About The Author

Sandy St. John is a degreed field engineer with several decades of civil engineering surveying, microwave path surveying and transmission engineering design experience. Even though their numbers are growing, she is still one of only a handful of female tower climbers in the U.S. When she is not surveying microwave paths, the licensed commercial pilot enjoys spending time racing general aviation aircraft. She exhibits high moral and ethical standards and Christian values. She operates Maranantha Microwave Path Surveys and loves discussing the unique and critical nature of her work.

1 Comment

  1. Sandy: I read both your published articles, which I found refreshingly excellent, in educating our telecommuni-
    cation industry in the important task of field surveying. For over 46 years I work-
    ed as a communication project engineer for three long lines telephone companies and Washington St. DOT ITS Comm. & Wireless Tech, engineering new radio sites and new MW links. I also upgraded old sites & old MW links. I was a BSEE radio engineer and certified Master I NARTE engineer. In addition, I was certified as an instructor in tower climbing safety and rescue training, certifying our radio techs annually to maintain our radio towers and install our MW & LMR antenna-feeder systems on radio towers. I loved being in the field while many of my counterparts preferred the safety and comfort of the office. I did it all, designing the MW paths, straight single links and beam bender, single or dual passive reflector, links, installing the new MW antenna-systems on the towers, aligning the MW dishes over the link, and finally perform the sweep and fault location testing on both end antenna-feeder systems.

    When I worked for the long lines telco in Alaska I was learning my radio engineer- ing craft, mostly in the field. My engineering friend, Dick Laine with then GTE Lenkurt, taught me that an engineer can only become an expert in his or her profession, if they got out into the field. The APUC gave our long lines telco the challenge of installing new MW backbone & spur link systems all over the state ASAP. The engineering dept handed out the new link projects to the new hires, who had no path designing experience. After some of links were Implemented and were later found to be in various degrees of degraded performance, I was hand chosen by the bosses to field investigate these poorly operating paths to come up with solutions. I discovered my co-engineers only performed paper map surveys and never once visited the radio sites. The no. 1 problem were near end or mid-path obstructions: solid ground, trees, and manmade structures. Some of these obstructed paths could have met the required clearance requirements, if they had implemented a new taller radio tower with the MW dish tower mounted at the required higher tower elevation. It was not cost-effective to replace the shorter towers with more expensive taller towers. Our telco had to live with providing some of their customers with degraded service.

    The only MW radio engineer for one State agency would determine his MW link clearances by stretching a rubber band between two points in question over a raised contour map of the State. His Chief Engineer told me that half of his radio engineer’s “rubber band” designed MW links were either blocked or grazing. This State Agency spent millions trying to fix these obstructed paths or having to live with the degraded MW links.

    With many of these inexperienced radio engineers out there designing MW paths without the necessary field surveys, your field service company should be kept busy for a long time. The word about companies such as yours needs to get out there to the uneducated public. Some time ago I had recommended you with your company to an engineer, Diallo Bobacar, with a Canadian power utility who was tasked with upgrading their existing MW network. This existing network needed a person of your talents to document this large telephone system. I told him that you had successfully done contract field work for Alcatel. I do not know if he ever contacted you.

    Keep doing the good work; and, keep looking up. Regards,
    Richard S Gunn, Retired Believer

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