Tag Archives: SG-2020

Thoughts on Amateur Radio Travel in a TSA Controlled World

Over the next six months I’ll have several opportunities to travel via airlines.

A few of the places work and recreation will take me to are beyond my personal “Drive if it is less than a 16 hours drive”  guideline.

For several years I have generally driven if a destination could be made in 16 hours behind the wheel or less, simply to be able to have my own schedule, being able to have my own airline-unfriendly test gear with me, and avoid the delays/hassles of airline travel.

In practice I would bend this rule to basically drive whenever I could, even if it would be a somewhat longer drive.

I should explain that my construction profession usually requires showing up at the client’s facility in full PPE (Hardhat, Safety Boots, Safety Glasses, Hearing Protection, possibly Hi-Viz outer wear and fall-protection harness/gear in some cases), with roof access gear (ladders) on occasion, and usually sampling (roof test cut & patching) & testing gear.  So I am usually traveling heavy.

Also the idea, at my height, of putting up with much time with knees crushed into the back of the next row of airline seats seems enough justification alone to drive rather than fly.

For a few years I flew my own personal airplane for some of the longer trips, though the economics didn’t work out and I found the love of flying I had for hours piloting disappeared when I “Had” to fly to make a trip.  What was fun on a Saturday morning as a getaway from work had become part of work, and hence much less fun.

Internationally one is usually stuck flying, though I have made several inter-country sea trips, either personally on commercial cruises or for professional travel on ferries or working boats.

Over the years while flying commercially I have had undue attention on numerous occasions.  I’ve managed over the years to be interviewed by New Scotland Yard’s airport team, spend a few hours in special examination by the friendly (not) folk in Canada, have TSA agents insist on detaining me while they scanned their own class ring claiming my gear had hidden metal in it, be counseled by Her Majesty’s finest that I needed to pay a huge fee & have my passport taken away to transfer visas (didn’t do it, and it has continued to work just fine every trip, though I expect the moan each time), and dozens of other hassles by officialdom domestically & internationally.

What would set them off?  Anything from paying cash for an international ticket (don’t do it – I was naive and I had a funeral to make), traveling with stuff that twigs their systems – firearms, masses of computer disks back in the day, traveling with no luggage (wonderful Transport Canada was crabby about that), traveling with tools (Transport Canada again wigged out, as the common tools to nurse back  car left in Canada set them off – I should have bought the spares & tools once I arrived I guess), asking the wrong questions (NEVER ask the TSA folk were you selected for further screening by “profile or count” – whether you matched some sort of risk profile or simply were the x-number person through – as they go nuts when you ask about their procedures), … and crime of crimes, traveling with radio gear.

Internationally I had SWL and Amateur gear “earn” me extra scrutiny in & out of the UK, Spain, Canada, Mexico and a couple of the Islands.

Domestically I’ve earned an extra “looking over” or had hand luggage checked because of radio gear perhaps a half-dozen times.

I should clarify that my Military days included extensive security training, perhaps leaving me a bit more attune to when I have attracted extra security attention.  Perhaps some of the ramp-up security responses – simple things like two supervisors coming over with the questions starting might escape some travelers, though of course the “invite to the windowless hell of an interview room” would register with everyone!

So how to travel with the radio gear I would like to have AND not become a TSA training exercise in route?  With the TSA currently prone to illegal warrantless searches – their claim that you agree to be their victim by having bought a ticket is dubious at best, and as far I can tell I buy a ticket from the Airline, not the government…- why attract attention?

Working plan is to repurpose a spare Pelican case, outfit it with one of my back-up radio kits (transceiver, power supply, antenna, cables & accessories) and ship it ahead by UPS or FedEX.

With airlines charging for an extra bag, this looks to be cheaper and gets my gear out of the way when playing the TSA game.

As long at the kit is insured, and I have a ready way to ship back, this should work.

So the current debate is whether to up-scale the kit to include push-up masts and a “dream list” or keep it at a more Zen-like minimum kit?

Should I keep it a portable transceiver (say a SGC-2020 or an IC-7000 size class) or scale up and send a TenTec Jupiter or perhaps an IC-745 class rig?

My thoughts are the small-scale.  Target of under 50 lbs of kit and less than $1000 in insured value.

Tentative list is:

  • SCG-2020 Transceiver
  • SCG 237 Antenna Coupler (though they seem to weigh more than it should).
  • Gamma Power Supply
  • End-Fed Antenna lik the LnP offerings
  • Cables, connectors & Coax
  • Grounding wire with clamp/stake termination
  • Welz SWR/Power Meter
  • Rigrunner Power connector box, with spare fuses
  • NUE-PSK Diginal Modem & USB keyboard with interface cables

Should be able to put together the kit mostly from gear in my spares, and meet the weight & value maximum targets.

Have a few weeks to test the set-up and set-up the case.  Would like to do a hand-cut foam insert to best protect the gear in the case.

More to follow….



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Bits & Bobs Around the K9ZW Shack

Rambling smattering of small items:

Have started planning the Dayton 2009 trip. Encourage & reminded by Mark W9OP I guess it is time to get off dead-center and get Dayton planned. Have not 100% decided on Contest University or perhaps taking in another opportunity. Have invited George W9EVT to again be my Dayton Elmer. If he cannot make it, I may ride the BMW Motorcycle if the Weather looks good enough (likely not) and I feel up to it (it is a mostly boring Interstate Drive, which is my least favorite motorcycling).  Actually I hope he will go, as then I have a better excuse to run the truck (which I can fill with purchases!)

Gave a presentation on the Flex-5000 to NEWDXA (Northeast Wisconsin DX Association) last Saturday. Was a test run for new presentation equipment at work, and of all thing the supplied Universal Power Cable for the projector failed. Sending middle son Winston KC9FVR to the nearby Office Depot fixed the problem. Presentation went very well and running the PowerSDR software in Demo-Mode was well received. For the core I used the PowerPoint Flex-Radio has in their download section.  I’ve been asked to repeat the presentation for one of the Michigan based NEWDXA meetings later this year.  My youngest son Vic KC9NWB and a ten year old nephew Cole were good lads sitting through the presentation & meeting.

FedEx dropped a large parcel containing the homebrew Buddipole Paul AE5JU built for me. Can’t wait for this week’s rehearsals and Big Band performance gig to be over so I can get into the Buddipole. Expect more and a write-up with build pictures on this antenna project.

Likewise should finally get to set up the 6m amp. Several family needs and houseguests having departed make way for getting at this soon as well.

Ordered a NUE-PSK Type #11 Cable for use with my SGC SG-2020 Transceiver. Easier than trying to find time to wire one myself.  Details at http://nue-psk.com/manuals/Radio_Cable_Guide.pdf (see page #13)

Just got in a TG Electronics N8XJK Boost Regulator for use with the Aircraft Gell Cells I’ve been using for portable. The N8XJK Boost Regulator will maintain a usable voltage even when the Battery has dropped lower. Should improve my operation time, specially in cold weather.  Interestingly TG Electronics is located in Houghton, Michigan where my eldest son Tom KC9GJD is an ROTC Cadet studying Chemical Engineering.  



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Sort of QRP Radio for K9ZW – SGC SG-2020 Transceiver


SGC-2020 (ARRL Photo)

SG-2020 (ARRL Photo)



I’ve added an SGC SG-2020 Transceiver to my shack – well really more for use when not in my shack.

From the SGC Website:

All Reasons. All Seasons.

This is the transceiver for base, backpack or business trips – the ultimate portable trasceiver. There are no confusing menus and just two-step operation: select your frequency and transmit. The SG-2020 is compact and weighs only 4.5 pounds. Operate SSB or CW from wherever you are. 

Exactly What You Need

The SG-2020 covers all HF frequencies from 1.8 to 30 Mhz. It is factory-set for 20 watts PEP with front panel power adjustments down to 1W using USB or LSB. There are 20 factory pre-programmed memories preset to frequencies within each of the nine amateur bands for fast band accessibility. Each memory position can be selected for a specific transmitter output power, specific amount of bandwidth filtering, mode and split VFO. The memory channels can be re-programmed to accommodate alternate frequencies of your choice within the frequency range and a simple unlock procedure allows you to choose any HF frequency worldwide.

I’ve wanted a decent simple portable transceiver.  

I arguably have a better field rig, but I’ve just never really found I used all of that rig’s features in the shack, much less in the field.  

The SG-2020 appealed from the basic simplicity, the ability to throttle-down to QRP levels, that it is a Standard Avionics Stack Sized, and is very robustly built.  

Being close to a “no need to read the manual” rig is also appealing.

Here are some SGC SG-2020 Links:

ARRL QST First Looks: SGC SG-2020 Transceiver
Reviewed by Rick Lindquist, N1RL, Senior Assistant Technical Editor – September 1, 1998

RigPix SG-2020 Page

SGC SG-2020 Page

SGC SG-2020 Yahoo Groups Website

SGC Club International

SGC SG-2020 Sales Page at Universal Radio

eHam SG SGC-2020 User Reviews

Expect a field report once I get used to this new radio.




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