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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter
Vol. 20, No. 13
March 30, 2001


* +Hollingsworth praises OOs
* +Helms fields record number of kids' questions
* +ARISS declares "Cosmonautics Day" April 12
* +Trinidad ham provides new details of pirate shooting
* +FCC to lower vanity fee
* +FCC proposes $17,000 fine for unlicensed hamming
* +Solar Update
     This weekend on the radio
     Employment opportunity at ARRL Headquarters
    +Spectrum Protection Act bill attracting cosponsors
     Burrowing owl monitors needed
     Certification and Continuing Education Forum gets facelift
     Edward R. Doubek, N9RF, SK
     Ham wins honorary Oscar
     Outgoing QSL Service reports high card volume
     VA3LK, G3AQC to receive Transatlantic Challenge plaque

+Available on ARRL Audio News



FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth this
week offered high praise for the work of the volunteer ARRL Amateur
Auxiliary's corps of Official Observers. Long a strong supporter of the OOs,
Hollingsworth's most recent burst of appreciation was inspired by
investigative footwork done by an OO team that's assisting the FCC in an
enforcement inquiry.

"It makes me realize that if it weren't for the OOs over the past 10 years,
Amateur Radio would probably have imploded long ago and disintegrated from
its own chaos," Hollingsworth said. "We really thank them very much for
their work here."

The Amateur Auxiliary is composed of approximately 700 ARRL Official
Observer volunteer appointees across the US. The program was developed as a
result of a formal agreement between the FCC and the ARRL.

OOs function as helpers and advisors, not enforcers. They monitor the bands
and notify amateurs of technical and operating discrepancies as a service.
In cases involving serious rule violations such as malicious interference,
however, they are trained and certified to gather and forward evidence that
can be used by the FCC in enforcement actions. All OOs must pass a
comprehensive examination before they can be certified as members of the
Amateur Auxiliary. 

In recent months, Hollingsworth's office has been attempting to make greater
use of the Amateur Auxiliary in tackling enforcement issues. He says the
Official Observer program offers a way for amateurs to solve their own
problems internally, without bringing in the FCC, but he notes that OOs
often can provide valuable local perspective during enforcement inquiries.

"It's this type of devotion of personal time to Amateur Radio and to helping
us that gives me enough adrenaline to last for months," Hollingsworth said.

The bottom line, according to Hollingsworth, is protecting the future of
Amateur Radio for those who enjoy it. "Radio spectrum has extremely high
visibility, and every time an operator gets on and degrades the bands, that
operator is not only making Amateur Radio less enjoyable but endangering it
as well."

For more information on the Amateur Auxiliary program, visit the ARRL Web


As the nominal ham radio voice of the Expedition 2 International Space
Station crew, US Astronaut Susan Helms, KC7NHZ, has gotten off to a running
start--in a manner of speaking, that is. As she explained to one student
questioner this week, it's not possible to walk in space, much less jog. "It
doesn't do me much good because my feet aren't touching anything," she said.

Wielding the NA1SS Amateur Radio microphone aboard the ISS on March 27,
Helms handled more than two dozen questions put to her in rapid-fire order
during the 10-minute contact by youngsters at the John B. Reible School in
Santa Rosa, California. The school boasts about 500 youngsters in
kindergarten through sixth grade. The ARISS contact may have set a new
record for the total number of questions asked and answered during an
Amateur Radio contact between a school and space. 

Reible teacher Kristie Weber, KD6LSZ, had each of her charges queued up with
a query in hand. Helms proceeded to field each one with exceptional skill
and humor. "We're just eating ourselves into little pigs," she
replied--prompting laughter from the audience--to a typical question about
the food aboard the ISS.

Another youngster asked about changes in the human body in space. "When
you're in space, your spine gets longer because the cartilage expands, and
the fluid in your body shifts up toward your head," Helms explained. "What
happens is that you end up becoming taller in space by about an inch or so,
and when you come back to Earth, all that goes into reverse."

Helms she said the most fun she's had as an astronaut was doing a space walk
with Jim Voss a couple of weeks ago.

On Sunday the Expedition Two crew made its Hollywood debut during the
Academy Awards ceremony. The 73rd annual Oscars program started with a
weightless space station introduction of this year's host--actor, comedian
and writer Steve Martin--albeit only a life-sized likeness. Flanked by her
crewmates, Russian Commander Yury Usachev, UA9AD, and fellow astronaut Jim
Voss, Helms gave the show's master of ceremonies a proper send-off, and she
referred to the occasion in her contact with the Reible students.

"I understand it ended up being well-received and viewed by 800-million
people," Helms said. The introduction, shot in the near zero-gravity of
space, was taped during the STS-102 shuttle Discovery mission that delivered
the members of the Expedition Two crew to the ISS. 

Ahead are ARISS contacts with Vicksburg High School in Mississippi on April
4 or 6 and Woodford County Middle School in Kentucky the week of April 9.

For more information on the ARISS program, visit the ARISS Web site, 


Casual Amateur Radio contacts with the hams aboard the International Space
Station have been few and far between. That could change next month when a
special event day for ham radio has been declared.

"The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, team has
received permission from the ISS controllers to declare April 12
Cosmonautics Day--a special event day for ham radio on the International
Space Station," ARISS spokesperson Will Marchant, KC6ROL, announced today. 

The ARISS international team is asking the ISS Expedition 2 crew--on a
voluntary basis--to run general QSOs over Earth's major land masses to help
celebrate Cosmonautics Day, Marchant said. Given the interest expressed by
earthbound hams in making a contact with the ISS, the ARISS team also is
hoping the crew will be enthusiastic about the idea.

Cosmonautics Day will mark the 40th anniversary of the first human space
flight by USSR cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the 30th anniversary of Salyut 1--the
first space station, and the 20th anniversary of the initial launch of the
first reusable space vehicle--the space shuttle.

Marchant said the crew will be involved with stowage activities on April 12,
"so they should have a fair amount of flexibility in adjusting their
schedule." Two hams now are aboard the International Space
Station--Expedition 2 Crew Commander Yury Usachev, UA9AD, and US astronaut
Susan Helms, KC7NHZ. Helms already has made a few casual contacts and this
week participated in a scheduled ARISS contact with a California elementary
school using the station's NA1SS call sign. It's not known if Usachev has
been active on the air while over Russia.

The following frequencies have been announced for ARISS general QSOs: Voice
and packet downlink: 145.80 (worldwide); voice uplink: 144.49 for Regions 2
and 3 (the Americas, and the Pacific); voice uplink: 145.20 for Region 1
(Europe, Central Asia and Africa); packet uplink: 145.99 (worldwide). The
ISS Amateur Radio packet system still is not operational, but Marchant said
ARISS has been working with the crew and hopes it will be up and running by

Marchant said that specific operating times and modes for Cosmonautics Day,
as well as additional details, will be announced on the ARISS Web page, .


A Swedish sailboat skipper, shot when pirates accosted his vessel March 20
off the coast of Venezuela, remains hospitalized in Trinidad. The victim has
been identified as Bo Altheden, SM7XBH, of Bjšrred, Sweden. Hams on the
Maritime Mobile Service Net assisted Altheden and his wife, ViVi-Maj Miren,
after Miren put out a call for help on 20 meters.

One of the hams who assisted in coordinating the rescue, Eric Mackie, 9Z4CP,
of Trinidad, met late last week with Miren aboard the couple's vessel in
Trinidad and was able to learn additional details about what happened.
According to what Miren told Mackie, the couple was en route to Trinidad and
Tobago and having lunch around 12:30 PM Atlantic Standard Time when their
44-foot-ketch Lorna was approached by six men in a fishing boat. "The vessel
approached from behind, pulled alongside and Bo went out on deck to see what
they wanted," Mackie related. "They asked for cigarettes, and Bo said they
did not smoke."

Sensing trouble, Altheden started back toward the helm with the intention of
pulling away from the other vessel--a fishing boat. But as he turned away,
the intruders shot him once in the back. Miren told Mackie that the bullet
wound caused considerable internal damage and bleeding. At that point, the
pirates boarded the Lorna and helped themselves to what was on board.

According to Mackie, the pirates' booty amounted to less than $20 in cash
and a few miscellaneous items. Before leaving, the pirates destroyed two VHF
radios but missed the HF radio--an SGC SG-2020. Miren fired up the
transceiver and found her way to 20 meters, where she located the Maritime
Mobile Service Net on 14.300 MHz. Her calls for help eventually were heard,
although some on frequency later said they'd worried that her pleas might be
overlooked. Mackie and others broke in to alert the Net to her calls--made
nearly three hours after the shooting.

Mackie also was able to contact the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, which
came on frequency to  speak with the Lorna directly, he said. As it worked
out, vessels from the Venezuelan Navy and the Trinidadian Coast Guard
arrived on scene at approximately the same time. While a medical team from
Trinidad was able to board the Lorna, it was decided to wait until the
vessel was in calmer waters before attempting to transfer Altheden to the
Coast Guard vessel. Altheden remains in critical, but stable, condition at
St Clair Medical Center, a private hospital set up to deal with trauma

The shooting was an eerie reminder of a similar pirate attack one year ago
in the Caribbean. In that incident, March 28, 2000, armed marauders shot
young Willem van Tuijl from The Netherlands, who was sailing with his
parents at the time.


The FCC is proposing to lower the fee to obtain or renew an Amateur Radio
vanity call sign from $14 to $12. The new fee, if approved, likely would go
into effect sometime in September. 

The proposed lower fee was contained in an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
for the Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for FY 2001 (MD Docket
No. 01-76), released March 29. The FCC said it estimates 8000 applicants
will apply for vanity call signs in the current fiscal year. 

Applicants for Amateur Radio vanity call signs will continue to pay the $14
fee for the 10-year license term until the FY 2001 fee schedule becomes
effective. The effective date for the new FCC fee schedule will be announced
later this year in a Report and Order or by a Public Notice published in the
Federal Register.

Comments in the fee proceeding are due by April 27; reply comments must be
received by May 7, 2001. Comments filed through the FCC's Electronic Comment
Filing System  can be sent via the FCC Web site, Generally, only one copy of an
electronic submission must be filed. 


The FCC has proposed levying a $17,000 fine on an East Palo Alto,
California, man for transmitting without a license on amateur frequencies
and for transmitting a false distress signal. The FCC issued a Notice of
Apparent Liability for Forfeiture March 19 in the case of Joshie Yasin
Nakamura Sr, who also is known as "Mervyn Ehambrave" and sometimes as
"Marvin E. Barnes."

As Ehambrave, Nakamura was among those receiving an FCC Warning Notice in
March 1999 for allegedly operating without a license on the K7IJ repeater
system in the San Francisco Bay area. At the time, the FCC shut down the
repeater system for more than two months, saying that the repeater's owner
and control operator did not have proper control of the system and that the
control operator was permitting unlicensed individuals to transmit via the

Following up on amateur community and Official Observer complaints that an
unlicensed station was causing intentional interference and playing music,
agents from the FCC's San Francisco Field Office on two occasions last year
tracked the signals to Nakamura's residence. Signals were heard on both 2
meters and 70 cm. On one occasion, FCC officials monitored the international
"SOS" distress signal being transmitted in Morse code. Station inspections
revealed that Nakamura was operating without authorization, and he was
presented with a Notice of Unlicensed Radio Operation, the FCC said. 

The FCC determined that its guidelines call for a $10,000 fine for
unlicensed operation and another $7000 forfeiture for causing malicious
interference. The FCC gave Nakamura 30 days to pay up or to seek reduction
or cancellation of the proposed fine. 


Solar sage Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: This has been an
amazing week of high solar activity. The assumption till now has been that
activity was declining from last year's peak. Now it seems that Cycle 23 did
not peak and begin declining in 2000 after all. 

The peak solar flux values in 2000 were 262 on May 17 and 261.9 on July 18,
but this week, on March 26, a growing region 9393 produced a new high for
Cycle 23 of 263.7 and the next two days produced even higher solar flux
numbers of 273.4 and 273.5! (The highest recorded solar flux for the week
actually was at 2300 UTC on Wednesday, at 293.8--a magnitude not seen since
1992--but the official daily number is always taken at 2000 UTC.)

Sunspot numbers also went very high this week, peaking at 352 on Wednesday,
March 28. The record for Cycle 23 so far is 401 last July 20. The cause of
all this excitement is a recent explosion in the number and size of
sunspots, the largest being region 9393--the largest sunspot to appear in
the last 10 years.

While earlier in the week we were blessed with low geomagnetic
indices--indicating good HF radio conditions and low absorption--a frequent
byproduct of high solar activity is solar flares and a bombardment of
protons. The high A indices of last week are back again, and there is more
activity predicted for the next few days due to a coronal mass ejection from
sunspot 9393 on Wednesday. Once geomagnetic conditions quiet down, expect
great conditions again.

Sunspot numbers for March 22 through 28 were 129, 145, 204, 276, 339, 291
and 352 with a mean of 248. The 10.7-cm flux was 183, 180, 218.7, 216.8,
263.7, 273.4 and 273.5, with a mean of 229.9. Estimated planetary A indices
were 10, 21, 13, 8, 6, 18 and 31 with a mean of 15.3.



* This weekend on the radio: The SP DX Contest, the EA RTTY Contest, the
QCWA QSO Party are the weekend of April 7-8. The UBA Spring Contest (SSB) is
April 8. The VHF/UHF Spring Sprints are April 9. JUST AHEAD: DX YL to NA YL
Contest (CW) is Apr 11-13; the Japan International DX Contest is the weekend
of April 13-15; the Lighthouse Spring Lites Rites QSO Party is April 13-23;
MARAC County Hunter Contest (SSB) and the QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party are the
weekend of April 14-15. See the ARRL Contest Branch page, and for more info.

* Correction: A story on the AO-40 satellite in The ARRL Letter, Vol 20, No
12 (Mar 23, 2001) included some incorrect information. The story should have
said that ground controllers hope to use the onboard arc-jet motor to adjust
the satellite's orbit for future use. Magnetorquing is used to orient the

* Employment opportunity at ARRL Headquarters: The ARRL is seeking a
full-time Book Team Supervisor to join the Publications staff at ARRL
Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut. The successful candidate will have a
wide breadth of Amateur Radio knowledge and experience, as well as
demonstrated leadership skills. The successful candidate will also hold a
Technical or Management degree and will have a minimum of five years of
writing/editing experience, an Amateur Extra Class license, proficiency with
Microsoft Office, familiarity with Amateur Radio software and the technical
state of the art. To be considered for this position, send a resume, cover
letter and salary expectations to Book Team Supervisor Position, Robert
Boucher, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111-1494; fax 860-594-0298; No telephone calls, please. ARRL is an Equal Opportunity

* Spectrum Protection Act bill attracting cosponsors: The Amateur Radio
Spectrum Protection Act of 2001 has begun attracting cosponsors in the US
House and Senate on both sides of the aisle. ARRL Legislative and Public
Affairs Manager Steve Mansfield, N1MZA, reports that the House bill, H.R.
817, already has six cosponsors, including Reps John Baldacci of Maine; Dan
Burton of Indiana; Johnny Isakson of Georgia; Walter B. Jones Jr and Mike
McIntyre of North Carolina, and Patrick J. Tiberi of Ohio. The identical
Senate bill, S. 549, now has three cosponsors--Sens Daniel Akaka of Hawaii,
Susan Collins of Maine, and Jesse Helms of North Carolina. If approved by
both chambers and signed by Pres George W. Bush, the Spectrum Protection Act
would require the FCC to provide equivalent replacement spectrum should it
ever reallocate primary Amateur Radio spectrum to another service. The same
requirement would apply if the FCC acted to diminish any secondary amateur
allocations or made additional allocations in ham bands that diminish their

* Burrowing owl monitors needed: Hams are needed again this spring to
monitor and track the 172-MHz burrowing owl tags. ARRL Amateur Radio
Direction Finding Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV, says many radio amateurs and
scanner enthusiasts joined the effort to listen for radio tags on endangered
Canadian burrowing owls during the fall 2000 southward migration and
continued to monitor through the winter. Transmitters have been placed on
wintering owls in southeastern Texas, and researchers want to know if these
Texas owls go to Canada in the spring or if they stay somewhere in the US.
The owls have begun leaving the Texas study site and will probably be on the
move at least until mid-April. In the meantime, Canadian burrowing owls
should be returning from Texas and Mexico at about the same time. For exact
frequencies and more information, visit Moell's "Homing In" site, .--Joe Moell, K0OV  

* Certification and Continuing Education Forum gets facelift: The ARRL
Certification and Continuing Education Program On-line Forum
( has a new look!
During its first year, ARRL members used this valuable tool to make
comments, share viewpoints, and pick the topic for the Certification Program
pilot project. Through your input, we determined that emergency
communications was your first choice for on-line and classroom training.
With the first on-line course up and running and soon to debut in a
classroom near you, it is time to move forward. New topics have been added,
so browse through the forum topics and add your ideas and comments. Your
input will shape the future of this program.

* Edward R. Doubek, N9RF, SK: ARRL Technical Advisor Ed Doubek, N9RF, of
Naperville, Illinois, died March 19 at his home. He was 67 and had been in
failing health. An ARRL Life Member, Doubek had served as a TA for 10 years
and remained active in that capacity until his death, helping his fellow
amateurs to resolve problems with interference as well as answering
questions about digital topics, antennas, linear amplifiers and
transceivers. Doubek also regularly reviewed and supplied feedback for some
ARRL publications, including The ARRL Handbook for Radio Amateurs. A private
service was held.

* Ham wins honorary Oscar: Screenwriter-producer-director Ernest Lehman,
K6DXK, has received an honorary Oscar "in appreciation of a body of varied
and enduring work" from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The
award was made during the 73rd Oscar awards ceremony March 25 in Los
Angeles. "Ernest Lehman has written and produced some of the most memorable
films ever made," Academy President Robert Rehme said in announcing the
award. "He is not only a prolific screenwriter, but an accomplished
novelist, journalist and motion picture producer, whose films rank as
genuine classics." Lehman has been nominated six times for Academy Awards,
four times in the category of Best Screenplay (Sabrina, North by Northwest,
West Side Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and twice in the
category of Best Picture (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hello,
Dolly!). Honorary awards, in the form of Oscar statuettes are given for
"exceptional distinction in the making of motion pictures or for outstanding
service to the Academy."--AMPAS 

* Outgoing QSL Service reports high card volume: The volume of QSL cards
coming in from members for processing via the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service has
been very high. Currently there is a processing delay of approximately 10
days. As of March 23, the Service had handled 415,000 cards this year. This
includes cards going to US Incoming QSL Bureaus and cards sorted and mailed
by contractor. Nearly 37,000 QSL cards were shipped this week.

* VA3LK, G3AQC to receive Transatlantic Challenge plaque: For their efforts
in completing the first two-way Amateur Radio low-frequency contact between
the UK and Canada, Larry Kayser, VA3LK, and Laurie Mayhead, G3AQC, will
receive a special Transatlantic Challenge plaque, dedicated to the memory of
LF pioneer Peter Bobek, DJ8WL, and sponsored by the Deutscher Amateur Radio
Club, the Radio Society of Great Britain and AMRAD. Kayser and Mayhead in
February completed a two week-long QSO on 136 kHz using very slow-speed CW
and spectral software for receiving. Another plaque will go to Dave Bowman,
G0MRF, John Currie, VE1ZJ, Jack Leahy, VE1ZZ, for completing a crossband
HF/LF QSO last September. "We were impressed by the dedication, skill and
perseverance that was shown in each case," said John Gould, G3WKL, on behalf
of the Transatlantic Challenge partners. "The contacts were so incredible
that we had not anticipated the ways in which they were achieved when we
devised the rules!" 

The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the American
Radio Relay League--The National Association For Amateur Radio--225 Main St,
Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax 860-594-0259; Jim Haynie, W5JBP, President

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly e-mail digest of essential news of interest
to active amateurs. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise,
and readable. Visit ARRLWeb at for the latest news,
updated as it happens. The ARRLWeb Extra at offers ARRL members access to
informative features and columns.

Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or
in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be given to
The ARRL Letter and The American Radio Relay League.

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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.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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