Recent FSL Antenna Experimentation

Gary DeBock

Noted MW-DXing antenna expert Dave Eichelman recently asked me about the latest FSL designs, which have emphasized compact DXing gain. The recent FSL experimentation is based on the premise that even a small FSL can run wild when it is in the right place at the right time. As such, its portability and quick setup nature become its primary advantages over other types of antennas. Paul Walker has run wild in Alaska over the winter with a modest-sized 5" FSL primarily because he tapped into Trans-Arctic propagation that has rarely been exploited. In the same way, another modest-sized 6" FSL was tested out at the Asia-facing Rockwork 2 cliff last October during exceptional propagation, and came away with apparent west-coast-first loggings of 594-Myanmar and 675-AIR (although the former was received frequently in Masset shortly thereafter, and later in the season).

The early experimentation to build monster FSL antennas was probably a little misguided, since even modest sized FSL's (from 4 to 6 inches) can be extremely effective if they have the advantage of great propagation. On the other hand, if you are chasing breakthrough transoceanic DX, when propagation is average or mediocre even the largest of antennas will put you to sleep. The FSL antenna's portability, quick setup and rugged survival give it a critical edge in harsh or wild environments like Alaskan snowfields or ocean side cliffs-- and since even modest-sized FSL's can run wild when conditions are great, the current mindset is to enhance portability by making the antennas lean, mean and capable of surviving any kind of nasty weather. Paul's FSL-DXing experience in the harsh Alaskan environment has been a bonanza for these efforts, as well as transoceanic DXing in gale-force winds and rain last March at Rockwork 2.

As such, during the Pandemic, the focus has been on producing compact new FSL designs like the 5 inch (13cm) FSL ("the Paul Walker variant"), a new 6 inch (15cm) FSL (the "Six Appeal" model) which tracked down the Asian DX last October at Rockwork 2, and a new 8 inch (20cm) FSL model tested out last summer for DU-DXing at Rockwork 4. These antennas are relatively cheap to construct, lightweight to carry, and provide a stunning gain boost whatever the conditions. But when the conditions are great, they can be the ultimate DXing thrillers for their tiny size. Since their mission includes survival in wicked ocean cliff storms, though, the current challenge is to make them "bulletproof" to survive even the nastiest rain, wind and cold. Sooner or later, a DXer needs to "pay the price" for enhanced ocean cliff propagation, and prove that he and his gear are up to the challenge.

Gary DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA)


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