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The ARRL Letter
July 7, 2016
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FCC Investigating Amateur Radio, Commercial Application Processing Glitch

The FCC information technology staff is continuing to look into why the Universal Licensing System (ULS) Electronic Batch Filing (EBF) system has stopped processing at least some -- and perhaps all -- Amateur Radio exam session files and applications. The stoppage, which began on June 28, initially affected the handling of all Amateur Radio VEC and commercial license applications, said ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, who alerted the FCC IT Department. Somma said that by June 30, it appeared that the FCC had corrected the broader problem, and processing of most Amateur Radio VEC and commercial applications and exam session files had resumed.

"The fix for the ARRL VEC remains elusive, however," said Somma. "I assumed the issue would be cleared up quickly, as the FCC has done in the past." She added that the FCC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the problem, which she believes still could be affecting applications from outside the ARRL VEC.

According to Somma, resolving the problem has been escalated to Priority 1 at the FCC, and resources have been reprioritized to address the issue.

"I have been in contact with the FCC every day, inquiring about their progress, and will continue to do so until the problem is resolved," Somma said. "I have also asked them to provide us with an alternate filing option as soon as possible."

Somma said that as of July 6, the ARRL VEC had more than 900 applications and nearly 275 exam sessions in the queue and awaiting FCC processing.

"As soon as the FCC staff discovers and corrects the EBF system problem, we will immediately file the backlog, which would take only a day or so to release," Somma estimated.

She said a lot of candidates and volunteer examiners have begun asking why new call signs or license upgrades have not yet been issued, and she is sympathetic to their concerns. "We usually transmit the exam sessions to the FCC as soon as possible, which is 24 to 48 hours from the day they are received in our office," she said. "Therefore, questions from the field about the delay are understandable."

Amateur Electronic Supply Closing after 59 Years in Business

Amateur Electronic Supply (AES) will close its doors at the end of July after 59 years in business. No reason has been given for the decision to close the business. AES has been a premier player among Amateur Radio equipment retailers for decades, as well as a major presence at Dayton Hamvention® and other events. Various media outlets were informed of the closing in a brief e-mail message on July 6, but word of the closing has not yet appeared on the retailer's website or Facebook page.

"It's with great sadness that I have to tell you that Amateur Electronic Supply (AES) will cease operations at the end of this month," AES National Sales Manager Tom Pachner, W9TJP, said in an e-mail. An employee at the Milwaukee headquarters store, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed that the message was legitimate. It's believed that the AES staff was notified before the July 4th holiday weekend. In addition to the Milwaukee store, AES operates outlets in Cleveland (Wickliffe), Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin, native Terry Sterman, W9DIA (SK), founded AES in 1957 when he was just 18, after getting into the radio-TV business by working in his father's TV and electronics parts store. On January 1, 1998, ownership of AES shifted to Amateur Electronic Supply LLC, headed by Phil Majerus, a prominent Wisconsin businessman. Sterman died the following year at the age of 60, after a period of ill health.

For many years, the public face of AES was its Executive Vice President Ray Grenier, K9KHW, who oversaw marketing and advertising for the retailer from 1964 until his retirement in 2013. Grenier nearly singlehandedly produced the famous AES catalog, as well as magazine ads. For about 20 years, he also organized the well-received AES Superfest, a promotional effort begun in 1995 that grew into a hamfest. In April, the AES Superfest hosted the 2016 ARRL Wisconsin Section Convention.

Many radio amateurs reacted to the news on various online forums, expressing surprise, sadness, and dismay, and saying they would miss AES. A few reminisced about having bought their first radios from AES.

Past ARRL Roanoke Division Director, Honorary Vice President Dennis Bodson, W4PWF, SK

Past ARRL Roanoke Division Director Dennis Bodson, W4PWF, of Arlington, Virginia, died on July 1. He would have turned 77 this month. Bodson had been recovering from recent surgery, but his death was unexpected.

An ARRL Life Member, Bodson announced his retirement from the ARRL Board of Directors during the Board's 2015 Annual Meeting. Fellow Board members gave Bodson a standing ovation in recognition of his years of service to the League, and they elected him as an Honorary Vice President. Earlier in the meeting, then-ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, presented Bodson with his 60-year ARRL membership certificate. Sumner said he was shocked and saddened to learn of Bodson's passing.

ARRL Honorary Vice President Dennis Bodson, W4PWF, SK.

"His service as Roanoke Division Vice Director and Director met a standard of common sense and loyalty to the ARRL that in my experience has been seldom matched and never exceeded," Sumner said.

Bodson served the League for more than 20 years -- as Roanoke Division Vice Director from 1993 through 2000, and as Director from 2001 until he stepped down from the Board. He served on the Ethics and Elections, Programs and Services, Administration and Finance, and Executive committees. He also was the first chairman of the Board's Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Committee, and Past ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, said Bodson's greatest contribution to ARRL stemmed from his work on that panel.

"The committee's new, proactive stance made it possible to prevent and avoid what would have been a number of thorny problems for Amateur Radio operators and to promptly address others," Craigie said. "Dennis never got the credit he deserved for his leadership of this committee, because a bullet that's dodged doesn't make the headlines."

At the January 2015 ARRL Board meeting, fellow members gave Dennis Bodson, W4PWF (seated), a standing ovation in recognition of his more than 2 decades of service to the League.

"In addition to his technical wisdom," she continued, "Dennis was a delightful colleague and a raconteur. His sense of humor was sly, dry, and sharp, and no bush ever died from his beating around it. He always had something insightful and/or funny to say."

An electrical engineer and fellow of both the IEEE and the Radio Club of America, Bodson retired in 1998 as Chief of the Office of Technology and Standards of the National Communications System (NCS), US government agency. He occasionally contributed to QST and QEX. "In 1986, he shared some of his expertise in a four-part series of QST articles, 'Electromagnetic Pulse and the Radio Amateur,' that has stood the test of time as the classic treatment of this important topic," Sumner said.

A funeral mass will be held on July 8 at the Cathedral of St Thomas More, 3901 Cathedral Lane, Arlington, with interment to follow. The family invites memorial contributions to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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The Doctor Will See You Now!

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Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor in Chief Steve Ford, WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range of technical topics. You can also e-mail your questions to doctor@arrl.org, and the Doctor may answer them in a future podcast.

Enjoy "ARRL The Doctor is In" on Apple iTunes, or by using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for "ARRL The Doctor is In"). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required, or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS, Kindle, or Android devices.

If you've never listened to a podcast before, download our beginner's guide. Just ahead: "HF Propagation" on July 14.

National Parks on the Air Update

August 25 is the actual day of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary. Many national parks around the country will be celebrating with events and public outreach. For ham radio operators, setting up a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation would add a nice flair to these celebrations. Reach out to a park and ask if they would like to include a National Parks on the Air component to any Centennial celebrations they are holding on August 25. If they say yes, then get ready for an adventure!

There are 54 NPOTA activations on the schedule for the week of July 7-13, including the Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, and Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site in New York.

Details about these and other upcoming activations can be found on the NPOTA Activations calendar.

Keep up with the latest NPOTA news on Facebook. Follow NPOTA on Twitter (@ARRL_NPOTA).

IARU HF World Championship July 9-10 is Mid-Year Contest Centerpiece

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) HF World Championship over the July 9-10 weekend is the highlight of the mid-2016 contest calendar for radio amateurs around the globe. W1AW/9 in Illinois and NU1AW/6 in California will represent the ARRL and the IARU Secretariat, respectively, as headquarters (HQ) stations. W1AW/9 will operate from the stations of Craig Thompson, K9CT, on CW, and Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, and Jerry Rosalius, WB9Z, on phone. NU1AW/6 will be on the air both from the station of Ken Keeler, N6RO, and from the Stanford University Radio Club's W6YX. An unofficial list of IARU headquarters stations, available for download, has been compiled by Joe Roemming, OZ0J, and Bob Wilson, N6TV.

Headquarters stations count as multipliers, and some new HQ stations are expected to be active for the IARU event. These include J77HQ (DARCI) in Dominica, operated by K5KG, WI9WI, and W4IX; the very similar J87HQ (SVGRS) in St Vincent, operated by KE1B and W6NN, and Z60A in Kosovo, representing SHRAK -- the newest IARU member society -- operated by OH2BH, OZ1IKY, and others.

In addition to HQ stations, members of the IARU Administrative Council (AC) and the three IARU regional executive committees will send AC, R1, R2, and R3, as appropriate, in the exchange. Contacts with IARU member society HQ stations and officials do not count for zone multipliers.

The contest gets under way on July 9 at 1200 UTC on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters and concludes 24 hours later. Participants may operate on CW, on phone, or both. Non-HQ stations will send a signal report and ITU zone. (The IARU HF Championship web page includes ITU Zone Borders for the US and Canada.) Read more.

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ARRL 600 Meter Experiment Reports 202,400+ Hours of Operation, Zero Interference Complaints

The ARRL 600 Meter Experiment being carried out under the WD2XSH Part 5 Experimental license reports that no interference complaints have been received from other services operating in the 465-515 kHz band over the course of more than 202,400 hours of operation, nor was interference from other operations an issue for any of the experiment's participants. That statistic was contained in the experiment's March 1 to May 31, 2016, report, prepared by Experiment Coordinator Fritz Raab, W1FR, with participants Rudy Severns, N6LF, and John Langridge KB5NJD, and released on July

Ralph Hartwell, W5JGV, in Louisiana, takes part in the WD2XSH experiment. This is the base loading coil and antenna tuning unit for his 600 meter vertical.

3. Utilities' expressed fears of interference to their unlicensed PLC systems prompted the FCC to consider regulatory provisions that include a possible notification requirement by some radio amateurs to utilities with systems in the pending 630 meter (472-479 kHz) and 2200 meter (135.7-137.8 kHz) bands, prior to operating. Utilities use unlicensed PLC systems to control parts of the electrical power grid.

The latest WD2XSH update reported another 16 contacts on the pending 630 meter band, for a total of 578. The Amateur Radio community continues to wait for the FCC to release a Report and Order spelling out service rules and operational requirements for the two bands -- both of which have become available in more than a dozen other countries, including Canada. The ARRL petitioned the FCC in 2012 to carve out the same band for US hams.

"When the FCC grants amateur access to the band from 472 to 479 kHz, I will restrict operation under the experimental license to 461 to 472 kHz," Raab said in the report. "This will clear the amateur frequencies while allowing the experimenters to run unattended propagation beacons without using the limited bandwidth that will be available to amateurs." Earlier this year he asked that ARRL renew the WD2XSH experimental license while awaiting FCC action on 630 meters and 2200 meters.

WD2XSH participant, Rudy Severns, N6LF, contributed to the recent update on the experiment.

In an ex parte statement filed on March 10 with the FCC, the ARRL asked the Commission not to adopt "an overbroad" requirement for notification of utilities in advance of intended Amateur Radio operation on the pending 2200 and 630 meter bands.

According to the experiment's report, activity on 630 meters continued through the spring, despite increasing noise levels and deteriorating propagation. Band conditions overall were described as "variable." The path to Australia from North America was reported to have been good and "relatively predictable," while the paths to Europe and Japan have been less active.

New Microwave, UHF Distance Records Set on Same Day

New distance records were set on 47 GHz and on 902 MHz on June 30 by stations at vastly different points on the globe. On 47 GHz, US and Canadian operators set up on Whiteface Mountain in New York (FN34bi) and on Mont Tremblant in Quebec (FN26rf), respectively, in

Mike Seguin, N1JEZ, on Whiteface Mountain.

the effort to set a new US-Canada record on the band. The distance was calculated at 215 kilometers (133.3 miles). On the US side were Mike Seguin, N1JEZ, and Henry Ingwersen, KT1J; on the Canadian side were Rene Barbeau, VE2UG, and Ray Perrin, VE3FN.

"On this band, we usually are working line of sight," Seguin said. "We have a lot of experimentation to do, now that there are some good high-power amps available." He said the June 30 attempt marked the second 47 GHz contact for VE2UG and VE3FN. A week earlier, they had worked both KT1J and N1JEZ over a 99-kilometer (61.4 miles) path, with signals peaking almost 60 dB out of the noise.

Ray Perrin, VE3FN, on Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

Once everything was in place, Seguin was able to hear Barbeu's CW signal almost immediately. "Signals were not strong, with a lot of QSB," Seguin said. After aligning their dishes, each operator worked the others. Following the successful 47 GHz contacts, VE3FN and N1JEZ worked each other "easily" on 24 GHz SSB. The North American distance record on 47 GHz is 344.8 kilometers (213.8 miles), set in 2015.

Meanwhile on the Pacific side of the world, Wayne Overbeck, N6NB, and Greg Campbell, W6IT, set a new world DX record on 902 MHz between California and Hawaii. They took advantage of a transpacific tropo duct to complete a contact over a path of 4095 kilometers (2544 miles), topping the old record set more than 20 years ago of 4064 kilometers. Last year, Overbeck and Campbell set world distance records on 2.3 and 3.4 GHz over the approximately the same path.

The N6NB "rover" in Hawaii for the 902 MHz record. [Wayne Overbeck, N6NB, photo]

"This record contact again underscored the degree to which these record-setting attempts involve good luck as well as planning and preparation," Overbeck said. Not since the tropo duct that allowed Campbell and Overbeck to set their microwave records last year had another occurred, until June 30. "This duct only produced good signals for a matter of a few hours," he recounted. He said he and Campbell both managed to be in the right place at the right time to set the new 902 MHz record. "Three hours later the duct dissipated and transpacific signals faded into the noise," Overbeck said.

N6NB operated from Hawaii using a suitcase portable station in a rented vehicle at 5260 feet elevation; in California, W6IT used one of N6NB's rover stations to operate 75 miles inland at 6200 feet elevation. Read more.

Juno Spacecraft that Heard Hams Say "HI" Now Orbiting Jupiter

NASA's Juno spacecraft, which in 2013 listened for earthbound radio amateurs sending "HI" in coordinated, very slow-speed CW, now is circling Jupiter. In a first-of-a kind for an interplanetary spacecraft, Juno was able to detect 10 meter Amateur Radio signals on October 9, 2013, as it looped past Earth for a gravity-assisted boost on its way to Jupiter. Juno arrived at the solar system's largest planet on July 4.

At the time of the Amateur Radio experiment in 2013, the spacecraft was about 37,500 kilometers (23,250 miles) away, and the signals it received were reported to have been just at or above the noise level. The object of the experiment was to see if Juno's onboard "Waves" experiment would be able to detect the collaborative RF. According to the University of Iowa, after the flyby the Juno team evaluated the Waves instrument data containing the messages.

"We believe this was the first intelligent information to be transmitted to a passing interplanetary space instrument, as simple as the message may seem," said Bill Kurth, a University of Iowa Researcher and Lead Investigator for the Waves instrument. "This was a way to involve a large number of people -- those not usually associated with Juno -- in a small portion of the mission."

Kurth said in 2013 that the activity had raised awareness of the mission, and that some radio amateurs had indicated plans to follow Juno through its science mission to Jupiter. Read more.

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Doug Zwiebel, KR2Q, Named CQ World Wide DX Contest Director

Longtime CQ World Wide (CQ WW) DX Contest Committee member Doug Zwiebel, KR2Q, of Randolph, New Jersey, has been named Director of the CQ World Wide DX Contest, CQ magazine Publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA, has announced. Zwiebel succeeds Randy Thompson, K5ZD, who had served for the past 4 years.

Doug Zwiebel, KR2Q.

Zwiebel -- who is the longest-serving member of the CQ WW Contest Committee, having joined it in 1979 -- brought the contest into the computer age by writing the first mass log-checking program in 1980. In 1986, he suggested the establishment of the CQ Contest Hall of Fame. Ross said Zwiebel brings a unique perspective to the table.

An ARRL member who was first licensed in 1966, Zwiebel began contesting a year later and has never stopped. He holds DXCC Honor Roll #1 and has worked more than 250 DX entities while running less than 1 W. Read more.

Handiham Program's Sister Alverna O'Laughlin, ex-WA0SGJ, SK

Handiham stalwart Sister Alverna O'Laughlin, ex-WA0SGJ, of Rochester, Minnesota, died on May 30. She was 84. Sister Alverna joined the then-fledgling organization in its earliest days, when founder Ned Carman, W0ZSW, came up with the idea of sharing Amateur Radio with people who have disabilities.

"Ned enlisted the help of a group of local nuns, the Sisters of St Francis, on April 30, 1967," retired Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, recounted on the Handiham website. "[T]he sisters were committed to helping Ned with his new project, and several received their licenses. Among them was Sister Alverna O'Laughlin, WA0SGJ, who would eventually become the Educational Coordinator for the Handiham System at Courage Center in Golden Valley, Minnesota."

Tice praised Sister Alverna's "kindness and patience" and said her guidance, encouragement, and hard work led to many new radio amateurs over the years.

"Making friends on the radio, learning the math and science of electronics, and striving toward goals were all things that would make the lives of Handiham members better," he said.

During her active years, Sister Alverna was an ARRL member.

In Brief...

Balloting to Begin for AMSAT Board of Directors: The 2016 candidates for the AMSAT Board of Directors have been chosen, and ballots go out to members this month. The candidates are Tom Clark, K3IO; Clayton Coleman, W5PFG; Mark Hammond, N8MH; Bruce Paige, KK5DO, and Paul Stoetzer, N8HM. AMSAT members will elect three voting Board members -- the seats going to the three candidates receiving the most votes. Two alternates will also be chosen, based on the next highest number of votes received. Ballots will be mailed to the AMSAT-NA membership by July 15 and must be received at the AMSAT office by September 15. The current AMSAT-NA Board members are Barry Baines, WD4ASW; Tom Clark, K3IO; JoAnne Maenpaa, K9JKM; Lou McFadin, W5DID; Jerry Buxton, N0JY; Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, and Bob McGwier, N4HY -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service

Youth DX Adventure Team Headed to Saba in August: The 2016 Dave Kalter Memorial Youth DX Adventure (YDXA) team is heading to Saba this summer, to the Caribbean station of Jeff Jolie, PJ6/NM1Y, who will host three teenaged Amateur Radio operators and their chaperones. This year's youth team includes Morgan Croucher, KD8ZLK; Ruth Willet, KM4LAO, and Faith Hannah Lea, AE4FH. Escorting them will be Joe Binkley, KD8YPY; Sharon Willet, KM4TVU, and James Lea, WX4TV. The budding DXers/DXpeditioners will be on the air from Saba August 2-9. Dave Kalter was KB8OCP, a member of the TI5N contest team and a founder of the YDXA. He served as a vice president of the Southwest Ohio DX Association (SWODXA) and was an active member of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, which sponsors Hamvention®. He died in 2013.

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The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: The recent zero-sunspot period (June 23-July 4) ended when a single sunspot group (2560) appeared on July 5. Sunspot numbers were 23 and 11, respectively, on July 5 and 6. Compared to the previous week, average daily sunspot number rose from zero to 4.9. Average daily solar flux declined from 75.6 to 73.1. The average planetary A index dropped from 9 to 6.7, and the average mid-latitude A index declined from 9.1 to 8.3.

Predicted solar flux shows a rising trend for the next few days, with flux values from USAF/NOAA at 77, 78, and 79 on July 7-9; 80 on July 10-13; 74 on July 14-16; 72 on July 17-30; 74 on July 31-August 12, and 72 on August 13 and beyond.

Predicted planetary A index is 18, 15, and 10 on July 7-9; 8, 15, and 12 on July 10-12; 8, 10, and 8 on July 13-15; 5 on July 16-18; 15, 12, 10, 8, and 10 on July 19-23; 5 on July 24-27; 8 and 5 on July 28-29; 10 on July 30-31; 5 on August 1-3; 12, 10, 8, and 18 on August 4-7; 12, 8, 10, and 8 on August 8-11, and 5 on August 12-14.

At 2352 UTC on July 6, the Space Weather Services in Australia issued a geomagnetic warning: The effect of a co-rotating interaction region and a high speed solar wind stream may raise geomagnetic activity to minor storm levels on July 7 and 8.

Sunspot numbers for June 30-July 6 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 23, and 11, with a mean of 4.9. The 10.7 centimeter flux was 72.9, 72, 70.9, 72.3, 73.8, 72.4, and 77.1, with a mean of 73.1. Estimated planetary A indices were 6, 7, 9, 9, 7, 4, and 5, with a mean of 6.7. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 7, 9, 11, 9, 9, 6, and 7 with a mean of 8.3.

Send me your reports and observations.


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This Week in Radiosport
  • July 9 -- FISTS Summer Sprint (CW)

  • July 9-10 -- IARU HF World Championship (CW, phone)

  • July 9-10 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • July 10 -- CQC Great Colorado Gold Rush (CW)

  • July 13 -- RSGB 80 Meter Club Championship (SSB)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on Amateur Radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile e-mail preferences.


Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.


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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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