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Portisheadradio GKA

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  #1  
Old 13th April 2017, 11:48
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Portisheadradio GKA

I thought this maybe of interest to members.
During my working career I serve as a seagoing Radio Officer and a spell with HM
Government. I worked for 28 years with the Post Office and the after privatisation British Telecom.
I worked at Portishead Radio which was mainly known for Maritime communications.
However we also had an air radio section and handled communications for many carriers. A very diverse customer base, from international carriers to most of the UKs charter/holiday companies. Also we operated point to point networks with aid agencies and numerous companies and private individuals. These being sited mainly in the African continent but we reached far and wide to Afghanistan and down to the Antarctic. I enjoyed this work and spent many of my watches on these nets.
I note now that many of the companies that were active up to 1998 when I took early retirement have now gone the way of many others. One which I was surprised to find had folded back in I think 2002 was Heavylift at Stanstead. We worked them on a regular basis and also their chartered Antanovs of Volga Dnper. There were several African based freight companies Gas Air later named Das Air and many others the names of which I cannot recall now. Many were 707 freighters and some DC10s. Flying constant routes around Africa and returning often via Kenya with cut flowers. Many times on a wing and a prayer.
The paragraph below is relevant to my Avatar which shows a GKA aero console and me.


One of two similar consoles positioned side by side for aircraft and point to point/mobile RT communications.
Equipment as follows centre top just in view aircraft selcal unit. To the left two 360 degree movable log periodic aerials sited at Rugby. Below this 9 fixed frequency Rxs - some with pure aircraft freqs and others for aircraft/point to point/mobile stations. Below the Rxs left and centre two high speed tuning QT3 transmitters with if my memory serves me correctly output power between 5-10Kw. Next filter unit. Below left two units to balance Landline and Transmit receive path and use with simplex/duplex operation. An art form to set up at times. Two digital Racal Rxs then switching unit and filters for connecting to the Landline phone network with key pad below. PC with customer and aircraft information. Not visible to the left on the other console was an aircraft VHF system and printer for accessing Wx info and access to air traffic control centres and the Sita network. For some time we were a dedicated HF station for Eastern Airlines and handled traffic for many international carriers including American - El Al - Heavylift. Standby station for BA. Also for British Midland Airlines all UK charter companies and many European companies and freighters. Private jets. Also before the move to satellite we were the major comms centre for many of the worlds aid agencies - UN forces and many other mobile users.

Neville - Hawkey01
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Old 29th May 2017, 06:38
Naytikos Cayman Islands Naytikos is offline
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Neville

I wish your avatar could be accessed separately in a larger format, then we could pick out the pieces of equipment you refer to.
I visited 'Portishead' i.e. Burham-on-Sea in company with another R/O sometime around 1975 at the invitation of one of your colleagues. No PCs then, everything was on paper!
It's funny how one got to recognise a few of the GKA operators fists on CW and voices on R/T; but no-one ever exchanged names; a pity.
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Old 31st May 2017, 17:19
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I am away at the moment . When I get home I will post a full size photo.
Neville
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Old 6th June 2017, 17:52
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As requested, attached a larger photo of the aero operating console.

Neville - Hawkey01
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File Type: jpg aero (Custom).jpg (175.0 KB, 33 views)
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Old 6th June 2017, 19:38
Chadburn Chadburn is offline
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Interesting Neville, quite a diverse set up. I still have a pair of Government Issue Headphones as seen in the photograph which came off a Weather Ship.
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Old 7th June 2017, 13:42
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The good thing with them was they were light and any problems it was only a walk to the engineers to pick up a new pair. Cant think of anyone who bought their own.
Tried to keep them off as much as possible but over the years the constant noise/interference etc has damaged my hearing. I do not have aids but now border line with the audio tests. Have a certain frequency band that is very poor. I am sure many of us - Engrs and RO's have similar problems.
I am afraid the TV does have to be somewhat louder than it used to be, especially with the mumbling they seem to love now.

Neville
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Old 7th June 2017, 13:48
Chadburn Chadburn is offline
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I am indeed in the same position as yourself when it comes to hearing problems especially when someone is asking me for money.
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Old 7th June 2017, 15:24
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I get serious hearing problems when politicians start talking on my TV set. I think there must be some sort of selective fault on the audio circuits ...
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Old 5th September 2017, 14:58
Lao Pan Taiwan Lao Pan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkey01 View Post
I do not have aids but now border line with the audio tests. Have a certain frequency band that is very poor. I am sure many of us - Engrs and RO's have similar problems.
I am afraid the TV does have to be somewhat louder than it used to be, especially with the mumbling they seem to love now.

Neville
Mine seems to be in the Nagging band - don't tell my dear wife!

Back in about 1970-71 I lived with my parents less than a mile from the main transmitters at Portishead. I sometimes delivered the Sunday Papers to the duty engineers there. (My parents are still there, the transmitters not) One day when I was alone in the house I could hear morse code clear as a bell (as a 15-16 year old I could still hear sine wave tones above 23 khz! Woof!) Searching all over the house I finally opened the airing cupboard to find that the morse code was coming from the hot water tank!
My theory to this day was that the skirting board heating - long length of copper pipe with aluminium fins was picking up the very powerful transmittions which were then being amplified by the hot water tank (which had no immersion heater) - Never heard them again.

Now after screaming main engine turbochargers and too hot to wear hearing protectors for a full watch, my hearing is not what - what? it used to be

I saw a program on TV recently - Abandoned Engineering, about the Russian Over the Horizon Radar - I remember on one ship, being in the Radio Room (chatting with the Sparky - I was too Ham Fisted with a soldering Iron to ever be one) when the Russian Woodpecker started making it's self heard - quite a spooky sound and I bet rather annoying to you guys.
Finally silenced by the Chernobyl Disaster. The transmitters were built near by, because of the huge amount of energy they needed.

Last edited by Lao Pan; 5th September 2017 at 15:09.
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Old 5th September 2017, 23:48
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As an ex-sparky I can honestly say .. we all loved the woodpecker .....

In the 70's I was driving up the M1 from London to the West Midlands in the early hours of the morning when through the car radio (the only thing keeping me awake) I heard .... 'de GKB' .... (I was passing the Rugby masts at the time, and I believe one of their transmissions came from there.)

I thought .... 'Oh hell, I've finally gone Portishead !!! ' ... but after a while it passed and I went back to sleep. Fortunately (and that's a questionable description) I didn't miss the M6 turn off.
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Last edited by BobClay; 5th September 2017 at 23:52.
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Old 6th September 2017, 10:21
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We had many locations for Tx's over the years until the latter end when they were mostly sited at Leafield and Rugby.
Station locations:
Dorchester.
Criggion, North Wales.
Leafiled, Oxfordshire.
Rugby.
Ongar, Essex.

Our receiving station originally with aerials at GKA in Highbridge but eventually our receiving site
was Somerton, Somerset. This via a micro wave link from Highbridge to Somerton.
Somerton was also used as a supplementary RT station and we manned it daily with RO's bussed from Highbridge. You needed nerves of steel to go on that bus as the drivers were not to my liking. If I was up there I used to drive myself.

Neville
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Old 6th September 2017, 17:01
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Driving south on the M5 a little bit south of the Avon Bridge you drop down a long straight bank approaching Junction 20 Clevedon turnoff. From that bank you get a really good view of the coastline of Northern Somerset and there are two high masts situated I think somewhere south of Clevedon.

Any idea what they're about ?

(This is a pix from Google Earth)
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Old 7th September 2017, 09:19
Lao Pan Taiwan Lao Pan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobClay View Post
Driving south on the M5 a little bit south of the Avon Bridge you drop down a long straight bank approaching Junction 20 Clevedon turnoff. From that bank you get a really good view of the coastline of Northern Somerset and there are two high masts situated I think somewhere south of Clevedon.

Any idea what they're about ?

(This is a pix from Google Earth)
Strangely I lived about a mile from them as well for 25 years. Now moved to "Sur le Mud" - They were the BBC Medium wave Transmitters for the West of England. Possibly still being used for Five Live. I'll see if they are still there tonight on the way home.
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