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The ARRL Letter
June 6, 2019
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Emergency Messaging Demonstration for Red Cross, FEMA is a Success

On May 23, with Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials monitoring, dozens of radio amateurs along the US east coast demonstrated Amateur Radio's ability to deliver messages without commercial power, infrastructure, or permanently established stations. The event took place in coordination with ARRL, as a mock response to a simulated disaster scenario -- a major hurricane with mass casualties. During the event, radio amateurs at portable stations from New England to the Carolinas delivered message traffic to W1AW, which coordinated and delivered the information to officials attending a joint Red Cross-FEMA meeting in Baltimore.

W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q (front), and ARRL Emergency Preparedness Assistant Manager Ken Bailey, K1FUG, working the mics while Red Cross volunteer Rosty Slabicky, W2ROS, looks on. [Michelle Patnode, W3MVP, photo]

"About a dozen stations participated in the demonstration, including operators in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, northern New Jersey, western Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina," ARRL Communications Manager Dave Isgur, N1RSN, said. "Red Cross officials were on-site at W1AW and at the receiving station in Baltimore. At both sites, they indicated that were impressed with Amateur Radio's ability to deliver messages digitally so that could be displayed on a computer screen and in a format that matched the format for messages that the Red Cross uses." Isgur said ABC, CBS, and Fox TV affiliates sent reporting teams to W1AW.

A few stations, including W1AW and stations in Baltimore, generated local media coverage of their participation, much of it tied into the notion of "Amateur Radio operators and the partner agencies they serve are getting ready for the 2018 hurricane season," which begins on June 1 and continues through November 30.

W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, said the exercise went well overall. "Conditions were a bit tepid at best, but we were able to establish voice contact first, and then proceed with the digital traffic (MT63-1KS) during the roll call," Carcia said. "Digital signals were good. I needed just one retransmit. We used fldigi with flmsg. This made life so much easier."

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Ohio ARES Activates in Wake of Tornadoes that Badly Damaged Hara Arena

Hara Arena, in Trotwood, Ohio, which served as the home for Dayton Hamvention® for more than 6 decades, was among the structures extensively damaged when tornadoes swept through the Dayton area on Memorial Day. WHIO-TV drone video showed that the roof and side of the structure had been blown off in several places by the EF3 (severe-scale damage) event. Ohio Section Emergency Coordinator Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said ARES counties and districts activated after nearly 40 tornado warnings were issued across the state. He said Ohio ARES was in the process of announcing a partnership with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency Watch Desk, in which some 2,000 Ohio radio amateurs will feed situation awareness to the state.

"Our plan was to use the Ohio DMR statewide talk group along with our normal HF 80-meter voice and digital nets -- depending on storm noise," Broadway said. "We got to launch that system under pressure [on] Memorial Day." Broadway said information received from radio amateurs during the all-night effort was fed directly into the state's WebEOC software to help the Watch Desk determine the need to assist county EMA directors requests for aid. The Ohio AuxComm's W8SGT was on the air continuously, receiving reports from county ARES groups, he added.

The severe weather struck after dark, causing widespread damage in and around Dayton and elsewhere in the Miami Valley. Multiple injuries and one fatality have been reported. It appears that at least two tornadoes were responsible for most of the devastation, which was called "catastrophic." The NWS office in Wilmington, Ohio, estimated that at one point, storms and tornadoes left some 5 million people without electrical power.

Snow plows were repurposed to remove debris from Interstate Route 75, and the American Red Cross set up shelters to accommodate displaced residents.

"First-tier communications remained solid in most of the affected areas," Broadway recounted, "but amateur operators were able to provide situational awareness that enhanced the response." Most ARES activities in Ohio wrapped up on May 29.

WHIO-TV reported on June 5 that structural engineers were still assessing the damage at Hara Arena, but Michael Heitz, the Kentucky developer who now owns the building and the surrounding 120 acres, has expressed confidence that the main arena can be saved, although an attached section will have to be demolished.

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Hurricane Michael Investigation Digs into Factors that Hindered Wireless Services Recovery

On May 9, the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a report on its investigation into communications providers' preparation for and response to Hurricane Michael last October. An array of Amateur Radio public service assets was active as Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle, boasting devastating 155 MPH winds. The storm was the first Category 4 or stronger hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle since 1992.

The FCC investigation found that three key factors -- insufficiently resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements, and a lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews, and municipalities -- were the predominant causes behind what the FCC called "the unacceptably slow restoration of wireless service in the Florida Panhandle" in the storm's wake. According to the FCC, its investigation even found that recovery efforts themselves often led to communication outages.

"There were numerous cases in which a wireless provider had restored service to customers only to have that service brought down as third-party crews damaged communications assets while clearing trash or restoring power lines and utility poles," the FCC recounted in a news release.

To improve recovery efforts from future storms, the report recommended, among other things, that wireless providers use diverse backhaul options, such as microwave links and satellite links in hurricane-prone areas, and that communication providers participate in training to improve coordination of restoration efforts.

The Hurricane Michael Report is available at on the FCC website. -- FCC News Release


The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Stringing Up Wire Antennas" is the topic of the new (June 6) 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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New FT4 Beta Release "Leaps and Bounds" Better than Earlier Iterations

The WSJT-X Development Group released yet another new beta version of the FT4 protocol this week, and WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc7 is now available for testing. Developers point out that the FT4 included in this "release candidate 7" version is not compatible with any previous releases. A short mock contest session to wring out the contesting features of FT4 took place on June 4.

"Thanks to all who participated in yesterday's FT4 mock-contest practice session -- and especially to those who provided useful feedback. It is much appreciated!" said developer Joe Taylor, K1JT. "Everyone likes the 7.5-second T/R sequences, which provide operators with significantly more human interaction time than in previous revisions of FT4. Users also appreciated the sensitivity improvements and a larger range of acceptable time offsets (DT)." DT represents the combined clock difference for the transmitting and receiving computers, he explained.

Based on data compiled by Steve Franke, K9AN, Taylor said that it appears developers have the WSJT-X timing behavior under good control on all supported platforms, and the range of measured signal-to-noise values extended down to -21 dB.

"I operated for about 3 hours using 100 W and a dipole," Taylor recounted. "I copied transmissions from 263 unique call signs and made 143 QSOs in 29 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 15 DXCCs."

Taylor said the developers anticipate addressing all remaining issues they're aware of. "I believe we are on a good path toward a General Availability (GA) release of WSJT-X 2.1.0 by mid-July," he said.

Steve Franke, K9AN, of the WSJT-X Development Group spent most of his time observing during the mock contest on June 4, decoding some 25,300 FT4 transmissions. This chart represents signal-to-noise ratios reported.

"This new version of FT4 is leaps and bounds better than before," said Mike Black, W9MDB, in a June 4 post to the Yahoo WSJT Meteor Scatter and Weak Signal Group. "I worked almost everybody I could see without any repeats. Seems like we have a winner here."

Changes, improvements, and bug fixes that have been made since WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc5 include:

  • T/R sequence length increased from 6.0 to 7.5 seconds.

  • Signal bandwidth decreased from 90 Hz to 80 Hz.

  • Improved sensitivity: Threshold S/N is now -17.5 dB.

Release candidate WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc7 will be available for beta-testing through July 21, and it will permanently cease to function after that date. It will not be usable during the ARRL June VHF Contest or during ARRL Field Day. Taylor advised using WSJT-X 2.0.1 and FT8 for these events.

Downloadable installation packages for WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc7 under Windows, Linux, and macOS are available on the WSJT-X web page.

China Set to Launch New Amateur Satellite with "Sail Ball" Stabilization

Chinese Amateur Satellite Group (CAMSAT) has announced the impending launch of the CAS-7B satellite, also designated as BP-1B, a short-lived spacecraft that will carry an Amateur Radio payload. An unusual feature of the spacecraft is its "sail ball" passive stabilization system. The 1.5 U CubeSat is attached to a 500-millimeter flexible film ball -- or sail -- that will offer passive "pneumatic resistance" stabilization, the announcement said. CAS-7B is expected to remain in orbit for up to 1 month.

The spacecraft will carry an Amateur Radio transponder and educational mission. CAMSAT is working with the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), a top aerospace school, which is providing launch support. BIT faculty and students are participating in the development and testing of the satellite, and, with CAMSAT's help, the university has established an Amateur Radio club (BI1LG). CAMSAT said many students are now members, "learning Amateur Radio satellite communication and [experiencing] endless fun."

The VHF and UHF antennas are quarter-wave monopoles. CAS-7B will transmit a CW telemetry beacon on 435.715 MHz. The V/U FM voice transponder downlink will be 435.690 MHz, and the transponder uplink will be 145.900 MHz (16 kHz passband).

CAS-7B during testing. [CAMSAT photo]

The 3-kilogram satellite will have an apogee of 300 kilometers.

"Because of the orbital apogee and the size and mass of the satellite, the orbital life is expected to be only 1 week, up to a maximum of 1 month, which will also provide an opportunity for hams to track and monitor satellite entering the atmosphere," CAMSAT said in announcing the new satellite, scheduled for launch late this month.

"The launch will use a new launch vehicle from a small commercial rocket company," CAMSAT explained. "This is the first launch of this launch vehicle, and there is a large possibility of failure; if the launch fails, we will have another launch later this year." -- Thanks to Alan Kung, BA1DU/CAMSAT

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Mexican Amateur Radio Volunteers Provide Communication in Wildfire Response

Mexican radio amateurs provided communication support in late May from a fire scene in a remote area to civil protection authorities in Monterrey, Mexico. Two-member teams of volunteers were flown in via helicopter since May 20, the first day of radio support, when the fire had already been burning for a couple of days. The fire in Pajonal -- about 20 kilometers south of Monterrey -- covered more than 200 acres in rough terrain. Temperatures topped 100 °F.

Fueled by hot and dry conditions, Mexico's 2019 fire season has been intense, leading to poor air quality. By mid-May, more than 100 wildfires were active in 17 Mexican states.

Teams had been using Winlink but added the weak-signal software Vara HF, after José Alberto Nieto, EA5HVK, provided a Vara license on short notice. Tom Whiteside, N5TW, in Georgetown, Texas, supported the effort from across the border, aiming his 40- and 20-meter arrays in the direction of the fire in Nuevo Leon. Alfonso Tamez, XE2O, president of Mexico's IARU member-society Federación Mexicana de Radioexperimentadores (FMRE), was been among the volunteers.

In addition to HF digital traffic, the volunteer teams took advantage of VHF repeaters. HF antennas consisted of a 40-meter dipole for 40 and a steerable portable dipole. A generator is providing electrical power.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: According to Spaceweather.com, as of June 5 there have been no sunspots for 17 days in a row. Average daily solar flux went to 69.5 for the May 30 - June 5 reporting week from 67.4 in the previous 7 days. The average daily planetary A index declined from 7.3 to 5.6, while the mid-latitude A index dipped from 8.1 to 5.

Last week I suggested that sunspots should return soon, based on the predicted solar flux, but those projections have softened. On June 5 the 45-day predicted solar flux was 70 on June 6 - 13; 72 on June 14 - 16; 71 on June 17; 70 on June 18 - 29; 71 on June 30; 72 on July 1 - 13; 71 on July 14, and 70 on July 15 - 20.

Predicted planetary A index is 5, 8, 10, and 8 on June 6 - 9; 5 on June 10 - 22; 8, 10, 12, and 8 on June 23 - 26; 5 on June 27 - 29; 8 on June 30 - July 2; 5 on July 3 - 4; 8 on July 5 - 6; 5 on July 7 - 19, and 8 on July 20.

Spaceweather.com reported on June 5 that Northern Hemisphere radars were "pinging with activity" from a strong daytime meteor shower.

In Friday's bulletin, read about recent openings on 10 and 6 meters.

Sunspot numbers for May - June 5, 2019 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 68.7, 68.7, 69.7, 69.9, 69.8, 70, and 69.8, with a mean of 69.5. Estimated planetary A indices were 8, 5, 4, 4, 5, 8, and 5, with a mean of 5.6. Middle latitude A index was 8, 5, 3, 4, 4, 7, and 4, with a mean of 5.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. Monthly charts offer propagation projections between the US and a dozen DX locations.

Share your reports and observations.

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Just Ahead in Radiosport

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.

  • June 7 -- HA3NS Sprint Memorial Contest (CW)

  • June 8 -- Asia-Pacific Sprint, SSB

  • June 8 - 9 DRCG WW RTTY Contest

  • June 8 - 9 -- VK Shires Contest (CW, phone)

  • June 8 - 9 -- Portugal Day Contest (CW, phone)

  • June 8 - 9 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • June 8 - 9 -- GACW WWSA CW DX Contest

  • June 8 - 9 -- REF DDFM 6-Meter Contest (CW, phone)

  • June 8 - 10 -- ARRL June VHF Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 9 -- All Cookie Crumble QRP Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 10 -- 4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint (CW, phone)

  • June 10 -- RSGB 80-Meter Club Championship (Digital)

  • June 12 -- NAQCC CW Sprint (CW)


AMSAT, ARISS Veteran Keith D. Pugh, W5IU, SK

AMSAT and ARISS engineering veteran, Keith Pugh, W5IU, of Fort Worth, Texas, died on May 24. An ARRL Life Member, he was 80.

Born and raised in Dodge City, Kansas, Pugh was licensed in 1953. Amateur Radio strongly influenced his decision to pursue a career in electrical engineering, and he earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering at Kansas State University in 1961. He moved to Texas to work for Convair (later General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin), and, after upgrading to an Amateur Extra-class license, he became W5IU. Pugh retired from Lockheed Martin in 2004 after a career in RADAR and Navigation Systems Engineering.

At Dayton Hamvention®, Pugh volunteered in the AMSAT Booth for many years and frequently headed up the Dayton Hamvention Satellite Demonstration Station.

In the early 1980s, he became interested in ham radio satellites, making contacts on AO-08 and AO-10. He went on to become an AMSAT Area Coordinator and, later served as AMSAT Vice President for Operations.

Pugh jump-started his passion for Amateur Radio on human spaceflight missions in 1991, when the Soviet space station Mir was in orbit. Pugh joined the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) team in 2004, where he has provided support as an operations leader, mentoring numerous schools and ARISS contact organizations and attending ARISS International meetings.

ARISS ARRL Representative Rosalie White, K1STO, said Pugh made a difference in his role as an ARISS Technical Mentor for many schools. "ARISS contacts are always exciting and sometimes produce tense moments," White said. "He touched hundreds of thousands of youth along with all ages of people who had curiosity about ham radio, space, and satellites."

Yasme Foundation Designates Supporting Grant, Excellence Award Recipients

The Board of Directors of The Yasme Foundation has awarded $5,000 each to the Foundation for Amateur Radio (FAR) and ARRL scholarship programs for 2019, and $5,000 in general support to World Radiosport Team Championship 2022 (WRTC 2022) in Italy and a second grant to sponsor the so-called "Widow's Ball" during WRTC 2022.

The Yasme Foundation Board also announced recipients of the Yasme Excellence Award. They are:

  • Angel Vazquez, WP3R, for his work in disaster relief, and as an outstanding ambassador for Amateur Radio.

  • Nikola Percin, 9A5W, for his outstanding work in advancing Amateur Radio in Croatia and the surrounding region. He is a cofounder of 9A1A. Percin initiated efforts to recruit young amateurs and established youth programs in coordination with local universities.

The Yasme Excellence Award recognizes individuals and groups who, through their own service, creativity, effort, and dedication, have made significant contributions to Amateur Radio. These may be in recognition of technical, operating, or organizational achievement, as all three are necessary for the growth of Amateur Radio. The Yasme Excellence Award is in the form of a cash grant and an individually engraved crystal globe.

In Brief...

The next Kids Day is Saturday, June 15. That's the day to get youngsters on the air to share in the joy and fun that Amateur Radio has to offer. Kids Day gets under way at 1800 UTC and concludes at 2359 UTC. Sponsored by the Boring (Oregon) Amateur Radio Club, this event has a simple exchange, suitable for younger operators: first name, age, location, and favorite color. After that, the contact can be as long or as short as each participant prefers. Look for activity on these frequencies: 10 meters: 28.350 - 28.400 MHz; 12 meters: 24.960 - 24.980 MHz; 15 meters: 21.360 - 21.400 MHz; 17 meters: 18.140 - 18.145 MHz; 20 meters: 14.270 - 14.300 MHz; 40 meters: 7.270 - 7.290 MHz, and 80 meters: 3.740 - 3.940 MHz. Repeater contacts are okay with permission of the repeater owner. As with any on-the-air activity that includes unlicensed individuals, control operators must observe third-party traffic restrictions when making DX contacts. Additional details are on the ARRL website.

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LoTW is now accepting FT4 contacts. The latest TQSL update (Config.xml version 11.8), released on May 22, includes FT4 as a submode of MFSK. It also adds AISAT-1 and PO-101 in the satellite category. As of June 5, more 1 billion contact records have been entered into the system, resulting in 201,492,514 contact confirmations. LoTW has 118,729 users worldwide.

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Adafruit Industries Founder Limor Fried, AC2SN, was one of two 2019 Women in Open Source Award winners. Sponsored by open-source solution provider Red Hat, the awards honor women who make important contributions to open-source projects and communities, or those making innovative use of open-source methodology. Nominations for this year's awards were accepted for two categories: "Academic" for those currently enrolled in a college or university, and "Community" for those working on or volunteering with projects related to open source. A panel of judges determined finalists based on nomination criteria, and the public voted to determine the award winners. Fried was recognized in the community category. She is the founder and lead engineer at Adafruit Industries, an open-source hardware company designed to provide a place for people to learn about and purchase open tools, equipment, and electronics online.

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Tom Roscoe, K8CX, has posted 361 photos in his Ham Gallery of various Dayton Hamvention® 2019 events. Hamvention 2019 hosted the ARRL National Convention. This is Roscoe's 23rd year of documenting the event, bringing the total to 6,053 Hamvention photos, including this one of ARRL Washington Counsel David Siddall, K3ZJ. Search the entire photo database by entering a call sign. Roscoe also invites photos via email, but at least one ham not already listed on his page must be in the photo, and all hams shown must be identified by call sign. He also accepts Dayton Hamvention photos from past years that meet the same requirements, as well as any "interesting stories or fun moments" from Dayton Hamvention 2019 or forum reviews for his blog.


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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