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(An undated Newspaper clipping on file at HQ, thanks to Gontran Bolduc )

 

Polices Air For Country

Grand Island Monitoring Station Keeps Broadcasters on Frequencies

by Irving R. Potts

 

Located at Grand Island, Neb., on the broad flat prairies near the geographical center of the country, is the United States government’s monitoring station, the only one of its kind in the world. In reality a traffic cop of the air, this station was established in 1930 and its duty is to see that those on the broadcast band keep strictly to their assigned frequencies so there will be no interference with those on adjacent channels.

 

Sixty acres are covered with tall white poles, three times as high as the average telephone pole from which is strung a maze of antennae wires. They are arranged in three groups of about fifty poles each and the wires are so arranged that they point toward London, Rome and South America. With these antennae it is possible for the eleven operators to tune in any station in this country and nearly every station in the world. When the monitor was new and the operators were experimenting with long distance reception, they picked up a station in Japan on the antenna directed toward South America.

Not complicated

Actually the testing of a station’s frequency isn’t a complicated affair. The operators notify the station to broadcast continuously for an hour or so. The program is tuned in on one of the eight receiving sets and is connected with an electric tuning fork vibrating to a known wavelength. By listening through attached earphones the operator can tell if the station transmitting is on the correct frequency. In addition, approximately 200 broadcasting stations are compelled to transmit special frequency tests of twenty minutes’ duration during early morning hours the second week of each month. If one is found to be off frequency the operator telephones the station giving the variation so that it may immediately be corrected.

 

As the monitoring station’s duties are confined solely to reception there is no transmitting apparatus and outgoing messages have to be telephoned.

Wires Underground

To prevent interference with the monitor’s delicate receiving instruments all telegraph, telephone and electric power lines for several miles are underground. The station must manufacture its own power with a private dynamo as a power line coming in from the outside would affect the instruments.

 

Grand Island was chosen for its central location and the flat country is conducive to better reception. With the Rocky Mountains about 400 miles away and the Appalachians still farther, the location is an ideal one for such a station. An airplane beacon flashes all night to warn away any stray planes that might try to land and smash into the wires.

 

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