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7:26 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Stations Off-Air to Exchange Broadcast Antennas

Listen to KWGS and KWTU online using the links in the Now Playing box at the right or through NPR's iPhone appiPad app, or Android app.

Please contact us by email at public@publicmediatulsa.org.

Sat, 11/9 • 8:06 am: Finally! Calm enough winds to safely scale the tower. Today, both stations will broadcast at low power. Our tower crew will fix a pressurization leak in our main antenna.

Thu, 9/26 • 11:12 am: While work on our refurbished backup antenna is complete, both stations remain at full power as we await lighter winds aloft to reset the antenna and complete the project. Due to an impending cold front, we anticipate that Sunday will be the likely date to complete the project. Until that time, both KWGS and KWTU will remain at full power on our main antenna. Thank you again for your patience during this important project.

Wed, 9/25 • 4:03 pm:  Both stations are back on at full power until tomorrow morning. We'll see if Thursday's wind cooperates to permit us to hoist and remount the newly-refurbished backup antenna.

Wed, 9/25 • 3:25 pm:  All eight backup antenna elements are now on the ground and are in the process of being inspected and refurbished.

Wed, 9/25 • 11:39 am:  The winds today, fortunately, are cooperating with our efforts to unbolt our backup antenna from the tower and hoist it down. The first three of eight antenna elements are now on the ground, as seen in one of the photos above.

Wed, 9/25 • 8:00 am:  Classical 88.7 went off-air and Public Radio 89.5 to low power to take advantage of this morning's calm winds. The tower crew is going up the tower to begin disassembly of the stations' backup antenna for refurbishment. We're planning on resuming normal operations by 4 pm today or earlier if the wind speed becomes unsafe at the 1000' level.

Tue, 9/24 • 4:16 pm:  We're back on-air after switching to a backup fiber connection between our studios and the microwave radio link to our transmitter. At the same time that we went off-air, the studios completely lost phone service. This afternoon's outage was completely unrelated to our antenna refurbishment project - when it rains, it pours! On Wednesday morning at 8 am, plans are to take Classical 88.7 off-air and broadcast Public Radio 89.5 at low power to take advantage of calm(er) winds before the day heats up.

If you call any Public Radio Tulsa phone number, you will not get through. Please leave a voicemail message. We'll frequently check for messages and return your call as soon as we can.

Tue, 9/24 • 1:50 pm:  Both KWTU 88.7 and KWGS 89.5 are completely off-air, not due to problems at the transmitter site, but at the studios. Engineers are troubleshooting the problem and trying to activate backup connections from the TU campus to our tower in Coweta.

Tue, 9/24 • 11:14 am:  Our tower climber crew chief, Rex Gotcher, says that gusts peaked his hand-held wind meter at the 1000' level. That meter's scale extends only to 60 mph. Chances of working on the tower today are fading because of unsafe winds. The National Weather Service indicates that tomorrow might be a more favorable day to begin backup antenna refurbishment. In the meantime, both Classical 88.7 and Public Radio 89.5 remain on-air at full power.

Tue, 9/24 • 9:23 am:  Another paradoxical day, weather-wise. Calm on the ground, but 1000' up, winds are blowing 25-35 mph - too high to safely unbolt antenna elements and guide them down to the ground. Both stations remain at full power. Watching and waiting...

Mon, 9/23 • 3:34 pm:  Both stations are now back on-air at full power and will remain so overnight. The wind this afternoon unfortunately didn't calm down around noon, as it did yesterday. None of the eight backup antenna elements were lowered to the ground, although a number of less wind-dependent tasks were accomplished. We'll try again tomorrow from 9 am - 4 pm.

Mon, 9/23 • 11:00 am:  Chief Engineer Brad Newman says that although the winds are calm at the base of our tower in Coweta, they're blowing at about 35 mph at the 1000' level where our antennas are located. That's too high for our climbing crew to safely lower the backup antenna from the tower. Work is being accomplished on the ground in preparation for that task while waiting for winds to (hopefully) calm this afternoon.

Mon, 9/23 • 9:10 am:  Classical 88.7 is now off-air until 4 pm and Public Radio 89.5 is broadcasting at 1/50 of its licensed power from the TU campus. The refurbished main antenna worked well overnight, so we feel confident enough to begin disassembling the backup antenna for refurbishment. It, too, was damaged in the wind storm a year ago that burned out our main antenna, but has operated reliably over the past year. Our goal for this phase of the project is to broadcast at full power during morning and afternoon drive times and overnight.

Sun, 9/22 • 7:22 pm:  Back on-air at full power using the refurbished main antenna. On Monday morning at 9 am, Classical 88.7 will again go off-air and KWGS to low power to safely permit the disassembly of our backup antenna. It will be lowered to the ground piece-by-piece and refurbished. Plans are to go back on-air at full power at 4 pm, regardless of the state of the backup antenna.

Sun, 9/22 • 7:54 am:  A listener asked "Why do you have to replace antennas so often?" It's not so much that we're replacing as repairing our existing antennas. The stations have had just four antennas since 1973. The first was installed when KWGS went stereo and and was broadcasting from Sand Springs. That antenna couldn't be moved to our new Coweta tower in '85, so we installed a refurbished antenna (thanks to KRAV) to increase power to 50,000 watts. That one was replaced when we added KWTU on-air in 2004 and needed to broadcast two stations through a single antenna. Our current antenna was installed in 2010 to allow us to improve HD signal coverage and provide the luxury of a backup antenna.

Usually, we just switch to our backup antenna when we experience problems, without more than a minute of interruption in our signals, which is what happened when the main burned out one year ago. But that antenna is very close to the same vertical location as the other antenna, so if the main needs work, then we need to de-energize both antennas for the safety of our tower crew. If we could afford to move the backup antenna onto a different tower, in addition to purchasing backup transmitters for KWGS and KWTU, then you'd likely never notice when we experienced transmission problems. Until then, we're blessed to have this level of redundancy.

Sat, 9/21 • 5:52 pm:  For the evening, KWGS and KWTU are back on-air at full power. The tower was successfully rigged this morning and two of the main antenna elements have been installed on the tower. Tomorrow morning, the remainder of the antenna will be hoisted, tuned, and tested. If everything checks out, then the backup antenna will be lowered to the ground section by section, inspected, fitted with new air pressure seals, and reinstalled. We're grateful for such temperate and calm weather in which to do this work.

Sat, 9/21 • 10:59 am:  Climbers are on the tower, rigging the lines and pulleys necessary to hoist our rebuilt antenna up to 1000'. Both the KWGS and KWTU main transmitters have been turned off for the safety of the tower crew, who are working in the vicinity of the antenna. The KWGS emergency transmitter is operating from the TU campus and that low-power Public Radio 89.5 signal can be heard in parts of Tulsa. KWTU remains off-air. The rebuilt main antenna will be slowly winched up, a few elements at a time, then mounted, tuned, and tested. Once we have confidence that this antenna is working, the backup antenna - from which we've been broadcasting for a year - will be lowered to the ground. If all goes well, this part of the antenna refurbishment project should be finished by Sunday night.

This afternoon's San Francisco Opera's performance of The Magic Flute, beginning at noon on Classical 88.7, can be heard online. In "Now Playing" box in the right column of this page, click "Classical 88.7-1 KWTU" and then choose one of the three online radio streams.

Fri, 9/20 • 3:45 pm:  The goal this weekend is safety first. The safety of our tower climbing crew and the safety of the tower itself is paramount. The rebuilt antenna, which consists of long copper lines and eight large round white elements, is now being inspected and prepared to be hoisted 1000' in the air. The tower will be rigged on Saturday morning with lines and pulleys. While this is occurring, it's anticipated that KWGS and KWTU will remain on-air much of the time on Saturday and only go off-air when climbers approach the energized 50,000-watt backup antenna. We hope to finish the preparatory work during daylight hours on Saturday to enable the exchange of our backup and main antennas on Sunday.

While we're off air, listen to Public Radio 89.5 and Classical 88.7 through your smartphone, tablet, computer, or new car NPR dashboard app.

Thu, 9/19 • 7:08 pm:  Second time's a charm, right? (Read all about our antenna woes in Related Content, below.) All of the pieces of our antenna puzzle, especially calm weather and the availability of our tower crew, will come together (we hope) for this to be the weekend to hoist our rebuilt antenna onto the tower. Our main antenna burned out exactly one year ago due to unusually high winds. Between then and now, our antenna has been rebuilt, the antenna manufacturer went out of business, then back into business, and this year's Wizard of Oz'ish weather has settled down. Current plans are to turn both station's main transmitters off at daybreak on Saturday morning and then return to the air late Sunday night, if all goes well. It things don't, we'll remain off through the beginning of the week until the job is done.

KWGS will be heard around parts of Tulsa, broadcasting from the TU campus at 1/50 of normal power, but KWTU will remain completely off-air.