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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
June 4, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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COVID-19 Impact & News

Find the latest news and information on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to ARRL members and our global amateur radio community.

Spring 2020 Section Manager Election Results Announced

Three incumbent ARRL Section Managers were returned to office, while one challenger outpolled an incumbent Section Manager (SM) in contested elections this spring. Section Manager ballots were counted on Monday, June 1, at ARRL Headquarters. Three other incumbent Section Managers were unopposed and will continue with new terms of office, while one candidate was declared elected as the only nominee for the volunteer position.

In Illinois, incumbent SM Ron Morgan, AD9I, edged out a win over two challengers. Morgan received 605 votes, while Thomas Beebe, W9RY, garnered 600 votes, and Scott DeSantis, KB9VRW, of Crystal Lake, picked up 288 votes. Morgan, of East Peoria, has been Illinois Section Manager since February 2017.

In Maine, challenger Robert Gould, N1WJO, of Casco, topped incumbent SM Bill Crowley, K1NIT, of Farmingdale, 196 votes to 179 votes. Crowley has served as Maine's Section Manager since 2014.

In Indiana, incumbent SM Jimmy Merry, KC9RPX, was re-elected with 515 votes to 384 for his challenger Brian Jenks, W9BGJ, of Fort Wayne. Merry, of Ellettsville, has been Section Manager since July 2018.

In Oregon, David Kidd, KA7OZO, was re-elected over challenger Kevin Fox, KU0L, of Damascus, 728 votes to 386 votes. Kidd, of Oregon City, has been Section Manager since 2018.

Bill Ashby, AA6FC, of San Jose, California, was the only nominee for the Santa Clara Valley Section Manager position. He will succeed Brandon Bianchi, NI6C, who decided not to run for a new term after serving since 2012.

Several sitting Section Managers were the only nominees in their respective sections and were declared re-elected. Kevin Bess, KK4BFN (Northern Florida); Paul Gayet, AA1SU (Vermont), and Patrick Moretti, KA1RB (Wisconsin).

All new terms of office begin on July 1.

Dan Grady, N2SRK, Appointed as New Rocky Mountain Division Vice Director

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, has appointed Dan Grady, N2SRK, of Aurora, Colorado, as the new Rocky Mountain Division Vice Director. Grady will succeed Robert Wareham, N0ESQ, who has stepped down from that post to accept appointment as Colorado Section Manager (SM), taking the reins from SM Jack Ciaccia, WM0G, who resigned effective on June 1 to relocate.

"I am delighted to welcome Dan to the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division team," Rocky Mountain Division Director Jeff Ryan, K0RM, said. "His strong leadership skills and his boundless enthusiasm for amateur radio will be a great benefit to the members of ARRL, as well as the amateur radio community at large."

Grady credited Ryan and the Division's Section Managers for keeping the Division healthy and strong. "I am humbled and honored to be working with Division Director Jeff Ryan as well as the Section Managers throughout Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah," he said. "I am equally excited to be working for and serving ARRL members in this leadership role. To join the ranks of these exceptional people is an honor, and I can assure our membership that the Rocky Mountain Division will continue to set many amazing standards for the amateur radio community in the years to come."

A native of southern New Jersey, Grady was licensed in 1992, after a middle-school technology teacher inspired his curiosity about ham radio. He served in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Office of Emergency Management communication support teams in southern New Jersey and in the Philadelphia areas in the 1990s. After relocating to Colorado in 2014, he helped to found and now serves as president of the Parker Radio Association -- a 150-member ARRL-affiliated club.

Grady enjoys chasing DX on HF and contesting, as well as digital modes. He is a vice president and executive team member for a sheet metal manufacturing, fabrication, and wholesale company headquartered in Denver and is a state chapter board member for a national sheet metal contractor association.

Grady holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix and pursued religious studies at Seton Hall University.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 5) focuses on the various types of modulation and tips on go-kits. The On the Air podcast is a monthly companion to On the Air magazine, ARRL's magazine for beginner-to-intermediate ham radio operators.

The latest episode of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 9) includes a discussion of CW decoding software, intermodulation distortion, and blockchain technology.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android), as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

WSJT-X Version 2.2.0 is Now in General Release

WSJT-X version 2.2.0 is now in general availability release, after a short period in beta (or release candidate) status. WSJT-X version 2.2 offers 10 different protocols or modes -- FT4, FT8, JT4, JT9, JT65, QRA64, ISCAT, MSK144, WSPR, and Echo. The first six are designed for reliable contacts under weak-signal conditions, and they use nearly identical message structure and source encoding. JT65 and QRA64 were designed for EME ("moonbounce") on VHF/UHF bands, but have also proven very effective for worldwide very low-power communication on HF bands.

"FT8 is operationally similar but four times faster (15-second T/R [transmit-receive] sequences) and less sensitive by a few decibels," developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, explains in the version 2.2.0 User Guide. "FT4 is faster still (7.5-second T/R sequences) and especially well suited for contesting."

Taylor noted that even with their shorter transmit-receive sequences, FT4 and FT8 are considered "slow modes," because their message frames are sent only once per transmission. "All fast modes in WSJT-X send their message frames repeatedly, as many times as will fit into the [transmit] sequence length," he explained.

Compared with FT8, FT4 is 3.5 dB less sensitive and requires 1.6 times the bandwidth, but it offers the potential for twice the contact rate.

New in WSJT-X version 2.2.0: FT8 decoding is now spread over three intervals, the first starting at 11.8 seconds into a receive sequence and typically yielding around 85% of the possible decodes. This means users see most decodes much sooner than with previous versions. A second processing step starts at 13.5 seconds, and a third at 14.7 seconds.

"Overall decoding yield on crowded bands is improved by 10% or more," Taylor said.

Other changes: Signal-to-noise (SNR) estimates no longer saturate at +20 dB, and large signals in the passband no longer cause the SNR of weaker signals to be biased low. Times written to the ALL.TXT cumulative journal file are now correct, even when decoding occurs after the T/R sequence boundary.

KN6EQU Balloon Wins Cross-Country Educational Challenge Race

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) partner ISS-Above inventor Liam Kennedy, KN6EQU, of Pasadena, California, has been declared the winner of a mid-altitude cross-continent educational challenge balloon race. His balloon was one of four launched on June 1 from the west coast with the goal of being the first to reach the Eastern Time Zone.

Joanne Michael, KM6BWB.

Coming in second was the balloon of Ted Tagami, KK6UUQ, from ARISS partner

It all began when educator Joanne Michael, KM6BWB -- a science coach at the Wiseburn Unified School District in Los Angeles -- challenged another ARISS partner group to a mid-altitude, cross-continent balloon race. Michael has led her students in several balloon launch attempts from the Los Angeles area. Given the disruption caused to schools by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael wanted to shake things up a bit and give students worldwide a unique distance-learning treat that could safely be accomplished during the pandemic. She challenged Tagami, and he accepted. On May 31, a fourth team joined in the competition: Steve Potter, K7HAK, and Trevor Macduff of Washington.

Tagami launched his balloon from Oakland, California. Kennedy got wind of the idea and also came on board, launching from Pasadena, California. Michael set her balloon aloft in Los Angeles, while Potter and Macduff's balloon lifted off from southern Washington.

ARISS,, and ISS-Above are ISS National Lab Space Station Explorer (SSE) partners that work to inspire, engage, and educate students in science technology engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEM) topics and to pursue careers in those fields.

The story caught fire on social media, inspiring one teacher to figure out how to initiate a launch from her school. "Let's get planning and get your thoughts and ideas, and let's make this happen for the students," she said in a post.

Students can still track each balloon's location, altitude, and temperature, which are fed automatically via the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). The call signs are KM6BWB-9, KK6UUQ-8, KN6EQU-2, and K7HAK-11.

ARISS said the race initiative gave students the opportunity to tally and track the states each balloon traveled through and plot altitude versus temperature (and other parameters). Also, by researching weather patterns, students could make assumptions from their own data. This could include speed variations due to weather. They could also predict each balloon's flight path and when each might cross the finish line.

For more information on the balloon launch, lesson plans, and the livestream video link, visit the ARISS Mid-Altitude Balloon Race page.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Two new sunspots emerged this week, with a 1-day gap on Tuesday with no sunspots. Average daily sunspot numbers rose from 0 last week to 3.3 this week, May 28 - June 3.

It seems odd, but the average daily solar flux of 69.6 was unchanged from the previous 7 days. Average daily planetary A index rose from 4 to 6, but average middle latitude A index remained at 5.7, the same as last week.

Predicted solar flux over the next 45 days is 70 on June 4 - 20; 71 on June 21 - July 4; 70 on July 5 - 17, and 71 on July 18.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on June 4 - July 18. That's right: Quiet with an A index of 5 on every single day over the next six and a half weeks.

Sunspot numbers for May 28 - June 3 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 11, 0, and 12, with a mean of 3.3. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 67.5, 69.6, 70, 70.8, 69.2, 70.4, and 70, with a mean of 69.6. Estimated planetary A indices were 4, 3, 14, 4, 6, 7, and 4, with a mean of 4. Middle latitude A index was 2, 4, 13, 4, 7, 7, and 3, with a mean of 5.7.

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.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • June 5 -- HA3NS Sprint Memorial Contest (CW)

  • June 6 -- Wake-Up! QRP Sprint (CW)

  • June 6 - 7 -- PVRC Reunion (CW, phone)

  • June 6 - 7 -- 10-10 International Open Season PSK Contest

  • June 6 - 7 -- DigiFest (Digital)

  • June 6 - 7 -- VK Shires Contest (CW, phone)

  • June 6 - 7 -- UKSMG Summer Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 6 - 7 -- Kentucky QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 6 - 7 -- Dutch Kingdom Contest (CW, phone)

  • June 6 - 7 -- RSGB National Field Day (CW)

  • June 7 -- Cookie Crumble QRP Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 10 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

  • June 10 -- RSGB 80-Meter Club Championship, CW

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.

Six Meters Recently Running Hot

In recent days, 6 meters has been living up to its nickname -- "the magic band." On May 30 at around 1200 UTC, Rich Zwirko, K1HTV, in Virginia, worked Nicolas Sinieokoff, TT8SN, in Chad, who answered his CQ on FT8. After the quick exchange, K1HTV alerted several local 6-meter DXers, who were also able to snag the rare contact. TT8SN was able to work into the US mid-Atlantic and Arkansas as well as West Virginia on FT8 before switching to CW at about 1300 UTC and then alternating between the two modes over the next hour. Yves Collet, 6W1TA, in Senegal also showed up on the band, and K1HTV and other stations were able to put him in the log as well.

"So the 6-meter E-skip season has begun," Zwirko remarked. "Who knows what kind of magic the band will serve up?"

What's being called a historic opening on 6 meters occurred on May 31, when David Schaller, W7FN, in the Pacific Northwest saw the band open at about 1430 UTC and stay open for a couple of hours. W7FN worked 12 DXCC entities on FT8 (on 50.323 MHz); other stations had similar success. Schaller said longtime 6-meter DXers from his area reported never having experienced a 6-meter opening to Europe like the one on May 30.

On May 28, Bill Steffey, NY9H, just south of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, reported working three European stations on FT8 at around 2200 UTC. "Six [meters] has been great this week," Steve Fetter, WA8UEG, in eastern Pennsylvania, observed after working stations in the Caribbean and in Europe.

From Greenland, Bo Christensen, OX3LX, has been showing up on 6 meters on FT8 between 2230 and 0000 UTC. He's been reported working into the mid-Atlantic stations with a good signal. Mark Murray, W2OR, in Florida, took advantage of an opening to Japan on the evening of May 22. Two Florida stations each worked 20 or more Japanese stations, and one was said to have had 40 stations in Japan. W2OR said it was "an incredible number for an opening that did not last." On the previous evening, a similar opening occurred from Wisconsin and other parts of the upper midwest.

Jim Reisert, AD1C, reported that stations in Wisconsin and Minnesota were able to work Hawaii on 6 meters starting around 2300 UTC on May 24, using FT8. John Sweeney, K9EL, in Illinois, worked three Hawaiian stations from 2240 - 2250 UTC. He called it "the best 6-meter opening to Hawaii from W9 that I have seen."

Kev Hewitt, ZB2GI, in Gibraltar, made his first 6-meter contact of the season, working K1TOL, in Maine. ZB2GI said the band sounded dead, except for K1TOL's signal. Read more. -- Compiled from reports in The Daily DX

IARU Region 2 Executive Committee Meets in Videoconference

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 2 Executive Committee (EC) held its quarterly meeting on May 28 via videoconference. In addition to routine business, the panel was briefed by IARU R2 Workshops Coordinator Augusto Gabaldoni, OA4DOH. He reported that, as of the meeting date, nearly 400 have subscribed and more than 2,800 have viewed the first four workshops, either live on Zoom or on YouTube. Participants have been from almost every country in the Americas, as well as some from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. Feedback has been very positive, Gabaldoni said, both from participants and from Region 2 member-societies, with a common theme: "When are you doing another one?"

All IARU R2 workshops are free and open to anyone interested. They are available live on Zoom and on YouTube, where they are recorded and available for future access. The introduction to each workshop explains what IARU is and the role of member-societies in representing their country's amateurs to their regulator and other organizations. Participants are encouraged to join and support their IARU member-society, if they are not already members.

High demand exists for additional workshops in both English and Spanish -- especially for more advanced Winlink workshops, amateur satellites, digital operations, and other topics for additional future workshops. Gabaldoni told the EC he will be scheduling more sessions in the near future. These will be announced on the IARU Region 2 website under "Events," with a new online registration system, courtesy of webmaster Christian Buenger, DL6KAC, whom Gabaldoni thanked for his quick response and support.

Other EC business included an amendment to the IARU R2 Standard Operating Procedures to formalize the approval process for changes to the Region 2 Band Plan between General Assemblies. In the past, changes could only be approved at a session of the General Assembly, which meets only every 3 years. When the next General Assembly meeting is more than 6 months in the future, the new process provides for the Band Planning Committee to recommend changes to the Executive Committee for consideration.

If the Executive Committee agrees with the changes, member-societies are informed and have 60 days to object, if they disagree. If only one objection is received, the changes are approved and will be incorporated into the R2 Band Plan and reported at the next General Assembly. -- Thanks to IARU Region 2 Secretary George Gorsline, VE3YV

In Brief...

The 2020 ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC) has issued a call for papers. Technical papers are being solicited for presentation at the ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC), September 11 - 13. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's conference will be held online. Papers will also be published in the Conference Proceedings. Authors do not need to participate in the conference to have their papers included in the Proceedings. The submission deadline is August 15, 2020. Submit papers via e-mail to Maty Weinberg, KB1EIB. Papers will be published exactly as submitted, and authors will retain all rights.

The Yasme Foundation has announced grants of $5,000 each to the Foundation for Amateur Radio (FAR) and to ARRL scholarship programs for 2020. The Foundation Board also named Joe Eisenberg, K0NEB, as a recipient of the Yasme Excellence Award. This honor recognizes individuals and groups who, through their own service, creativity, effort, and dedication, have made a significant contribution to amateur radio. The Yasme Excellence Award is in the form of a cash grant and an individually engraved crystal globe. The Yasme Foundation recognized Eisenberg for "his contributions to amateur radio through his kit-building seminars, as seen at the Dayton Hamvention and other ham gatherings. He is also editor of the 'Kit-Building' column for CQ magazine. Joe exemplifies the 'give back' and 'self-teaching' spirit of ham radio, especially in training youngsters," the Foundation said in granting the award. -- Thanks to Ward Silver, N0AX, President, The Yasme Foundation

Puerto Rico SM Oscar Resto, KP4RF, at his solar-powered emergency exercise setup.

A May 30 nationwide American Red Cross communication exercise engaged participants across the country. The drill simulated the types of message traffic typical during a national disaster response, such as a hurricane or wildfire. Among those involved in the drill were members of the ARRL Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley Sections. More than 30 northern California radio amateurs took part, passing 35 voice messages via California Amateur Radio Linking Association (CARLA) repeaters, and 66 digital messages using both HF and VHF gateways to a simulated Red Cross operations center, and receiving 101 messages. In Puerto Rico, ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, fielded a well-appointed solar-powered station for HF, VHF, and UHF, as well as a laptop and external monitor. At both locations, participants received advance email messages to be transmitted, using flmsg, fldigi, and Winlink. The Red Cross said it would put some changes into effect immediately as a result of the drill.

The SEA-PAC QSO Party is standing in for the canceled convention. Along with many other ham radio events, SEA-PAC 2020, which was to host the ARRL Northwestern Division Convention, fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. Standing in for this year's live event will be the SEA-PAC QSO Party on Saturday, June 6, starting at 1600 UTC and continuing until June 7 at 0400 UTC. "We may not be able to be with our 2,000+ fellow amateur radio friends this year on this day, but we can still have a ham-tastic time on the airwaves," the event's organizers said. The event will offer categories for HF and VHF-UHF stations, with all modes and high-power, low-power, and QRP categories (greater than 50 W and less than 50 W on VHF-UHF). Participants will exchange a signal report and the first year they attended SEA-PAC, or "2020" for those who have never attended. Awards will be available. Submit a report form; no logs are required. For more information, contact Ron O'Connor, KD7VIK.

The 2020 Huntsville Hamfest has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event's Board of Directors has announced. The Huntsville Hamfest was sanctioned as the 2020 ARRL Southeastern Division Convention. Full refunds to prepaid commercial and flea market vendors will be processed via the mode in which payment was made. Online ticket purchases will be credited to PayPal accounts. Embassy Suite Hotel reservations only will be automatically canceled. -- Thanks to Hamfest Chairman Mark Brown, N4BCD

The Frankford Radio Club Scholarship will join the growing list of scholarships administered by the ARRL Foundation. The Frankford Radio Club (FRC) is a very active contesting club centered in Alburtis, Pennsylvania, dedicated to increasing operating skill and technical expertise through radiosport. The club's motto is "Proficiency Through Competition." The scholarship will be $1,500, with the first scholarship expected to be awarded in 2020. Applicants must be a US citizen and hold a valid FCC-issued amateur radio license. The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors, undergraduates, and US military veterans. Applicants must be pursuing a degree in electronics, electrical engineering, computer science, or related fields at any accredited college, university, or trade school that has established programs in the field of study. Preference will be given to applicants residing within 175 miles of Alburtis, Pennsylvania. The ARRL Foundation will determine award recipients after evaluating all applications and disburse the award funds directly to the chosen institution of higher learning.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Note: Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

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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