Travelogue and Field Report: POTA and Aviation Geekery with Friends in Dayton, Ohio!

A couple months ago, my good friend, Monty, hatched a plan to take his father to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. Monty’s dad, John, served in the US Air Force in the 1960s and has always been a fan of aviation. Despite this, he had never been to the USAF museum.

Monty and I have been friends since being roommates back in our undergraduate years; he and his parents are like family to me. (You might remember Monty from a couple of SOTA/POTA activations in the past.)

When Monty asked, “Hey, would you like to join us–?” It took me all of one microsecond to say, “Heck yeah!

Off we go…

Monty, John, and I hopped in the car and headed to Dayton (from Charlotte, NC) Sunday morning, July 16, 2023.

It was a beautiful day for a 7+ hour road trip, too. Of course, I made sure we timed the trip so that we could stop at Tamarack in Beckley, WV for lunch.

We arrived at our little AirBnB vacation rental late that afternoon.

The house was literally a stone’s throw from the USAF museum. If we would have been any closer, we would have been on the museum driveway.

USAF Museum

Monday morning (July 17) we ate breakfast, then made our way across the road to the museum shortly after they opened the doors at 9:00.

I’ve been to the USAF museum at least fifteen times and it never gets old.

It’s the largest military aviation museum in the world and it’s brilliantly curated. They’re always shuffling around exhibits so that even if you visit annually, you’ll always find something new and fascinating.

The one and only Memphis Belle.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the museum is the WWII Gallery because I’m such a huge history buff of that era.

Then again, I love the modern stuff, too, and the USAF museum certainly serves it up.

By the way: I’m convinced that the business end of the Valkyrie inspired the designers of the Millennium Falcon.

John was over the moon and it was wonderful seeing him get so much enjoyment out of each exhibit.

John was able to walk into aircraft that had taken him across the globe during his time with the USAF and share those memories with us.

These experiences are truly priceless.

Monty and I allowed two full days to browse the museum–after all, it’s massive–and we figured his dad would eventually need a breather, but we ended up spending the entire day there until they closed at 5:00 PM.

The time flew by…

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (K-0732)

Of course, I brought a radio field kit along on this trip and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park was maybe a four minute drive from our house across from the museum.  Both Monty and his dad wanted to come along for the activation.

John is familiar with amateur radio and could have easily been a ham himself. He actually worked in communications during his time with the USAF.

He was very curious what POTA (Parks On The Air) was and why I was motivated to do activations. In the activation video below, I answer some of his questions post-activation.

Unfortunately, the visitor’s center at the Wright Brothers’ Memorial Park was closed.

Fortunately, the park had picnic tables! I hadn’t activated this site since the days of National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) in 2016. I knew a picnic table would make it much easier for John to relax and enjoy watching my POTA shenanigans.

My entire field kit was in the Lowe Pro CS60 (or Elecraft ES60) pack. I travelled lightly on this trip.

I simply tossed my throw line into a tree, raised my no-transformer Tufteln random wire, and prepared my logs. In no time, I was ready to hop on the air!

Swivel Mount

I did bring one new accessory to test: a prototype universal paddle swivel mount for the Elecraft KX2.

Steve with QRPWorks contacted me prior to Hamvention and mentioned that he wanted to meet up and give me something to test in the field. Turns out, it was this little swivel bracket that can mount to the front of the KX2 or KX3.

Steve made this mount with some scrap material he had in the workshop. It’s a proper prototype–it’s not yet (at time of posting) on the QRPWorks website, nor is it in its finished form. This design will be tweaked prior to production.

I put some 3M Dual Lock on the bottom of my SP4 paddles and it snapped on the swivel mount with ease.


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on the 30 meters and, fortunately, the band had a bit of life in it!

I logged eight stations in nine minutes.

When 30 meters tapered off, I moved up to the 20 meter band.

In eleven minutes, I worked an additional seven stations.

With a total of 15 stations logged, I was a happy activator.


Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Champaign Aviation Museum

Monty and I had a surprise in store for his dad.

With the help of Eric (WD8RIF) and his father, we arranged a personal tour of the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio on Tuesday (July 18).

What makes this museum so unique? Via a small army of dedicated volunteers, they are building a B-17 (the Champaign Lady) basically from scratch!

Volunteers working on a section of wing.

It’s an impressive operation to behold and we got a close and personal tour.

There are plans, all organized, laying around the building in spots where they can be referenced during construction.

Most parts must be fabricated or modified/reinforced in order to pass strict FAA inspections.

It simply blows my mind that a project of this magnitude can be done through a volunteer effort.

When our amazing tour guide showed us the radio room section of the Champaign Lady, I was in awe. It was beautiful.

When he learned I was a ham radio operator with an affinity for WWII era gear, he introduced me to Fred (also a ham) who is the guy largely behind the B-17 radio room.

Fred has a bench area in the museum where he works on a number of mechanics and electronics for the B-17.

He also has a gorgeous WWII era Navy model REH morale radio piping out tunes from a local AM station. I told Fred about my love of WWII morale radios–I actually have two: a Scott Marine Model SLR-M and a Minerva Tropic Master.

I also have a BC-348Q much like the one in the Champaign Lady. When Fred learned this, he gave me a custom mounting bracket/base he fabricated for the BC-348 base attachment points. The base adds rubber feet to the BC-348 making it much more shelf-friendly. The BC-348 base was designed to attach to the radio operating point in an aircraft.

I was so grateful. Thank you Fred–it fits my BC-348 perfectly!

Of course, there’s much more to the Champaign museum–they have a number of operation aircraft including the beautiful B-25 Champaign Gal.

There’s more to this museum than I can possibly describe here, so my advice is next time you’re anywhere near the Dayton area, make a 40 minute detour to visit the Champaign Aviation Museum. You’ll thank yourself later!

As we left the building that day, the museum gained another card-carrying member!

We then grabbed a lunch in Urbana, and made our way back to Dayton to fit in a visit to the Wright Brothers’ Interpretive Center and Bicycle shop downtown.

This site is actually a POTA entity, too–a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (K-0732) I activated the previous day. I didn’t bother doing an activation here because we decided to squeeze in one more hour at the USAF Museum before they closed that Tuesday.

I had such an amazing time soaking up all of the aviation history with Monty and “Papa John.” It was simply priceless seeing how thoroughly John enjoyed every minute of our little aviation vacation!

Thank you

Thank you for joining us in this travelogue and for this activation!

I hope you enjoyed this article and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a brilliant weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

3 thoughts on “Travelogue and Field Report: POTA and Aviation Geekery with Friends in Dayton, Ohio!”

  1. I just ordered a KX2 (a retirement gift to me). That swivel bracket from QRP Works is brilliant. I have a couple od paddles I could use with it. I need to get on that list. Having an aviation background, I appreciated this post.

  2. I use the same bracket and love it. I use it with the original N0SA key. I would attach a picture, but it doesn’t look like I can here. You can find it on “X” @W9UUM (Twitter).

    73 Jim W9UUM

  3. Great post Thomas, as an ex-military aviator it added a further level of interest!

    Must also get on the list for one of those QRP Works mounts….

    73 Richard M0RGM

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