2011 Omaha Nebraska

Convention Summary

2011 Convention NRC-WTFDA
October 12-15 — Omaha, Nebraska

Thursday, October 13
First evening arrivals met in the hospitality room of the Comfort Inn, at South 72nd St. just NE of the I-80 exit. Upon arrival members enjoyed pop and chips while getting acquainted and re-acquainted. Some groups formed for dinner, one large group going to the nearby Anthony’s Steakhouse, while others dined at Perkins, next door to our hotel.

Friday, October 14
Morning breakfast was complimentary for those staying at the Comfort Inn, then a day of tours began. The group met in the lobby for a 9:25am departure to the KFAB-1110 transmitter site several miles south of Omaha, at 60th & Caphart Rd in Sarpy County.

KFAB’s three 500-foot towers are in line to the SSE providing night time signal protection for WBT Charlotte, NC. The middle of the three is the daytime non-directional tower, while a fourth tower on the east end is used for KGOR 99.9 FM’s standby transmitter. KGOR’s main transmitter is at the Crown PointTower Farm in North Omaha.

Engineer Greg Gade guided the tour for over an hour and seemed to genuinely enjoy our company, happy to display this historic transmitter site that dates back to 1947. Four transmitters occupy this room. The smaller Westinghouse is a 5kw transmitter that’s been here since KFAB’s move from Lincoln, while a larger 50kw Westinghouse transmitter with phasor cabinets sits nearby. Next to it is the more recent workhorse, a Continental 317C, now used for standby. Mr. Gade switched it on, allowing the huge final tubes to light up.

KFAB’s newest transmitter is a solid state 50kw Harris with a display screen providing all the necessary readouts. Adjacent to it is the accessory rack containing the IBOC unit, which we all resisted sabotaging. We were also shown the EAS room (they monitor KVNO), living quarters that were used by engineers in the early days when this was a very rural area, and the 250kw diesel generator. Then out back we were allowed to walk to the foot of the towers, safely fenced in at their bases. Members snapped many pictures, both inside and out.

The car pool then headed back north into the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha where we visited the KFAB and Clear Channel Studios, on the second floor of 5010 Underwood Avenue. Other studios here are those of KGOR 99.9, KTWI-93.3, KQBW-96.1, and KXKT-103.7. KFAB and KGOR have been here the longest, as this was their studio home for many years before consolidation brought in the other stations. Mr. Gade was our tour guide here, as well.

Lunch was at Goldberg’s, a nearby locally owned burger bar. Then the tour continued with a look at the studios of New Radio Group (NRG), owners of KOIL-1290, KKAR-1180, KOZN-1620, KQKQ-98.5, KOOO-101.9 (actually licensed to Lincoln), KOPW-106.9, and KMMQ-1020. NRG is only a couple of blocks from Clear Channel, at 5011 Capitol Avenue. The tour lasted about an hour.

Our day of touring concluded with a drive–by of the home of Omaha’s own Warren Buffet, at 55th & Farnam Streets. Then it was back to the Comfort Inn for chips and drinks in the ballroom and DX chat. Dinner was on our own at nearby restaurants, which offered everything from family and fast food dining to Italian, Mexican, and Steakhouse cuisine.

The Business Meeting began at 7:30pm presided over by NRC Chairman Wayne Heinen. Wayne reported the club is in good financial shape, and noted the attractive 15-dollar annual option of E-DXN on-line membership should be helpful for the club’s future. Thanks were given to the editors and to publisher David Yocis. Recognition was then given to Bruce Elving, to whom the convention was dedicated, and to former Omaha Dxer Marv Robbins who passed away earlier in the year in Florida.

Many fascinating items were sold at the DX Auction, ranging from a HD Radio donated by KFAB (won by David Jones of Nashville) to NRC logs and maps. Surprisingly, few station bumper stickers were offered or even seen. The auction raised just over 200 dollars.

The DX Quiz followed with about 15 members taking part. Frank Merrill won it (again) with 35 points, followed by Carl Dabelstein 31 pts, and George Sherman 29 pts. Frank won 25 dollars cash, plus the honor of writing the next DX Quiz.

Saturday, October 15
More touring is offered after breakfast. The car pool left at 9:30am for its first outside the Offutt Air Force Communications site just north of Elkhorn, NE. It’s one of four sites used by Offutt to maintain communication with aircraft anywhere in the world. A combination of shortwave and satellites are used. This particular site is for transmitting only, and members could see a number of antenna installations designed for low-angle and high-angle radiation in a number of directions. The antenna farm for their receivers is south of Scribner, NE, about 30 miles from here.

Next, we head back west into North Omaha to two historic AM single-tower transmitter sites near 60th & Hartman Streets. They are the two oldest stations in Omaha. KXSP-590 was WOW radio for years, and was WOAW when it signed on in 1923. The other is KCRO, better known historically as KOWH, the Todd Storz station where the Top 40 format was born in the 50s. Initially it was WAAW when it came on in 1922. Both have nice transmitter buildings dating back to the days when engineers lived on site.

Not far from these two stations are the tall towers of the North Omaha Antenna Farm, locally called “Crown Point” for the nearby street of the same name. These towers dominate the Omaha skyline from many vantagepoints.

TV stations KETV, KMTV, and WOWT own three towers. A number of FM stations also rent space on the towers. A fourth tower on the south end went up in the 1990s, erected by Journal Broadcasting. The newest tower is the middle TV tower (KETV), replacing their original that collapsed in 2003. The TV towers are just over 1350 feet, while Journal’s tower is at about 1150 feet. Journal’s radio studios (KXSP-590, KEZO-92.1, KQCH-97.7, KSRZ- and KKCD-105.9) are at the foot of their tower, but they weren’t open for tours on this day.

Back to the hotel for lunch, then off for a free visit, courtesy of host Ernest Wesolowski, to the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Ashland. Arriving around 2pm, the museum is just off I-80 near the Platte River. 13 members strolled through two large hangers seeing and touching historic Air Force aircraft. Among the displays was a model and pictures of the old Offutt Air Base, which during WW II was the Martin Bomber Plant. It was here the B-29 that ushered in the nuclear age was built: The Enola Gay.

Back to the hotel for a late afternoon demonstration of the Perseus radio receiver, courtesy of Mark Durenberger. The demonstration was setup in the back parking lot of the hotel, starting with the raising and securing of a portable 30-foot telescoping flagpole to hold the antenna. Two copper rods were driven into the dirt for the ground connection.

The Perseus receiver is simply a box feeding Mark’s laptop computer. On the laptop screen the entire broadcast band could be seen in spectrum analysis, and KFAB’s tall and wide IBOC signal was clearly recognizable. Any waveform can be monitored and manipulated using the computer mouse. Most amazing is that the entire frequency range of the AM broadcast band can be recorded for later Dxing. Mark recorded the band across the 5pm ID, and later, inside, members were given the opportunity to tune and playback the Ids on the frequency of their choice.

A happy hour and banquet followed at 6:30. The 7:30 dinner in the ballroom was roast beef and salmon. Following dinner, in introductory remarks by Carl Mann, it was noted that this convention was dedicated to the memory of Bruce Elving, editor of the FM Atlas and a friend to many DXers. Bruce was our guest in Omaha during the 1992 convention. Also noted was the passing this year of Omaha Dxer Marv Robbins, who was the driving force for the NRC Omaha convention of 1959.

At the 1959 convention, a young Carl “Skip” Dabelstein joined the NRC and has been a member ever since, for 52 consecutive years. Two other 1959 attendees present this evening were singled out: John Callarman of Texas, and Bill Nittler of Colorado (now in NM).

Further recognition was given to Neil Zank and Bob McCoy, both present this evening, who hosted the 1977 NRC Convention in Lincoln, NE. Recognition was then given to the Dxer who traveled the greatest distance to attend: Phil Blytheway of Seattle, although it was later discovered that Mike Lantz of Miami deserved equal recognition. Their travel distances are within 30 miles of each other.

Guest Speaker Mark Durenberger followed, speaking first about his years in broadcasting and playing some entertaining clips of jingles and
bloopers. He then presented a fascinating look at the effects of radio during the war years, beginning with radio’s start prior and during World War I. Of particular interest was how the development of radio and discovery of propagation assisted the war effort. Monitoring and subterfuge played important roles in the new medium. Time constraints limited the story up to the Pacific in WW II. Social time continued until after midnight.

Sunday following breakfast, DXers departed for their home QTHs.

Here’s hoping someone bids for his or her city for the convention in 2012.

Ernest J. Wesolowski

List of attendees