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DX-ing from aboard an airplane

Flight Frankfurt - Novosibirsk
Siberian Airlines allows the use of mobile phones and laptop computers during what it calls "horizontal flight". So I used my scanner VR500 and Sangean ATS-900 at a southward facing window. First I concentrated on channels R1..R12 and on E2. R2 was unusable because of heavy signals from the aircraft. It turned out that the signals of R1 and E2 and later on the OIRT-FM band weren't really that great as the longer wavelength prevented penetration through the small window of the aircraft. Frequencies above 88 MHz were much better, so each channel from R6 to R12 soon got filled up by Czech and Polish stations. A small TV set would have been nice to see the video. Then I used the Sangean and found on the RDS display many Czech and Polish stations, it was exciting to see the things that others get during sporadic E conditions, unfortunately the plane traveled too fast. Before the trip I enabled the OIRT-FM reception of the ATS-900 and replaced the wide bandwidth FM-IF filter with a smaller bandwidth one. This was ok until we crossed the east polish border. First I was surprised that only very very few Russian station carry RDS, and many overmodulate their signals quite a bit. Their audio sounded distorted. RDS had no chance to get decoded, only the RDS-indicator flashed occasionally. Only when briefly the audio pauses RDS would decode. The filter should have not been replaced in this case. Then suddenly RDS showed 101.1 FM which looked odd, I expected we would fly over St.Petersburg. I looked out of the window and could not believe my eyes. Below us lay entire Moscow at night (01:00 local) with all its illuminated concentric ring roads, inside the tiny innermost was the red square. It just was absolute fantastic. I had no FM-listing of Moscow with me and tried only Ekho Moskvy on 73,82 and got it quite weak, it proved again that OIRT-FM does not penetrate well through the window. R1 had carriers at 3m and 0m.
The rest of the flight I spend on checking R6 .. R60, interesting to get so many Tx while flying over sparsely inhabited territory in the early morning hours. Arriving in Novosibirsk at 7:00 local a number of Tx carried a test tone.

Short after lift off from Frankfurt airport

Short before touchdown at Novosibirsk airport
(Note the difference in landscape)

Flight path Novosibirsk - Frankfurt     click here to see path over Russia in detail

From the received radio stations and sights seen from the window I roughly reconstructed this flight path (5000 km).

The flight started at 16:00 local and as we flew westward the time beneath us stayed at more or less 16:00. We arrived in Frankfurt at 17:00 local. This time I only monitored FM with my Sangean at a southward looking window. Once in the air I could hear a few Kemerovo (200 km away) stations again, when we left Kemerovo by car they disappeared after only 40km. It took 30 minutes flight before the last one faded away. Again RDS was not much of a help, only few transmitted it. So I listen a lot to commercials in order to catch city names. Unfortunately often they only announce their contact phone number for placing a commercial without mentioning the city name. Evropa+ in Kemerovo and Novosibirsk carry local programming during the day. But the other E+ more to the west didn't. An increasing number of stations indicated that we reached St. Petersburg, RDS was more in use, however my ATS-900 could not decode many. A bit later the number of Tx literally exploded, we reached the Baltic states, from now on every 100kHz was occupied. Finland, Sweden the Baltic states are just as crowded with stations as central Europe. RDS could not be decoded well, because of many co-channel interference. There were exception though, RMF-FM Tx's always decoded very well, the reason is a bit unclear to me. We flew along the Baltic sea coastline and then over Germany heading for Frankfurt. I remembered the frequency of Berlins RS-2 of 94,3 and heard it with great difficulties out of the mess. After all, DX-ing aboard is great fun, and the time just passes by too fast. It is quite interesting that stations far north of us made it well into the southward looking window. For Russia it is recommendable to have a listing of stations and a map with you. Once you know where you are it is fantastic to watch the landscape out of the window. However looking up that information eats up time and prevents you from ID-ing other stations.

River Irtijsh with a sea, probably south of the junction Ob - Irtijsh (west of Surgut). Note the change of its bed over time, the old meander can still be seen. Picture above has been processed in order to make it better visible.

Radio stations I received during flight over Russia
17:00 Start (my clock ran on Kemerovo time)
17:30 102,8 Evropa+, Kemerovo finally faded away
17:40 103,2 Evropa+, Novosibirsk finally faded away
17:50 101,3 Nashe Radio, Surgut, KY (local programming)
18:00 102,5 Russkoe Radio, Surgut, KY
18:20          I see river with a sea, (see photo below)
18:45 104,0 Evropa+ RDS: NORD, Yugorsk, KY
                   (Nord is the license owner)
18:50 105,7 Evropa+, Serov
19:00 104,1 Radio Arsenal ? allocated to Karpinsk (YEKT)
19:10 103,3 Dinamit Berezniki PERM
19:20 105,1 Russkoe Radio, Berezniki PERM
19:45 101,2 Evropa+, Kotlas, AR
19:50 102,9 Radio Maria, Kirov
19:55 100,3 Evropa+, Syktyvar
20:00 104,2 Radio Transmit, Tot'ma
20:15 105,8 RDV-FM, Kostroma
20:20 105,1 Evropa+, Jaroslawl (heard ID "E+ Jaroslawl")
20:35 102,8 R. Maximum RDS: MAXIMUM, SPb
20:40   91,5 Ekho Moskvy SPb
20:40 103,4 Dinamit, RDS: DINAMIT, ID: "Dinamit, Pieter", SPb
20:45 107,8 Russkoe Radio, SPb
20:50 103,0 Dorozhnoe Radio, RDS: DOPO HOE, Kirishi, SPb
20:50 100,9 Shanson, SPb
20:50 100,5 Evropa+ SPb
20:50 102,4 Radio Studio, SPb
20:55 we reached the Baltic States

entries marked with ? need yet to be resolved

Many Thanks go to Victor Rutkovsky who helped to identify
The FM-List of Russia was also consulted.

               a few seconds later

Flight path over Russia (detailed view)

Some impressive Thunderclouds

13. Aug 2003   Jürgen Bartels