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The ARRL Letter
April 28, 2011
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+ Available on ARRL Audio News

+ Public Service: Tornadoes and Thunderstorms Keep Radio Amateurs Busy in Midwest, Southeast

A tornado moves through Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Wednesday, April 27. A wave of severe storms, laced with tornadoes, killed at least 250 people around the region. [AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton]

As violent storms swept through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and North Carolina, served agencies called upon Amateur Radio operators to help provide communications support and real-time weather observations. The storms and flooding were the latest in the severe weather that has pummeled much of the mid-South this month. Just a week ago, storms tore a wide path from Oklahoma all the way to North Carolina. Read more here.

+ Counting Down to Dayton -- Where Global Friendship Takes Center Stage

The ARRL is making all the final plans and preparations to bring its "show and tell" exposition -- known as ARRL EXPO -- to the Dayton Hamvention® next month. Hamvention, sponsored by Dayton Amateur Radio Association since 1952, will be held May 20-22 at the Hara Arena Conference and Exhibition Center in Trotwood, Ohio. Read more here.

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+ Silent Key: James McLaughlin, WA2EWE/T6AF, Killed By Afghan Pilot

James McLaughlin, WA2EWE/T6AF, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 27. News sources say that eight American troops and a US contractor died Wednesday after an Afghan military pilot opened fire during a meeting in an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps at the Kabul airport -- the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his coalition partners, officials with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISF) in Afghanistan said. McLaughlin -- a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel -- was a contractor serving as a flight instructor for Afghan pilots.

Licensed since 1972, McLaughlin was a career US military officer. Bob Magnani, K6QXY, told the ARRL that McLaughlin was just in the US a week ago, visiting his family: "His son Adam, KD6POE, works for me. He told me that his dad had been in Afghanistan and Iraq many times over the past few years, most currently serving as a flight instructor." McLaughlin posted on his qrz.com page that "almost every day, I operate at around 1230 - 1430 UTC. Sometimes I am QRV until around 1500 UTC."

Steve Herman, W7VOA/T6AD/HL9OA -- currently in Seoul, South Korea -- remembers meeting McLaughlin for the first time. "I first met Jim in August 2009 when we were the only two hams operating in Kabul," he wrote in an e-mail. "We exchanged tips on operating in our unusual environment. Jim had put together a fine radio shack in his quarters and was especially enthusiastic about his RTTY and PSK capabilities, as well as the ladder line-fed wire dipole he had managed to string up at a height of 50 feet through some trees.

"Less than 24 hours after our initial discussion, a suicide bomb went off in Kabul near the spot where we had arranged to meet. The blast killed seven people and injured nearly 100. The explosion site was also close to Jim's QTH and it blew out windows in his residence adjacent to the US Embassy. It was obvious from spending time with Jim that ham radio was an important morale-boosting pastime and he usually spent a couple of hours per day QRV, logging thousands of QSOs." As of March 26, 2011, McLaughlin had logged 4359 QSOs, most of them on RTTY and PSK.

McLaughlin was also an active MARS operator. "He was one of our most dedicated MARS members in Army MARS Region 11," Dan Wolff, KA7AGN/DL4VCW/AEM1WF/AEA1RD, told the ARRL. Wolff is the MARS Region 11 Director. "He relayed and delivered literally hundreds of MARSgrams every year for our region. I've known him for many years and he was always devoted to supporting our deployed service members. He will be deeply missed on MARS circuits and the ham bands as well." -- Thanks to Russ Bentson, K6KLY, CNN and Fox News for the information

+ FCC News: Anchorage VEC Asks FCC to Grant Lifetime Credit for Expired Licenses

In a Petition for Rulemaking filed with the FCC on April 15, the Anchorage VEC -- one of 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators in the US -- asked the Commission to give permanent credit to radio amateurs for examination elements they have successfully passed. This would, in effect, create a license exam credit that would be valid throughout an amateur's lifetime, never expiring. Read more here.

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+ On the Air: Find an ARRL Field Day Station Near You

First introduced in 2008, the ARRL's Field Day Station Locator Service has proved a popular addition to the Field Day toolbox. This service -- an interactive map that helps amateurs or those interested in Amateur Radio find a Field Day site near them -- is free to clubs or individuals who will be operating public Field Day stations. Stations can also be listed by state or province. So far, hams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have listed Field Day sites on the Field Day Locator. If your group would like to be a part of the Station Locator Service, it's easy to get started -- just go to the Field Day Station Locator website and follow the instructions. ARRL Field Day is the most popular on-the-air operating event in Amateur Radio. On June 25-26, join tens of thousands of Amateur Radio operators as they gather for a public demonstration of the Amateur Radio Service.

WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Honored at National Hurricane Conference

WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R (center), receives the Distinguished Service Award at the National Hurricane Conference earlier this month. He is flanked by NHC Director Bill Read, KB5FYA (left), and former NHC Director Max Mayfield. [Photo courtesy of John McHugh, K4AG]

W4NXC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at the National Hurricane Conference -- held April 18-22 in Atlanta, Georgia -- for "exceptional service in providing emergency communication during hurricane events over three decades while leading [the] WX4NHC Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center."

Ripoll not only serves WX4NHC as its Assistant Coordinator and an operator, he co-founded the station with then-NHC Director Dr Neil Frank in 1980. WX4NHC collects ground weather reports for areas that are -- or are about to be -- affected by approaching hurricanes, gathering thousands of these reports that are passed on to the forecasters. The station also broadcasts the advisories to ships at sea and to those coastal areas that do not have any other means of receiving them, saving many lives over the years. Read more here.

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+ On the Air: Space Weather Prediction Center to Discontinue Broadcasts on WWV and WWVH

Beginning Tuesday, September 6, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) will cease broadcasting its geophysical alert message on WWV and WWVH. These messages inform listeners of the solar flux, the mid-latitude A and K indices and space weather storms, both current and predicted. Currently, the message is heard on minute 18 from WWV and minute 45 from WWVH. The information will still be available on the SWPC website. If you care to comment on this, or if you have any questions, the SPWC -- part of the National Weather Service (NWS) -- would like to hear from you.

Solar Update

The Sun, as seen on Thursday, April 28, 2011 from NASA's SOHO Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. This image was taken at 304 Angstrom; the bright material is at 60,000 to 80,000 Kelvin.

Tad "The Sun is swimmin' on the rim of a hill" Cook, K7RA, reports: Geomagnetic conditions are quiet this week, but they may become slightly unsettled over this weekend. The average daily sunspot numbers were down more than 18 points to 74.9, while average daily solar flux was off less than four points to 113.4. The predicted solar flux values for April 28-30 are 105, May 1-2 is 100, May 3-4 at 105 and 110 on May 5. The next peak in solar flux is May 11-13, with a value of 120. This is actually higher than the flux values over the last month, except for one day -- April 15 -- at 129. Over the last eight days, we have seen seven new sunspots emerge, but the daily sunspot numbers have fallen since April 22. Geophysical Institute Prague predicts quiet conditions on April 29, unsettled to active on April 30, unsettled May 1-2, quiet to unsettled May 3 and quiet May 4-5. Look for more information -- including a report from the Caribbean on 20 meter propagation and information on a new online propagation tool -- on the ARRL website on Friday, April 29. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service Propagation page. This week's "Tad Cookism" is brought to you by the song Surrey with the Fringe on Top from the musical Oklahoma!

Voting Now Open for May QST Cover Plaque Award

Now that you've thumbed through and read the May 2011 issue of QST cover-to-cover, we're sure that an article sticks in your mind. So go ahead and cast your vote for your favorite article in the issue. The article with the most votes will receive the QST Cover Plaque Award.

  • Supporting Portable Antennas Without Guy Wires by Dave

    Fisher, KG0D/7
  • A Transmitter for Fox Hunting by Mark Spencer, WA8SME
  • An Emergency Backup Solar Power System by Jim Talens, N3JT
  • A Junk Box Power Line Frequency Monitor by Arthur Glazar, W2NN
  • 3B8EME -- Moonbounce from the Indian Ocean by Eltje Veen, PA3CEE, Johan Meezen, PE9DX, and Rene Hasper, PE1L
  • Youth DX Adventure #1 by Don DuBon, N6JRL, and Dave Kalter, KB8OCP

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. Headquarters staff members who write articles are not eligible to receive votes.

This Week on the Radio

This week:

Go behind the scenes and meet a member of the ARRL HQ staff! This week we feature Norm Fusaro, W3IZ. Norm is the Assistant Manager of the ARRL Membership and Volunteer Services Department. Click here and scroll down the page to the "Meet the Staff" video box to meet Norm.

  • April 29 -- NCCC Sprint Ladder
  • April 30 -- BARTG Sprint 75
  • April 30 - May 1 -- Nebraska QSO Party; Florida QSO Party; SBMS 2 GHz and Up WW Club Contest (local time); QRP to the Field
  • May 1 -- AGCW QRP/QRP Party
  • May 3 -- ARS Spartan Sprint
  • May 4-5 -- MIE 33 Contest

Next week:

  • May 6 -- NCCC Sprint Ladder
  • May 7-8 -- New England QSO Party; 7th Call Area QSO Party; Indiana QSO Party; 10-10 International Spring Contest (CW); ARI International DX Contest
  • May 8 -- Araucaria VHF Contest; Microwave Spring Sprint (local time)
  • May 8 -- SKCC Weekend Sprint
  • May 11-12 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

All dates, unless otherwise stated, are UTC. See the ARRL Contest Branch page, the ARRL Contest Update and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar for more info. Looking for a Special Event station? Be sure to check out the ARRL Special Event Stations Web page.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State and Division Conventions and Events

To find a convention or hamfest near you, click here.

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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.

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