ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 7
February 18, 2000

IN THIS EDITION:

+Available on ARRL Audio News

CANADA, AUSTRALIA EYE MORSE SPEED REDUCTION

Canada and Australia could follow the US in reducing the Morse code examination requirement to 5 WPM for full HF access. Radio Amateurs of Canada announced plans this month to ask Industry Canada to eliminate that country's 12 WPM Morse requirement. The RAC Board of Directors has voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, expected to be filed soon. If enacted, the change would leave 5 WPM as the sole Morse code examination requirement for full HF access in Canada.

Meanwhile, the Wireless Institute of Australia reports it's seriously considering whether to push regulatory authorities to reduce the maximum Morse code license test speed Down Under from 10 to 5 WPM. WIA says it expects to discuss the matter in detail next month with the Australian Communications Authority.

The WIA says a majority of its membership divisions appear to favor the reduction from 10 to 5 WPM in Australia. The general issue of Morse code licensing requirements is expected to be a topic for debate at the IARU Region 3 conference the WIA will host later this year. Discussion of the International Radio Regulations regarding the Morse code requirement is not expected to come up prior to the World Radiocommunication Conference set for 2003.

A single 5 WPM Morse code examination requirement for HF access goes into effect in the US on April 15 as part of sweeping licensing rules changes. The United Kingdom and Sweden also have adopted 5 WPM as the Morse code examination requirement for access to the full HF amateur spectrum. The South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is said to be poised to act on a South African Radio League request for a lower code speed limit there. Other nations have expressed interest in the issue.

The Israeli Ministry of Communications has introduced a new license with a 6 WPM Morse code requirement that gives CW-only access to HF bands. The new ticket does not include all HF bands, however.

GEORGIA AMATEURS RESPOND TO TORNADO DISASTER

Amateur Radio operators responded in force after tornadoes struck rural extreme southwestern Georgia this week, killing at least 18 and injuring around 100 others. The storms wiped out nearly 200 houses. Georgia Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Rogers, KR4OL, reports that hams from nearby communities including Moultrie and Albany turned out to help.

Twisters generating winds in excess of 150 MPH leveled a housing development in the town of Camilla, in Mitchell County late Sunday and early Monday. The town was one of the worst-hit areas. The storm also tore roofs from houses and flattened mobile homes. The storm caught many by surprise since warnings were not issued until after residents had retired for the night.

Georgia Gov Roy Barnes declared a state of emergency in Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Tift counties. Georgia Emergency Management Agency reports emergency shelters have been set up in Camilla and Moultrie. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross also were involved in the recovery effort.

"Shelters are open, and the Georgia Baptist Hams are setting up feeding locations and assisting with the cleanup," Rogers said. An HF emergency net was established on 75 meters to coordinate activities, but the need for emergency communication was minimal since the telecommunications infrastructure was still intact.

Damage was put at $25 million. Thousands were left without power in Georgia and elsewhere as a result of the severe weather. The storm that wreaked havoc on Georgia was part of a system that also struck Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama before moving into Georgia, Northeastern Florida and the Carolinas.

FCC AFFIRMS FINE; UNLICENSED OPERATION CONTINUES

The FCC has affirmed a $20,000 fine levied on a Florida man last summer for unlicensed operation, willful and malicious interference with Amateur Radio communications, and failure to let the FCC inspect his radio equipment. The FCC's January 28 Forfeiture Order gives William Flippo of Jupiter 30 days to pay up or the matter will be referred to the US Attorney.

Following an FCC Warning Notice, Flippo initially was notified of the fine last July in an FCC Notice of Apparent Liability. Hams in Florida say Flippo has thumbed his nose at the FCC and has continued to flout the law by interfering with local HF and repeater nets. FCC personnel from the FCC's Tampa District Office have followed up on complaints from amateurs that Flippo--also known by his CB handle of "Rabbit Ears"--has regularly interfered with hams on 10 meters, 2 meters and elsewhere. The Order acknowledges that the Commission has received information on "at least five occasions" since the fine was levied last July indicating that Flippo continues to violate federal law.

Flippo's only response to last year's Notice of Apparent Liability was to send the FCC a copy of a one-page bankruptcy filing. The FCC was not impressed, however. "In a case where an NAL has been issued and the recipient continues to engage in the same conduct, we are not inclined to adjust the forfeiture amount, even where the recipient has filed for bankruptcy protection," the Commission said.

One Jupiter-area ham who has cooperated with the FCC investigation says Flippo has been causing problems for the amateur community in his area since late 1997. He and fellow members of the Jupiter-Tequesta Repeater Group want to see the FCC take a stronger stand in the case.

"I want to see the guy in jail--plain and simple--and his equipment confiscated," said the amateur, who did not want to be identified by name fearing retaliation. "The problem is, we're all playing by the rules here, and this guy goes out and buys a radio and he gets on there and does whatever he wants and brags about it."

FCC personnel from the Tampa office have visited the Jupiter area at least twice last year as a result of amateur complaints alleging malicious interference from Flippo, primarily on VHF but also on some HF amateur bands.

FCC FINES TWO TEXAS AMATEURS FOR MALICIOUS INTERFERENCE

The FCC has fined two Texas hams $8000 apiece for allegedly interfering with a local repeater and failing to identify. Paul E. Holcombe, K4TOF, and Robert L. Myers, N5WLY, both of Houston, were notified last month by the FCC's Houston office. The fines come in the aftermath of an FCC investigation undertaken last year that involved the use of direction-finding equipment. The FCC says it's been hearing complaints of interference to the Memorial Emergency Repeater Association's system for more than five years now.

On separate occasions in February and May, FCC personnel from the Houston field office used direction-finding gear to track transmissions interfering with MERA's 145.47 repeater to Holcombe's and Meyers' vehicles. As a result, Holcombe and Meyers each received a Notice of Violation from the FCC last June. Since being cited, both men have denied the allegations in statements to the FCC.

In both cases, the FCC determined otherwise and ordered Holcombe and Meyers to pay the fines within 30 days or to file written statements showing why the forfeitures should be reduced or canceled.

K1LNC NAMED AS INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN AWARD WINNER

The ARRL has named Edwin Petzolt, K1LNC, of Hobe Sound, Florida, as the winner of its 1999 International Humanitarian Award. A presentation was made earlier this month at the Miami Tropical Hamboree by ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, and ARRL Southeastern Division Director Frank Butler, W4RH.

On June 29, 1998, Petzolt responded to an on-the-air emergency call on 20 meters and found himself on the other end of a life-threatening situation in Central America where heavily armed gunmen had kidnapped four missionaries in northern Guatemala and held them for ransom. Desperate to save his family, missionary Elam Stolfus, TG7XQS, turned to ham radio--his only connection to the outside world. On the other end he found Ed Petzolt, K1LNC.

Upon learning of the family's plight, Petzolt, phone-patched Stolfus to the US Embassy in Guatemala City to arrange for military and police assistance. He then remained at the radio for much of the next seven hours to provide communications and relay information that would contribute to the successful rescue of the hostages and the capture of the terrorists.

The ARRL International Humanitarian Award recognizes extraordinary service through Amateur Radio skills for the benefit of others in times of crisis or disaster. The award recipient is selected by a committee appointed by the League's President. Petzolt's award was confirmed by the ARRL Board of Directors during its meeting last month in Memphis.

An ARRL Life Member, Petzolt credited Bud Palmer, KC4LCD, Tim Reeves, WB4WUK, and "everyone else who helped keep the frequency clear," with making the rescue mission possible.

The story of Petzolt's efforts is detailed in "Guatemala Rescue!" in The ARRLWeb Extra for September 1, 1998, on the ARRLWeb Members Only site, http://www.arrl.org/members-only/ extra/features/1998/0901/1/index.html.

A footnote: Petzolt this week became involved in another Amateur Radio rescue mission: "I patched a doctor from Honduras to a doctor in Pennsylvania this morning regarding a nine-month-old little girl with a life-threatening, congenital heart condition," he reported February 17. Petzolt said the US doctor agreed to perform the surgery in Pennsylvania for free. He then patched the ham--Ronaldo Roll, HR3RON, a Catholic priest--into the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa to arrange to expedite the necessary paperwork for the infant and her mother to get a medical visa. Petzolt said Roll has agreed to pay their airfare to and from the US. "I think I found my calling in life," Petzolt remarked.

STENSAT RELEASED BUT POSSIBLY MALFUNCTIONING

The StenSat "picosatellite" payload.

The StenSat "picosatellite" payload. [StenSat Web site]

StenSat has been released by the OPAL "mother ship," but little or nothing has been heard from the Amateur Radio picosat, raising fears that it has malfunctioned. StenSat was one of two picosats released February 10 by OPAL--Stanford University's Orbiting Picosat Automatic Launcher. The other was the JAK payload.

Since the deployment, stations monitoring StenSat's 436.625 MHz downlink have heard only very weak signals, or nothing at all. According to StenSat coordinator Hank Heidt, N4AFL, StenSat may be operating in an "abnormal mode." The picosat was supposed to transmit a CW identifier and packet telemetry after deployment, but neither have been heard. Heidt speculated that it might be operating in FM transponder mode.

Clifford Buttschardt, K7RR, reported hearing his transmissions repeated through StenSat on February 12 and 13, but signals were weak and the audio distorted. Johann Lochner, ZR1CBC, at the SunSat ground station in South Africa reported weak StenSat signals using the ground station's 4.5 meter, 450-MHz dish antenna.

The StenSat group asks amateurs to continue monitoring the downlink and sending reports to hheidt@erols.com. StenSat has a crossband repeater aboard that is designed to operate much like the popular AO-27 satellite. More information may be available on the StenSat Web site at http://users.erols.com/hheidt/.

POWER COMPANY ACTS ON AMATEUR COMPLAINTS

After prodding by the FCC, Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it's making headway in mitigating long-standing power-line noise complaints from several Northern California amateurs. Not all complaints have been resolved, however, and several new ones have sprung up in the interim.

The hams involved in the initial complaints had been unsuccessful getting the West Coast power company to investigate their reports of severe noise, so they turned to the ARRL and the FCC for help. In late November, the FCC wrote PG&E to remind the utility of its obligation to rectify equipment problems that cause harmful radio interference. The FCC requested that the company correct the problems "within a reasonable time" and report back.

The complainants were four hams in the Los Gatos/San Jose area and another in Berkeley. ARRL Lab Supervisor Ed Hare, W1RFI--the League's point man for RF interference issues--says the League has since received reports from additional hams in PG&E's service area. Those complaints were forwarded to PG&E for resolution.

In a letter to the FCC, PG&E Manager for Operations and Construction Robert Lipscomb summarized progress in clearing up the initial complaints. The work included replacing poles, guy wires, insulators, and transformers as well as installing radio/television interference "clips" at one site and re-routing a service drop at another. Lipscomb conceded, however, that the utility still has additional work to do. PG&E personnel continue to work with Hare in resolving the complaints. Hare says not all of the five hams who complained have been contacted by PG&E. One still has severe interference, he says, and another has intermittent interference.

Some interference has been cleared up, however. Lipscomb told that in at least one of the five original cases, "the customer has been contacted and he is satisfied."

The FCC's Part 15 rules obligate utilities and others that fall under their provisions to not cause harmful interference to licensed services and to cease operating a device that's causing harmful interference upon FCC notification. The ARRL Technical Information Service offers more information on how to deal with power line interference at http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/rfi-elec.html. Amateurs suffering from interference believed to be emanating from power generation or transmission facilities may contact Ed Hare, W1RFI, 860-594-0318; rfi@arrl.org.

SOLAR UPDATE

Solar sage Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Solar flux and sunspot counts increased the week before last but fell last week. The averages for both weeks were about the same, however. Average solar flux was down about 11 points last week, and average sunspot numbers were off by a little more than a point. Last weekend had a surprising burst of geomagnetic activity, when Saturday's planetary A index was 52.

For the next five days, solar flux is predicted to be 155, 150, 150, 145 and 145. Planetary A index for those same days is forecast to be 5, 5, 12, 8 and 8. For best HF conditions, we want a low A index in the single digits, and rising solar flux. So Sunday, February 20 with a planetary A index of 12 could be somewhat unsettled. Solar flux for the short term is expected to bottom out near 130 around February 25, then rise to about 150 by March 1, but peak broadly and fairly low near 175 around March 4-8.

Sunspot numbers for February 10 through 16 were 172, 184, 157, 147, 158, 158 and 182 with a mean of 165.4. The 10.7-cm flux was 175.7 170.2, 163.2, 159.9, 158.7, 156 and 160.2, with a mean of 163.4. The estimated planetary A indices were 7, 13, 52, 14, 29, 11 and 5, with a mean of 18.7.

IN BRIEF:

  • This weekend on the radio: The ARRL International DX Contest (CW) is the weekend of February 19-20.
    Just ahead: The CQ WW 160-Meter SSB Contest, the REF French Contest (SSB), the UBA Contest (CW), the YL International 7 MHz Contest (CW), the CQC Winter QRP QSO Party, and the North Carolina QSO Party are February 25-27. See February QST, page 96, for more information.

  • Forms 610 phased out: With a single exception, the venerable FCC Form 610 now is history. The FCC phased out the documents February 16. Amateur Radio applicants now must use the Universal Licensing System forms (Forms 605, 606) for all purposes. There is one exception: FCC Form 610B Club Station application continues to be valid until the FCC finalizes its privatized club station call sign administrator program.

  • ARRL says "thank you" to exemplary Special Service clubs: Every two weeks, a Special Service Club will be featured in the ARRL Special Service Club Spotlight at http://www.arrl.org/field/club/sscspot/. The first ARRL Special Service Club Spotlight features Carl Hayden Community High School Amateur Radio Club of Phoenix, Arizona. This page is open for all to see and enjoy. If you'd like to suggest your SSC for the ARRL Special Service Club Spotlight, send your information, including e-mail and Web site addresses, to Dan Miller, K3UFG, at dmiller@arrl.org. Photographs, particularly those that highlight club activities, are especially welcome. --Dan Miller, K3UFG/Field & Educational Services

  • ARRL-VEC to charge for code tests: Starting with the inception of the new FCC Amateur Radio licensing rules on April 15, 2000, the ARRL-VEC will charge a test fee of $6.65 to take the Element 1 (5 WPM Morse code) test. Until April 15, the 5 WPM Morse code test (Element 1A) and/or the Novice written test (Element 2) are free at ARRL-VEC test sessions.

  • DXCC backlog shrinking: The backlog of applications at the ARRL DXCC Desk continues to dwindle. As of this week, there were 789 applications with 70,651 cards on file, and applications filed in late November are now going out in the mail. DXCC personnel now are entering applications received during the first week of December.

  • Japan gets additional 160-meter spectrum: Word via Rio, JA1JRK, is that starting April 1, amateurs in Japan will have access to 1810-1825 kHz. Amateurs there previously have been restricted to 1907.5-1912.5 kHz. --Yosi, JA3AAW

  • US foxhunters look forward to China DF event: ARRL Amateur Radio Direction Finding Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV, says foxhunters from the US will take on the world this fall in China. For the third year, Team USA will take to the forests in the sport of hidden transmitter hunting. The next World Championship is October 13-18 in Nanjing, China. So far, a dozen hams from seven states have expressed interest in traveling to this event, which will feature separate RDF trials on 80 meters and 2 meters. There are age divisions for Juniors (under 19), Seniors (19-39), Old Timers (40-54) and Veterans (55 and over). "There's room for more on USA's national foxhunting team," Moell says. "You don't have to be a star athlete, but you should be able to walk, jog, or run through forest trails for a two-hour period." To view the official invitation to the championships and learn more about international-style foxhunting, visit http://www.homingin.com. Moell says that time is of essence, because diplomatic and travel arrangements must be made well in advance. Contact him at homingin@aol.com. --Joe Moell, K0OV

  • Dawn M. Cummings, K1TQY, SK: Women Radio Operators of New England President Dawn Cummings, K1TQY, of Keene, New Hampshire died February 2, reportedly after suffering a heart attack. She was 52. A ham since age 15 and an ARRL member, Cummings was an avid traffic handler and the Region One net manager. Her call sign also graced the "Keene Machine"--a local repeater on 146.805 MHz that she managed. Cummings was active in SKYWARN and served as an official weather observer for the Keene Sentinel and other outlets and participated in a regional weather net. She also was an active ARES member and belonged to the Quarter Century Wireless Association. "Dawn was always cheerful and polite, on and off the air," said Scott Porter, N1SP. "All of us who knew Dawn are saddened at the loss. She tirelessly worked for our hobby, and never sought the limelight." In addition to her ham radio activities, Cummings was a Red Cross volunteer. She owned and operated Anything But Common, a consignment craft store in Keene. Her father, Lem Cummings, K1IOJ, and her mother, Vivian, are among her survivors. The family invites memorial contributions to the Keene Machine, in care of Joseph Armstrong, KA1YLN, 21 Clark St, Apt 1, Brattleboro, VT 05901-6437; or The American Red Cross, 83 Court St, Keene, NH 03431. --thanks to Joe Armstrong, KA1YLN, and Scott Porter, N1SP

  • Former ARRL Circulation Manager Lorry Evans, KA1KQY, SK: ARRL Headquarters has learned that former ARRL Circulation Manager Lorraine S. "Lorry" Evans, KA1KQY, of Flagler Beach, Florida, died November 26, 1999 after a short illness. She was 71. Lorry Evans retired in 1986 after more than 16 years of service at ARRL Headquarters. "Lorry's dignified, but fun-loving nature carried over to all of her friends and colleagues," said former ARRL staffer John Nelson, K0IO. Survivors include a son and a daughter. Memorial contributions are invited to the American Cancer Society, 45 Wintonbury Ave, Bloomfield, CT 06002. --John Nelson, K0IO

 

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