Stairway to Heaven?

No! It is The Strange Antenna Challenge!

Rick Black, K4RAB

One of the highlights of the recent Techfest (January 12), sponsored by the Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society (GARS) was something that no one would expect to be such an attention getter among the exhibits of digital modes, DSTAR gear, APRS and the like. It was a display promoting the Strange Antenna Challenge.


Seeing Arnold Solomon, KC4ZUA and James Loner, W4JHL operating an SSB rig on 40 meters seemed so ordinary until one realized what they were using for an antenna!   What I hadn't noticed before was a 30 ft. aluminum extension ladder strapped to a wooden fence behind the church where the Techfest was being held. The ladder was connected to the center conductor of the 50 ohm coax from the SSB rig. Connected to the braid of the coax were three outstreched pieces of chicken wire on the ground, each of which were approximately 30 feet in length, just about perfect for 40.  What KC4ZUA has created, of course, is a 40 meter ground plane build from an extensible aluminum ladder! This is not just a good "strange" antenna, but a great idea for a disguise antenna! Few would think of an extensible ladder being used as an antenna!  (I couldn't resist telling Arnold that I had a name for his antenna, "The Stairway to Heaven," with all due apologies to Led Zeppelin.)

But ladders aren't the only seemingly extraneous objects that these guys have converted into antennas. N0EW, Erik Weaver, has used a pair of tape measures as dipole antennas, and (this is a hoot) used a pair of metal folding chairs for a 10 meter dipole!  Perhaps the ultimate is NM3U's stadium antenna. That's right, stadium antenna!  Yes, we're talking about loading up a stadium as an antenna!  Such landmarks as the St. Louis Arch also make attractive subjects for such experimentation.

About the Strange Antenna Challenge - 2008

This event is held on Memoral Day weekend, starting Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 1000Z, and ending on Monday, May 26 at midnight local time. The Web site is

This is a non competitive special event that focuses on antenna construction and operation.

There are some great reasons to participate in Strange Antenna Challenge. It is fun and NOT a contest! It encourages creative thinking in a world of prepackaged solutions, AND, it is an excercise in emergency antenna construction and operating skills.

I will add that this is a great encouragement to the type of creative thinking that goes into building disguise and hidden antennas. Indeed, strange antennas and disguise antennas are very close cousins! An example of this is using the gutter and downspout on your house as an antenna.

Web Sites - General information about the Strange Antenna Challenge. - K0S Field Manual - guide to strange antennas. - Errata sheet for Field Manual. and - Tape measure antennas, slinky antennas, and some very interesting J-poles. - balun construction. - Amateur Radio RF Safety Calculator.