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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N345, October 4, 2015

The Radio Scene on a French Island in the Indian Ocean (Debris from the Missing Malaysian Airliner!)

Three or four weeks back, the French government issued a news release stating that a section of an airplane wing that was found washed up on the east coast of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean was indeed from the missing Malaysian airliner, Flight MH370. Following an intensive study of the 6 feet long wing part known as a flaperon, the French authorities confirmed that it was indeed from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 which had mysteriously disappeared 18 months earlier while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to Beijing, China.

French investigators have now confirmed that the part number 657 BB, found stenciled inside the edge of the flaperon, has been accurately identified by a technician at Airbus Defense and Space in Spain, which made this particular part for Boeing. The aircraft, which had 239 passengers and crew onboard, was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, when air traffic control lost contact with it.

Despite an extensive search in the wide areas of the southern Indian Ocean, no trace of the aircraft had been found until the discovery of the barnacle-encrusted flaperon on Reunion Island, more than 2,000 miles west from the main search site. Recent news reports indicate that local and international authorities are continuing the search for possible other airplane parts along the eastern coastal areas of Reunion Island, as well as along the eastern coast of other nearby islands. In addition, the search for the main wreckage of the plane continues in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean several hundred miles off the coast of Western Australia.

The broken flaperon from the right wing of the missing aircraft was found washed up on the north east shoulder of Reunion Island, near the village of St. Andre. It was mid morning on Wednesday, July 29 (2015) that Johnny Begue discovered the piece of aircraft debris washed up on the shore line. He waded into the shallow water and retrieved the now celebrated relic, partly buried in the sand.

He and his fellow beach maintenance workers discussed their find, and decided that they should report the matter to the news media and to the police. Johnny Begue called his favorite radio station, Radio Freedom St. Andre 106.2 FM, and at first they just could not believe his story. Nevertheless, he was interviewed over the air, and within hours the whole world was aware of the spectacular find.

Reunion Island is shaped in the form of an irregular circle and it is located in the Indian Ocean 400 miles east of the much larger island Madagascar. Reunion is around 35 miles across, and there are two volcanoes, one active and one dormant.

The current population is around one million, and their capital city is St. Denis, which lies on the coast at the northern edge of the island. The official language is French, and the local spoken language is French Creole, though English is a compulsory second language taught at school.

In its earliest years, Reunion was uninhabited, though visited by Arab traders. The first European visitors to sight the island were the Portuguese in 1507; and two years later, the Portuguese were the first to land on the island. In 1638, the French laid claim to the island, and their first settlers arrived 27 years later.

The British navy took over the island in 1810, but the Congress of Vienna gave the island back to the French five years later. During World War 2 in Europe, Reunion initially sided with Vichy France, though on November 30, 1942, the Free French took over.

The first wireless station on Reunion Island was installed at St. Denis soon after the end of World War 1, and it was on the air under the callsign HYO. Subsequently, the electrical spark wireless equipment was replaced by electronic valve equipment.

The first radio broadcasting service was inaugurated around mid year 1935 with the part time usage of a low powered 60 watt communication transmitter on 6000 kHz. Two years later, the station was listed with a service also on mediumwave, 617 kHz at 160 watts.

Then, for the next several years, Radio St. Denis was noted with a somewhat irregular program service on mediumwave and/or shortwave with the use of low power on various shortwave channels at various times, including 4797, 4800, 4807, 7170, 9600 and 9615 kHz. At this stage, programming was on the air generally only for half an hour in the morning, and three quarters of an hour in the evening.

Beginning in 1950, the technical equipment was upgraded, and on air programming was considerably increased. Mediumwave was listed with 1 kW on approximately 620 kHz, and on shortwave, one transmitter at 1.5 kW on 3380 kHz and 4820 kHz at different times during the broadcast day.

A dozen years or more later, a more substantial broadcast station was constructed, with several transmitters rated at 4, 8 and 20 kW for use on mediumwave and shortwave. At this stage, the main capital city coverage was heard on 620 kHz, and regional coverage throughout the island was available on four channels in the tropical and international shortwave bands.

Regional mediumwave stations have also appeared on the radio dial at various times:

St. Pierre Southern coast of Reunion Island 25 kW 1964-1975
La Port North west coast 4 kW 1985-1994
St. Andre North east coast 5, 10 and ultimately 20 kW 1979 to present time

For a short period of time around the year 1975, an additional shortwave location was on the air on the island of Reunion. This shortwave unit radiated 1.5 kW on 3210 kHz, and it was on the air at St. Andre, the same locale where the aircraft debris was found.

The usage of shortwave for local coverage was terminated at the end of the year 1975, leaving just two mediumwave units for the entire island:

St. Denis 20 kW 666 kHz
St. Andre 5 kW 1215 kHz

However, these days there are more than 100 FM stations located throughout the island of Reunion, thus providing multiple coverage to all scattered locations.

More on Reunion in three weeks time.