ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 32
August 25, 2000

IN THIS EDITION:

+Available on ARRL Audio News

HURRICANE NET ACTIVATES, BUT DEBBY'S A DUD

As Debby twirled in the Atlantic, the Hurricane Watch Net activated this week for the first time in the current hurricane season. The Net began operation Monday on 14.325 MHz as Debby, then a tropical storm, approached the Leeward Islands. The Net activates on 14.325 MHz whenever severe weather threatens Caribbean or Atlantic islands or the US East or Gulf coasts.

Net Manager Jerry Herman, N3BDW, said Monday that although Debby was just a tropical storm, it was forecast to become a hurricane, and he wanted the Net to get a leg up in gathering information from participating stations in the affected areas. Participating Hurricane Watch Net members pass weather-related information via W4EHW to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

As it turned out, Debby did gain Category 1 hurricane status the following day, with winds topping out at around 70 MPH with higher gusts. The storm's pace attracted the attention of Southern Florida amateurs, who began gearing up for possible disaster duty. Southern Florida SM Phyllisan West, KA4FZI, said Wednesday that hams there were in a "wait-and-see attitude," although Debby had been downgraded to a tropical storm by then with only a slight chance of regaining hurricane status. West said that county emergency coordinators were working closely with local emergency operations centers to monitor preparations and be available as needed.

Debby was downgraded to a tropical storm as it cleared the northern coast of Hispaniola. Reports received from the islands that the storm has passed indicate little or no damage from the storm.

By week's end, Debby was continuing to diminish in strength and the Hurricane Watch Net discontinued operations after about 40 hours of operation. "Debby was certainly unusual in that we were in operation for some time while it was a tropical storm, but the proximity to the islands and forecast intensity warranted that," said HWN Manager Herman.

Herman thanked Net members--and especially the newcomers--for their performance in the Net's first activation of the 2000 hurricane season.

W4EHW at the National Hurricane Center, which handles HWN reports during severe weather, also shut down Thursday. "Our sincere thanks to all of our dedicated W4EHW Operators, some who took time off work to keep W4EHW on the air," Assistant Amateur Radio Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4JR, said. "Your time and dedication to public service and humanitarian ideals is what makes Amateur Radio much more than just a hobby. Without you, W4EHW would just be a bunch of wires, boxes with lights and a lot of silence."

The storm dumped a lot of rain over Puerto Rico and other islands in its path. One person on Puerto Rico died when he slipped from his roof while trying to secure his TV antenna from the approaching storm. ARRL Puerto Rico SM Victor Madera, KP4PQ, reports Debby went by without much wind damage. But Madera says the storm left behind some 11 inches of rain, and flooding was expected in Puerto Rico.

Rainfall totals of 4 to 6 inches and as high as 10 to 15 inches over mountainous areas were still associated with Debby by week's end. The National Weather Service said the rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Heavy rains affected portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and eastern Cuba.

For more information and storm information updates, visit the Hurricane Watch Net site.

QUESTION POOL COMMITTEE CHAIR STEPS DOWN

Ray Adams, W4CPA, has resigned as the chairman of the National Conference of Volunteer Examiners' Question Pool Committee. Adams, 64, said he's served long enough and now would like to spend some time traveling with his wife. His resignation is effective immediately.

"After pondering over the situation for an extended period of time, it is my firm conclusion that the best interests of Amateur Radio will be served by my resigning as a member of the Question Pool Committee," Adams said Thursday in an announcement to the nation's VECs and others.

NCVEC Chairman Win Guin, W2GLJ, said Adams' decision to step down came as a surprise. "Ray has done an outstanding job, and we will surely miss him in that important role." Just last month, the NCVEC Question Pool Committee was re-elected at the annual NCVEC meeting in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Adams was picked to continue as chairman. Other committee members are Fred Maia, W5YI, of the W5YI-VEC, Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, of the ARRL-VEC, and Scotty Neustadter, W4WW, of the Central America VEC.

Guin has asked that Neustadter, the QPC's current vice chairman, assume the position of chairman, and that the committee's membership be reduced to the remaining three members, "pending Conference action at our next annual meeting."

An ARRL Life Member, Adams has served as a member of the QPC since its inception in 1986. He's been chairman since 1989. "The time has come for fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm, which I am no longer able to provide," Adams said in his announcement. "It would not be unfair to say the major problem is simply burnout."

Adams says he'll continue as NCVEC treasurer and will remain active in the Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society VEC and his local Knoxville VE team.

"I have enjoyed the challenge and believe the question pools to now be in their best condition in the history of Amateur Radio," Adams said.

AO-27 FM REPEATER DOWN FOLLOWING SOFTWARE RESET

Ground controllers are asking that amateurs refrain for the time being from transmitting on the AO-27 satellite's uplink. The request comes as ground controllers are attempting to reload the satellite's software following a computer crash on July 31.

"The analog repeater is turned off, so you will not be heard, and you will interfere with the software upload process," AO-27 Ground Controller Michael Wyrick, N4USI, said this week in asking for the cooperation of the amateur community. He says ground controllers are working as fast as they can to get AO-27 back in operation.

Wyrick says the AO-27 "easy sat" suffered a software reset on July 31. The satellite contains an FM voice repeater that uplinks on 2 meters and downlinks on 70 cm. A project of AMRAD, it was launched in September 1993.

Wyrick said that uploading the necessary high-level code turned out to not be an easy task, Wyrick explained. "The primary control station used for uploading code was not used for over five years and required days of work to get back on-line," he said. But when the code was uploaded AO-27, the satellite ran the high-level code only for a few seconds, before rebooting again. Ground controllers were at a loss to explain the second reboot, but Wyrick says they're looking into several leads, and he asked the amateur community to be patient.

"The best help the community can give is to not flood controllers with e-mail about when is AO-27 going to be back on-line," Wyrick said. "We are working as fast as satellite passes allow."

Wyrick says the AO-27 exciter on 435.797 is turned on full-time and operates at low power during uploads.

QUIAT NAMED AN ARRL HONORARY VICE PRESIDENT

The ARRL Board of Directors has elected Marshall Quiat, AG0X, of Denver, Colorado, as an Honorary Vice President. Quiat, 78, recently stepped down as Rocky Mountain Vice Director for health reasons. A successor has not yet been appointed.

The Board vote was unanimous, with all 15 directors voting in favor.

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, called Quiat Thursday to inform him of his election. "He was very pleased," Haynie said. "There's no one more deserving of this honor than Marshall. I'm happy for him."

An attorney, Quiat served as Vice Director from 1981 until 1987, as Director from 1987 until last year, and as Vice Director until this month. In addition, he served as an ARRL Foundation Director from 1994 until 1999.

Quiat is an ARRL Life Member. As a director and vice director, Quiat logged a long record of service to Amateur Radio. Among other accomplishments, he chaired the Legal Strategy Committee appointed in 1986, and served as a member of the Part 97 Rewrite Committee in 1988. He also was instrumental in the success of the League's PRB-1 effort.

FCC TURNS DOWN CB DX PETITION

The FCC has denied a petition that would have amended the FCC's Part 95 rules to permit DXing on the 11-meter Citizens Band. The petition sought to amend §95.413 of the rules that prohibits communications or attempts to communicate with CB stations more than 250 km away and to contact stations in other countries.

Designated RM-9807, the petition was filed by Popular Communications Contributing Editor Alan Dixon, N3HOE.

"Dixon's request is inconsistent with the purpose of the CB Radio Service and could fundamentally alter the nature of the service," the FCC said in turning town the petition.

The FCC action was adopted August 18. The Order was released August 21.

The FCC said CB operators generally supported the proposal and stated that the present rule was unenforceable. The ARRL commented in opposition to the petition. "The Amateur Radio Service is the proper forum for the desired long-distance communications sought by the Dixon petition," the League told the FCC.

The National Association of Broadcasters also opposed Dixon's petition. The NAB said that the restriction was necessary to deter CBers from operating at excessive power levels and that consumers must be protected from illegal CB transmissions that interfere with radio, TV and other consumer electronics.

The FCC agreed with the ARRL and said it did not intend to create a service paralleling the Amateur Service when it authorized the Citizens Radio Service. "Amending the rules to permit long-distance and international communications would undermine the purpose of the CB Radio Service rules and compromise one of the core distinctions between the CB Radio Service and the Amateur Radio Service," the FCC concluded.

CALIFORNIA PRB-1 BILL HEADED FOR GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

California's PRB-1 bill, SB-1714, has passed both houses of that state's legislature. The measure now goes to Gov Gray Davis for his signature.

SB-1714 cleared the California Assembly on August 18 and the California Senate on August 22, when the upper chamber agreed to several amendments. The Senate initially had approved the bill three months ago. The bill won final Senate passage on a 39 to 0 roll call vote, with 1 abstention.

Amateur Radio operators in California are being urged to write the governor to encourage him to sign the measure into law. Davis has until September 30 to sign the bill. SB-1714 would incorporate the essence of the limited federal preemption known as PRB-1 into California law.

SB-1714 would require any ordinance that regulates Amateur Radio antenna structures to "reasonably accommodate amateur radio service communications" and "constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the legitimate purpose of the city or county."

Unlike PRB-1 bills in other states, the current California measure carries a price tag of between $70,000 and $100,000 to fund studies and a model ordinance that the lawmakers required. As approved, the bill, requires the legislature's Office of Planning and Research to prepare and publish a technical assistance bulletin for local officials to use in drafting amateur antenna ordinances. It also requires the planning and research office to prepare and publish a model antenna ordinance that municipalities could adopt. For both endeavors, the bill specifies that the Director of the Office of Planning and Research consult with the ARRL and the FCC, among other organizations and individuals. SB-1714 also requires a report to the legislature and the governor on any recommendations for changes to state law regarding state or local regulation of Amateur Radio antennas.

The three steps are to be completed by next July 1.

In his Pacific Division Update newsletter, ARRL Pacific Division Director Jim Maxwell, W6CF, notes that Gov Davis "pays close attention to the cost of legislation." He said amateurs will need to work hard to "convince the Governor that it is in the best interests of the citizens of California for him to sign SB-1714."

Letters to Gov Davis may be sent via e-mail; fax to 916-445-4633, or via the US Postal Service to Gov Gray Davis, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Details on the bill itself can be found on the Web. Click on "Bill Information," enter "SB-1714" in the "Bill number" search field, and click "Search."

SOLAR UPDATE

Solar sage Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Solar activity took a big dive over the past week, with sunspot numbers dropping to 84 on August 22 and 23. Although NASA's Spaceweather.com reported that the Boulder sunspot number has not been this low in this calendar year, our records from past bulletins show that it has been lower than this several times in January. Boulder sunspot numbers, which are the ones reported weekly in this bulletin, were 69 on January 1 and 2, 77 on January 3, 81 on January 29 and 82 on January 31, 2000.

Does this drop mean that the peak for the current cycle has passed? Not at all. There are many wild variations in solar activity over the course of the average 11 year cycle, and the only real way to determine the peak or the minimum is to look back at a moving average many months later.

The quieter sun did present some advantages for HF operators, because while the activity was lower, the earth's geomagnetic conditions were quieter as well. Conditions look quieter for the near term as well. Solar flux is probably bottoming out over the next few days, with predicted values for Friday through Tuesday at 128, 128, 130, 132, and 135. Predicted planetary A index looks quiet as well, with unsettled conditions possible for August 30 through September 3. Solar flux for the next few weeks is expected to peak at only 175 near September 7-9. This is based only on what is known about activity during the previous rotation, and any new activity could change this.

The fall equinox is less than one month away (September 22), and soon we should see a transition from summer to fall conditions. Daytime absorption on the upper bands and atmospheric noise on lower frequencies should be lessened, and stronger signals should be the rule for this equinox at the peak of solar cycle 23.

Sunspot numbers for August 17 through 23 were 252, 231, 209, 150, 132, 84 and 84 with a mean of 163.1. The 10.7 cm flux was 177.1, 169.5, 157.1, 152.4, 151.4, 144.2 and 136.9, with a mean of 155.5. The estimated planetary A indices were 11, 6, 6, 7, 12, 5 and 11 with a mean of 8.3.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The TOEC WW Grid Contest (CW), the Ohio QSO Party, and the CQC Summer QRP QSO Party are the weekend of August 26-27. See August QST, page 104, for details. Just ahead: The All-Asian DX Contest (SSB), and the Labor Day CW Sprint are the weekend of September 2-3. See September QST, page 102, for details.

  • IARU Region III conference: ARRL Executive Vice President and IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, will be among those attending the International Amateur Radio Union Region III conference in Darwin, Australia. Also attending will be IARU President (and former League President) Larry Price, W4RA, and ARRL Technical Relations Manager Paul Rinaldo, W4RI. More than 100 delegates from radio societies in the Asian and Pacific regions are expected to attend the conference, which gets under way August 28 and continues through September 1. Hosted by the Wireless Institute of Australia, conference delegates will discuss a wide range of regional and global issues affecting Amateur Radio. Among the topics on the agenda is a worldwide 300-kHz allocation at 7 MHz and the International Radio Regulations requirement for Morse code proficiency to operate below 30 MHz. Special event station AX8IARU will be on air from the conference hotel on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters, CW and SSB, activated by members of the Darwin Amateur Radio Club and conference delegates. A special QSL card (shown) will be available.--IARU

  • Amateur Radio news transmission QRMing aircraft band: Efforts are under way to locate the source of an Amateur Radio news transmission that's causing interference to AM aircraft communication at 134 MHz in the vicinity of Long Island, New York, and Southeastern Connecticut. The interference is believed to the result of an unintentional spurious from a repeater or other transmitter. The transmission appears to be of the weekly Amateur Radio Newsline broadcast. The interference has been showing up only on Saturday evenings at around 10. Newsline has been asked by the Federal Aviation Administration contact stations in the Greater New York City area that air the weekly news feed to help track down the interference source. According to Newsline, commercial pilots flying between 17,000 and 24,000 feet report hearing the signals. Those having information on possible sources of this interference are asked to contact Guy Fisk of the FAA's Boston regional office, 781-238-7490, or Amateur Radio Newsline.--Newsline

    Anthony Baez, 12, and fellow TCH patient Angel Veloz, 12, visit the Kids Space Ham Radio July 11 under Dr Huhta's supervision. "This is really cool," Anthony said. "This radio lets me talk to people all over the world. I really want to get my Amateur Radio license."

  • Hospital program teaches kids to operate Amateur Radio: A program at Tampa Children's Hospital St Joseph's is introducing Amateur Radio to some of its young patients. TCH patients can participate in Amateur Radio learning sessions with physicians and hospital staff who are ham operators at the hospital's Kids Space Ham Radio. "I love teaching children about the workings of Amateur Radio," says TCH pediatric cardiologist and Amateur Radio operator Dr James Huhta, AA4MD. "The Kids Space Ham Radio program not only helps get the children's minds off of their illnesses, but it also exposes them to a hobby they may enjoy the rest of their lives."--Greg Brostowicz, St Joseph's-Baptist Health Care

  • Radio astronomy special event station: The National Radio Astronomy Observatory will dedicate the Green Bank Telescope, a giant, 100-meter-by-110-meter parabolic-dish radio telescope, on August 25 in Green Bank, West Virginia. To mark the occasion, the NRAO Amateur Radio Club will operate special event station W9GFZ from the observatory grounds. Operation will be from 1600 UTC August 25 until 2000 UTC August 27. W9GFZ is the call sign held in 1937 by Grote Reber, when he built the first dish antenna used for radio astronomy in his back yard in Wheaton, Illinois. Frequencies (plus or minus QRM) will be: 3.940, 7.245, 14.275, 21.375 and 28.350 MHz. Stations working W9GFZ may obtain a QSL card by sending their QSL and a SASE to W9GFZ, PO Box 2, Green Bank, WV 24944. For more information, see August QST, page 28.

  • Satellite enthusiasts to hear spy satellite history: When North America's ham radio satellite enthusiasts convene this fall in Portland, Maine, they'll be treated to once top-secret details about intelligence gathering methods used during the early years of the Cold War. The occasion is the 18th Space Symposium and AMSAT-NA Annual Meeting, October 27-29, at the Holiday Inn Portland West. The Saturday, October 28, banquet speaker will be R. Cargill Hall, chief historian of the National Reconnaissance Office. For the first time in a public forum, Hall will discuss overhead reconnaissance and the history of CIA-NRO activities. The Symposium Chairman is George Caswell Sr., W1ME. More information is available at on the Web or from w1me@amsat.org.--Peter Hurd, N1SS

  • Tromelin Island stats: The Lyon DX Group members operating FR/F6KDF/T from Tromelin Island finished up operations late on August 14. The four-man crew logged some 51,500 QSOs during 15 days of operation--some 17,000 on CW, 33,800 on SSB and 580 on RTTY. The team now is back in France. On-line logs will be available soon. QSL via Radio Club de la Gendarmerie de Bron--F6KDF, 292, Route de Genas F-69677 BRON cedex FRANCE.--Bernie McClenny, W3UR/The Daily DX

    ARDF Team USA leader Dale Hunt, WB6BYU.

  • USA ARDF organizers sought: ARRL Amateur Radio Direction Finding Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV, is seeking organizers for the USA ARDF Championships to be held in 2001. Moell says the 11-member ARDF Team USA, now is training to compete at the World Championships in China during October, and he's looking for organizers for a US event next year. Moell says the city selected will host radio orienteers from all over the USA for separate events on 2 and 80 meters, in accordance with IARU rules for ARDF competitions. Moell asks those seriously interested in hosting the 2001 USA ARDF Championships to contact him now for more information. For more information, contact ARRL ARDF Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV, or visit his Web site. --Joe Moell, K0OV

  • Vote on QST Cover Plaque Award: The winner of the QST Cover Plaque Award for August was Ray Soifer, W2RS, for his article "UO-14: A User-Friendly 'FM Repeater in the Sky'." Congratulations, Ray! ARRL members are reminded that the winner of the QST Cover Plaque award--given to the author(s) of the best article in each issue--now is determined by a vote of ARRL members. Voting takes place each month on the ARRL Members Only Web site. As soon as your copy arrives, cast a ballot for your choice as the favorite article in the September issue of QST. Voting ends September 15.

  • ULS hints redux: Those attempting to register or use the FCC's Universal Licensing System occasionally (maybe that's an understatement) have been frustrated when entering a licensee name only to have the ULS come back with a "no matches" response. Unfortunately, the FCC database does not recognize the period "." after an initial, such as in "John Q. Public" and the ULS is not programmed to disregard a "." in a name query. When entering a licensee name to search, enter the last name first, followed by a comma and no punctuation after any middle initial. But wait! If there's a "Jr" or "Sr" or Roman numeral such as II or II after the name, the FCC database includes the suffix as part of the last name. This means if you search--on the ULS or on one of the many call sign sites on the Web--for licensee John Q. Public III, you must search for "Public III, John Q" or the name won't show. You can also search just on a last name without a comma following, but this also will yield all names that begin with "Public" including the one you're looking for. All hams who received new tickets or upgrades during the restructuring flurry now are registered in the ULS. These licensees must contact the FCC's Technical Support Hotline in order to obtain a temporary ULS password. A ULS password is required to access the system to file additional applications or changes--for example, to apply for a vanity call sign, to renew, or to file a change of address. To obtain a temporary password, call the Technical Support Hotline, 202-414-1250. ULS-registered amateurs may change their passwords online via the ULS.
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