Travel Log – Little Rock

A Delta 757 getting some last minute pre-flight service. – Photo by author

The start to this trip was inauspicious. I was at the airport, through security and at the gate with plenty of time, but this was the scene that awaited me when I looked out at the plane that was to take me on my first leg. The engine cowling is open and there are two mechanics examining the the engine. Despite my initial consternation, we managed to board on time, and as I got to the end of the jet bridge I noted a technician logging something and a part that looked like a valve sitting on the console next to him. I was hopeful the issue was repaired.

And it turned out to be. The door was closed, we backed out, and were on our way in short order. This was only my second post-pandemic fly-away conference and my third trip by air, and things seemed to be working. We were still all masked, but the planes all seem to be full and (with one notable exception) seemed to be running on-time. The second hop, from Atlanta to Little Rock was equally uneventful. Everyone was courteous and things seemed to work the way I remembered from years of business travel.

I took an Uber from the airport to the hotel. The driver was friendly, but his car was falling apart. There seemed to be very few people on the street downtown for a Monday afternoon, and the hotel was equally empty. People had obviously been traveling, but it didn’t seem like a lot of them were coming here. The hotel restaurant had only a few tables occupied and there were literally less than five people in the hotel lobby. I couldn’t help but feel I was in a post-apocalyptic movie. My last business trip to St. Louis saw a lot more people downtown. That’s a bigger event and attendance was a fraction of normal, but that was November.

The reception and conference event I was to attend in Little Rock normally sees 200 people. There were 20 at the reception, and most of those were vendors and the event staff. Maybe 10 were attendees. At the event itself there were approximately 35 people not counting presenters and staff. I guess things aren’t quite back to normal. I couldn’t get a sense for the reason why there were so few. Is everyone still concerned about Covid? Are there budget issues where customers weren’t authorizing travel? This event was confined mostly to people in Arkansas, not requiring air travel, and yet they had 10-15% of the usual turnout. I’ll be interested to see if this improves. Everyone I talked to was glad to get back to an in-person event, as I was, but no one could put a finger on why so few had come.

The trip home was a bit more challenging. Pre-pandemic I would leave a hotel in a major city about two hours prior to my flight. I did so again, knowing the airport was only about 15-20 minutes away. The Uber app showed no available drivers. There were no cabs outside the hotel, and no one to summon one. I went straight to the front desk to ask them to call a cab for me. The phone at their usual cab company rang unanswered. I did not think to arrange for transport the night before and the hotel shuttle would not start running for almost another hour. If I didn’t leave for the airport on time, I would miss my flight and there were not a lot of flights out of Little Rock.

I walked back outside to make sure I had decent mobile signal, to try again to get an Uber and that’s when I saw Pete. I didn’t know him at the time, but he appeared to be getting ready to go to the airport too. I approached him, prepared to offer to split cab fare or Uber cost.

Me: “Are you headed to the airport?”

Pete: “Yeah.”

Me: “How are you getting there? I haven’t been able to get a cab or Uber and I don’t want to miss my flight.”

Pete: “I’ve got a rental car, ride with me.”

We introduced ourselves as I got in the car. Pete is a genuinely nice guy. He works for a packaging company and we quickly determined we were on the same flight out of Little Rock that morning. I thanked him repeatedly and his reply was always “I was going to the airport anyways.” So thanks to Pete, I made my flight, had pleasant conversation along the way, and got to learn my lesson about early morning transport in the days of the pandemic. Delta got me home on schedule and none the worse for wear. It seems the machinery of travel is ‘mostly’ working, but things are not back to what we once considered normal. At least not yet.

Learning the Yaesu FT5D

Just about a month ago, I pulled the trigger on the Yaesu FT5D. As a satisfied user of the VX-6 (my first ham radio of any kind), the FT2D and the FT3D, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. I ordered it from Ham Radio Outlet, who had it in stock at a slight discount off of MSRP. I’ve had really good experiences buying from HRO and this was no exception. The radio, the spare battery I ordered and a couple of other items all shipped the next day and were on my doorstep three days later. I wasn’t a ham in the days before the Internet, but I’m guessing that buying new gear was a bit more involved back in the day! 

The FT5D next to the FT3D. Photo by author.

So, what are the differences between the FT5 and FT3?

  1. The case and screen are physically larger, which I like. Not as big as the FT2D (the size of which I really liked), but noticeably bigger. 
  2. The menu buttons have changed and are illuminated differently. The DISP button has been removed and the Menu button introduced. I’m not sure this was a necessary change, but I learned my way around fairly easily and more importantly I can switch between the two without much confusion.
  3. There are two LEDs to indicate activity, rather just the one on the FT3 (and FT2). 
  4. There is a plastic ‘fence’ around the base of the antenna on the FT5 which I can only imagine is meant to protect the connection where the antenna screws onto the SMA connector. 
  5. The FT5D is designed to be used with an included plastic belt holster, unlike the battery-mounted belt clip that was standard with the FT2 and FT3. 
  6. The biggest difference, and probably the reason so many have upgraded is that the audio output on the FT5 is considerably louder. If you need to use it in a noisy location or just can’t get enough volume from your FT3 or other HT, this one will howl for you.
Close up of ‘fence’ around the base of the antenna. 

Yaesu wisely (I think) made it so the accessories, batteries and chargers from the FT2 and FT3 work with the FT5. I’m thrilled by this. This is a big win for me. My lovely YL is now the designated user for the FT2. It sits on a a charging base in the kitchen where it’s convenient for her to grab on her way out the door. Any of the batteries, AC adapters and car chargers work between these three radios. 

I won’t attempt to compare these radios to offerings from Kenwood or Icom. All the makers are pressing on with their designs, and frankly, I would accept that you would do as well with the flagship HT from either of those makers as you would with the FT5. For me, I’ve learned the menus and operating modes of Yaesu HTs, so I continue down that road. I’ve had great luck with the quality and performance. The FT5 is roughly similar in range, reception and battery life compared to it’s predecessor. I’ve run the GPS and APRS on it, which of course consume battery faster. 

In conclusion, I’ll observe that if you have an FT3D and like it, the FT5D won’t offer anything revolutionary (except the audio!). I like to have more than one of anything I use regularly (life is better with a spare), so I figured getting an FT5D would make my FT3D the spare-or-share radio so I have the best of all worlds. If you already have a high-end HT that does everything you want, there’s not a lot this one will add. But if you want a flagship product with all the features, and you like Yaesu Fusion and other digital features like APRS, this one is a winner.