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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 13
March 31, 2000


+Available on ARRL Audio News


In a dramatic situation this week off the coast of Central America, Amateur Radio operators on the 20-meter Maritime Mobile Service Net helped get a wounded boy to safety after he was shot by what were being called "pirates."

The nightmare began the afternoon of March 28 for the family of Jacco van Tuijl, KH2TD, as he and his 13-year-old son Willem, were in an inflatable dinghy, not far from their 44-foot sailing sloop. Wife and mother Jannie van Tuijl, KH2TE, remained aboard the sailboat. The van Tuijls, from the Netherlands, have been cruising various parts of the world since 1995.

van Tuijl said the family was anchored behind a reef with a couple of other sailboats in the vicinity--one at anchor--some 50 miles off the coast of Honduras. The father and son were visiting with acquaintances aboard the other anchored sailboat when Jacco van Tuijl saw four or five men in an open wooden boat come alongside his vessel and board.

van Tuijl and his son headed back toward their vessel, but one of the pirates brandished a "machine gun" when they were about 20 yards away. In ensuing gunfire, the boy was wounded in the abdomen and the dinghy was damaged and flipped over, dumping the pair into the water. van Tuijl said the marauders "got nervous" and soon left the scene after taking the damaged dinghy and outboard motor with them.

van Tuijl managed to get his injured son, bleeding badly, back on board his sailboat. He then turned on his radio to seek help, breaking into a QSO involving Phil Fiol, WB2BMC, in Florida. Fiol moved KH2TD down to the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300 MHz while the other station called the US Coast Guard. Other amateurs in the US--alerted to the incident by the Maritime Net activity--also contacted the US Coast Guard, which, in turn got in touch with Honduran authorities. A Honduran Navy station came on frequency several hours later to help coordinate the rescue effort with van Tuijl.

Fiol credits Frederick Moore, W3ZU, in Pennsylvania--a fluent Spanish speaker--with helping to translate. Fiol says he and W3ZU alternated net control duties during the long night. He said other assisting stations included WB1AVE, KD5BZ, J39GH, N3FK, W1KY, and YV5/VE7AMV.

The van Tuijls' vessel and the other two vessels in the vicinity then pulled anchor and headed for the Honduran coast to rendezvous with a Honduran Navy vessel. In the meantime, the family rendered first aid to Willem. Two Amateur Radio-physicians--one of them Dr Jim Hirschman, K4TCV--in Florida provided the family with valuable medical advice that van Tuijl thinks helped to keep the youth alive overnight, despite heavy loss of blood. He also expressed his gratitude for the amateur support. "You guys are great!" he told those on the Net.

Once the van Tuijls' vessel arrived off Honduras Wednesday morning, the boy and his mother were taken aboard a Honduran Naval vessel, then airlifted to a hospital, where Willem underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon. Jacco van Tuijl stayed aboard the sloop. Through an Amateur Radio phone patch arrangement via Ed Petzolt, K1LNC, in Florida the van Tuijls were able to discuss their son's condition.

Jacco van Tuijl said he and his wife decided to get their Amateur Radio tickets during an extended stay in Guam, because they sometimes sail in remote regions. van Tuijl agreed that the decision to get licensed turned out to be a good one.

van Tuijl said the family was on its way back to the Netherlands when the incident occurred. He says he hopes the name of his vessel--Hayat--will be a good omen. In Turkish, his mother's native language, van Tuijl said, "it means 'life.' That's got to be a good sign."

Petzolt this week appealed to the White House and is exploring other avenues in efforts to expedite US medical aid for Willem van Tuijl, who's now is in a hospital in La Saba, Honduras. Doctors there have recommended he be taken to the US for further treatment for his serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. The situation is said to be complicated by the fact that the youngster is a foreign national.

Jacco van Tuijl arrived in Roatan Thursday evening and was at his son's bedside Friday morning. Doctors have told the family that if Willem does not get proper medical followup within the next day or two, it could lead to irreversible complications.

Update (Mar 31, 2000): Through the office of ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, arrangements have been made for Willem van Tuijl to be transported to Children's Medical Center of Dallas. The hospital has graciously agreed to accept Willem as a patient and treat him without first having a guarantee of payment. The hospital also will provide transportation for the boy from Vicente de Antonio Hospital in La Saba, Honduras, to the US.

The arrangement with Children's followed contacts by Haynie's office with US Rep Pete Sessions. Willem's parents, Jacco and Jannie van Tuijl, KH2TD and KH2TE, will accompany him to the US.

The transfer from Honduras to Dallas is set to occur this evening, and a plane took off from Dallas at around 5:45 PM Central Time, headed for Central America. Haynie's office also was able to make arrangements for the airport in Honduras to remain open past its usual 9 PM closing time to accommodate the flight from the US. The flight is expected to arrive shortly before 9 PM.

Another last-minute wrinkle also apparently has been overcome--thanks to the generosity of the local Amateur Radio community in La Saba. The hospital in Honduras reportedly would not release the youngster until it had been paid. Willem's father has signed a payment voucher, and local amateurs there have said they will cover the bill.


Dozens of Amateur Radio volunteers were on duty this week in the Fort Worth, Texas, area in the wake of tornadoes Tuesday night that claimed several lives and left downtown Fort Worth a shambles.

The twisters hit around suppertime, during the tail end of the afternoon rush hour. Eyewitness accounts said it looked like a bomb had exploded, shattering glass in high-rise buildings and leaving debris everywhere. With power out to thousands of customers in a wide area and telephone service--including cellular--interrupted, Amateur Radio has been able to fill its more traditional role of providing emergency and backup communication. Hams reportedly have been assisting local and emergency officials in tracking damage resulting from the severe weather as well as helping to coordinate shelters.

Dallas County RACES Officer Johnny Davis, K5JD, said amateurs were handling traffic on VHF and UHF repeaters as well as on simplex frequencies. Davis said he expected that amateurs could be involved in the tornado for several more days. "In the pictures I saw there are wires everywhere, there's debris, it's just mass destruction in some areas," he said.

SKYWARN nets in Tarrant and Dallas counties were activated in advance of the storms, and the National Weather Service already had warned of the possibility of tornadoes. Fort Worth RACES reported a tornado on the ground at 4th and 6th streets in downtown Fort Worth at 6:18 PM Central Time.

SKYWARN member Rick Moran, KC5STX, said amateur spotter reports were able to add an extra 10 to 15 minutes warning for those in the path of the tornadoes. As described it, the tornado "raced through Fort Worth proper, piling cars like cord wood and sucking windows from high-rise office towers." Moran said the city was plunged into darkness "as hundreds of power transformers popped in the path of the storm." For a while, it appeared as though Dallas might also be hit. A twister also caused extensive damage in Arlington, Moran said.

Denton County SKYWARN Coordinator George Lindley, WA5HKW, said Fort Worth RACES requested its assistance with communications after the twisters had blasted through the city. Ten operators took an emergency communications van to Fort Worth and assisted for several hours in the search for missing or unaccounted for people, using the van as a command post.

SATERN Southern Coordinator Jerry Jennison, N5OKQ, from San Angelo, reports that the Salvation Army had set up two temporary shelters, and the City of Fort Worth and the Red Cross have set up one shelter apiece to house those left homeless or without a place to go. Downtown Fort Worth was closed off to the public, and several buildings there were said to have been heavily damaged--possibly beyond repair. Hams have been helping to provide communication at shelter sites and are expected to be used during the damage assessment.


Nine "special topics" forums have been posted to supplement the general forum accepting membership comments on the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education Program. Interim Forum Moderator L.B. Cebik, W4RNL, invites members to contribute ideas, help answer challenging questions or help formulate aspects of the program in any or all of the forums.

The Web-based forum site,, went "live" earlier this month to collect member input on how the new ARRL Certification and Continuing Education program should be designed and what it should include. The complementary special topics forums were provided to help focus member comments in areas where forum participants have expressed a particular interest. These forums now include: Emergency Communications; Teaching and Training in Amateur Radio; Web-Based Education; Testing, Measurement, and Troubleshooting; Integrating Elmers into Continuing Education; Morse--CW Proficiency; Advanced Communications Electronics Topics; Hands-On Experiments in Continuing Education; and Presentations and CEU Credits.

"If these prove fruitful, we may add more special topics forums," Cebik said. Since the forum opened, more than 650 comments have been posted, and Cebik says the input has generally been extremely helpful.

"There have been many good contributions," he said. "Some are expressions of needs--and from some of those will emerge the list of advanced or special topics study units." Cebik said some contributors have offered definite ideas on content, while others have called attention to other sources of information and other programs that may serve of partial models.

According to Cebik, the Emergency Communications forum has been the most active of among those in the special topics group. "Pat Lambert, W0IPL, has been absorbing the incoming ideas and revising a working outline for the group to use as a source for further input," he explained.

Members are invited to suggest specific programs and areas of study or skills development they would like to see as part of the Certification Program. All comments posted are available for all participants to read. Return visits are encouraged. "All ideas are welcome and valuable in shaping the program to come," Cebik said.

The League expects to roll out the initial phase of the Certification and Continuing Education Program later this year.


Hank Grilk, WA2CCN, of Lincoln, Rhode Island, has found himself in a situation of dubious envy--a bit like the dog who chases cars and finally catches one. Now, what does he do with it? Several months ago, Grilk took it upon himself to write Sen Jonathan F. Oster, who represents the district where he lives, to request state legislation that supports PRB-1, the limited federal pre-emption.

Much to his surprise, Oster wrote him back to let him know that he'd introduced a bill, 2000-S 2304, in late March in Rhode Island's General Assembly. Now, Grilk figures the ball is in his court to drum up enthusiasm and support for the bill among the Ocean State's amateur community. The measure would prevent localities from enacting or attempting to enforce zoning restrictions or prohibitions against the installation or use of towers "and/or antennas" by Amateur Radio licensees that would make effective radio communication "difficult or impossible."

The Rhode Island bill specifies a minimum 50-foot tower height. Grilk says Oster came up with that number on his own. "I'm incredibly impressed with the responsiveness of Sen Oster on this matter, and I certainly want him to know that he has the support of Rhode Island's amateurs," Grilk said this week. "I don't have a clue about how he came up with the 50-foot idea."

Grilk now is soliciting comments from Rhode Island hams on whether to leave that figure in the bill or to propose something different. A former ARRL Headquarters staff member, Grilk also has sought assistance from ARRL in seeing the bill over the legislative hurdles that lie ahead.

So far, ten states have PRB-1 laws in place. New York and Kansas also are considering PRB-1 bills.

Rhode Island hams may contact Grilk at or write him at 1 West Butterfly Way, Lincoln, RI 02865.


Two more countries have joined a small but growing list of administrations that have adopted a 5 WPM Morse code test requirement for full access to the HF bands.

South Africa has approved a full HF-access license plus what it called "a practical based student license"--both requiring a 5 WPM code test. The new Class A3 ticket--with a distinctive ZT call sign prefix--provides "full license" privileges at up to 100 W output. The new entry-level Class B license aimed at school-aged youth, requires completing what's called a "modular syllabus"--essentially a construction project that results in a completed station. Licensees will be assigned ZU-prefix call signs and be able to operate at up to 25 W output on selected band segments. The 12 WPM Morse code requirement remains in place for the Class A1 "full license," which carries the ZS prefix, privileges on all bands and a maximum output of 400 W.

Meanwhile, the Wireless Institute of Australia is claiming a substantial victory in its efforts to get the Australian Communications Authority to lower the Morse code license test speed for full access to HF bands there from 10 to 5 WPM. The ACA has said it plans to merge the privileges of the current Intermediate and Unrestricted licenses. The change will take place by mid-year, just in time for the expected influx of visitors for the Olympics in Sydney.

Under the plan, Australian Intermediate licensees will get the same HF privileges as so-called "full call" licensees. The two license classes and their distinctive call signs blocks would remain, however, as would the 10 WPM code requirement for the Unrestricted ticket. The Intermediate License currently requires a 5 WPM Morse test and has restricted access to 80, 15, and 10 meters at 100 W output. So-called "Full calls" get access to all Australian amateur allocations at up to 400 W. Once the ACA upgrades the Intermediate license, holders would have full HF access and privileges.

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.

South Africa and Australia join the US, the UK, Sweden, and Gibraltar among countries that have lowered the Morse code requirement for full HF access to 5 WPM. A reduced Morse code requirement is under consideration in Canada, India, and Germany.--thanks to Jim Linton VK3PC, President WIA Victoria, and Jim Price, N3QYE


NCJ, the National Contest Journal, this week opened a new Web site to complement the printed magazine. Created by Bruce Horn, WA7BNM, the new site offers sample articles from recent NCJ issues; rules, records and information about the popular NA Sprint and North American QSO Party contests; DX-Ventures, a wealth of information about operating overseas; and a calendar of upcoming contests. The site will also feature timely topics of special interest to the contest community, beginning with coverage of the World Radiosport Team Championship to be held this July in Slovenia.

The NCJ logo

The National Contest Journal is a bi-monthly magazine published by the ARRL for the contesting community. Each issue is loaded with information of interest to contesters and DXers, from casual observer to hardcore competitor, from little pistol to big gun. NCJ covers the latest innovations in contesting and profiles contesters in action around the world.

But you don't have to consider yourself to be a contester to enjoy reading the magazine. "Contesters build some of the biggest and most effective stations in the world, and they develop the most efficient operating techniques around," said NCJ Editor Dennis Motschenbacher, K7BV. "Some of the information in the NCJ, like that pertaining to antenna system design and equipment improvements, is valuable to a broad range of ham radio enthusiasts."

Visit the new NCJ Web site at


Sun watcher Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Last week's conditions for the CQ Worldwide WPX Phone Contest turned out to be quite good. The predicted geomagnetic upset did not arrive. This is the second time recently that bad conditions were forecast for a contest weekend, and then the energy from the coronal hole or flare that was expected to disrupt propagation did not affect the earth.

Solar flux and sunspot numbers were higher this week than last, with average sunspot numbers up 54 points and average solar flux rising several points. Solar flux actually peaked for the short term during the previous week on March 22 at 235.6. The low for week was Tuesday, when solar flux was 200.9. It may go lower this weekend.

The predicted solar flux for the next five days, Friday through Tuesday, is 205, 200, 195, 205 and 210. Flux values may again dip below 200 around April 10-16, then peak near 250 around April 22 or 23. Possible days of geomagnetic upset, based on the solar rotation are April 18 and 19 and April 28.

Sunspot numbers for March 23 through 29 were 236, 230, 243, 255, 227, 232 and 238 with a mean of 237.3. The 10.7-cm flux was 224.1, 218.9, 205.1, 211.3, 204.9, 200.9 and 208.8, with a mean of 210.6. The estimated planetary A indices were 11, 10, 8, 5, 5, 5 and 9, with a mean of 7.6.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The EA RTTY Contest, the SP DX Contest, and the 500th Anniversary of Brazil Discovery Contest are the weekend of April 1-2. Just ahead: The Japan International DX Contest (CW), the QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party (CW), and His Majesty the King of Spain Contest are the weekend of April 7-9; the VHF/UHF Spring Sprints are April 10. See April QST, page 100, for more information.

  • Brennan Price, N4QX, to join ARRL HQ team: Brennan Price, N4QX, of Atlanta, Georgia, will join the Field & Educational Services staff at ARRL Headquarters in mid-April. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and Georgia Tech, Price is described by Georgia Section Manager Sandy Donahue, W4RU, as "an avid ham, NTS member, contester and all-around good guy." He'll bring experience with repeater coordination issues and as a Volunteer Examiner to his new position. At ARRL HQ, Price's duties will involve working with the Official Observer/Amateur Auxiliary program and serving as the National Frequency Coordinating Officer, a liaison with the coordinating community.

  • West Central Florida poised for possible expansion: The new ARRL West Central Florida Section could gain a new county. League members in Pasco County have voted overwhelmingly to become part of the West Central Florida Section. The membership vote was 174 to 6. The issue now must be approved by the ARRL Board of Directors.

  • K6BZ is new Sacramento Valley SM: Jerry Boyd, K6BZ, becomes Sacramento Valley Section Manager April 1. He was appointed to succeed Jettie Hill, W6RFF, who has stepped down. Boyd expressed his appreciation to Hill for his 16 years of service as Sacramento Valley SM and for his many years of work in the ARRL Field Organization.

  • Florida ham cited for saving life: Ken Johnson, N4ZEB, of Palm Bay, Florida, received the Life Saving Award from the Palm Bay Police Department on March 8 after helping to save the life of a motorcyclist earlier this year. Johnson is a volunteer with the Palm Bay Police Department's Volunteer Citizens Observer Program (VCOP) and Disaster Communications Services (DCS) programs. Early on February 27, he and two other volunteer observers were on a night patrol as part of a pilot volunteer program to perform nighttime commercial building checks for the Palm Bay Police Department. At about 2 AM, Johnson spotted a fast-moving motorcycle on the opposite side of the highway go out of control. The volunteer observers reported the accident to police. Johnson then went back to where the motorcyclist was lying unconscious in the passing lane of the highway. Because that section of highway was unlighted, the motorcycle off the road, and the motorcyclist dressed in black, the accident scene was not obvious to traffic. Johnson positioned his vehicle between the traffic and the motorcyclist. He then assisted the other observers by providing communications and directing traffic around the scene until police and fire crews arrived. The motorcyclist--who was wearing a helmet--was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released. As a result of this incident, night patrols continue to be an integral part of the Palm Bay Police Department's VCOP program.--Steven Hathaway, WB2CKM/Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Society

  • Two die in tower mishap: Two North Carolina men are dead after wind toppled a radio tower they were helping to erect in Burke County. The Raleigh News & Observer reported March 21 that Chester Arthur Smith, 46, and Steven Albert English, 37, both of Nebo, North Carolina, fell 60 feet to their deaths March 18 when a wind gust toppled the tower as it was under construction. The newspaper and other accounts identified the structure as a "ham radio tower." Neither man's name could be found in the FCC's Amateur Service database, nor could the name of Foy Deal, who, the news report said, lived at the site where the tower was under construction. The Burke County Sheriff's Office said four other men were hoisting a tower section to Smith and English atop the partially assembled structure when a wind gust broke the suspended section, causing the tower to topple.

  • Joe says it ain't so: Rumor had it that, under pending new regulations, hams in Israel would not be allowed to send Morse code faster than 25 WPM. Not true! IARU Liaison Officer and Honorary IARC President Joseph Obstfeld, 4X6KJ, says the incorrect notion resulted from a misunderstanding that stemmed from a single sentence in the March HaGAL International newsletter. Obstfeld said that the error--made in a speech as well as in the newsletter report--doesn't jibe with the new Israeli licensing conditions--yet to be issued and to be printed on the back of each license: "A station shall not transmit in the Morse code faster than 25 WPM for identification purposes." Obstfeld said the intent, in the context of the new Class D+ license with its 5 WPM Morse code requirement, was to give those "less competent in the CW field" a fighting chance to at least identify faster stations. It is not an across-the-board requirement.--Joseph Obstfeld, 4X6KJ
    [Sabina Armbrust, KE4YIO]

    [Sabina Armbrust, KE4YIO]

  • "Sparky" racks up 60 years as ARRL member: West Central Florida Section Manager Dave Armbrust, AE4MR (left), presented a 60-year ARRL membership plaque to John "Sparky" Spark, W4LHP, of Lakeland, Florida, on March 7, 2000 at the Lakeland Amateur Radio Club. "Sparky"--who's 89--was first licensed in 1937, and he still remembers when going mobile required special permission from the FCC.--Dave Armbrust, AE4MR

  • ULS out-of-service hours: The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has announced that the Universal Licensing System no longer will be accessible between the hours of 12:15 and 2:15 AM Eastern Time. This is to facilitate system maintenance. Users are advised to file applications at other times. The FCC Technical Support Hotline is 202-414-1250 (TTY: 202-414-1255); or send comments or questions to For ULS licensing support and forms information, call toll-free 888-CALLFCC (225-5322) or e-mail To obtain forms, call toll-free 800-418-FORM (3676); via fax-on-demand, call 202-418-0177.--FCC Daily Digest


The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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