In these days of twitter, facebook, text messaging and pinging, it’s hard to imagine that there are still radio hams: devoted amateur radio enthusiast who go on the air every Sunday to make a programme for their listeners (and that’s an old word for ‘fans’).
Every Sunday at noon precisely, the men at station PI9KLM go on the air from a separate room in Hangar 12 to create a programme for and with radio hams throughout the world. ‘De ronde van KLM’, which can be loosely translated as ‘The tour of KLM’, can’t be compared with the popular radio programmes that all of the Netherlands tunes into but it does go far. The oldest radio ham is a 92 year-old former KLM employee who joins in almost every week. For emigrants and radio hams in different parts of the world it’s great to be in contact with each other in this way and share information about radio technology, KLM-related news and indulge in a little nostalgia. But there’s also room for football results, the weather and some humor in the air.
It all began just after the Second World War when radio telegraphy was still used – otherwise known as Morse code. In its search for personnel, KLM established a training course for radio operators and the station PI1KLM was set up as part of that. After all, you had to practice somehow. The equipment was operated in the same way as on the flight deck but at the time it was impossible for amateurs to communicate with aircraft. Amateur frequencies had to be used for practice and that’s how it all started. The first transmission was made on 17 September 1947. Years later, when radio telephony made its entrance, the ‘training centre’ became surplus to requirements but, with government permission and to keep the good name of KLM flying high on the air, the frequency was retained and continued.
Telegraphy may well be obsolete in modern aviation but radio hams still work with Morse code. So too does the team that broadcasts every week. They are all licensed amateur radio operators, and they maintain their own equipment, the oldest piece of which comes from a Dakota.
You can listen in to ‘De ronde van KLM’ every Sunday from noon to 1.00 p.m. on frequency 3785 KHZ. The radio station also has its own website: www.PI9KLM.nl
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