Airman Flies To Florida's Dog Island To Test Radio
An avid private pilot and amateur radio operator assigned to
Hurlbert Field, FL, participated in Field Day 2005 on June 25, a
national emergency preparedness exercise aimed at ham radio
Working alone on a desolate island, Lt. Col. Edward Linch
combined his two passions and brought a concept he has long
championed to reality.
Colonel Linch, the wing plans chief of the 505th Command and
Control Wing, flew to Dog Island, a remote Florida island in the
Gulf of Mexico, to test whether "bush planes," or small,
maneuverable private aircraft capable of landing on grass
airfields, could help bridge gaps in communication during a
American Radio Relay League officials held Field Day 2005 to
link amateur stations with federal, state and local disaster relief
agencies. Each station attempts to make contact with as many
different operators as possible, forming a virtual chain that can
be quickly brought together in a crisis. The nationwide event even
caught the attention of President Bush who commented on the
importance of the effort.
"Licensed amateur radio operators help first responders and law
enforcement officials save lives and make our country safer," he
Colonel Linch first got his license in 1978, but as his career
progressed, his hobby waned with the demands of flying F-16
Fighting Falcons and completing his education. After Sept. 11 and
Hurricane Ivan, ham radios proved to be one of the most effective
means of communication after other networks became overloaded or
damaged, Colonel Linch said.
"Ivan was a real catalyst for me to get my station back on the
air," he said. "I was sitting in my home with no power, no cell
phone and no way to help any of my neighbors."
After these events, Colonel Linch resolved to get his station
back on the air and regain his proficiency in operating his
During the exercise, he flew his Van RV-4 experimental aircraft
to the island along with a generator and radio gear. The shortwave
radio he used bounces its signal off of the ionosphere, allowing
for extremely long-range communication.
Colonel Linch ran his station for three and a half hours
repeating, "CQ... CQ... CQ... Kile Alpha Four Alpha X-Ray Sierra
calling CQ Field Day" before being forced to leave because of
weather. He made contact with 36 other operators from the tiny
island, including operators in Canada and Kuwait.
"Ham radio operators working with small bush planes are proving
to be a powerful tool during crisis," Colonel Linch said. "During
the (December tsunamis), a friend of mine was landing on small
roads and dirt patches and was able to send vital communications --
even e-mails -- to rescue workers."
Now that Colonel Linch has proved that bush planes and amateur
radio operators can easily set up a network in remote areas, he
said he plans to make his services available during the upcoming
"This season is supposed to be as active, or maybe even more
active, than last year," he said. "I hope that I won’t have
to use these skills, but if needed, I’m ready."