ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 14
April 7, 2000

IN THIS EDITION:

+Available on ARRL Audio News

FCC INVITES CLOSER PARTNERSHIP WITH OFFICIAL OBSERVERS

ARRL Official Observers will be encouraged to play a more regular role in Amateur Radio enforcement, now that the FCC has established a credible Amateur Radio enforcement presence.

"It's really up to the Amateur community and to the OOs as to how much we want them to come in and start playing a role," Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth said this week.

His remarks followed a discussion on the role of Official Observers during a recent meeting of the ARRL Enforcement Task Force. The League invited Hollingsworth to attend the meeting to compare notes with him and to stress that the League wants enforcement to remain an important FCC initiative.

Since taking over the amateur enforcement helm some 18 months ago, Hollingsworth has said he first wanted to re-establish the FCC's enforcement credibility before encouraging greater participation by the OOs. Hollingsworth told the Task Force that when the ARRL felt the FCC's credibility was re-established, the FCC would be ready to ask the OOs for more help. The Task Force concurred that the time was right to gradually fold the Official Observers back into the enforcement blend.

"The FCC is in this with them--we're all in the same boat," Hollingsworth said this week, adding that he's been able to make good use of information supplied by Official Observers in amateur cases. "The problem has never been anemic OO complaints or a lack of quality, it's just been a matter of whether the FCC was present on the enforcement front." Hollingsworth has told the Enforcement Task Force that OOs can often help him to fill the gaps in cases he's already familiar with.

Hollingsworth noted that while the rate of amateur-related complaints has declined, he's not planning to let up on the pressure. "We're still pedaling as fast as we can right now," he said."

Hollingsworth also said he's like to see amateur enforcement viewed more as an FCC effort and less with him personally. "I would like to see amateur enforcement associated more with the Commission as a whole and part of its infrastructure than with some guy named Hollingsworth up there," he said.

THEY ALSO SERVE WHO SIT AND LISTEN

As one of the several operators taking part in last week's dramatic on-air rescue operation of young Willem van Tuijl, ARRL member Fred Moore, W3ZU, knows better than most that sometimes the best help is to just stand by.

"Basically, what needs to be done is a lot of listening and very little talking," said Moore, who lives near Philadelphia and is a regular participant on the Maritime Mobile Service Net. "The net control station is obligated to make well aware that there is an ongoing emergency and that he will not accept any frivolous calls. And that's what I did through the night."

Moore and others spent some 14 hours on the Maritime Mobile Service Net the night of March 28, rendering whatever assistance they could to facilitate Willem's rescue and transfer to a hospital in Honduras. The 13-year-old from The Netherlands--now the subject of national news coverage--was shot and seriously wounded by pirates who had boarded the family's sailboat. After the incident, the boy's father, Jacco van Tuijl, KH2TD, turned on his radio to seek help, breaking into a QSO involving Phil Fiol, WB2BMC. Fiol moved KH2TD down to the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300 MHz. The other station called the US Coast Guard, which summoned the Honduran Navy.

Moore's ability to speak fluent Spanish turned out to be crucial. "At one point, there was so much chaos and some confusion because the Honduran Navy people could not understand English well," he said. At that point--after monitoring the situation for some time--he was able to step in himself and assist, with the blessing of the net control station. "There was a need to get some order on the frequency," he explained.

Moore said he was able to get position reports and, in general, coordinate communication between Jacco van Tuijl and the Hondurans, up to and including the airlift of Willem and his mother, Jannie, KH2TE, to a hospital in La Ceiba, Honduras.

Moore says that unless a net control can maintain a high degree of order, things can break down in a hurry. During the recent crisis, he said that most operators abided by the rules, although a few persisted in "their nonsense," as he called it. There was even some intentional interference.

Moore also says it's hard for some hams to resist the urge to press the push-to-talk button and put in their two cents worth. Sometimes, he says, egos get in the way of common sense. But he urged operators encountering an emergency net to simply "be quiet and listen" unless they can contribute to the situation.

Moore had high praise for net participant Tony Fabrizi, W0IVY, who stood by for the entire crisis, only occasionally letting Moore know he was available if he needed a break. "That's a real amateur," he said. "I laud that man."

Moore says the long hours of duty and little glory can be gratifying. "It makes me feel good when there's a positive result. Hopefully, we were instrumental in helping to save that boy's life, who was at no fault."

Willem remains in Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, thanks to efforts by ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP.

Other stations identified so far as having assisted in the crisis include K4TCV, KD5BZ, K1LNC, WB1AVE, J39GH, N3FK, W1KY, and YV5/VE7AMV.

FCC READIES RESTRUCTURING PHASE-IN

The FCC has indicated that it will continue to accept electronic filings from VECs for Technician Plus license applicants until May 4, 2000--20 days after restructuring becomes effective. But ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, says that date is under scrutiny at the FCC and could change. April 14, 2000, is the last day that an applicant may take the Tech Plus examination, however.

VE Test Session Hopeful Amateur Radio applicants have their exams graded at a mid-March testing session by MO-KAN VEs near Gardner, Kansas. [Photo by Scott Slocum, KC0DYA]
According to information from the FCC as of this week, Tech Plus applications reaching the FCC by May 4 will be granted a license stamped "Technician Plus," and this license class will be posted to the FCC database. After May 4, the FCC no longer will grant new Novice, Tech Plus, or Advanced licenses. Licensees of any class may modify and renew their licenses indefinitely after restructuring becomes effective. At renewal time FCC will change a license class of "Technician Plus" to "Technician," but no privileges will be lost. The "codeless" Technician license will continue to be available under the revamped licensing system.

Restructuring also will mean changes to the forms required to apply for an Amateur Radio license. "What's changing is every written test, answer sheet, roster, test report and most importantly the Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam, or CSCE--all to reflect the new exam element categories," Jahnke said. Prior to April 15, Volunteer Examiners also will be supplied with copies of a revised NCVEC Form 605 that reflects the new four-element examination system of three license classes and one Morse code speed. The new form no longer will include the Novice, Tech Plus or Advanced license nor will it include the physician's certification section for applicants seeking a waiver on the Morse code examination.

If ARRL-VEC statistics are any indication, the HF bands will be hopping with newly minted licensees starting April 15. Jahnke says interest in obtaining element credit prior to the big day has been nothing short of intense. ARRL-VEC statistics show that the number of individuals served has risen by more than 135% in the three months since the FCC announced restructuring December 30, 1999. The number of applicants--many Tech Plus ticket holders--attempting to pass Element 3B to upgrade to General rose by several hundred percentage points over last year's numbers. Interest skyrocketed among applicants--many Advanced licensees--trying to get credit for Element 4B, the Amateur Extra written examination. The number attempting that element rose on the order of 1500%. Demand for General and Extra license study materials also has been unprecedented.

Jahnke said that while a typical ARRL-VEC examination session last year served maybe a dozen or so examinees, sessions the first quarter of this year have seen five or six times that number--and more. VE teams across the US have scheduled so-called "paperwork processing" and examination sessions on April 15, some of them starting at the stroke of midnight so licensees can get an early start on using their new privileges. The upswing in the number of applications has slowed the normally swift flow of paperwork through ARRL-VEC. As a result, it now can take up to 10 days or more for a new license to show up in the mail.


FCC QUESTIONS "CAPTAIN TRUTH" SUSPECT

The FCC has zeroed in on a Newton, North Carolina, Extra class licensee as a prime suspect in its "Captain Truth" investigation into unidentified Amateur Radio transmissions and malicious interference.

FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth wrote John M. Yount, K4QIJ, on March 29, citing FCC and other close-in monitoring evidence to indicate that Yount's station was the source of "malicious interference and jamming" on 20 and 75 meters. "Radio direction finding bearings have led to your residence and antenna at 225 N Gate Road in Newton," Hollingsworth told Yount. The FCC said part of its monitoring evidence resulted from work done by the FCC's High-Frequency Direction Finding facility in Columbia, Maryland.

"Our evidence indicates that you have made unidentified transmissions, transmissions identified by the call sign 'K4OKA' as well as 'Captain Truth,' 'Sodomizer,' 'Captain Sod' and numerous derivatives thereof," Hollingsworth wrote. The call sign K4OKA is assigned to John A. "Al" Abernethy of Hickory, North Carolina. Abernethy last year lost his HF privileges for six months following an FCC inspection visit to his station in early 1999 and complaints of deliberate interference.

The FCC said its evidence in the "Captain Truth" case indicated that the malicious interference and jamming occurred at various times since March 1999--up to as recently as March 24 of this year.

Hollingsworth gave Yount 30 days to respond to the allegations in detail. Failure to respond, he told Yount, could result revocation and suspension proceedings. Hollingsworth also invited Yount to contact him to discuss the matter further.

ARRL TO OFFER MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNT COUPON

In advance of "the big day" April 15, 2000, when amateur restructuring becomes effective, the ARRL is distributing membership discount coupons through ARRL-Volunteer Examiner Coordinator VE teams. The ARRL Membership Discount Coupon will offer examination and upgrade applicants a chance to recoup the usual $6.65 processing fee in the form of an equal discount from the cost of a new or renewed ARRL membership.

Many applicants already have taken Amateur Radio examination elements that will qualify them for an upgrade when April 15 rolls around. They also already paid a processing fee when they applied and tested. Many VE teams have examination and paperwork processing sessions scheduled for the April 15-16 weekend, and those sessions are expected to be filled with applicants wanting to cash in their element credits. These individuals also may be asked to pay another processing fee.

ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, says the League is offering the discount coupon as a way to "soften the blow" by giving applicants a one-time $6.65 discount from the cost of an ARRL full or associate membership. Certain restrictions apply, and they are spelled out on the coupon. Jahnke has made it clear that VE teams are under no obligation to distribute the coupons, but he encouraged VE teams to consider making them available.

Attached to the coupon is letter from ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, that explains the rules and touts the benefits of ARRL membership. Applicants may use the coupon between April 15 and October 17, 2000, to get a $6.65 discount off the cost of a League membership. A membership application is on the reverse side of the coupon and letter. Current members may use the coupon to get a discount from the cost of renewing their memberships.

A full ARRL membership costs $34 a year (senior membership, age 65 and older, is $28). There are further discounts if you join for a period of two years.

Applicants using The ARRL Membership Discount Coupon must complete, sign and date the coupon, which may not be combined with any other coupon, premium or special offer, including the club rebate program. It is not valid against any memberships previously submitted. The coupon may not be applied to family, blind, or 21 or younger discount rate memberships, and it has no cash value.

SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO TOP DAYTON BANQUET LINEUP

Tom and Dick Smothers Tom and Dick Smothers
Dayton Hamvention® has announced that the Smothers Brothers comedy team will headline the post-banquet entertainment this year. This year's Hamvention also will host the ARRL National Convention.

The Smothers Brothers, Tom and Dick, are perhaps best known for their TV variety program, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which aired in the 1960s. The comedy duo will perform Saturday, May 20, at 8:30 PM, following the Hamvention banquet in the Nutter Center. The Grand Banquet begins at 5:45 PM.

This year's banquet keynote speaker will be FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH. Hollingsworth's appearances at last year's Hamvention were a huge hit. He'll also appear again this year as part of the FCC forums.

Returning for the third year as master of ceremonies for the 2000 Hamvention banquet will be Carl Nichols, N8WFQ, chief meteorologist for WDTN channel 2 news in Dayton.

See the Dayton Hamvention Web site for details on this year's event, http://www.hamvention.org.

SOLAR UPDATE

Solar soothsayer Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: The sunspot number took a big leap this week, rising to 301 on April 2. The record for this cycle so far was 343 last November 10. The average sunspot count for the week was only up about eight points though, and average solar flux was about the same as last week. A complete explanation for sunspot numbers and their derivation is at http://spacescience.com/headlines/y2000/ast05apr_1m.htm.

Geomagnetic indices have been high this week, with the average planetary A index almost double last week's number. The A index was in double-digits every day, with April 4 being the most disturbed. The planetary A index was 21, with planetary K indices as high as 5, and the mid-latitude index at 6 during the same period.

A severe geomagnetic storm began at 0100 UTC on April 7. An interplanetary shock wave passed Earth at 1730 UTC on April 6, and aurora have been spotted in North America as far south as North Carolina. The planetary K index for the end of the UTC day on Thursday was 8, and the A index was 56. The Boulder K index at 0300 UTC on Friday is also 8.

For the next five days, Friday through Tuesday, the expected planetary A index is 30, 20, 15, 10 meters and 7. The predicted solar flux for the same five days is 175, 180, 180, 175 and 170. Solar flux is expected to rise above 200 again around April 14 and stay there well into the month of May.

Sunspot numbers for March 30 through April 5 were 225, 248, 287, 301, 252, 184 and 221, with a mean of 245.4. The 10.7 cm flux was 205.5, 225.4, 222.9, 219.3, 215.4, 206.7 and 194.4, with a mean of 212.8. The estimated planetary A indices were 10 meters, 19, 14, 16, 12, 21 and 12, with a mean of 14.9.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: 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. Just ahead: The TARA PSK31 Rumble, the Michigan QRP Party, the DXYL-NAYL Contest (CW) and the EA QRP Contest (CW) art the weekend of April 15-17. The 222 MHz Spring Sprint is April 18. See April QST, page 100, for more information.

  • HQ Web editor opportunity: ARRL Headquarters seeks an experienced writer/editor to develop content for the ARRL Web site. Duties include writing lively and interesting news and feature stories about ARRL activities and programs, assisting other HQ staff members with developing information for the Web, editing material contributed by others, and reviewing ARRLWeb content to keep it current. Experience in newspaper or Web journalism or public relations plus an Amateur Radio license and experience are required. Experience with incorporating graphics, audio clips, hyperlinks and other interactive elements with written text is a plus. Send resume, writing sample and salary expectations to Web Editor Position, Robert Boucher, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111; fax 860-594-0298; rboucher@arrl.org. The ARRL is an equal opportunity employer.

  • Vanity fee to remain $14 this fiscal year: The FCC has proposed keeping the annual regulatory fee for an Amateur Radio vanity call sign at $14 ($1.40 per year for the 10-year license term). That information was released in a Notice of Proposed Rule Making, MD Docket 00-58, proposing Fiscal Year 2000 annual regulatory fees. (FY 2000 began last September; the fees are paid in arrears.) The FCC said it anticipates 8000 applications for vanity call signs during FY 2000. Comments on MD Docket 00-58 are due April 24.

  • Mir is manned: Two cosmonauts--Sergei Zalyotin and Alexandr Kaleri--arrived on the Russian Mir space station this week. It's the first time in about eight months the station has been occupied. While the possibility exists for Amateur Radio operation, that is not considered to be high on the crew's list of priorities. Their first job is to locate a slow leak in the aging spacecraft. The cosmonauts did make a transmission via their command channel at 1238 UTC on April 6. To listen to this brief communication, visit http://www.andythomas.org.uk/. Any amateur activity likely would take place on 145.985 MHz FM and could include voice, packet or SSTV.--Bruce Paige, KK5DO

  • Frequency club promotion competition proposed: ICOM and other manufacturers have proposed offering prizes of equipment to clubs that do the best job of promoting Amateur Radio at local theaters screening the upcoming ham radio-related film Frequency. Details are yet to be announced. The proposal arose this week at a meeting of Amateur Radio manufacturers in Wisconsin. Frequency is expected to debut April 28, but local show schedules may vary. Clubs are urged to contact theaters to inquire when the movie will show in their area and about the possibility of on-site promotion on behalf of Amateur Radio. ARRL Public Relations Manager Jennifer Hagy, N1TDY, says some clubs already are exploring or have arranged promotional events. She notes that theaters sometimes don't have more than a week's notice of when a movie will be coming to town. She advised clubs to be "geared up and ready to go" if a promotional opportunity presents itself. Frequency stars Dennis Quaid and was directed by Gregory Hoblit. The ARRL was consulted in the interests of accuracy. For more information on Frequency, visit http://www.frequencymovie.com.

  • CQ National Foxhunting Weekend: Hams will fly the freeways and beat the bushes the weekend of April 15-16 as the third annual CQ National Foxhunting Weekend brings out radio direction finding enthusiasts all over the country. There are no detailed rules. It's just a time for clubs and groups to try this enjoyable activity. RDF competition takes place on foot or in vehicles, tracking one or more hidden radio transmitters. See the April issue of CQ magazine for event details. Groups participating in the CQ National Foxhunting Weekend are asked to send reports of their activities to NFW moderator Joe Moell K0OV, PO Box 2508, Fullerton, CA 92837, or via e-mail to nfw@homingin.com. For more information, visit Moell's Web site, http://www.homingin.com.--Joe Moell, K0OV

  • Field Day 2000 pins now shipping: Field Day participation pins are available and shipping! ARRL Contest Branch Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, says the pins proved so popular last year that they are now a regular part of Field Day. To "earn" a pin, all you need to do is participate in Field Day. There is no minimum number of contacts to achieve or ARRL sections to work. The pin is for anyone active in helping to make Field Day happen--from the set-up crew and on-the-air operators to the covered-dish organizers and generator crew. Field Day pins are $5 each. Clubs and groups are encouraged to purchase their pins together. Send orders with payment to Field Day Pin Order, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, or contact Dan Henderson, n1nd@arrl.org or 860-594-0232. Credit card orders are accepted.


  • NN3SI volunteers honored: John Swafford, W4HU (left) and ARRL Vice President Hugh Turnbull, W3ABC (right) recently accepted a certificate from Secretary Michael Heyman recognizing the contribution of volunteers to the operation of Amateur Radio station NN3SI at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC. "The ham radio exhibit is unique in that when the station is being operated, it has a live body there," Turnbull said. The occasion was the Smithsonian's annual Behind-the Scenes Volunteer Program Appreciation event. Turnbull explains that NN3SI originally was a special event station for the US Bicentennial in 1976, and past ARRL President Vic Clark, W4KFC, was the trustee. Turnbull took over when Clark died, and he was instrumental in getting the station established as a permanent club station and exhibit. The station's visitor's log is signed by several thousand hams each year.--Hugh Turnbull, W3ABC

  • Successor chosen for Keizo Obuchi, JI1KIT: Japan's Liberal Democratic Party has chosen a successor for Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, JI1KIT. Obuchi was hospitalized in Tokyo after suffering a stroke Sunday. He's reportedly in intensive care, in a coma and breathing with the aid of a respirator. Japan's Parliament has elected Yoshiro Mori to succeed Obuchi. News accounts say Obuchi, 62, is unable to communicate.

  • The ARRL Letter no longer available from ARRL InfoServer: The ARRL Letter no longer will be available from the ARRL Technical Information Server (InfoServer). See below for delivery details.

  • TX0DX operation tops 72,000 QSOs: The Chesterfield Islands TX0DX DXpedition team racked up 72,654 contacts before it shut down March 29 after six days of operation. The majority of QSOs were on 21 MHz SSB and CW. More than 2500 contacts were made on 6 meters, and some 800 RTTY QSOs also went into the logbook. The premature shutdown was due to rapidly changing weather conditions that threatened to make landing operations on the reef very risky. The recent decision to admit ARANC--New Caledonia's Amateur Radio society--to the IARU has cleared the way for the Chesterfield Islands to be added to the ARRL DXCC List, pending a vote of the DX Advisory Committee. The TX0DX log search will be operational soon.

 

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