First, I am very pleased that there is so much activity on FM satellites that this discussion has come back into light. I’m grateful to all the volunteers and their hard work that went into making a new FM transponder available to the masses. May the Fox series of satellites inspire AMSAT enthusiasts for many years!
I generally try not to get on FM satellites these days unless I’m operating portable (roving) somewhere outside my home grid. If I’m listening to a dead-quiet pass, I sometimes throw out my callsign until some activity appears. Like others who’ve been on the birds for a few years, I mainly listen for new DX and new callsigns when I’m working an FM satellite.
This hasn’t always been the case. When I was chasing grids and awards, I was a bit aggressive at times on both FM and linear satellites. I tried to be respectful, but perhaps I stepped on someone’s toes more than once. Thankfully, other operators were patient with me. That phase is behind me, but I realize others share my same past enthusiasm for “new grids” and I can respect their passion and pursuits. It should be done respectfully and in the good spirit of ham radio.
Recently, an individual on the AMSAT-NA Facebook Group got upset and called me out publicly for what they perceived as bad behavior. What transpired on the AO-91 pass in question started with a simple announcement of “W5PFG/portable.” In a matter of seconds, three stations called, and I responded to each of them with my grid exchange. Was that selfish of me? Perhaps. I made three contacts. I could have ignored the other callers after my first exchange. The three contacts I made commented “thanks for the new grid,” but at what cost? Did I block someone else from making their first contact?
(listen to the above mentioned AO-91 pass here)
There are certainly times when grid expeditions (some mine, some others’) utilized FM satellites which led to “Total Pass Domination,” or TPD. I think linear satellites are better suited for any type of grid/DX activation. However, if special activations excluded their activity from FM satellites, some of the excitement of snagging new entities might be lost on the next generation of AMSAT enthusiasts. There are also times that the special activation might not have any better schedule windows than to utilize FM satellites. There are times I’ve had to choose between utilizing an FM transponder or skip activating a grid square entirely.
It is always nice to hear from old friends, but I generally prefer those calls be left to the linear satellites where the transponder can be shared by multiple, simultaneous QSO’s. Far too often do I get calls on FM satellites from people in my log a hundred times or more after I’ve announced my presence. I personally find that practice of “shout outs” to be annoying when there are new stations present and trying to use the bird.
We all started somewhere. We all make mistakes. With most people today having a publicly listed email address somewhere (QRZ, Ham-Call, eHam) it is feasible to contact someone directly and offer friendly advice to be a better operator. I have received and sent such emails. Some stations may deny the observation, refuse help, and make excuses for their continued poor operating practices, but that hasn’t been most of my experience.