Tag Archives: Yaesu

Amateur Radios and Their Use Saving Lives

Recently our world was rocked with the news that Annie Schmidt, daughter of Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guy’s, had gone missing while hiking in the back country of Oregon State. Immediately Jaime and myself, along with many others, began praying for her safe return. Days turned into weeks as the search for Annie continued, which lead to my wondering of what may have happened to her. Tragically the news came in weeks later, that Annie had fallen from a cliff and sadly perished. Her body was found at the base of the cliff weeks later by Search and Rescue teams, led by cadaver dogs. We all were praying for her safe return, and were heartbroken to learn of her fate.

A few years ago, Geraldine Largay went missing while hiking the Appalachian  Trail in the great state of Maine in 2013. Searches were performed without success, and she was presumed dead, and the search halted. Unknown to would-be rescuers she survived for nearly one month, and weeks after the search was halted, in the back country of Maine, along the Appalachian Trail. She was left to die alone and afraid, waiting for help that never came. She tried to send multiple text messages to her husband requesting help from police. It would not be until the year 2015 that her remains would be found by a forester, two years too late.


What is the point of this article you may wonder? Well, when I heard of Annie Schmidt’s case where she was missing, and ultimately found deceased, I wondered what if she was like Geraldine Largray. Because I first poised the question when I heard about Geraldine’s case and her disappearance. What if they were so far back in the woods, conventional cellular telephone reception was not available. How would someone call for help?

Amateur Radio is how someone could call for help.

See, Amateur Radio is far more reliable than typical cellular telephones. Amateur radio operators, “Hams” as coined by our ranks, often build repeaters, similar to cell towers, that cover areas in remote mountainous regions where cell phones do not work. The only difference is our radios have far more power than cell phones, and they are far more reliable. If someone is stranded and in need of help, where cell phones fail, a simple 5 watt radio with Amateur Radio Repeaters programmed into the memories, may be the difference between life and death.

See I have a view from both sides of the coin, as a public servant, and as an amateur radio operator who enjoys his time spent in the mountains and back countries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest, and everywhere in between.

While I am in the back country I employ the use of the Yaesu FT1DR, a handheld radio that is equipped with an internal GPS capable of use on APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) and transmits my location on 145.390 MHz, which is received by digital repeaters, and the information can be located at www.APRS.fi by searching the call sign of the amateur radio operator, and the SSID if one is used. For example my call sign and SSID is N2AL-7. If something should happen to me I can transmit messages via text on APRS to other stations, requesting help, and communicating back and forth with other stations. Most importantly APRS.fi can be used to find station locations when they have their GPS enabled.

I can also use my handheld radio to transmit on amateur radio FM repeaters which are programmed into the radio, and request help that way. I use a program called RT Systems for my radio, and I can automatically program all repeaters within a 100 mile radius of where I select, into the memory banks. This way I have all the repeaters available for use, and can signal for help if needed.

This can mean the difference between life everlasting, and death all alone. It would not have saved Annie Schmidt unfortunately, but it may have saved Geraldine Largray. The cost for amateur radio use is not expensive at all. My radio, with the software, and an extra battery, and an MFJ 12.5 inch dual band VHF/UHF antenna cost me close to $300.00 a few years ago. Add some solar panel chargers for the batteries, and you can take the radio with you, charge it on the go, and have the capability to signal for help if needed. You are not constrained to finding a wall power outlet to charge the radio with. You can use the solar panels and let them do it for you, while you hike.

The knowledge required for amateur radio operations, and testing to obtain a license, is not complicated at all. It actually is quite easy. I studied for three days, mostly consisting of watching The Ham Whisperer on YouTube, where he went over all the questions, then the answers, for the test banks. I received my Technician Class license a week later and I was on the air.

The Technician Class license, next the General Class, and finally the Extra Class license, are not difficult to obtain. But for the purpose of VHF & UHF FM communications while portable and hiking, or driving, about the back country or the city, all that is needed is the Technician Class license.

To conclude, Amateur Radio has the ability to save lives, and they save lives far more than someone might think. Where I live in East Tennessee is close to The Dragon, The Cherohala Skyway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee Forest, and other places that are prone to cell phone coverage lapses. Often when trouble occurs in these hard to reach places, Amateur Radio operators use their radios to summon help. It happens quite frequently, and as of this article, I know of two cases this week alone in East Tennessee. If we could get more people who spend their time outdoors in remote regions to use Amateur Radio’s, then we could save more lives when disaster happens.

Now as a side note I DO NOT recommend using Amateur Radio as the sole method of signaling for help. A lot of professional companies have developed ways of requesting assistance during an emergency.

One such device is a PLB, also know as a Personal Locator Beacon, which is very similar to an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio-beacon Station (EPIRB) used on marine vessels across the world. These devices are relatively inexpensive, although you cannot put a price on your life and safety. The basic concept is relatively simple -It can be automatically activated when certain conditions are met, or manually activated when emergency assistance is required. The devices are battery-powered and some work via GPS and radio beacon. More information on these devices can be found at the links below.

Please join me in continuing to keep the families of both Annie Schmidt, and Geraldine Largay, in our thoughts and prayers. These are two tragic cases where two families lost loved ones. God bless them, and God bless us all.


HUK Electronics Quick-Tune Dongle for Yaesu FT-817, FT-857 & FT-897

Last week I logged online to HUK Electronics, after searching online for a quick-tune device for my Yaesu FT-857. I was looking for a device to allow me to tune on all HF bands, often how some hams use a tuning key. To my suprise I located the Quick-Tune Dongle produced by HUK Electronics, and the specs looked great!

HUK Electronics

In short -this device allows an operator the ability to tune any Yaesu FT 817, 857 & 897, using an AM carrier on 1/4 power (25 watts), or on PSK at full power (100 watts).

For me, the AM carrier tuning ability works best. To give you some background on my radio station setup, I use a Yaesu FT-857, that is tuned by an MFJ Intellituner Automatic Antenna Tuner Model 993b. The antenna I have is a 230 foot Center Fed Zepp, strung close to sixty feet in the air, and fed by close to 100 feet of 50 ohm ladder line. Obviously this antenna is not resinant on any certain frequency. My problem I found was that while tuning, my radio could not produce a carrier at 25 watts, and properly tune the antenna, without me having to switch modes, and access the menu to lower the output power. See, the MFJ automatic tuner I use gets a little upset when I run full power, or 100 watts, into it, and will not allow me to tune.

This Quick-Tune Dongle is an 8 pin mini din connection, that plugs into the rear of the radio, in the CAT port. Yes an operator will have to sacrifice the CAT port’s ability to control the radio via computer, but to me the trade-off is acceptable. I do A LOT of DX’ing, and switching from band-to-band, and even moving up and down the spectrum of a single band makes tuning a hassle.

Last week I ordered this Quick-Tune Dongle from G4HUk, an amateur radio operator in England. The cost of the dongle and shipping totaled $36.18 USD, not that expensive. Surprisingly the device arrived within seven days, air mailed from England.

Once I set the device up for tuning on AM at 25 watts, I plugged the device into the radio’s CAT port. It was unable to produce an AM carrier above 3 watts, causing the radio the inability to tune properly. After some investigating I found the problem, which was on my end.

BIG NOTE TO SELF TO REMEMBER IF YOU CANNOT PRODUCE AN AM CARRIER ON A YAESU FT-817, 857 & 897: If you go into the radio’s hidden menu, and change the AM Carrier level, you can control the amount of power output the radio will produce. Mine was set at 96, producing roughly 3 watts of power. I set this level to 120, which is an even 25 watts on my radio. Each radio is different, but remember the origional setting, in case you need to default back to the origional setting.

Side Note: I only recommend this tip if you have a knowledge of this radio, and what you are doing. If you access the secret menu and incorrectly set all the settings, you can cause irreputable damage to your radio. Click on the picture below for more information. 

The QRP World

Here is what the menu information looks like for the AM Carrier:

Menu No.:     69

Name:     AM CAR

Memory Addres (HEX):     4B

Description:     This sets the level of the AM carier. This is typically set for a lower carrier level of 6db below that of the peak output power. Lower value = Lower Power.

After fixing these minor issues, which is not a major occurance for users, I tested my new device out. When using this device to tune a radio, double key and hold the PTT button. Example: Press/Release PTT – instantly Press/hold PPT. Doing this task automatically placed my radio into AM mode, dropped the power down to 25 watts, and my automatic antenna tuner instantly tuned the radio to 1.0 SWR, on virtually every amateur radio band.

You may view the YouTube video HUK Electronics produced, for more information on how this device operates.


To end, I highly recommend the Quick-Tune Dongle to any serious ham radio operator. It works flawless for me, and I am certain it will for other operators as well. I also recommend remembering this AM carrier setting in the hidden menu, should you find yourself, or another operator, having problems transmitting on AM.

Please feel free to share this post with other operators, and as always, contact me if you have any questions, comments, or additions to this blog.


73 to you and your family. God bless.

Andrew | N4AWL