Installation Check Lists

On the subject of project management; oftentimes, we need to keep track of the small details that can derail a project, blow the budget, and upset schedules. A quick checklist can help to identify things that might not have been planned for. I developed a checklist mentality in the military. There, we had checklists for everything. Simple day-to-day things like disposing of garbage over the side, or pumping the CHT (sewage) tank to complex evolutions like entering or leaving port all had a checklist.  On the aforementioned CHT tank; the Coast Guard cutter I was on had a vacuum flush system to conserve water.  Emptying the CHT tank involved a complex set of valve openings and closings to route compressed air into the vacuum tank and literally blow the sewage overboard.  Anyone can see the danger in such a design.  Failure to follow the exact procedure resulted in raw sewage blowing out of the nearest toilets, which were unfortunately (or perhaps humorously) in the lower-level officer’s staterooms.

But I digress.

I have made a series of outlines for different project types.  These can be used as general guidelines for project planning and management.  Of course, each project is different, but these are flexible enough that they can be adapted on a project-by-project basis.

These are for general use and should be adapted for your own purposes.  Don’t forget to document and label all the wire runs, etc.

Also, do not forget the transmitter site maintenance checklists: FM transmitter site maintenance list, AM transmitter site maintenance list. I have used these reliably at many different sites since I committed them to writing in late 1999.

Copper Thieves

If you are the type of person that drives around to transmitter sites and steals things; fuck you. You have no idea the problems you are causing to get a few extra dollars worth of scrap copper.

Missing copper ground buss bar
Missing copper ground buss bar

I have a feeling that most of these copper thefts can be attributed to out-of-town tower contractors removing old cellular equipment from towers.  Notice, only the buss bar and copper ground wire is missing.  They did not try to cut the transmission lines.  In other words, they seemed to know what they were doing.  I have noticed around here that when a particular contractor, employed by an unnamed large company that rhymes with glint, would work at a site, things would be missing afterward.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. I have never been able to catch anyone pinching things. However, if this is you, and I catch you, you can rest assured that I will block you in with my car, then walk down the road and call the police.

The Shively 6710 Antenna

Shively 6710-1 FM antenna
Shively 6710-1 FM antenna

Perhaps that is one Shively Antenna that you haven’t heard of. They were an oddball combination of a horizontally polarized antenna with an adjustable vertical element. This design allowed the station to adjust the ratio of horizontal to vertical power from a range of 1:1 to about 4:1 (H:V).  Why would this be a desirable feature?

Back in the early days of FM broadcasting, almost all stations had horizontally polarized antennas.  This system worked remarkably well, stations could broadcast at moderate power levels over fairly long, line-of-sight (or mostly line-of-sight) paths.  Most FM receivers were stationary units installed in people’s homes often with outdoor antennas.

It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that FM radio receivers became a stock option in most low and mid-cost automobiles.  It was then that a slight problem with FM broadcasting was discovered;  car antennas are vertically polarized.  People driving around in their new machines found that the FM reception was not all that great.  Stations began adding a vertical component to their signal to help improve the mobile reception situation.

I found this Shively Brochure in a file cabinet drawer at the WFLY transmitter site.  This model antenna was ordered and installed by that station in 1970.  It had a 3:1 horizontal-to-vertical ratio.  Why not install a fully circularly polarized antenna?  Because often that necessitated installing a new, more powerful transmitter.   Every watt of power taken from the horizontal plane and added to the vertical plane reduced the ERP by that much and had to be made up with more transmitter power output.  Oftentimes, the ratio of H:V power would be adjusted to take up whatever headroom there was in the transmitter and the station would run that way until the next transmitter replacement cycle.

I found the remains of this antenna in the woods, northeast of the tower.

Shively 6710 antenna section
Shively 6710 antenna section

This section looks pretty well destroyed.  It is probably better to dispose of these types of things by scraping, them rather than dumping them in the woods.  While there is not a lot of scrap value to this unit, it can become attractive nuisance to copper thieves and other vandals if it is left laying about.

It is a strange-looking piece of kit, a sort of make-do until the situation could be fully rectified.  I think this antenna was in service until 1986 or 87 when it was replaced with a circularly polarized ERI.

Filing an STA

FCC rules stipulate that when a station is operating at variance from its licensed parameters for more than 10 days, Special Temporary Authority (STA) is required.  The reasons for requesting an STA are varied but could include things like:

  • Damaged transmission equipment
  • Loss of transmitter site or building use
  • Loss of tower
  • Eviction
  • Facilities upgrade or renovation
  • Natural disaster

The loss of the transmission tower at WUPE-FM falls into one of those broad categories.  Thus, we have filed an STA with the FCC for temporary transmission facilities while a new tower is being constructed.  Since the old tower is completely lost, we specified a new tower location, new height above average terrain (HAAT), new ERP, and environmental certification.  To gather that information, several steps were needed:

  • Obtain a new tower location.  This was done with a GPS receiver and verified on  Once the NAD83 position was obtained, it needed to be converted to NAD27 for the FCC filing.  The FCC has a conversion tool on its website.
  • HAAT calculation is fairly simple, use the HAAT calculator tool on the FCC website.  For this, the antenna radiation center height Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL) is needed.  Using a topographical map, find the ground level AMSL, convert it to meters, then add the radiation center height above ground level (AGL).
  • The Effective Radiated Power (ERP) calculation is also simple; Transmitter Power Output (TPO) minus system losses (transmission line and antenna gain). It is easiest to do this in dBm, e.g. convert the TPO from Watts to dBm, then add or subtract the gain or losses in dB, and convert the final product back to Watts.
  • The environmental statement is slightly more tricky.  Basically, the filer is certifying that the STA complies with all environmental regulations including OET-65 (RF exposure limits).  Since the temporary antenna is significantly lower than the original, some investigation is required.  For this, there are two methods to demonstrate compliance; ground measurements with a NARDA meter, or RFR worksheets which are a part of the broadcast station renewal form, FCC-303s.

I have taken the RF worksheet sections out of the 303s and separated them into the FM RF Worksheet and the AM RF Worksheet.  These worksheets are not effective for large tower farm-type sites where there are too many variables and RF contributors to be accounted for.  The calculations on the worksheets are not conclusive, however, if the facility in question falls under the limits, it is generally accepted as being in compliance.   Taking ground measurements with a NARDA meter is the definitive method for determining RFR compliance.  Since this is a relatively simple site, the worksheet calculations should be sufficient.

The worksheet calculations show that the RFR is within both the controlled occupation limits and the uncontrolled general population limits.

WUPE-FM temporary antenna RFR worksheet
WUPE-FM temporary antenna RFR worksheet

The position of the new temporary pole was verified on


It is never good to be operating at a varience from licensed parameters without notification of the FCC. Such things could lead to fine or other problems for the broadcaster.