My name is Phil McBride.
I’ve been into radio and RF-related activities since my childhood. At my behest (and after significant begging), my Dad bought me my first CB Radio when I was 8 years old. It was an old Cobra 40 channel mobile unit. He went to Radio Shack and bought a little 12VDC 5A power supply and a 5/8″ whip that he mounted to our eaves trough (gutter) and I was on the air. I upgraded a few times after that, finally ending up with a Radio Shack Realistic 40 channel base unit with built-in power supply.
When I turned 9, I started playing with 2 kids around the corner, and I noticed there was a really big antenna in their backyard. When I finally got to go inside their house and look around, I saw their dad in a little corner of the basement with a whole lot of really cool looking stuff. I asked him what it all was, and thus began my first exposure to Amateur Radio.
A few years later, I was browsing Radio Shack and saw a brand new toy: the HTX-202 VHF 2M FM HT. I wanted it, but Terry, the store manager, told me that I needed an Amateur Radio license. So I gave him some money and put the unit on layaway. It took a year, and 4 stabs at the exam, but I finally passed my Basic and got my first callsign, VA3KPJ, at the age of 14 on May 5, 1994. From there, I became very active in my local club, very heavily involved with ARES and eventually became the RAC ARES EC for my area. I got into APRS, digital modes (mainly packet at the time) and operated mobile almost exclusively.
Once I’d moved out on my own, my old high school electronics teacher called me and told me that they were pitching all of the old Amateur Radio Gear that the previous electronics teacher (Al, VE3FFZ) had left behind and asked if I wanted it. That was a dumb question. So off I went to get my trunk filled to the brim with goodies. It was almost exclusively Heathkit gear, among it all, an HW-101. I trotted everything up to my apartment where I turned on my laptop and started looking for help restoring it. After about 2 weeks, I had it up, running, and calibrated. But I was unable to use HF with my license class at the time. So I spent every extra minute of the next 3 weeks working on my CW. I got my CW endorsement in 2003 and I was on HF with that 101, and a 165′ random wire antenna going out my 2nd floor apartment window to a tree in the adjacent lot; the local impound lot. I also applied for, and received, my 2-letter suffix callsign, VA3QR, which I use as my primary.
As time went on, I went through several radios, mostly Icom and Kenwood. I’ve built a fully integrated and power-independent QRP portable kit, built and maintained a packet radio BBS with HF and UHF data links to other networks, worked the FM satellites with an Arrow antenna and my HT…. the great thing about this hobby is that there’s so many little sub-hobbies, you don’t get bored.
At present, I hold an Advanced license (highest Amateur Radio license available in Canada), which enables me to operate QRO. The man who introduced me to this hobby all those years ago, VE3RCJ/VE3YU, lives just down the road from my house, and I’m still in touch with most of the guys who helped be grow in the hobby. I am active on HF, both from home and mobile, and am on VHF/UHF whenever something is going on. I have been active in Emergency Communications from the beginning of my Amateur Radio journey; I have been Emergency Coordinator for Halton Hills/Milton, Ontario, and the Asst. Sec. Manager. for Ontario. I am currently an active member of the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System (CFARS – the Canadian equivilent of MARS) and ALL of my equipment, including the Flex and mobile gear, has been modified to allow their use in CFARS. I am the licensee and station manager for the VE3XRQ Memorial Amateur Radio Station, and I also host the VE3YAP APRS Digipeater, and Layer 2 APRS Server for Ontario. Sometimes, you’ll find me on the ONTARS Net on 3.755MHz LSB.
I was elected to my second term as Director – Ontario South for the Radio Amateurs of/du Canada, in September of 2017. On October 14, 2015, I passed my RAC Certified Emergency Coordinator exam and received my CEC designation.
I was the licensee for both the 2016 and 2019 CY9C St. Paul Island DXPEditions, which you can read all about right here on my website. I also had the honour of operating the TM100VIMY commemorative station at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France in April of 2017.
My station at home centers around a Flex 5000A (RX2, ATU and V/U Module) with an Ameritron ALS-1300X 1.2kW 160M-10M amplifier. HF Antennas consist of a TGM Communications MQ-36SR Hybrid Quad Minibeam, Hustler 6-BTV Vertical with ALL the DX-Engineering Mods, and 2 x Random Wires with Balun Designs 9:1 5kW UnUns. For the upper bands, I have a Cushcraft A270-10S 2M/70CM beam, 2 x Comet CX-333 2M/1.25M/70CM vertical at the top of my tower, and 2 WiMO X-Quads on a separate tower and rotator for satellite work. I am capable of all modes on all bands from 160M-70CM (excl. 1.25M). I also host a dedicated, 24/7 Automatic Link Establishment station built around a Kenwood TS-590sg running 100W. The radio is controlled by MARS-ALE v3.0, and scans several CFARS assignments at 2 channels/second.
The station in my 2018 Dodge Ram 1500 consists of a Kenwood TS-480SAT with a Tennatronix Screwdriver ATU feeding a Little Tarheel II Screwdriver Antenna for HF. For VHF/UHF, I use a Kenwood TM-D710A. I am capable of all modes on all bands from 80M-70CM (excl. 1.25M).
My portable station is built around a Yaesu FT-991A HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver in a Novexcomm custom roadcase. The antennas are an Alpha Antenna 80M-6M Field-Expedient Antenna, and a VHF/UHF wire J-Pole. A secondary roadcase contains an LDG AT-600ProII Autotuner and an Ameritron ALS-500M 12VDC 500W RF Amplifier. The units can be powered from commercial mains or my Honda EU2000i 2kW Inverter/Generator. I also have 3 complete solar generators consisting of foldable panels and LiFePO4 batteries. I am capable of all modes on 160M-70CM (excl. 1.25M), and the station was built for both contesting and emergency communications.
I try to log all of my contacts, home and mobile, and I regularly upload to LoTW and eQSL. I also send/receive paper cards; usually through the bureau, but sometimes I’ll pay the money for the really rare ones, or for DXPedition cards, depending on how rare the entity is.
Throughout my Amateur Radio “career,” one person has done more to help me along than anyone else. His name was John and his callsign was VE3NEC (SK). I’m not entirely sure I’d be where I am today without his help, guidance and patience (because he elmer’ed me from 15 onward, and let’s be honest: teenagers can be a real pain in the ass). So thanks to him, and to everyone else who has helped me on my journey. I hope it lasts for many more years to come. I’m also very grateful to my wife for putting up with the amount of metal I’ve put in the air at our home.
I decided to start this blog to post about stuff I’m involved in, as well as interesting tid-bits that I find around the web, operating tips, experiences and opinions.
Feel free to contact me should you have questions. I hope you enjoy reading.
vy 73 de VA3QR