintain a rhythm of regular transmissions. No long silences.
4. Do not use excessive speed on CW. Slow down when signals are weak.
5. Reduce speed further on CW to communicate with the pileup.
6. Sign your call sign at least every minute.
7. Issue calling instructions after every QSO: EU UP5 or NA UP 5-10
8. Minimize Pileup width: Suggest Max 5-8 kHz CW and 10-15 kHz SSB.
9. Move receive frequency in a generally regular pattern.
10. Repeat corrected call signs so everyone is confident of being correctly .
11. Work and log dupes, it’s quicker.
12. Don’t leave the pile-up hanging: Keep the callers informed about QRT/QSY, etc.
13. Maintain a moderate, but “in-charge attitude.”
*This list, and more information about these Best Practices will appear on the pages of the DX University very soon.
In the paragraphs below, I will comment on two of these points. The first is Point number 8. Several DXpeditions have been observed responding to stations on the “WARC” bands over virtually the whole range of frequencies. This is simply unacceptable, and really unnecessary. The DX operator who says he can’t make out calls without spreading the pile so widely frankly hasn’t learned how to properly manage his pileup. The suggested limits (above) are and must be adequate – by definition. They will work in most situations. The bands don’t belong solely to DXers. To believe that they do is nothing if not arrogant. If there are too many stations calling within those limits, steps must be taken to limit the number of stations calling. Techniques for doing so are well documented**. Roger, G3SXW points out:
As responsible [DXped] operators, be considerate of other users. It’s their band too. The more rare the DXpeditions QTH, the larger the likely pileup and this can produce pileups that spread out beyond what is reasonable. A 5 to 8 KHz spread for CW and 10 to 15 KHz spread for SSB are considered by many DXpedition operators to be reasonable.
Roger adds: Additional good reading on this topic can be found at http://www.dxuniversity.com/dxped/tools.php
Another important practice is Point #12: “Don’t leave the pileup hanging.” There has been considerable complaining recently about DXpedition stations moving from their frequencies without notice, etc. If a QRX or QSY to another band is necessary, inform those DXers in the pileup. We all know that frustration is a primary catalyst for chaos. Don’t add to the dissatisfaction. Let the callers know what you plan to do.
Of course, there are other considerations. One now in focus is PT0S, a most difficult endeavor. PT0S is a “specialty DXpedition,” concentrating on the low-bands and on six meters, but that fact seems to have gone unnoticed. It may be that SP&P is just too rare for four operators and a concentration on the low bands and six meters. At any one time, callers are spread over fewer bands, increasing the demands on the pileup management skills of the operators. The low band operations seem to be adequately managed resulting in good pileup management, while operation on the other bands leaves much to be desired. To their credit, they seem to be reacting positively to comments.
** See DXpeditioning Basics at www.dxpeditioningbasics.com
In general, if we are to experience more civilized DXpedition pileups, DXpeditioners must do a better job learning how to manage their pileups. We must encourage them to do so. Send comments and operating accounts to firstname.lastname@example.org
*The DX University™ is a daylong learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University. For more information on these topics, see www.dxuniversity.com