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The ARRL Letter
June 17, 2020
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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.


More Amateur Radio Exam Sessions Engineering In-Person, Remote Solutions

As some states further relax restrictions imposed to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus, additional teams of ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) volunteer examiners (VEs) have conducted successful sessions. On June 13 at the Clark Township Municipal Building, the Electronic Technology Society of New Jersey (ETSNJ) held its first exam session since February, with help from several other clubs. With COVID-19 precautions in place, the June session was held outdoors.

"We had to have two sessions, because we had 20 candidates on our waiting list," said Larry Makoski, W2LJ, a member of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club. Drew Moore, W2OU, was the ARRL VEC liaison. "We had the candidates line up their vehicles on one side of the parking lot. Directly across from them were the vehicles of the VEs. They were given the option of taking the exam inside their vehicle, or if they wanted, they could bring a chair and clipboard and take the exam in front of their vehicle. Each vehicle was checked for compliance as we collected exam fees and checked photo IDs."

Makoski said social distancing was maintained, and face coverings and gloves or hand sanitizer were the order of the day. "We communicated with the candidates via a low-power FM transmitter tuned to 88.7 MHz or thereabouts, and they could hear us on their FM broadcast receivers inside their vehicles," he explained.

All went smoothly, and the weather cooperated. "Everyone who came walked away -- or should I say, drove away -- with either a new Technician-class license or an upgrade," Makoski said. A vacant seat was left for VE Bobby Cure, W2REC (SK), who had succumbed to COVID-19. "We tried to honor his memory by making him present in spirit," Makoski said.

VE teams from the Tri-County Radio Club, the Raritan Valley Radio Club, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club, the New Providence Amateur Radio Club, and the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club pitched in to help.

On the same Saturday in Florida, Doug Wiles, WF4B, reports that the St. Augustine Amateur Radio Society (SAARS) VE team held its first exam session in 6 months. The session took place in an outdoor pavilion, and test areas were disinfected prior to the candidates' arrival. Face masks were distributed and social distancing was practiced during the session, Wiles said. All three candidates passed.

On June 14 in Georgetown, Kentucky, VE Ron Malinowski, WX4GPS, with the Scott County Amateur Radio Club said 14 candidates passed their tests during an indoor session held there. "We took temperatures at the door, gave masks to anyone who came without, and we wiped down all seating areas after the attendee left," he said.

ARRL VE Team Liaison Janet Crenshaw, WB9ZPH, in Garland, Texas, told ARRL that a trucker signed up for a recent remote exam session.

"He had a Wi-Fi hotspot in the cab of his truck, so he found a parking space, pulled out his iPad and iPhone, and we had our Zoom test right there," she told ARRL VEC. "The world certainly has changed, and I've been encouraging people to realize that the world of ham radio has to change with it."

Visalia DX Convention to be Refashioned as Two Virtual Events in 2021

There will be a Virtual Visalia in 2021. Organizers announced this week that the newly renamed International DX and Contesting Convention (IDXCC) in Visalia, California, will span two weekends next April. Each will be a "unique 3-day event" without duplication. Registration will begin early next year. The former International DX Convention was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visalia sponsors said the event's new name better reflects what the convention had become over the years -- a gathering of avid DXers and contesters from around the US and the world. Sponsors said the challenge for planning next year's event was whether to prepare for an in-person convention or a virtual gathering.

"Everyone wants to hold out hope for a face-to-face meeting next year, but we have to ask, 'What will our new normal lifestyle be like next April, and can we guarantee a COVID-free environment for our attendees?'" an announcement on the IDXCC website explained. "After consultation with a few medical experts, epidemiologists, and longtime attendees of IDXCC, we have concluded that for 2021, the right choice -- and the safest choice -- is to have a virtual convention instead of an in-person meeting."

Visalia Part 1 will take place on April 16 - 18, 2021, and Part 2 on April 23 - 25. The program will include forums, technical talks, DXpedition reports, and award presentations.

Visalia 2021 co-chairs John Miller, K6MM, and Rich Seifert, KE1B, invite questions and suggestions via email. Read more.

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Field Day 2020: Balancing Tradition and Safety in the COVID-19 Era

The fourth full weekend of the month (June 27 - 28) promises to be different for many amateurs, as the annual ARRL Field Day operating event will be held under unique circumstances. Somehow, the traditions of the weekend must be balanced against the exigencies of the current need to operate safely, in an appropriate social-distancing environment. Most groups have had to adjust their plans to ensure that the physical health of their members is protected.

But that's one of the great things about amateur radio in general and Field Day in particular. There is no one single way to approach the event, and no single goal that defines the success of the weekend. Fun still awaits the tens of thousands of participants. "Business as usual!" for many this year becomes, "How do we address these unique challenges?"

An important fact to recognize is the disappointment many will feel at not being able to congregate at their tried-and-true operating location to do their "usual" thing. Groups in some states face fewer restrictions than others -- and that's okay, as Field Day isn't a competition. Most groups will not be able to host the traditional social aspects of the weekend. The covered-dish extravaganza that accompanies a club Field Day may be canceled this year. The interaction of sharing amateur radio with the general public as they wander over to your setup may be non-existent for many groups. The opportunity to test your club's interface with your various served agencies may have to be put off for another time. Your annual teaching session with local youth groups -- scouts, school clubs, CAP cadets -- may have to be revisited down the road, after the situation stabilizes.


Remember: If you operate as a Class D station (home station on commercial power), you may work all other stations, including other Class D stations, for contact credit. All Field Day 2020 entries wishing to have their individual scores credited to their club to be aggregated for a "club score" should add the club name to their summary sheet. Use the Field Day Web Submission Form to turn in your log.


Yes, things are going to look and feel different in 2020. But when it comes to the basic activity of Field Day, the event doesn't have to sound different. CW signals will still "light up" the ether. Stations calling "CQ Field Day" on phone will still fill the bands. The unique "warbles" of tried and true -- as well as new and exciting -- digital modes will still beckon the experienced operator and the curious newcomer, inviting them to reach out and make contact in this unique year of social distancing.

Over the past few weeks, several articles have been posted to the ARRL website with some suggestions on how groups and individuals may vary their participation in Field Day 2020 from previous years. The theme running through them is one that's familiar to amateurs -- adaptability.

Read more on the ARRL Field Day web page. -- Thanks to Dan Henderson, N1ND

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 6) details everything you need to know about ARRL Field Day, thanks to an interview with ARRL Contest Program Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE. Learn how to create a simple station setup as a less-experienced operator. 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 10) will discuss sporadic-E propagation, antenna modeling, a new approach to spray-on antennas, and an unusual form of computer espionage.

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.

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Support ARRL as You Shop AmazonSmile for Father's Day

Father's Day is Sunday, June 21. If you're looking for the perfect gift, we invite you to shop at AmazonSmile and choose American Radio Relay League Inc. (ARRL) as your charity of choice. With every purchase you make at AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a contribution that will help to extend ARRL's reach in public service, advocacy, education, technology, and membership. So far in 2020, ARRL has received $2,030, for a total of $40,613. The ARRL Foundation has received $316 this year.

Amazon has the perfect gifts including electronics, apparel, ham radio gear, and more. Get something extra special for Dad this year, while supporting his favorite hobby. Bookmark the ARRL link and support amateur radio and ARRL every time you shop online. AmazonSmile customers can now support ARRL in the Amazon shopping app on iOS and Android mobile phones.

Follow these instructions to turn on AmazonSmile and start generating donations:

  • Open the Amazon Shopping app on your device.

  • Go into the main menu of the Amazon Shopping app

  • Tap Settings, choose AmazonSmile, and follow the onscreen prompts to complete the process.

Click here for instructions on updating your Amazon Shopping app.

Youth on the Air in the Americas Announces At-Home Bonus Summer Activities

Youth on the Air in the Americas is planning additional home-based activities for this summer, due to the postponement of its inaugural summer camp at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township, Ohio. Virtual YOTA Day will take place on Wednesday, June 24. Activities will include a series of youth-led forums and some competitions that can be done from home -- even without a radio. Virtual YOTA Day begins at 1800 UTC on June 24 and continues until 2400 UTC.

Those who had been selected to attend YOTA camp 2020 will be able to meet on Zoom for a day of learning and fun, plus a chance to win prizes, but anyone interested will be able to get in on Virtual YOTA Day via the official Youth on the Air YouTube channel and play along at home. Some activities will include learning how to track down the location of a transmitter without leaving your chair, sharpening contesting skills, and more.

During the week of June 21 - 26, when the camp was to take place, special event station W8Y will be on the air on all bands and modes. Those selected to attend YOTA Camp 2020 will take turns operating as W8Y throughout the week from the station of their own choosing. Campers should contact Marty Sullaway, NN1C, to be added to the schedule.

Youth on the Air will operate Field Day using a remote station in southwestern Ohio. Logging will be done by remote desktop. Campers can sign up at YouthOnTheAir.org for a time slot on the remote station provided by Jay Slough, K4ZLE. Contact Chris Brault, KD8YVJ, with questions.

Youth on the Air will be a club choice for Field Day score submissions. Participating operators age 25 or younger choosing to operate Field Day from a home station can contribute their scores to an aggregate club score for this year only. Enter "Youth on the Air" as the club name on the Field Day entry.

More information about YOTA in the Americas can be found at YouthOnTheAir.org and on YOTAregion2 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Kids Day in the Age of COVID-19

Under normal circumstances, Kids Day on Saturday, June 20, would offer an opportunity for individual radio amateurs or clubs to introduce the next generation to amateur radio. This year, however, Kids Day is likely to look a bit different, due to precautions -- both advised and in place -- during the COVID-19 pandemic. ARRL recommends that mentors and young operators adhere to prescribed COVID-19 guidelines in these difficult times.

"We encourage you to take the advice of your local and regional health officials as to whether it's wise to gather in groups and what precautions are necessary," ARRL Contest Program Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, allowed. "If inviting individual youngsters or groups into your shack is not advisable, look instead into other ways of mentoring youngsters."

One possibility, Bourque said, is mentoring over social media, via Zoom, or using other non-contact means. "This year might not be the time to invite youngsters into your shack, but that doesn't mean that you cannot encourage the next generation of amateur radio operators," he said. "Of course, if you have kids at home you've been trying to interest in ham radio, Kids Day offers the perfect framework, and COVID-19 precautions would not be necessary."

Kids Day gets under way on Saturday, June 20 at 1800 UTC and concludes at 2359 UTC. Sponsored by the Boring (Oregon) Amateur Radio Club, the suggested exchange is first name, age, location, and favorite color. Beyond that, contacts 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.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: We just experienced a nearly 2-week period of daily sunspots! It's been quite some time since we've witnessed a continuous string of activity like this. January 24 - February 1 were 9 consecutive days with sunspot activity, but you'd have to go back to May 3 -18 of last year to find a longer period. This is a possible indication that we've moved past the sunspot minimum.

Average daily sunspot number for the June 11 - 17 reporting week was 7.9, down from 14 over the previous 7 days. Average solar flux slipped from 71.3 to 70.

The planetary A index went from 5.1 to 3.9, and middle latitude numbers dipped from 6.1 to 4.9. The predicted planetary A index is 4 from June 18 - August 1. This is unusual, since predicted A index values have never been lower than 5.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days is 70 on June 18-25, abruptly jumping to 77 from June 26 - August 1, also unusual.

Sunspot numbers for June 11 - 17 were 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 0, and 0, for a mean of 7.9. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 71.5, 70.5, 69.4, 70.2, 70.4, 69.3, and 68.8, for a mean of 70. Estimated planetary A indices were 4, 4, 3, 2, 4, 5, and 5, for a mean of 3.9. Middle latitude A index was 4, 6, 4, 3, 5, 7, and 5, for a mean of 4.9.

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
  • June 20 -- Kids Day (Phone)

  • June 20 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • June 20 -- Battle of Carabobo International Contest (Phone)

  • June 20 - 21 -- All Asian DX Contest, CW

  • June 20 - 21 -- Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY Contest

  • June 20 - 21 -- IARU Region 1 50/70 MHz Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 20 - 21 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • June 20 - 21 -- West Virginia QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 21 -- WAB 50 MHz Phone

  • June 21 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • June 24 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • June 25 -- 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 email preferences.


Announcements
  • International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) 2020 will take place over the August 22 - 23 weekend, a week later than usual to avoid conflicting with special events that may be on the air to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the cessation of World War II hostilities in the Pacific.

  • Astronauts Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, and Robert Behnken, KE5GGX, will conduct spacewalks on June 27 and July 1 outside the International Space Station. The activities will begin the process of replacing batteries for one of the power channels on the orbiting laboratory.

  • A June 13 SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle launch placed another 58 Starlink satellites into orbit, bringing the total of the internet service satellites to 540. SpaceX has applied to the FCC to put upward of 30,000 Starlink spacecraft into orbit. "Starlink is designed to deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable," SpaceX said. "Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer, followed by public beta testing, starting with higher latitudes."

  • In a video, "The Last Active Morse Code Station in the US," Shannon Morse, KM6FPP, of Richmond, California, visits coast station KPH, which provided ship-to-shore communication using Morse code. Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) volunteers have preserved and maintain the station and keep it on the air (along with the associated amateur station K6KPH). The COVID-19 pandemic has put KPH off the air "for the duration."


Tennessee Court of Appeals Affirms Contempt Ruling Against Radio Amateur

A Tennessee Court of Appeals has affirmed a radio amateur's liability for a 30-day jail sentence for violating a court directive to refrain from contacting another radio amateur who had filed a temporary order of protection. The appeals court's June 11 determination upheld a lower trial court ruling that found Michael J. Mgrdichian, ex-N2FUV, of Kodak, in criminal contempt for violating the order by contacting Jamie Faucon, N3FA (ex-AA3JF) of Knoxville via ham radio on three separate occasions. Mgrdichian appealed, primarily asserting that the lower court lacked jurisdiction over the case, because amateur radio is regulated by the FCC, a federal agency.

Faucon claimed that Mgrdichian had "stalked, threatened, and harassed" her on multiple occasions between 2016 and 2019, claiming that the threats were made via ham radio after Faucon had asked Mgrdichian to cease his actions. Faucon claimed that problems between her and Mgrdichian began after she complained to the FCC, alleging that Mgrdichian was using racially abusive language on the air. That matter was not at issue in the appeals court ruling.

The trial court had issued a temporary protection order for Mgrduchian to cease contacting Faucon, "either directly or indirectly, by phone, email, messages, mail, or any other type of communication or contact."

Mgrdichian attempted to have the lower court case dismissed by arguing that state courts do not have jurisdiction over any communication involving amateur radio. The trial court maintained, however, that it did have jurisdiction based on an alleged violation of the temporary protection order.

"The [temporary restraining] order did not prohibit [Mgrdichian] from using amateur radio; it did not attempt to establish a permitted level of interference; and it did not originate from, or result in, a nuisance claim," the appeals court reasoned in its ruling. "Instead, the subject matter of this case primarily rests on [Mgrdichian] violating the [temporary restraining] order by contacting [Faucon] on amateur radio. A party's radio usage -- whether it be commercial or amateur -- does not automatically preempt the case from being heard by a state court."

The appeals court determined that the trial court had jurisdiction to find Mgrdichian in criminal contempt of court when he violated the temporary restraining order by contacting Faucon via amateur radio.

The appeals court upheld findings that Mgrdichian was in contempt of the trial court's order on three occasions, each calling for 10 days in jail and a fine.

Amateur Radio Discussed at CEPT Meeting

International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region1 reports the 96th virtual meeting of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) Frequency Management Working Group (FMWG) June 8 - 12 dealt with several amateur radio matters.

According to IARU Region 1, the European Common Allocation Table (ECA) was reviewed, resulting in a revised version for consultation with stakeholders. IARU was able to amend the 241 - 250 GHz band entry to correct some errors. The state of the 50 - 52 MHz band in CEPT countries was also updated to take WRC-19 decisions into account. Last year, Ukraine requested that it be included in CEPT ECC Recommendation T/R 61-02, the recommendation that defines the Harmonized Amateur Radio Examination Certificate (HAREC), and this was agreed.

Romania had contacted the FMWG chairman concerning the possibility of introducing electronic amateur radio licensing. This idea been passed to CEPT's Radio Amateur Forum Group for further discussion and possible action.

The meeting also discussed developing a regulatory framework for wireless power transfer (WPT) going forward, and attendees agreed that the CEPT Spectrum Engineering Working Group should continue to study the full range of WPT applications and emissions and that no regulatory steps would be taken until that work is complete. Meeting documents are available.

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

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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