RAN Technology

W9RAN Field Radio

Technical 0 Comments 05/11/2019 

Vintage light aircraft radios repurposed

Posted By: Robert Nickels (ranickels)

In the early days of aviation radio, transmissions originated from the ground using the longwave transmitter also used for homing,  and pilots acknowledged by wagging their wings.  It didn't take long to realize the benefits of having transmitting capability onboard the plane as well, and the first generation of aircraft radio used the low HF band.    Given today's crowded airspace it is hard to imagine every aircraft sharing the same frequency - 3105 kHz - to talk to the tower while still listening for replied on the longwave band.   For light aircraft, power output seldom exceeded a few watts, which with a fairly inefficient loaded longwire antenna meant a limited range, but that was sufficient.   Airlines and those flying longer distances drew power from a vibrator supply or even a dynamotor, but the most common setup used A and B batteries, just like some home radios still did, which were readily available.   

I acquired this near-mint set at the Cedar Rapids hamfest last summer.  The Ranger model 210 transmitter could put out 2 watts from it's battery pack power supply on either 3105 or by doubling, 6210 kHz which was the alternate frequency for daytime use.   The model 117 reciever also ran from batteries and tuned the radio range band, 200 to 400 kHz to hear transmissions from the tower, weather, and homing beacons.    A RAN Technology converter brings the 75 meter band down so the LF band receiver can be used as a tunable IF and a 5 watt audio amplifier provides loudspeaker volume instead of requring headphones.   Instant heating 1.5 volt battery tubes are used in both transmitter and receiver, along with a boost-type DC-DC converter to produce the 150 volts B+ instead of B batteries.  A previous owner had rewired the units for self-bias to eliminate the need for a C battery as originally required.    The battery pack would have  fit into a small box and carried onboard and replaced when necessary (hopefully before going dead during a flight!)    The transmitter uses a carbon microphone and is crystal controlled on 3885 kHz, with 2 watts output.  The normal airplane antenna would have been a longwire running to the tail with a loading coil resonator, but provision was made for a trailing wire antenna as well.   The receiver would have had it's own low-frequency antenna for flying the radio range and receiving the tower. 

I decided the pair would make a neat 75 meter AM Field Radio, and fitted them into a custom made plywood box that could be easily transported (to places like the Dayton Hamvention, for the WWII military radio net).   The removable lid has a 5" speaker and a storage compartment on the rear allows storage of the mic and Li-Ion battery pack.

Listen to a bit of K5UJ calling CQ as a receiving test:  Listen

The Ranger was an obscure manufacturer but big names including GE,  Lear,  Raytheon, Bendix, Philco,  RCA, and Motorola produced similar radios.   Most recognizable after WWII was the Aircraft Radio Corp., producers of the wartime "Command Sets".   A portable lightplane radio like this was often used when the ferry pilots (often women) flew the warbirds from the aircraft plant to a nearby base where the command sets and other radio equipment would be installed.   Having seen the RCA AVT-112/AVR-20 packaged in a wooden case for this purpose was the inspiration for making my own version.

I was fortunate to receive both manuals with my Rangers, but with a little effort the schematic and interconnections for most of these simpler aircraft radios can be figured out and it is a lot of fun to put such a cool piece of vintage radio equipment back on the air in a useful way.

    Looking for a tool?   Important papers?   Parts you just had your hands on minutes ago?   ...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/04/2021 
     Among it's early products, the Multi Elmac Company of Oak Park MI made marine band radios and other products for boats, including the Sea-Deep DM-1 depth indicator, the Sea-Fume SF-1 vapor detector, and the BC-1 Duo-Charger for 6 and 12 volt batteries.   Thus it's not surprising that the marine radio-telephone would be given a "sea" name:   the Sea...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  11/05/2021 
   The Sonar Radio Corp.  of Brooklyn NY is a well-known manufacturer of Ham, CB, and Marine Band radios over a period of several decades, and it's products were always well engineered and of good quality.    But despite several attempts, it's ham radio products never really managed to excite hams enough to plunk down their hard-earned cash.   The SRT series of t...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  11/01/2021 
    In 1958, the Multi Elmac Company was riding high on the ham radio waves.   The company had seen an opportunity to provide feature rich but affordable transmitters and receivers to hams itching to "go mobile", which was all the craze.   Instead of sticking a converter in front of the car radio like many competitors did, Elmac produced full-blown receivers that tu...  READ MORE
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Mystery Transmitter

where's the copper subchassis from?
Category: Vintage Ham Radio
 I didn't set out to buy this homebrew CW transmitter, it was included in an auction lot that I wanted so I had to take it to get the desired item.   But even though I always like to see good quality homebrew gear, this one is just a mystery.Most of the transmitter, including 6CL6 oscillator and buffer stages and a 6146 PA are built on a sub-chassis that is clearly part of a com...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  07/15/2021 

The Vector VR-50

last gasp from Swan/Atlas founder Herb Johnson
Category: Vintage Ham Radio
 Most hams are aware that Herb Johnson W6QKI founded Swan in Benson Arizona to make single-band SSB transceivers and then moved his operation to Oceanside CA where Swan thrived throughout the 1960s.   Swan merged with Cubic Corporation in 1967, and Johnson managed Swan as its subsidiary until 1973. Johnson founded Atlas Radio in 1974, with the assistance of Southcom International fo...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  07/12/2021 
   The Harvey-Wells Company was formed through a partnership between Clifford Harvey W1RF, and John Wells W1ZD in 1939.   Cliff Harvey had earlier founded Harvey Radio Labs in 1933, and prior to that, he was associated with the Hendricks and Harvey Company, another partnership. Producing police radios, transceivers, transmitters, and crystals. Their most popular product was the TBS-50 trans...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  06/18/2021 
    I became aware of a few hams playing with a thing designed to receive digital TV in Europe on your laptop - a little plug-in dongle that used an RTL-2832 IC and sold for $20 or so.    Some clever fellows had determined that it could be put into "radio mode" in which it would generate an IQ stream over USB, and by writing to control registers in the tuner IC, it could...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  06/13/2021 
    A while back I acquired a six channel HF transceiver made by the Radio Industries division of Hallicrafters, probably in the 1960s, called an SBT-20.    It is capable of 20 watts SSB or 5 watts AM (or CW with an optional board) in the range of 2-12 MHz and thus was probably aimed at commercial and light-duty military applications.   The radio could by ordered with fu...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  06/07/2021 
    I'm always thinking about interesting combinations of equipment to try out on the air.   One day while rearranging the shack I was getting ready to connect my Globe Scout Deluxe back up with a Collins 51S-1 receiver when the LED (the energy-efficient version of the old light bulb) came on.When I first started playing with DVB-T dongles back in 2012 I wanted an upconverter so I ...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  05/29/2021 

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