I have checked the 28 MHz band every day from the 24th of March to the 6th of April 2011. Looking back at the logbook from some time in the future, it might be very easy to get an impression that the bands were brilliant. This post sets out exactly what I heard and worked and I can compare it to say a different point in the current solar cycle.
1) For this period, I was using an old vertical half-wave CB type aerial at about 4 metres above ground level....a pretty modest set-up. The transceiver was a TS690 running 80-100 watts.
2) The solar flux was roughly 100-110. The 28 MHz band was open every day. A few of the days could be described as 'good' with S9 signals and strong enough to be worked on SSB. Most of the days, the signals were weak....less than S5....and this is when CW came into it's own.
3) Most of the stations I worked were with CW. If I was restricted to SSB only, my log would have looked very bare indeed.
4) All signals are F2 related unless otherwise stated.
This is what I heard / worked on 28 MHz over this 2 week period...starting NE and working west...
A) I worked XV2RZ (cw) in Vietnam and VR2UW (cw) in Hong Kong....
B) In the Middle East, 7Z1HL (cw) in Saudi Arabia.....
...and A45XR (cw) in Oman were worked while the beacons A47RB and A62ER (UAE) were heard. In South Asia, stations from western India were heard. Further north, several stations in the western part of Asiatic Russia were heard as well as a UN station in Kazakhstan.
C) In eastern Europe, I worked several stations in European Russia and the Ukraine, all on cw. When the band did open up in this direction, the one hop F2 signals were strong. This was especially the case on the 2nd of April when I heard YO (Romania) as well.
D) One of the areas with the most consistent signals was the eastern Med. The only stations I worked were 5B/US5IDX (cw) in Cyprus and 4Z5RT (cw) in Israel although I heard plenty of other stations in 4Z (Israel), 5B4 (Cyprus), JY (Jordan), TA (Turkey), SV9 (Crete), SV5 (Rhodes) and SV (Greece).
From this region, the beacons SV5TEN 28.189 MHz (Rhodes...KM46), 5B4CY on 28.220 MHz (Cyprus...KM64) and 4X6TU/B on 28.200 Mhz (Israel..KM72) seemed to be there almost every day.
These are in the region of 2800 to 4200 kms which for one hop F2 signals would suggest an arrival angle of around 0 to 7 degrees above the horizon.
E) When the F2 skip distance got shorter, the SV3AQR/B beacon on 28.183 MHz (sw Greece...KM07) was heard at roughly 2,800 kms and SV2AHT/B (N.Greece...KN10). Several SV stations were also heard. Sometimes the skip distance got even shorter and IT9EJW/B (Sicily....JM77) and IQ8CZ/B (S.Italy...JM88) were heard. These 2 beacons at roughly 2,500 kms was the shortest skip F2 signals that I heard. That kind of distance for F2 would suggest an arrival angle of about 8 degrees above the horizon.
F) Africa......As expected, North-South propagation was the most consistent and was most likely due to F2 and some Trans-Equitorial Propagation (TEP). In the southern part of Africa, the ZS6DN beacon on 28.200 was often heard as well as several ZS stations. Other beacons heard were Z21ANB in Zimbabwe while 3B8MM in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean was worked on cw and 9J2BO in Zambia was heard.
Further north, I worked the following...5N7M (cw) in Nigeria, D4C (cw) in Cape Verde Islands, TJ3AY (ssb) in Cameroon, 5M2TT (cw) in Liberia, EA8/DL2DXA (cw) and EA8OM (cw) in the Canary Islands and ST2AR (cw) in Sudan.
G) South America.....Again, North-South F2/TEP propagation was consistent. Many PY (Brazil) and LU (Argentina) stations were heard as well as the following beacons....PY4MAB/B (GG68) and LU5FB/B (FF97). CX5BW in Uruguay was also heard while VP8LP in the Falkland Islands was worked on ssb.
(H) West Indies/Carrib....In this region, I worked VP5/W5CW (cw) in the Turks & Caicos Islands while FM5AA and FG4NN were heard. It was an area that I didn't hear too often.
(I) North America......There were a few openings to North America but as they are on a more East/West path, the path was more difficult. The most consistent region heard was the south-eastern USA..i.e. Florida area. Beacons heard in that region were....W3HH/B (Florida...EL89), AC4DJ/B (Florida...EL98), KJ4QYB/B (Alabama...EM63), KB4UPI/B (Alabama...EM64) and W4TIY/B (Georgia...EM73).
Slightly further north, the beacon WA4FC/B in Virginia (FM17) was heard while K1ON in Delaware was worked on cw.
In the NE of the USA, the beacon N1ME/B in Maine was heard several times. This beacon is roughly 4,000 kms from me so it was probably one hop F2 propagation whereas the others were all multi-hop.
The most unusual North-American beacons heard were XE1RCS/B in Mexico (EK09) and WA6MHZ/B in California (DM12). (Note that the first dot seemed to be missing from the WA6MHZ/B beacon. Instead of ' . _ _' , it was ' _ _' i.e. M!! So what I heard was MA6MHZ/B ;o)
Other than the beacons, there was no other indication that the band was open to these areas. Even for the other American beacons, when I could hear them, the level of activity from these areas seemed very low.
(J) Sporadic-E......In this 2 week period, I noticed 2 short Sporadic-E openings into Europe.....one on the 4th of April and one on the 5th. The following beacons were heard....OE3XAC/B in Austria (JN78), OZ7IGY/B in Denmark (JO55), OK0EG/B in the Czech Rep. (JO70), DB0UM/B in Germany (JO73) and SK0CT/B in Sweden (JO89). SP100MSC (Poland) was worked on cw. All were in the 1,400 to 1,800 distance which is typical for Sporadic-E.
Observations & Conclusions....
1) Most of the signals heard and worked were relatively weak, certainly most were less than S5 while many were just above the noise. To get the most out of the band, you have to spend time listening to weak signals and waiting for signals to come out of the noise. In this aspect, it has more in common with say 6 metres (50 MHz) than say the other HF bands like say 20 Metres (14 MHz). I think it would have been very easy for someone to listen on the band for a few minutes and get the impression that there was nothing there.
2) I was suprised to work and hear so much with such a modest antenna, especially VR2UW in Hong Kong, XV2RZ in Vietnam and the beacons in Northern Australia and in California. If I had been using say an indoor antenna like say a loft dipole, I think a lot of the signals would have been too weak to hear or work. Then again, a beam at say 10 metres up would probably have revealed a lot more.
3) No Japanese signals heard. These were common near the peak of the last cycle. So no real NNE Propagation from here. Same with the USA. There were bits but not much in reality. No NW USA....or mid-west...or states like Illinois/Indiana/Ohio, etc.
4) I have a large hill to the South-West of my location yet I was a bit suprised to hear so many of the South-American stations.
5) I often heard those illegal fishing buoys which give out carrier about 10 seconds long followed by a cw ident. I seemed to hear more in the afternoon than morning which might suggest that they are used in the Atlantic? West Africa? Mid ocean? Impossible to tell.
6) Very often, the last signal on the band in the late evening would be coming from EA8 (Canary Islands). It's a pity that there isn't a beacon there on 28 MHz.
7) USA....loads of beacons there...very useful and easy to see what part of the country is open.
8) All of the F2 layer signals were coming in between 0 and 8 degrees above the horizon. The Sporadic-E signals that I heard were between 2 and 5 degrees. As always, if you want to work DX on 10 metres then you need to get your signal down near the horizon.
9) Going on these results, there should be some great conditions on 28 MHz over the next few years as the solar cycle improves.