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The ARRL Letter
January 10, 2019
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Amateur Radio Applications in Limbo as Partial Shutdown Continues

The FCC is not processing any Amateur Radio applications as the partial government shutdown approaches its fourth week. The FCC suspended "most operations" at mid-day on Thursday, January 3, although an appearance of activity continues. For radio amateurs, the shutdown means that, while the Universal Licensing System (ULS) continues to accept applications for all valid purposes, the FCC will not review or act upon them until the funding stalemate is resolved. This includes Volunteer Examiner Coordinator test session batch files as well as modification, renewal, and vanity call sign applications filed by individual licensees. Amateur Radio newcomers who have passed the required examinations will have to wait until the shutdown concludes to receive a call sign and authorization to operate. License upgrades are also on hold.

"Due to a lapse in funding, the operations of the Federal Communications Commission will be limited with no system support. We regret any inconvenience," the FCC says on the ULS home page. This means very limited human intervention while the shutdown continues, and if a system breaks down, it will not be repaired until after employees are back on the payroll. At this point, 262 of 1,437 FCC employees (excepting contractors) remain on the job, as are FCC Commissioners.

The Antideficiency Act prohibits FCC and other federal employees from working until funds are available to pay them; they may not even volunteer, check their email, or attend meetings. While the law doesn't directly affect FCC automated filing databases, some of these cannot operate without regular human intervention.

The Commission has emphasized that it will undertake any activities necessary for the protection of life and property during the funding lapse. That includes the High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) Center in Maryland, considered essential.

The FCC website remains up, and the FCC Daily Digest of its activity continues to be posted, but the website is not being updated, and the only items it contains are those related to spectrum auctions, activity that is funded through auction proceeds, not government funds. The Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) will also accept posts, but filings will not be reviewed or processed until after normal operations return.

The FCC spelled out the overall impact of the funding lapse in a January 2 Public Notice. Using available funds, the agency was able to maintain a business-as-usual posture until that date. The FCC released an updated Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations on January 9. The resumption of normal operations will also be announced on the FCC's website.

US Senate Confirms Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr to Full FCC Terms

The US Senate confirmed Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr to full 5-year terms as FCC commissioners on January 2, bringing the FCC to its full complement of five. Starks, who most recently served as assistant chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, fills the Democratic seat vacated last spring by Mignon Clyburn.

Geoffrey Starks. [FCC photo]

Republican nominees have a 3 - 2 advantage on the Commission. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is the other Democrat on the FCC.

"I congratulate Geoffrey on his Senate confirmation," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "During his confirmation hearing, I was excited to hear him highlight the need to expand rural broadband and the power of telemedicine. I look forward to working with him and having a fellow Kansan on the Commission."

Carr, a Republican originally nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat left vacant by the departure of former FCC Chairman Tom

Brendan Carr. [FCC photo]

Wheeler, was confirmed last August and has been serving on the Commission. He has now been confirmed for a full 5-year term. Carr previously served as FCC general counsel.

"I also congratulate Brendan on his confirmation to a full term," Pai said in a statement. "Brendan has done tremendous work on a number of issues, including his leadership on wireless infrastructure modernization. He has also been a staunch advocate for rural broadband deployment, particularly for precision agriculture and advancements in telemedicine."

In addition to Pai and Carr, the other Republican on the FCC is Michael O'Rielly.

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Nominations Solicited for Six ARRL Awards

The ARRL invites nominations for awards that recognize educational and technological pursuits in Amateur Radio. Nominations are also open for ARRL's premier award to honor a young licensee -- the Hiram Percy Maxim Award.

  • The Hiram Percy Maxim Award recognizes a radio amateur and ARRL member under age 21 whose accomplishments and contributions are of the most exemplary nature within the framework of Amateur Radio activities. Nominations for this award need to be made through your ARRL Section Manager, who will then forward the nomination to ARRL Headquarters by March 31, 2019.
  • The ARRL Herb S. Brier Instructor of the Year Award honors an ARRL volunteer Amateur Radio instructor or an ARRL professional classroom teacher who uses creative instructional approaches and reflects the highest values of the Amateur Radio community. The award highlights quality of -- and commitment to -- licensing instruction. Nominations are due by March 15, 2019.
  • The ARRL Microwave Development Award pays tribute to a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who contribute to the development of the Amateur Radio microwave bands. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2019.
  • The ARRL Technical Service Award recognizes a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who provide Amateur Radio technical assistance or training to others. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2019.
  • The ARRL Technical Innovation Award is granted to a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who develop and apply new technical ideas or techniques in Amateur Radio. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2019.
  • The Knight Distinguished Service Award was established to recognize exceptionally notable contributions by a Section Manager to the health and vitality of ARRL. The nomination deadline is April 30, 2019.

The ARRL Board of Directors selects recipients for these awards. Winners are typically announced following the Board's July meeting. More information about these awards is on the ARRL website, or contact Steve Ewald, WV1X, telephone (860) 594-0265, at ARRL Headquarters.

The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Log Periodic Antennas" is the topic of the current (January 3) episode of the "ARRL The Doctor is In" podcast. Listen...and learn!

Sponsored by DX Engineering, "ARRL The Doctor is In" is an informative discussion of all things technical. Listen on your computer, tablet, or smartphone -- whenever and wherever you like!

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 email 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.

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RTTY and FT8 Successfully Coexist in 2019 ARRL RTTY Roundup

Based on informal exit polling and log-submission trends, it appears that RTTY and FT8 successfully shared spectrum during the ARRL RTTY Roundup over the January 5 - 6 weekend. The event is seeing a dramatic uptick from last year in the number of logs submitted, with more than 2,400 and counting received by midweek, as opposed to 1,622 in the 2018 running. ARRL Contest Branch Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, is urging everyone who participated in the 2019 RTTY Roundup to turn in a log -- no matter the number of contacts made. Logs for the 2019 RTTY Roundup are due by Sunday, January 13, at 2359 UTC, and may be uploaded via the ARRL website (or see mailing instructions for paper logs).

"The 30th running of the ARRL RTTY Roundup is now in the books," Jahnke said. "All indications are that the event -- in both RTTY and other digital categories -- gained significant additional attention and increased popularity with the inclusion of FT8 in the digital lineup." Jahnke said digital operating experience gained through the RTTY Roundup should benefit participants in the upcoming ARRL January VHF Contest and in future VHF contests, where WSJT-X protocols such as JTx, MSK144, and FT8 continue to gain popularity as a means to work hard-to-reach grids beyond the usual 400-mile tropo-scatter range, and for slower activity periods.

Jahnke reminds those submitting RTTY Roundup logs to make sure they're entering in the correct category. All entries that made contacts in FT8 or PSKxx (with their multi-channel decoder technology) must enter in one of the Unlimited categories, unless they're Multioperator entries. Contact the ARRL Contest Branch with any questions.

The inclusion of FT8 for the first time in the RTTY Roundup had generated considerable pre-contest debate, but when all was said and done, many stations tended to operate one mode or the other, although some took advantage of both (and perhaps of other digital modes), judging from logs posted on the 3830scores website. The RTTY Roundup came close on the heels of the inaugural FT8 Roundup over the first weekend in December, which was deemed a success (it was the first-ever contest for the winner -- only licensed for 2 years -- and for one other Top 10 finisher).

Alex Panoiu, YO9HP, in Romania, said he was initially hesitant about the idea of mixing RTTY and FT8, but he set up for both modes anyway. "Definitely in the first hours, the rates were three times higher in RTTY compared to FT8," he said in his 3830scores comments. "But later, when less 'fresh meat' was available in RTTY and propagation became marginal, FT8 became interesting. I noticed that most of the calls worked in FT8 never appeared in my RTTY log." He logged 369 digital contacts and 639 RTTY contacts.

The WW4LL Multi-Single, High Power team made about one-third of its contacts using digital modes. J42L, operating Multi-Single, Low Power from SV2DCD, avoided RTTY altogether, logging 535 digital contacts.

FT8 co-developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, operating Single Operator Unlimited, Low Power used only FT8, logging 585 contacts. He noted "close to zero" inter-mode interference between RTTY and FT8 signals.

NCJ Digital Contesting Editor Ed Muns, W0YK, said he was very impressed with how the first RTTY Roundup to permit FT8 worked out.

"FT8 has significant advantages for a much larger group of contest participants who are constrained by geography, housing limitations, solar conditions, power, and noise," Muns said. "The amazing explosive growth of FT8 activity since its introduction in mid-2017 also means that there are many more participants for all of us to work in contests."

Muns said he initially didn't believe that RTTY and FT8 could coexist in the same contest. "Of course, like many things we can debate ad infinitum, a little bit of actual experience goes a long way to inform our [preconceived notions]," he added. "I'm very impressed with how it all worked out."

Aborted 3Y0Z Bouvet DXpedition Offers Donation Refund Options

Leaders of the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island DXpedition, which was abruptly aborted in February 2018 before the team was able to land on the island, are offering several options for partial refunds to those who contributed to their venture. The turn of events was a huge disappointment for the DX community, as well as for the DXpedition team.

"Let me take this opportunity to thank you again for your financial support," DXpedition co-leader and Chief Financial Officer Bob Allphin, K4UEE, said in a statement. "The DXpedition team members are all extremely disappointed that we were not able to complete our mission. We were offshore Bouvet for 3 days and encountered extreme weather conditions. While fighting hurricane-force winds, one of our vessel's engines was over-stressed and a critical coupling failed. The ship's captain had no choice but to abort the DXpedition for safety reasons. It was the correct decision, but a huge disappointment after almost 3 years of planning." Allphin said all DXpedition accounts have now been settled.

"After all this, I am happy to report we have a balance in our accounts. I am able to offer you a 48% refund of your original contribution to 3Y0Z. All supporters of our DXpedition are offered the same percentage regardless of whether they are a DX foundation, DX club, individual DXer, or DXpedition team member. This is the only fair way to do this," Allphin explained. There are five refund options:

1. Refund the contribution. Allphin said refunds for individuals would be made via PayPal, but he asked those who contributed $30 or less to forgo their refunds and donate them to the 3Y0Z team.

2. Donate any refund to the 3Y0Z team. Allphin pointed out that team members "invested considerable money, time, and effort to try to make this DXpedition a success."

3. Donate any refund to the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) in the contributor's name, to help fund future DXpeditions.

4. Donate any refund to the International DX Foundation (INDEXA) in the contributor's name, to help fund future DXpeditions.

5. The default option: For those who do not respond, the 3Y0Z team will divvy the contribution among the 3Y0Z team, NCDXF, INDEXA, and the German DX Foundation (GDXF) -- the DXpedition's largest financial supporters.

3Y0Z team member Ralph Fedor, K0IR, looks out toward Bouvet Island last February.

The deadline to request a refund or to select a specific beneficiary under options 1 - 4 is March 15, 2019. "It is not necessary to contact me," Allphin said. "If I do not hear from you by the deadline, I will assume the default option." Otherwise, contact Allphin via email.

Bouvet Island is currently the second-most-wanted DXCC entity, behind North Korea. The 3Y0Z DXpedition, comprised of top operators with considerable DXpedition experience, had attracted contributions from clubs and individuals around the world.

A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is a subantarctic island in the South Atlantic. The last Bouvet activation was 3Y0E, during a scientific expedition over the winter of 2007 - 2008.

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Registration Open for HamSCI 2019 Workshop, Call for Papers Issued

The 2019 HamSCI Workshop will take place on March 22 - 23 at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio, in association with the CWRU Amateur Radio Club (W8EDU). Registration is now open, and papers are invited.

"We are especially looking for speakers with presentations showing analysis of ionospheric observations, ideas and proposals for the design of the Personal Space Weather Station and instrumentation for the 2024 eclipse," HamSCI's Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, said. "We will also accept other presentations related to Amateur Radio and science." Email abstracts to hamsci@hamsci.org by February 10, 2019.

The theme for this year's conference will be "Ionospheric Effects and Sensing," including the use of Amateur Radio techniques to characterize and study ionospheric phenomena, such as traveling ionospheric disturbances, sporadic E, response to solar flares, geomagnetic storms, the 2024 total solar eclipse, and other space weather events. Discussion will include continued development of the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station and integration of Amateur Radio into the collegiate curriculum.

Featured speakers will include well-known Amateur Radio author Ward Silver, N0AX, propagation specialist Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, and Larisa Goncharenko, who will talk on Space Science for Ham Radio Operators. The workshop is hosted by CWRU in collaboration with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

Tickets Available for Convention-Related Dinners

The 2019 Orlando Contest Dinner, sponsored by the Florida Contest Group (FCG) in conjunction with Orlando HamCation, will be held on February 8. A social hour gets under way at 5 PM, with a barbecue buffet to follow at 6:30 PM. Dinner speaker will be Andy Blank, N2NT, a CQ Contest Hall of Fame member and CQ World Wide 160 Meter Contest director. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the FCG website.

Tickets for the DX Dinner, sponsored by the SouthWest Ohio DX Association (SWODXA) and held in conjunction with Hamvention, are now on sale. The dinner will take place Friday, May 17, at the Dayton Marriott, 1414 S. Patterson Boulevard in Dayton. A social hour will begin at 5:30 PM, and dinner will follow at 7 PM. The DXpedition of the Year® will be announced, and the Island Radio Expedition Foundation (IREF) will present the IOTA DXpeditioner of the Year Award during the dinner. Tickets are available via the SWODXA Events website, which includes more information. -- Thanks to Mindi Jones, KC8CKW

Tickets are now available for the 27th annual Dayton Contest Dinner, which takes place on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Dayton, Ohio. The North Coast Contesters sponsor the event. Featured speaker will be Ted Rappaport, N9NB. The 2019 CQ Contest Hall of Fame inductees will be announced during the Dayton Contest Dinner. A social hour will begin at 5:30 PM, with dinner at 6:30 PM. Tickets for the 30th annual Dayton Top Band Dinner are also available. The speaker is Ken Claerbout, K4ZW. The Top Band Dinner is Friday, May 17, at the Crown Plaza in downtown Dayton. A social hour begins at 6 PM, with dinner served at 7 PM. Both events will take place in the Presidential Ballroom. -- Thanks to Tim Duffy, K3LR

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Historic Schooner that Carried Ham Radio on Arctic Expeditions Undergoing Additional Restoration

The nearly century-old schooner Bowdoin, built in 1921 and relaunched nearly 3 years ago, after some extensive renovation and refitting, is once again in dry dock to restore its hull. During explorer Donald B. MacMillan's Arctic Expedition of 1923 and on the MacMillan-McDonald-Byrd Expedition of 1925, the sailing vessel relied on Amateur Radio operators for communication. Built in East Boothbay, Maine, the Bowdoin has made more than two dozen visits to the Arctic under MacMillan's command. It was named after MacMillan's alma mater, Bowdoin College, and has become the official vessel of the state of Maine, a national historic landmark, and the flagship of the Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) Vessel Operations and Technology Program. Work on the vessel is currently under way at Boothbay Harbor.

At Wiscasset, Maine, with the schooner Bowdoin, ARRL sponsors check out the receiver furnished by Zenith for the 1923 Arctic Expedition. From left to right: F.H. Schnell, 1MO, Traffic Manager; K.B. Warner, 9JT, Secretary-Manager, and Hiram Percy Maxim, 1AW, ARRL President.

"Our goal is to maintain the boat to the highest standard, to go above and beyond in order to preserve this living piece of history," MMA Marine Operations Manager Dana Willis said in a December media release. One such preservation update has been supplementing Bowdoin's sails with a diesel engine.

In 1923, MacMillan had turned to ARRL for help in outfitting his expedition with better wireless gear, and, as Michael Marinaro, WN1M, explained in his June 2014 QST article, "Polar Exploration," that help "was enthusiastically provided." ARRL Co-Founder Hiram Percy Maxim and the ARRL Board agreed to furnish support and recruited Donald H. Mix, 1TS, of Bristol, Connecticut, to serve as the shipboard operator. Board member M.B. West custom-designed the equipment, which was built by radio amateurs at his firm, Zenith Electronics. The transmitter operated on medium-wave frequencies with a power of 100 W and used the call sign WNP -- for "Wireless North Pole."

The Bowdoin is launched from Wiscasset, Maine, for the 1923 MacMillan Arctic Expedition.

As Marinaro explained in his article, "WNP transmitted weekly 500-word press releases and listings of stations worked and heard. Once received by amateur stations, these reports were delivered to local affiliated newspapers of the North American Newspaper Alliance; from there, they were distributed syndicate-wide by telegraph."

In 1925, the Bowdoin headed to Greenland. "The outstanding accomplishment of the expedition was in the sphere of radio," Marinaro wrote. "Utilizing shortwaves, the expedition was in consistent contact with the outside world throughout the journey, to the delight of the amateurs who were able to work them. The phenomenal success proved to the Navy that shortwaves were definitely superior to the long and ultra-long waves on which the fleets had been relying."

The Bowdoin is expected to be seaworthy again for the summer sailing season, when it will serve once again in MMA sail training courses. -- Thanks to Maine Maritime Academy

In Brief...

The latest General-class Question Pool, effective July 1, has been released. The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) Question Pool Committee has released the 2019 - 2023 FCC Element 3 General Class Question Pool into the public domain. The 2019 - 2023 General Class (Element 3) Question Pool is available in Word, ASCII text, and PDF versions. The new Question Pool is effective for Element 3 exams administered on or after July 1, 2019. On January 6, the Question Pool Committee also released a revised diagram Figure G7-1 (PDF) (JPG), as part of the new Element 3 Question Pool. -- Thanks to NCVEC Question Pool Committee

The MIT Radio Society (W1MX) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) are hosting a series of public lectures on "everything radio." The lectures, presented by academics and industry professionals, will be held every Tuesday at 5:30 PM ET in Building 3, Room 270. Sessions will also be live-streamed via YouTube, courtesy of MIT Student Cable (January 8 lecture) and archived. Each self-contained talk will address a different facet of radio, ranging from modulation, propagation, and Amateur Radio, to radar, radio astronomy, space-based applications, and cellular and 5G technology. No prior experience with radio is necessary. All are welcome to attend individual lectures or the entire series. The schedule and speakers list is on the EECS Independent Activities Period (IAP) page, under the Radio Technology, History, and Applications tab (click "Expand All" to view). For more information, contact Daniel Sheen, KC1EPN.

Registration has opened for the 70th meeting of the International DX Convention (IDXC). The gathering will take place April 12 - 14 at the Visalia Convention Center. The convention will include Contest Academy training, seminars, keynote presentations, contest and DX forums, and dinners. DXCC QSL card checking will be available. Some three dozen exhibitors will attend. More than 700 avid DXers and contesters looking to improve their skills and reconnect with their peers are expected to attend. -- Thanks to John Miller, K6MM, and Rich Seifert, KE1B

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: The average daily sunspot number increased from 4.1 to 7.7 during the January 3 - 9 reporting week, while average daily solar flux rose from 70.4 to 71.6. The average daily planetary A index went from 9.3 to 7.4, and average mid-latitude A index dipped from 7.6 to 6.1.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days appears to mostly toggle between two values -- 70 and 71 -- with one exception.

Predicted solar flux is 71 on January 10; 70 on January 11 - 19; 71 on January 20 - February 2; 72 on February 3; 70 on February 4 - 15, and 71 on February 16 - 23.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on January 10 - 11; 8 on January 12 - 13; 5 on January 14 - 16; 8 on January 17; 5 on January 18 - 23; 20, 12, and 8 on January 24 - 26; 5 on January 27 - 30; 10, 15, 12, and 10 on January 31 - February 3; 5 on February 4 - 11; 12 on February 12; 5 on February 13 - 19; 18, 10, and 8 on February 20 - 22, and back to 5 on February 23.

In my December 7 Update, I mentioned a new revised solar cycle prediction through the end of 2022 in the current Space Weather Highlights from NOAA, and some aspects that didn't make sense. I'd hoped to see this corrected in the next monthly update, but, alas, this month's is unchanged, and inquiries to NOAA remain unanswered.

Sunspot numbers for January 3 - 9 were 16, 13, 13, 12, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 7.7. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 72.6, 71.5, 71.1, 72, 71.5, 71.3, and 71.5, with a mean of 71.6. Estimated planetary A indices were 2, 9, 15, 9, 7, 6, and 4, with a mean of 7.4. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 2, 7, 11, 9, 6, 5, and 3, with a mean of 6.1.


Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • January 12 -- YB DX Contest (Phone)

  • January 12 -- Old New Year Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 12 - 13 -- UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest

  • January 12 - 13 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • January 12 - 13 -- North American QSO Party, CW

  • January 13 -- NRAU-Baltic Contest (SSB)

  • January 13 -- NRAU-Baltic Contest (CW)

  • January 13 -- DARC 10-Meter Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 13 -- RSGB AFS Contest (SSB)

  • January 13 - 16 -- Classic Exchange (CW)

  • January 14 -- 4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint (CW, phone)

  • January 17 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

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 email preferences.


Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.


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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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