FOR DX STATIONS AND DXPEDITIONS
Do you enjoy a combined family and radio holiday ? Or are you working abroad
and 'radio activity' is an option? Or perhaps you are totally nuts (according
to your XYL) and prefer spending your money on a DXpedition?
Odds are you will make transmissions from a 'wanted' entity. The more wanted,
the more chances you'll have to encounter situations as above mentioned: 'cops',
nobody listening to your instructions, etc. It is very important that YOU control
the situation, and keep it under control.
- If going on
holidays to Spain or France you won't create big pileups;
- if you're heading
for the Baleares, Crete or Cyprus, the pileup fever will surface and you'll
get quite some callers;
- your job takes
you to Iran and you get lucky to operate from that entity, take a seat and
- If you manage
to set sail for Scarborough Reef and fire up a DXpedition adventure, the pileups
will be awesome...'fasten your seatbelts'!
How can you control
a pileup and keep control? Indeed, while not a simple assignment, it is totally
feasible. Here are some tips:
- mention your
callsign after each and every QSO. If you are blessed with a real long callsign
such as SV9/ON4ZZZZ/P, at least mention it after every three QSOs;
- if you are
working simplex and notice you can't pick out complete callsigns or those
you are calling are not coming back to you anymore, immediately switch to
- when switching
to SPLIT mode make sure your QSX (listening) frequency is not in use! Be careful
not to ruin an ongoing QSO;
- when working
in SPLIT mode, announce this fact after each QSO. Indicate which split you
are using. CW example: UP 1, UP 1-2, UP 5. On SSB: listening 5 up, listening
5 to 10 (kHz) up;
- on CW SPLIT
listen at least 1 kHz up (or down). Better is 3 kHz, to avoid possible keyclicks
on your TX frequency => no excuse for 'cops' to intervene;
- On SSB SPLIT
listen at least 5 kHz up or down your TX frequency. It is quite astonishing
how 'wide' some SSB signals are. If you take a SPLIT of only 2 or 3 kHZ these
signals may interfere and splatter on your TX frequency;
- keep the SPLIT
window as narrow as possible, don't claim unnecessary spectrum just for yourself;
- if on SSB you
managed to pick out a partial and not complete callsign (happens often in
a big pileup), give a report to the partial callsign e.g. 'Yankee Oscar 59';
- on CW do not
send a 'question mark' when returning to a partial callsign. For some obscure
reason the majority of (undisciplined) pileup callers take a 'question mark'
as the sign to start transmitting again, although the partial callsign does
not resemble their callsign.
Example: 3TA, 599. Not: ??3TA, 599. In the latter case, the pileup WILL start
- on SSB and
CW (and digimodes): if at first you gave a report to a partial callsign, be
sure to transmit the complete callsign so the operator knows you logged him
and not someone else. Some inexperienced DX stations do as follows: TA, 59.
OH3TA returns with his callsign several times and gives a report. The DX station
comes back and says: QSL, tnx, QRZ?
Of course OH3TA is left in the dark as to whether he has been logged or not.
The DX station should have said: OH3TA, tnx, QRZ?
- once you have
given a report to a partial callsign, stick with that station until you manage
to get his complete callsign. A pileup can be very undisciplined. If they
notice you stick with the partial callsign until you have the complete callsign,
they will understand their continuous calling has no effect on you, and they
will eventually show a bit more discipline. If on the other hand you drop
the partial callsign to work another station, you have lost the battle and
chaos will rule;
- if a pileup
becomes too undisciplined, go QRT, change your TX frequency or move to another
- always stay
'cool' and don't start shouting at the pileup;
- don't work
'two-letter callsigns'; tell them you only want to hear complete/full callsigns;
- in SPLIT mode,
when you notice the stations you return to are not responding, listen on your
TX frequency, chances are someone is jamming you (e.g. 'cops');
- on CW on the
higher bands, a transmit speed of 40 wpm is about the limit the pileup can
cope with. On the lower bands (160 to 40m) the maximum speed to use - depending
on conditions - is between 20 and 30 wpm;
- always inform
the pileup about your moves. If you go QRT, tell them. Are you up for a pitstop
in the little shack, tell them: QRX 5 (QRX 5 minutes, standby). If you QSY
to another mode or frequency, tell them. It is very annoying for a pileup
not to know what your next step will be. After all, they want to work you
and like to be informed about your activities. 'You are hot'!
If a pileup grows
too big on you, you may decide to work by continent/region or by numbers.
Working by continent/region means you call only one specific continent (e.g.
Europe) or region (Northern Europe, West Coast USA), while the DXers in the
other continents/regions have to standby.
Working by numbers means you call the stations by the number in their callsign
This way of operating is generally not recommended. Large groups of operators
are sitting idle, nervously waiting until it is their turn to call you. While
waiting, they have no guarantee you will call their continent or number; you
can go QRT at any time. Hence they are nervous. And nervous people can quickly
turn into nasty 'cops'. If you work by numbers, 90% of the pileup is sitting
However, to cope with a big pileup, this way of operating may assist operators
who are in the learning curve.
The one real advantage of working by continent/region is to give areas of the
world that normally have poor propagation towards you, the chance to get through.
Some things to
keep in mind when working by continent/region:
- use this technique
to reach areas with poor propagation towards you;
- when using this
technique because the pileup is too big for you to handle, rotate quickly
- inform the other
continents/regions about your plans: are you going to work JA only for 10
minutes, will you work EU next, then NA? Tell them.
- When the pileup
gets smaller and smaller, return to normal operating practice and work all
Some things to
keep in mind when working by number:
- once you started
a number sequence, finish it. Sometimes operators stop in the middle of a
sequence to go QRT or return to operating without using numbers: be assured,
you do not get the sympathy of the pileup by doing this!
- start the sequence
with number 0 (zero), continue with 1-2-...-9 and start with 0 again;
- don't use the
number 'jumping' technique: 0-5-2-3-8-4-...the pileup will hate you.
- Work a maximum
of 10 stations per number, always work an equal amount of stations per number.
- Inform the pileup
on how many stations you will work per number and repeat this information
each time you switch to the next number.
- Remember, 90%
of the pileup is sitting idle, 'cops' will transmit on your frequency.
Avoid working by numbers if you can.
by continent/region or number, some operators try working by countries. This
is to be avoided at all times. Repeat, do not do this, you will attract 'cops'
of all the 'idle sitting' nations. You will certainly fail to call each of the
335 different DX entities, so why even think about using this silly technique?
Already in 1994
Wayne Mills N7NG published a very well written book DXpeditioning Basics.
It came only to my attention in June 2010. A must read for the DXpeditioner
and DX station, you can find it here
Wish I had read it sooner!
Final remark: one
of the most important points when running a pileup is to maintain the same RHYTHM
throughout the operation. If you master this you will be much more relaxed,
as well as the pileup. The most important point though: enjoy yourself!