[amsat-bb] Regular Arrow vs. Alaskan Arrow

Dave Swanson dave at druidnetworks.com
Sat Jan 9 19:10:06 UTC 2016

Hello Satellites friends and colleagues,

Since I started making videos a few months back of my portable satellite 
operating, a lot of folks have picked up on the fact that I seem to use 
the 'Alaskan' Arrow (AKA) pretty often. I also tend to use the AKA for 
DX contacts and very long distance QSOs which always make it into my 
movies. Questions about the AKA versus the regular arrow have become by 
far the most asked topic of me from other operators. Clayton, W5PFG, 
wrote an outstanding piece on his blog ( 
) with his thoughts on the AKA, after his experience with one this fall, 
that I'd recommend that anyone interested in this topic also go read. 
Since I don't have a blog though, this is the best forum I have to 
express thoughts on the matter. If you have no intention of ever 
operating portable, or are convinced some other design is superior, then 
feel free to skip the rest of this thread. I'm not trying to make this 
into anything other than an answer to frequently asked questions I get, 
concerning the differences between the Regular Arrow and the Alaskan 
Arrow, and to try and address the 'is it worth it' question that 
inevitably follows the 'which one should I get' question.

So, to start, the regular arrow is great antenna.  I have one, and I use 
it for 95% of the passes I work. I used my regular arrow for my first 
QSOs with Brazil, Alaska, Hawaii, Northern Ireland, and England, all of 
which are between 5000km and 7200km from my home operating spots. It is 
lightweight, effective, and will suit the needs of nearly every 
satellite operator out there that seeks a portable antenna. If (and this 
is a huge if, that's outside the scope of this post, but so so 
important) you have a nice operating spot that has a clear view of the 
horizon with nothing in the way. You can easily work all birds in the 
sky AOS til LOS with the regular arrow, and be wildly successful. If I'm 
not chasing 7000km+ DX, I'll be on my regular arrow. If I'm hanging my 
arm out the window while /P in another grid? I'll be on my regular 
arrow. Backyard 45° SO50 pass in the evening? Regular Arrow. Most of the 
time, I'm on my regular Arrow. It probably doesn't look that way from 
pictures and video, but I typically don't document my routine 
operating.. no one wants to see that, they only wanna see the cool stuff.

So, why do I own and use an AKA with everything I just wrote in mind?

First, I do operate terrestrial VHF/UHF, as well as satellites, from 
mountain tops. For this type of work I'll physically attach the AKA with 
only one set of elements installed to my mast, pop it up in the air, and 
work folks in other grids on 2m or 70cm. If I'm Jeepin' to the mountain 
top, my equipment has to break down into small enough pieces I can fit 
it inside, or if I'm hiking, it needs to be small and lightweight enough 
to carry up on my back. The AKA represents the highest gain, lightest 
weight, most portable solution that I could find for my style of 

Second, the AKA does have more gain, which is useful for working 
satellites. It's not a lot more gain, and it's not required on most 
passes, but I routinely work at < 0.5° in max elevation from elevated 
positions while portable, and so every db counts. Most people are 
probably not doing this... and judging by the considerable lack of 
activity I hear in the birds on these passes, I think there's a fair 
amount of evidence to support this theory. If you're routinely working 
exceptionally low passes at and near the horizon portable, then an AKA 
might be for you. If not, I wouldn't worry about it.

Third, as mentioned many times by others, the AKA is big and heavy. As 
Jeff, NI3B, said a while back in a post "Holding one of those things up 
in the air for fourteen minutes and your arms will look like Popeye the 
Sailor Man at LOS." Combine this with my distaste for tripods, and you 
can see where we've got an issue. While I don't care much for canned 
spinach, I am a six-foot, 250 pound man, I split firewood by hand, and I 
try to keep myself pretty strong and in shape. I can hold the AKA for an 
entire pass without a huge issue, even thought my arms get pretty sore 
after. I absolutely understand that others may not be capable, or simply 
may not want to subject themselves to this kind of punishment. That's 
fine, you don't have too. Get a regular arrow, and save your biceps.. 
you'll be just fine.

So in summary, If you're a mountain-top, multidisciplinary operator, 
that wants superior portable performance, weight and muscle fatigue be 
damned, then the AKA might be for you. If you're not, get the regular 
arrow, you won't be sorry.

Feel free to ask questions, provide critiques.


-Dave, KG5CCI

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