94.7 FM in Washington, DC, a local station at my home, has a new format. Hot AC WIAD Bethesda, MD, known on-air as “94-7 Fresh FM,” flipped to classic hits as “94-7 The Drive” on October 3. The call letters are still WIAD, and I assume that won’t change, given the call letters sort of relate to the word “Drive,” and because “IAD” is an IATA code for Washington Dulles International Airport. WIAD seems to be focusing on 70s and 80s classic hits with no newer songs in rotation.
The station’s flip to classic hits makes sense. There’s no other station in the Washington market currently with the same format. Adult contemporary 97.1 WASH plays 80s music, but they tend to play more of the pop-based hits, and of course they play newer music. 100.3 WBIG was greatest hits at one point, but they are now playing more classic rock and early 90s rock.
The “Fresh FM” format lasted nine years on WIAD. My Local FM Stations page was updated with the new station information.
I took a brief trip to Midwest last week, where I DXed in Omaha, NE, Wichita, KS, and Kansas City, MO. I have added the three new DX logs, complete with HD Radio and RDS screenshots, to my Travel DX Log page.
Visit my Travel DX Logs to view my Excel logs and screenshot galleries from each location.
As soon as I wrote about the lack of FM Es in the later months of the summer, a brief Sporadic E opening hit the dials outside of the usual “9-5 M-F” schedule that FM Es has largely followed this year. At 7:22 PM, an unidentified NPR station came in on 89.1 FM, and by 7:35 PM, 92.3 KKGQ and 93.5 KDGS, both relogs, briefly came in with an unidentified AC station on 98.1. The opening, which had signals for about 2 minutes cumulatively, quickly dissipated without any fanfare, with a MUF of 98.1.
92.3 KKGQ Newton, KS, e-skip, 1089 miles
93.5 KDGS Andover, KS, e-skip, 1088 miles
It started out with a bang but ended without fanfare. The 2018 Sporadic E-Skip Season is no more, but even though this season has failed to live up to what I thought it would be, I still feel like it was a step in the right direction.
Sporadic E is a method of signal propagation that, when in effect, allows broadcast signals to be received up to 1500 miles away with clear local reception. It can happen any time of the year, but it is most common during the summer months.
When I started to monitor daily for FM Es in 2006, living in the summer months usually meant having to plan everything around an always-present Sporadic E opening. I’ve turned down social invitations and put off errands countless times because a mammoth FM Es opening was brewing on the dial. Beginning in 2009, Sporadic E came in less and less, getting progressively got worse each year until it hit a lowpoint in 2017, where I only received 33 minutes total of Sporadic E the entire season — compared to 1471 minutes in 2014.
On the surface, 2018 seemed to be the first skip season in years where things started to turn around. This year, I received 347 total minutes of skip with 5 new FM logs from 8 openings. During this season, I logged my 1900th FM station, and 4 of my 5 new FM logs were received from one unattended opening on 6/6/18.
I was on vacation on June 16-24, 2018. During that time I had two FM Es openings: one on 6/20/18 while I was outside of New York, NY, which lasted 100 minutes and brought in 26 stations from the Midwest and Upper Midwest. This opening was very strong, with many distant signals toppling the local NYC FM stations in a manner that I haven’t seen since 2016. Another respectable opening into the same general area was also observed on 6/26/18 while I was in Providence, RI, with a few RDS decodes but not as strong as the NYC opening. Within the same time period and weeks thereafter, reports of top-of-the-band FM Es from other DXers flooded into
Another bland Sporadic E opening was picked up on my unattended recordings on June 20. I have no idea if this was a good opening or not, since I was at work when it happened. I had my two radios recording 92.1 and 101.7 FM. At 12:34 PM, an unidentified religious station came in on 92.1 for 1 minute, and at 12:40 PM, an unidentified country station was heard on 101.7. The Es signals disappeared at 12:40 PM.
A fairly normal tropo opening during the early morning hours on July 20 into the Norfolk, VA area brought in an extra surprise: two new FM stations. I turned my antenna to local 97.1 WASH’s null point expecting classic hits “97-1 The Wave” WAVD from nearby Ocean City, but instead I heard Christian Contemporary music. The station identified as an affiliate of “K-Love,” which matches to 97.1 WYND. Unfortunately, my audio recorder was not running when the station IDed, and WYND left just as fast as it arrived under WASH’s strong signal. Shortly afterward, I heard sports music on 102.7 FM. I figured it could’ve been a previously-logged station airing a local sports program, but something made me keep on listening. Instead, the station identified as “99-5 and 102-7 ESPN,” which is a 250-watt translator from central Virginia. My DX Log and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.
97.1 WYND Hatteras, NC, tropo, 219 miles over local WASH
A very brief sporadic E opening was heard in my car on July 16 just outside of my Woodbridge, VA home. Signals below 92.1 FM became unstable at about 7:28 PM, but nothing solid was heard, until a 10-second fade-in from relog 89.1 WPAS Pascagoula, MS @ 847 miles, complete with RDS, came in and disappeared. After WPAS left, an unID CCM signal was heard on 89.5 FM for another 10 seconds before the opening ended.
DCRTV and Radio-Online report that an AM station in the Washington, DC region has ceased analog broadcasting, becoming the first radio station in the United States to solely broadcast in digital HD Radio.
WWFD 820 Frederick, MD, which airs an AAA format as “The Gamut,” flipped the all-IBOC switch on July 16. Since I am too far away from WWFD to receive it, I cannot verify if the station simply removed its analog frequency from its broadcast, leaving its existing digital sidebands, or if the station is broadcasting a full power digital signal on its center frequency.
The station’s move to all-digital poses an interesting situation for DXers, as it appears now that at least AM stations can apply to go all-digital. Does this mean FM stations are next? I wrote about the possibility of an all-digital FM band in 2013. In that article, I predicted that such a move would both benefit and hurt the DXing hobby. For those who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of HD Radio, a station on 95.5 FM running IBOC broadcasts its analog signal on 95.5, and its digital signal (at a lower power) on 95.3 and 95.7. These adjacent digital “sidebands” ruin DX, as it blocks out all but the strongest distant stations on the frequencies immediately next to a local signal running HD Radio.
If the HD Radio standard supports one sole full power digital signal on the center frequency (i.e. a full power digital 95.5 FM and nothing on 95.3 and 95.7 FM), then this could positively revolutionize FM DXing, as these adjacent-to-local frequencies would, once again, be open to any DX, much like it was prior to the debut of IBOC. On the other hand, if the FM band became digital-only, a very strong signal would be required to receive any radio station (rendering weak signals invisible to an HD Radio), much like what one experiences with digital TV DXing.
It remains to be seen if WWFD’s digital transition is the first of many to come, or if it is a one-off occurrence.
Another great tropo duct into coastal North Carolina–the second in a week–was heard throughout the overnight hours on July 14. The opening started with the typical summer night signals from Norfolk, VA (130 miles) and Ocean City, MD (90 miles) coming in with local-grade strength. Quickly afterward, signals further south from the New Bern/Greenville/Jacksonville, NC area at up to 240 miles away came in, some with HD Radio. This was when my local Washington, DC stations started to disappear, one by one, overtaken by distant North Carolina signals. This was largely an FM-only opening. The TV band was largely only limited to Norfolk and Richmond stations. My DX Log and RDS/HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with the new content below.
94.7 WQDR Raleigh, NC, tropo, 217 miles over local WIAD
97.7 WZKT Walnut Creek, NC, tropo, 234 miles
107.5 WAZO Southport, NC, tropo, 320 miles
New HD Radio and RDS decodes from relogs:
90.3 WHRO Norfolk, VA, tropo, 135 miles
92.5 WYFL Henderson, NC, tropo, 177 miles
93.1 WWLB Ettrick, VA, tropo, 98 miles
97.7 WAFL Milford, DE, tropo, 97 miles
98.7 WRMR Greensboro, NC, tropo, 236 miles over local WMZQ
99.9 WCMC Holly Springs, NC, tropo, 218 miles
101.9 WIKS New Bern, NC, tropo, 239 miles
102.7 WJJX Appomattox, VA, tropo, 126 miles
106.5 WSFL New Bern, NC, tropo, 251 miles
107.9 WNCT Greenville, NC, tropo, 228 miles over local WLZL
Audio from relogs: 93.3 WERO Washington, NC, 228 miles over local WFLS