*************** The ARRL Letter Vol. 27, No. 5 February 8, 2008 *************** IN THIS EDITION: * + Amateurs Lend a Hand as Deadly Storms Sweep across Southern United States * + "Source" Disavows Inflated NTIA BPL Figure * + Field Day 2008 Rules and Forms Now Available * + Get Ready To Go the Distance with the ARRL International DX Contests * + Look For the March Issue of QST in Your Mailbox * + Indiana Television Reporter Receives Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award * Solar Update * IN BRIEF: This Weekend on the Radio ARRL Continuing Education Course Registration + ARRL to Offer Award for 6 Meter Operations + Heil Sound Donates Microphones, Accessories to W1AW and W1HQ DXCC Pushes to Get Ahead Rob Brownstein, K6RB, Wins January QST Cover Plaque Award Dates for ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference Announced ARISS to Conduct Simulation QSO between Astronauts and Students European Reciprocal Licenses Now Limited to Advanced and Extra Class Licensees Clarification +Available on ARRL Audio News <http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter/audio/> =========================================================== ==>Delivery problems: First see FAQ <http://www.arrl.org/members-only/faq.html#nodelivery>, then e-mail <email@example.com> ==>Editorial questions or comments only: S. Khrystyne Keane, <firstname.lastname@example.org> ===========================================================
==> AMATEURS LEND A HAND AS DEADLY STORMS SWEEP ACROSS SOUTHERN UNITED STATES
At least 54 people were killed and hundreds injured Tuesday and Wednesday by dozens of tornadoes that plowed across Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama in the nation's deadliest barrage of twisters in almost 23 years. In spite of the disasters, state and local emergency management officials once again discovered that they could call on Amateur Radio operators to help out and get communications up and going again after the infrastructure failed.
According to ARRL Southeastern Division Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, "Four people were killed in Alabama as the storms damaged homes, caused flooding and downed trees and power lines. North Alabama SKYWARN, ARES and scores of Amateur Radio operators were up all night long, providing vital communications to the National Weather Service and Emergency Management Agencies all across the region. Once again, Amateur Radio operators played a critical role before, during and after the storms. I am proud of the level of professionalism and critical information that these operators provided our served agencies."
Hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed across the region. Authorities had no immediate cost estimate of the damage. The storms flattened entire streets, smashed warehouses and sent tractor-trailers flying. Houses were reduced to splintered piles of lumber. Some looked like life-size dollhouses, their walls sheared away. Crews going door-to-door to search for bodies had to contend with downed power lines, snapped trees and flipped-over cars. Near hard-hit Lafayette, Tennessee, cattle wandered through the debris. At least 12 people died in and around the town; more than 30 were killed in Tennessee alone.
"It looks like the Lord took a Brillo pad and scrubbed the ground," Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said as he surveyed the damage from a helicopter. "I don't think that I have seen, since I've been governor, a tornado where the combination of the intensity of it and the length of the track was as large as this one," he said. "That track had to be 25 miles long. [The twister] didn't skip like a lot of them do...It's just 25 miles of a tornado sitting on the ground."
Most communities had ample warning that the storms were coming. Forecasters had warned for days that severe weather was possible. The National Weather Service issued more than 1000 tornado warnings from 3 PM Tuesday-6 AM Wednesday in the 11-state area where the weather was heading. The conditions for bad weather had lined up so perfectly that the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma put out an alert six days in advance.
Tennessee Section Emergency Coordinator Lowell Bennington, WD4DJW, said that approximately 25 hams in Madison County had participated in SKYWARN activities before the storm arrived; one ham actually spotted the twister. "Two hams reported to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency-West, assisting in passing radio communication. A couple of hams assisted Madison County EMA in setting up their Mobile Command Post. On Wednesday, 10 teams were dispatched to do Damage Assessment. These teams were composed of three individuals, one of whom was an Amateur Radio operator," he said.
Bennington said that hams in Middle Tennessee "utilized our vast networks of linked 2 meter repeater systems as well as our UHF-linked system in support of the National Weather Service, Tennessee Emergency Management, law enforcement agencies and participating local EMA offices. Operators from Wilson County were dispatched to the Nashville NWS office and they operated from there until around 3:30 AM Thursday, giving and taking weather reports."
Alabama ARES District 6 Emergency Coordinator Doug Hilton, WD0UG, said his area was hit hard by a fast-moving line of severe weather; District 6 covers the northern counties of Alabama. Hilton contacted the NWS office in Huntsville early Wednesday regarding possible SKYWARN activation. "After discussing the situation with NWS personnel, it was decided that since this was going to be a long event, that would probably last all night, it was best not to tie up the local repeaters early on. I opened an informal SKYWARN net to get weather information out to the amateur community during the afternoon, and several Madison County hams participated in the net. We closed the net after about an hour and re-opened it that evening at 7," he said. Madison County ARES was activated that evening and other hams in the area joined in. Hilton said Northern Alabama has a linked-repeater system that covers all 10 counties during emergency conditions.
The storm churned into Western Alabama from Mississippi about 9 PM. The main part of the storm started its destruction at 3 AM. Hilton said, "The storm was a killer, and the extra lead time that people got from the great staff at NWS probably led to a reduction in casualties. A massive long-track EF-3 tornado hit Lawrence County and caused 3 fatalities and more than 20 people were injured." Hilton said the NWS estimated the twister to be 1/2 mile wide with a path length of 18.7 miles, causing "extreme destruction of property." An EF-4 tornado with peak winds of 180 MPH went through Jackson County, causing one fatality.
Hilton said hams were able to provide many timely situation reports, "and 'ground truth' is always the best indicator of reality. Many of the hams who stayed up all night were also prepared to leave their homes at a moment's notice to go anywhere in the District, if needed. The incredible teamwork of this ARES/SKYWARN team and the level of professionalism was something to behold."
Chris Shaw, W4BGN, Kentucky District Emergency Coordinator, said several confirmed tornadoes touched down throughout his state. "Kentucky hams activated weather nets, while others were out and about spotting for severe weather. Allen and Monroe Counties in South Central Kentucky were especially hard hit. Some repeaters lost power and hams quickly adapted, going to emergency simplex frequencies on 2 meters. The communications went very smooth and seemed to be beneficial to many. Hams worked throughout the night to help provide communications, especially to those areas without power."
President Bush gave assurances that his administration stood ready to help. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were sent to the region and activated an emergency center in Georgia, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday. "We're going to keep watching this."
"Loss of life, loss of property -- prayers can help and so can the government," Bush said. "I do want the people in those states to know the American people are standing with them." On Wednesday, Bush called the governors of the affected states to offer help and to tell them that "the American people hold those who suffered up in prayer."
While the weather was unusually severe, winter tornadoes are not uncommon. The peak tornado season is late winter through midsummer, but the storms can happen at any time of the year with the right conditions. "All the clues were there. It was just unfortunate that it came out the way it did," prediction center director Joseph Schaefer said. Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the Oklahoma center, said there were 67 eyewitness accounts of tornadoes, but some of those were probably twisters that were counted more than once; the actual number is probably more like 30 or 40, he said.
As more ARES groups relay information to ARRL, we will update these reports on the ARRL Web site. -- Some information provided by The Weather Channel
==> "SOURCE" DISAVOWS INFLATED NTIA BPL FIGURE
ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, writes:
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report Networked Nation: Broadband in America 2007 <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2008/NetworkedNationBroadbandinAmerica2007.pdf> that was released on January 31, 2008 includes the following: "Reliable BPL [broadband over power lines] subscribership figures are difficult to find. The FCC's most recent data identify fewer than 5,000 BPL customers as of yearend 2006. That figure appears low, however. TIA [The Telecommunications Industry Association] estimates 200,000 current BPL subscribers..."
Five years of experience in dealing with BPL systems as a radio interference source have given the ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, considerable insight into the BPL industry. Based on that experience, the ARRL has concluded that the FCC's figure of fewer than 5000 BPL customers is entirely credible. Therefore, the ARRL set out to determine the source of the "estimate" of 200,000 current BPL subscribers.
We contacted TIA <http://www.tiaonline.org/> and were advised that the figure came from a market study prepared by Wilkofsky Gruen Associates Inc and based on research conducted by In-Stat, a unit of Reed Business Information.
So we contacted In-Stat and asked how the figure was derived. They responded: "The 200,000 number for BPL subs did not come from In-Stat. In our US broadband forecast, we estimate about 231,000 broadband subscribers in the 'other' category besides DSL, cable, satellite. Other includes BPL, but is not solely BPL."
We then contacted Wilkofsky Gruen Associates. They responded: "Our source for the BPL figures was In-Stat." When In-Stat's denial was shared with them, they responded, "It was our understanding that BPL was the principal component as it was the first item listed by In-Stat."
TIA was invited to comment but declined to do so.
In other words, here is what we have learned: In-Stat does not claim to know how many BPL subscribers there are, but provides an estimate of 231,000 broadband subscribers who receive service via delivery systems other than DSL, cable, and satellite. Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, on the basis of nothing more than that BPL is listed first, assumes that the bulk of these 231,000 are BPL subscribers and arbitrarily attributes 200,000 of them to BPL. In turn, NTIA -- not satisfied with an FCC figure that is derived from required reports from service providers -- cites this arbitrarily chosen figure -- a figure that is entirely unsupported by any data whatsoever -- as evidence that the FCC's figure -- which is fully supported by data -- "appears low."
On February 1 we called upon the NTIA to issue a corrected report <http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2008/02/01/101/?nc=1>. We renew that call now.
==> FIELD DAY 2008 RULES AND FORMS NOW AVAILABLE
It's that time of year again -- time to start gearing up for Field Day, ARRL's flagship operating event. Field Day, held the fourth full weekend in June, brings together new and experienced hams for 24 hours of operating fun. ARRL Field Day Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, says there are several rules changes this year, mainly concerning "Get on the Air" (GOTA) stations and the elimination of the Demonstration Mode Bonus Category. The complete Field Day Packet can be downloaded from the ARRL Web site <http://www.arrl.org/fieldday>. A full 2008 Field Day page on the ARRL Web site will be coming in the next few weeks.
GOTA (Get on the Air) stations are those stations set aside by Field Day teams designed to get non-hams or newly licensed hams on the air. Unlike in past years where GOTA stations were limited to only one band, the 2008 rules state that these stations may operate on any authorized HF or VHF Field Day band. Keep in mind that only one signal may be transmitted from the GOTA station at any time.
Henderson said the eligibility for operating the GOTA station has changed slightly: Anyone who has been licensed since Field Day 2007 is eligible to operate the GOTA station, regardless of license class.
For 2008, the Demonstration Mode Bonus category has been eliminated and replaced by an Educational Activity Bonus worth 100 points. "This bonus is intended to encourage clubs and groups to do some more formal educational activity during their Field Day operation," Henderson said. If you have any questions concerning what activities might be appropriate for this bonus, Henderson said you should submit them via e-mail <email@example.com>.
Be sure to read the Field Day rules and FAQs in the 2008 Field Day Packet for details of these changes. There are also numerous small changes in the FAQs and support materials in the packet that should help groups and individuals as they plan their Field Day activities, Henderson said.
The 2008 Field Day Packet also includes an expanded Press Kit, thanks to the work of ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP. Included in this expanded portion of the packet is a sample "Field Day Proclamation" for those groups who work with local city or town officials toward getting a Field Day Week declared in their location.
"We are excited that historic station K6KPH will once again participate transmitting the W1AW special Field Day Bulletin on the West Coast," Henderson said. More details are available in the Field Day Packet.
Information concerning the popular Field Day pins and T shirts will be announced in the next few weeks.
Henderson said that those wishing to obtain a complete Field Day Packet via US mail need to send a 9 x 12 inch self-addressed, stamped manila envelope with 5 units of postage to Field Day Packet Request, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.
If people wish to order display kits for their tables at Field Day, please contact Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, ARRL Education Manager, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, tel 860-594-0296. The cost for the display kit ranges from $8-$12 depending on shipping. To ensure having the kits in time for Field Day, you are encouraged to order them no later than June 13.
==> GET READY TO GO THE DISTANCE WITH THE ARRL INTERNATIONAL DX CONTESTS
Are you ready to work some DX? The ARRL International DX Contest is coming up! This is one of the ARRL's oldest operating events, going back to the days of the International Relay Party in 1928.
The objective is simple: US and Canadian stations work only DX and DX stations work only US and Canadians. See how many different stations you can contact in as many different geographical entities as possible. US and Canadian stations try to work different DX countries, while DX stations try and work US states and Canadian provinces. For this contest, Alaska, Hawaii and all US possessions and territories are considered DX. US/Canadians send a signal report and their state or province; DX stations send a signal report and their transmit power.
You don't need a big station to compete. You can work many stations in this contest with 100 W and a simple dipole or vertical antenna. This event is also a good way to improve your DXCC Award totals with a small investment of time. Many contesters will be traveling to foreign locales to participate, so listen for lots of good DX countries on the bands. The ARRL will once again be offering participation pins for those who make more than 100 QSOs in the event. Pins are $7 (including shipping) and are a nice memento of your achievement in the contest.
The CW portion of the ARRL DX Contest begins at 0000 UTC on Saturday, February 16 and goes until 2400 UTC Sunday, February 17. The Phone portion runs from 0000 UTC Saturday, March 1 until 2400 UTC Sunday, March 2. Complete rules can be found online <http://www.arrl.org/contests>. If you are new to the ARRL DX Contests, look for a primer on the event by ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, in the Radiosport area of the March issue of QST.
==> LOOK FOR THE MARCH ISSUE OF QST IN YOUR MAILBOX
The March issue of QST, our annual antenna issue, is jam-packed with all sorts of things today's Amateur Radio operator needs. From product reviews to experiments to contesting, the upcoming issue of QST has something for just about everyone.
ARRL Senior Assistant Technical Editor Dean Straw, N6BV, discusses what to consider when picking out your first vertical antenna for 20 and 40 meters. L. B. Cebik, W4RNL, and Bob Cerreto, WA1FXT, tell about a new take on a three dipole array for 2 meters. Dick Jansson, KD1K, gives advice on how to "downshift" to stealth operating on the HF bands when you are restricted in your living arrangements.
If you've never participated in a contest but wondered what all the fuss was about, or if you are the type to plan family vacations around the contest calendar, you won't want to miss "This Month in Contesting" by ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X. This month, Sean features a primer on the ARRL International DX Phone Contest; this contest runs from 0000 UTC March 1-2400 UTC March 2. The results of the 2007 ARRL September VHF QSO Party, the 2007 ARRL 10 GHz and Up Contest and the 2007 IARU HF World Championship are in. Did you top your score from last year? How did your closest rival do? Also, find out about upcoming contests in the Contest Corral.
Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, Assistant Manager for ARRL's Membership and Volunteer Programs Department, reviews the Yaesu FT-950 HF and 6 meter transceiver. According to the ARRL Lab test results, "The FT-950 transceiver fills a void in Yaesu's product line. It should appeal to radio amateurs looking for big rig performance in an economical package." ARRL Product Review Editor Mark Wilson, K1RO, reviews the Array Solutions AS-AYL-4 receiving antenna, saying this antenna "is an effective way to improve your listening experience on the low bands, especially if space is limited."
Of course, there are the usual columns you know and love in the March QST: Hints & Kinks, The Doctor Is IN, How's DX, Old Radio, Hamspeak and more. This month also features Amateur Radio World, the Emergency Communications Course Honor Roll and the ARRL VEC Volunteer Examiner Honor Roll. Look for your March issue of QST in your mailbox. QST is the official journal of ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio. QST is just one of the many benefits of ARRL membership. To join or renew your ARRL membership, please see the ARRL Web page <http://www.arrl.org/join>.
==> INDIANA TELEVISION REPORTER RECEIVES BILL LEONARD, W2SKE, PROFESSIONAL MEDIA AWARD
On the recommendation of the ARRL Public Relations Committee, the ARRL Board of Directors voted at its meeting last month to confer the 2007 Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award to a Fort Wayne, Indiana television reporter.
Alyssa Ivanson, of WANE-TV News brought public attention to Amateur Radio by producing and reporting a television story <http://www.wane.com/Global/category.asp?C=124439&nav=0RYb> on the efforts of Emery McClendon, KB9IBW, also of Fort Wayne, to create and promote Amateur Radio Military Appreciation Day. McClendon traveled to Washington, DC and met with First Lady Laura Bush as part of his promotion of Amateur Radio.
The annual award honors a professional journalist whose outstanding coverage in TV, radio, print or multimedia best reflects the enjoyment, importance and public service value of Amateur Radio. The award was created as a tribute to the late CBS News President Bill Leonard, W2SKE. He was an avid Amateur Radio operator, and most active on the air during the 1960s and 1970s.
As the winner of the Bill Leonard Award, Ivanson will receive a plaque and a cash prize of $500. ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, said, "There were nine excellent nominations for the award this year, and voting was tight. Submitted materials were judged by the ARRL's national Public Relations Committee and their final recommendation was approved by the Board of Directors at the January 2008 meeting." Ivanson said, "I am honored to win the Bill Leonard Award. It was a privilege to meet Emery and tell the public about his efforts to bring a little bit of 'home' to the troops through Ham radio and ARMAD."
Ivanson, the weekend anchor at WANE, graduated magna cum laude from Ball State University's Honors College with a degree in telecommunications; she joined WANE in January 2006. "The news business is exciting; each day presents new challenges and rewards. I love meeting so many new people and never knowing what each day holds," she said.
Ivanson is no stranger to journalism awards. In her first year at WANE-TV, she was awarded third best reporter in the state by the Indiana Associated Press. In college, she was awarded the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award for her work on a morning radio program. She was the first recipient of the Jack McQuate Associated Press Scholarship and a three-time winner of the Indiana Broadcasters Association Scholarship.
When she's not at work, Ivanson, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, enjoys spending time with her family and friends, going to the theater, hosting dinner parties and cave exploring. According to Emery McClendon, there are two hams in the WANE newsroom who will be "encouraging" Ivanson to add Amateur Radio operator to her list of accomplishments very soon.
Tad "Let not the Sun go down and disappear into darkness" Cook, K7RA, this week reports: After a solid week of sunspots -- January 29 to February 4 -- the following three days have been blank. February 2 was an active geomagnetic day with a solar wind stream spewing from a coronal hole near sunspot 982. Another solar wind stream from a coronal hole is expected to strike Earth on Sunday, February 10 causing unsettled conditions. The predicted planetary A index for February 8-15 is 8, 12, 15, 10, 10, 10, 10 and 5. That was from NOAA and the US Air Force; Geophysical Institute Prague predicts unsettled conditions February 8, unsettled to active February 9-10 and unsettled again on February 11-14. The Australian Space Forecast Centre's geomagnetic forecast expects mostly unsettled to active conditions with storm periods possible at high latitudes on February 9, and mostly unsettled with isolated active periods and storm levels at high latitudes on February 10. Following this weekend, NOAA predicts the next active conditions around February 28-29. Their prediction for solar flux is flat at 70 for each of the next 45 days; this probably indicates little or no sunspot activity. Sunspot numbers for January 31-February 6 were 15, 19, 16, 14, 14, 0 and 0 with a mean of 11.1. The 10.7 cm flux was 72, 71.1, 71.8, 71, 71.3, 70.5 and 71.6 with a mean of 71.3. Estimated planetary A indices were 5, 18, 19, 12, 6, 3 and 4 with a mean of 9.6. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 3, 10, 19, 10, 6, 2 and 2 with a mean of 7.4. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service Propagation page <http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/propagation.html>. To read this week's Solar Report in its entirety, check out the W1AW Propagation Bulletin page <http://www.arrl.org/w1aw/prop/>. The first 10 readers who correctly respond via e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> correctly identifying the quote at the beginning of this week's Solar Report will receive a free 2008 ARRL calendar. Please include your call sign and mailing address in your e-mail; we will publish the winners' call signs in next week's ARRL Letter.
* This Weekend on the Radio: Be sure to check out the ARRL School Club Roundup February 11-February 15. This weekend, the NCCC Sprint is February 8. On February 9, look for the Asia-Pacific Spring Sprint (CW), the FISTS Winter Sprint and another running of the NCCC Sprint. The CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest, the Dutch PACC Contest, the KCJ Topband Contest, the YLRL YL-OM Contest (SSB), the Louisiana QSO Party, the OMISS QSO Party, RSGB 1st 1.8 MHz Contest (CW) and the British Columbia QSO Challenge are all February 9-10. The North American Sprint (SSB) and the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon are February 10. The NAQCC Straight Key/Bug Sprint and the RSGB 80 Meter Club Championship (Data) are both February 13. Next weekend is the ARRL International DX Contest CW on February 16-17. Look for the NCCC Sprint on February 15 and the Feld Hell Sprint on February 16. The Run for the Bacon QRP Contest is February 18, the AGCW Semi-Automatic Key Evening is February 20 and the RSGB 80 Meter Club Championship (CW) is February 21. See the ARRL Contest Branch page <http://www.arrl.org/contests/>, the ARRL Contester's Rate Sheet <http://www.arrl.org/contests/rate-sheet/> and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar <http://www.hornucopia.com/contestcal/index.html> for more info.
* ARRL Continuing Education Course Registration: Registration remains open through Sunday, February 24, 2008 for these online course sessions beginning on Friday, March 7, 2008: Technician License Course (EC-010); Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Level 1 (EC-001); Radio Frequency Interference (EC-006), Antenna Design and Construction (EC-009); Analog Electronics (EC-012), and Digital Electronics (EC-013). Each online course has been developed in segments -- learning units with objectives, informative text, student activities and quizzes. Courses are interactive, and some include direct communications with a Mentor/Instructor. Students register for a particular session that may be 8, 12 or 16 weeks (depending on the course) and they may access the course at any time of day during the course period, completing lessons and activities at times convenient for their personal schedule. Mentors assist students by answering questions, reviewing assignments and activities, as well as providing helpful feedback. Interaction with mentors is conducted through e-mail; there is no appointed time the student must be present -- allowing complete flexibility for the student to work when and where it is convenient. To learn more, visit the CCE Course Listing page <http://www.arrl.org/cce/courses.html> or contact the Continuing Education Program Coordinator <email@example.com>.
* ARRL to Offer Award for 6 Meter Operations: Attention 6 meter operators -- there's a new award to work toward! The ARRL Board of Directors approved a new award honoring the late Fred Fish, W5FF, the only amateur who worked and confirmed all 488 grid squares in the 48 contiguous United States on 6 meters. The Fred Fish Memorial Award will be granted to any amateur who duplicates Fish's accomplishment. Fish was a mainstay on the VHF+ bands for many years, having achieved Worked All States (WAS) on 6 meters through 432 MHz, as well as DXCC for 6 meters. He is widely regarded as a gentleman operator and one of the finest amateurs in the VHF+ community. ARRL Contest Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, will oversee this award. Kutzko, an avid VHF+ operator himself, said, "We hope the new award will increase 6 meter activity throughout the US and the world. We also hope it will lead to the activation of rare grid squares in the US by encouraging the native ham population of a rare grid square to give 6 meters a try, as well as through so-called 'Grid DXpeditions.' We actively call on the 6 meter community to help educate VHF+ newcomers to the fun that is available on 6 meters." Complete details on the Fred Fish Memorial Award will be available soon.
* Heil Sound Donates Microphones, Accessories to W1AW and W1HQ: Thanks to the generosity of Bob Heil, K9EID, of Heil Sound Ltd, the Maxim Memorial Station W1AW and the Laird Campbell Memorial Headquarters Operators Club station W1HQ have some spiffy new audio gear. Heil Vice President for Amateur Sales and Marketing Chip Margelli, K7JA, visited ARRL HQ January 29 to present the donations. W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, commented: "We thank Bob Heil for the generosity he's always showed W1AW. All of our headsets and microphones in use in the visitors studios are Heil Sound products. They see a great deal of use by our visitors. So the donation of the ear pads/socks will greatly improve the appearance of the headsets. In addition, the modular pigtails will certainly look much more professional than the homebrewed pigtails we had been using." The recently renovated W1HQ, located near the ARRL Lab in the Headquarters building, now has two new Pro Set 4 mic/headsets, a PR781 Proline microphone and a topless boom.
* DXCC Pushes to Get Ahead: Due to several factors, including greater activity from new and reactivated DXCC entities, the ARRL DXCC Desk has been experiencing QSL card processing delays. According to ARRL DXCC Manager Bill Moore, NC1L, there are approximately 2300 applications currently on the list of received applications, resulting in a processing backlog of more than 12 weeks. Sharon Taratula, Membership and Volunteer Programs Supervisor, said that approximately 500 DXCC applications are processed each month. Even with the low sunspot numbers of the now defunct Solar Cycle 23, there has been an increase in DXCC activity, Dave Patton, NN1N, Manager of the ARRL Membership and Volunteer Services Department, said; DXCC is a division of this department. "We've added or reactivated new entities like Scarborough Reef, Swains Island and Montenegro," he said. "ARRL membership is up, and more people out there have HF privileges." ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, said that a new full-time person has just been added to the DXCC staff. "We are actively looking for an additional full-time employee for DXCC. By adding more staff, we can definitely cut down on the time it takes to process applications. While we are not happy with the delayed turnaround time for DXCC applications, I can assure everyone that we are maintaining our high level of concern for accuracy in processing and care for our customers QSLs and awards," Patton said. "I'm pleased that interest in operating awards is so high, and indeed there is evidence that new and returning ops are participating in ever increasing numbers. In the near future, as we continue to refine and improve LoTW and our processes, turnaround time will improve, the quality of our awards will improve and we can hopefully offer new and expanded awards programs like the brand new Fred Fish Memorial Award for confirming QSOs with the 488 grid squares in the continental US on 6 meters." Kramer said, "We take great care with people's DXCC applications. The DXCC crew is very diligent in handling and checking each applicant's cards. We don't rush the process because we don't want to make mistakes -- we know how important this program is to DXCC participants."
* Rob Brownstein, K6RB, Wins January QST Cover Plaque Award: The winner of the QST Cover Plaque Award for January is Rob Brownstein, K6RB, for his article "The Joy of Contesting." Congratulations, Rob! The winner of the QST Cover Plaque award -- given to the author or authors of the best article in each issue -- is determined by a vote of ARRL members on the QST Cover Plaque Poll Web page <http://www.arrl.org/members-only/qstvote.html>. Cast a ballot for your favorite article in the February issue by Friday, February 29.
* Dates for ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference Announced: The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio Corporation (TAPR) has announced that the 2008 ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference will take place September 26-28 at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The conference is an international forum for radio amateurs to meet, publish their work and present new ideas and techniques. Presenters and attendees will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about recent hardware and software advances, theories, experimental results and practical applications. Forums will feature the latest developments in Amateur Radio digital communications, as well as demonstrations of emerging digital technology. More information is available on the ARRL/TAPR DCC Web site <http://www.tapr.org/dcc.html>.
* ARISS to Conduct Simulation QSO between Astronauts and Students: Before each trip to the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts who hold Amateur Radio licenses are trained by a team of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) members on ARISS procedures and how to use the onboard radios. To make this training more realistic for the astronauts, ARISS has arranged for crewmembers in training at Johnson Space Center to participate in two simulated ARISS contacts with a local Houston school. Students at Bay Area Charter Elementary in El Lago, Texas will conduct two sessions on Friday, February 8 between 1545 UTC and 1610 UTC. According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, these times may fluctuate somewhat depending on how well training is going and crewmember availability. Astronaut Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, is scheduled to participate in the first event; Koichi Wakata, KC5ZTA, will participate in the second event. White said this is the first (and second) time a school contact simulation training session has been conducted live where students are at the other end of the session. If this proves successful, she said it might be possible to conduct a handful of these sessions each year: "If things go well, this can increase somewhat our opportunities for schools. In the past, we found that kids were equally excited when their school's QSO was done with an astronaut sitting at Johnson Space Center's Amateur Radio station W5RRR [as opposed to a contact from space]." Simulations are not as predictable as on-orbit operations, so there is a slight chance the event might be postponed.
* European Reciprocal Licenses Now Limited to Advanced and Extra Class Licensees: The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) has revised its table of equivalence between FCC amateur licenses and the CEPT license. Effective February 4, 2008, Recommendation T/R 61-01 (as amended) now grants full CEPT privileges only to those US citizens who hold an FCC-issued Amateur Extra or Advanced class license. This means that those US licensees who hold an FCC-issued General or Technician license are no longer eligible for full operating privileges in countries where CEPT-reciprocal operation had previously been permitted. US Novice class licensees have had no reciprocal operating privileges under the CEPT provisions. These changes are the result of a re-evaluation of US and CEPT license classes equivalence by the CEPT's Radio Regulatory Working Group at its meeting January 29-February 1, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland. The Working Group deals with numerous areas of concern including Amateur Radio, and is responsible for applications from countries to participate in T/R 61-01, as well as other Amateur Radio related issues. "Changes in the US license structures and examinations often have ancillary implications beyond the immediate impact upon the US licensees," said Dan Henderson, N1ND, ARRL Regulatory Information Manager. "While this CEPT change affects several classes of US licensees when they visit Europe and other CEPT signatory countries, it has no effect on their operating privileges at home."
* Clarification: The February 1 edition of The ARRL Letter included an item about the replacement of some older 160 meter equipment at Maxim Memorial Station W1AW. Some readers may have reached the conclusion that we were in some way unhappy with the equipment being replaced. That's certainly not the case. In fact, the Ten-Tec OMNI VI+ transceiver and Hercules II amplifier have served the ARRL and W1AW's listeners well over the past decade or so. It was simply time to replace the gear.
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