Out of all my many FM DX tapes, this is one of my favorites. It’s my longest “non-skip” distance catch!
The straight line distance from Apple Valley, Minnesota to Chicago, Illinois is 343 miles. This is far outside the normal “reach” of FM radio, even with my sensitive receiver and extremely directional antenna system. On this fateful overnight in February, 1983, we were having one serious ice storm! This caused a moist “duct” to form in the atmosphere, through which FM radio signals can travel.
I knew better than to operate my antenna rotor during an ice storm, since it could easily freeze up and burn out the bearings. But when I flipped on my radio and heard the band wide open, the temptation was too much to resist! First, I heard Madison…then Rockford…then Milwaukee…and then, the mother lode: WBBM-FM in Chicago! Loud and clear with just a trace of white noise on the signal. Of course, this was before KTTB-FM 96.3 signed on in the Twin Cities. Because of KTTB (now KQGO), this catch would be impossible today, regardless of band conditions.
Not only was this some amazing DX, but WBBM-FM was a great station! Even the Sunday overnight jock was bright, tight, upbeat, and smooth. This station gradually evolved into B96 which still exists today.
The receiver used was a Pioneer SX-3900. Antenna was a Winegard 10 element FM yagi. Other equipment included an Alliance U-100 Tenna Rotor, Belden RG59 ultra low loss coaxial cable, Technics stereo cassette deck, and a Sony HF60 cassette tape.