SEATTLE—A lot can happen in 10 years. Presidents come and go. Regimes are toppled. Cars wear out. You gain a few pounds. And if you're the chief engineer at most TV stations, you've probably replaced more than a few transmitter tubes; most likely at considerable expense.
However, here at KIRO-TV we have operated for nearly a decade (more than 80,000 hours) with the same output tube still in service. It has transmitted thousands of news broadcasts, early shows, primetime dramas, and basketball and football games to our viewers with nary a hiccup.
How is this possible?
To be sure, luck probably has played a small role. However, in some cases you make your own luck.
IN THE BEGINNING
In our case, we had the good fortune to have our transmitter commissioned by Mark Hills of s2one. When a transmitter is first installed, it's critical to have someone on hand who knows how to configure the system for the cleanest signal and also the least amount of transmitter strain.
After the installation, we've maintained our relationship with Mark. Each year since, we've tasked him with the on-going maintenance of our transmitter. (And we've also used s2one as a resource for our FCC-mandated proofs.)
There are a number of steps that can be performed to increase the longevity of a tube, and Mark knows them all. One of the most obvious—but often overlooked—is to clean out high voltage cavities. It's also important to keep a watchful eye on the fans, cooling elements and tube protection circuitry, which can all impact longevity. Similarly, voltage levels need to be adjusted as tubes age. By maintaining our long-term relationship with s2one, we have the confidence that our transmitter would stay on the air.
PACKED AND READY TO TRAVEL
That's not to say we've never had issues. However, when something unexpected does come up, it's reassuring that Mark is always available. He keeps a private plane on standby and is ready and willing to fly to help us out on a moment's notice. (As he likes to say, his office is at his airplane hangar.)
Another important factor in having s2one on our side is the challenge nowadays of finding knowledgeable transmitter people. Our main transmitter engineer recently retired af-ter 40 years in the business. That level of expertise is hard to replace, and I'm afraid that the time when a station such as ours can afford a dedicated transmitter staff is long past.
In today's television broadcasting environment, Mark has the advantage of working on transmitters on a daily basis, providing him with a much deeper knowledge than we could ever hope to provide in house.
When our power tube finally did fail, Mark's familiarity with our transmitter (and the fact that he's also a rep for e2v) made the installation of a replacement tube a breeze. I'm happy to report that the transmitter is still humming along, and we're on our way to another 80,000 hours or more of service.
Patrick Otis has been with KIRO-TV for 22 years and has served as chief engineer for 10 years. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, contact s2one at 800-270-7050 or visit www.s2one.com.