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The ARRL Letter
July 2, 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.


Prominent Radio Amateur Helps to Lead US Convalescent Plasma COVID-19 Expanded Access Study

Well-known contester, DXer, and National Contest Journal (NCJ) Editor Scott Wright, K0MD, has been "substantially" stepping back from ham radio while offering his expertise to the US convalescent plasma COVID-19 Expanded Access Program. The study began in early April under the leadership of Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Joyner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic; Dr. Peter Marks, MD, PhD -- who is AB3XC -- and Dr. Nicole Verdun, MD, of the US Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Arturo Casavedall, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, and Wright, who is with the Mayo Clinic.

"The US Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program is a collaborative project between the US government and the Mayo Clinic to provide access to convalescent plasma for patients in the US who are hospitalized with COVID 19," Wright told ARRL. The work has been referenced during White House press briefings and in congressional testimony. The US government-supported study collects and provides blood plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, which contains antibodies that may help fight the disease. The Mayo Clinic is the lead institution for the program.

"My role was to organize the infrastructure and the research approach, and to help lead the set-up of the data collection and of the website teams, while overseeing the study conduct and regulatory compliance," Wright explained.

According to a June 18 Washington Post article, "A large study of 20,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma from people who recovered found the treatment was safe and suggests giving it to people early in the disease may be beneficial."

An initial safety report on 5,000 patients appeared in May in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The safety study on 20,000 subjects referenced in the Washington Post article was published earlier this month in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Wright said most scientific studies of this magnitude take months to a year with planning and execution to get under way. In this case, the study team went from zero to 60 in a few short weeks.

"We started in less than a week. Most studies recruit 2,500 - 5,000 patients," Wright said. "We have recruited over 30,000 patients in 10 weeks, exceeding all expectations."

Hospitals in all 50 states and several US territories are participating, Wright said, and more than 8,000 physician-scientists are working with the team as investigators at their hospitals. "We also helped manage the start-up of collection of convalescent plasma by the large blood organizations, such as the American Red Cross, by strategically connecting donor pools and people willing to donate with the blood collection centers."

Wright's study responsibilities, which are on top of his regular day job, have required him to work daily, including weekends, for all of April, most of May, and all of June. "It has been intense," he said.

Wright said an FDA announcement on the benefit of convalescent plasma was expected soon. The FDA has been inviting donations of convalescent plasma from individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19.

Wright will be the keynote speaker at the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo August 8 - 9 to discuss the study, its results, and, he said, "linking it to skills acquired through ham radio. Read more.

IARU Appoints New Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Coordinator

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Administrative Council has appointed Martin Sach, G8KDF, as global Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Coordinator, succeeding Tore Worren, LA9QL.

"EMC is a major challenge for all radiocommunication services," the IARU noted. "Radio amateurs are experiencing increased interference caused by unwanted radio frequency emissions from a wide variety, and rapidly growing number, of electronic devices."

The EMC Coordinator's mission is to ensure that the concerns and needs of radio amateurs are effectively addressed in international standards bodies -- particularly the International Special Committee on Radio Interference (CISPR) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) -- as well as in regional telecommunication organizations and at national levels through IARU member-societies. Assisting in the effort is a network of volunteers with expertise in the field of EMC.

IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, said, "The IARU Administrative Council is grateful for Tore's leadership and for his willingness to continue contributing to this vital work. We are fortunate that someone as qualified as Martin is willing to take the reins. He has already represented the IARU effectively at important international meetings and we look forward to working even more closely with him."

Radio amateurs throughout the world support the work of the IARU through membership and involvement in their national IARU member-societies. The IARU needs qualified volunteers in this and other fields.

New IARU Video

The video "What is IARU?" is now available on the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 2 website.

"This video explains the mission and roles of IARU to represent, develop, and defend frequencies for amateur radio around the world," IARU Region 2 explains. "It also describes the regional organizations and the critical roles of its more than 160 member-societies." The English-language presentation was developed by the IARU Administrative Committee and approved at its meeting last October in Lima, Peru.

The short video, available in English and Spanish, was produced by IARU Region 2 Director Carlos Beviglia, LU1BCE, and Fernando Gomez Rojas, LU1ARG. The videos are available in MP4 format.

IARU Region 2 encourages member-societies and radio clubs to use the videos to explain the role and mission of IARU to amateurs, regulators, and others.

Researchers Use 200 Years of Sunspot Observations to Create "Sun Clock"

Researchers in the UK and the US have developed a new "sun clock" that quantifies extreme space weather and pinpoints distinct on/off times of high solar activity and space weather. The sun clock will assist in planning to protect space and ground-based infrastructure that is sensitive to space weather. The study, "Quantifying the solar cycle modulation of extreme space weather," was published in Geophysical Research Letters. It explains that the sun clock uses the daily sunspot number record available since 1818 to map solar activity over 18 solar cycles to a standardized 11-year cycle or "clock."

"Extreme space weather events can significantly impact systems such as satellites, communications systems, power distribution, and aviation," a Warwick University news release said, noting that these events are driven by solar activity. "By devising a new, regular 'sun

Multiple solar cycles are mapped onto a regular solar cycle clock with increasing time reading clockwise. Circles indicate the cycle maxima (red), minima (green), and terminators (blue). The 10.7-centimeter solar flux (blue) and GOES satellite X-, M-, and C-class solar flare occurrence is plotted. Extreme space weather events on Earth seen in the aa geomagnetic index are shown as black dots arranged in concentric circles.

clock', researchers have found that the switch on-and-off of periods of high solar activity is quite sharp."

The researchers' analysis shows that while extreme events can happen at any time, they are much less likely to occur during quiet intervals. The sun clock is aimed at helping scientists to determine more precisely when the risk for solar storms is highest and to plan the impact of space weather on space infrastructure. This gains importance as Solar Cycle 25 is imminent.

According to the researchers, no two solar cycles are the same, but using a mathematical technique known as the Hilbert transform, they were able to standardize the solar cycle for the first time. The clock revealed sharp transitions between quiet and active periods of solar activity.

"Once the clock is constructed from sunspot observations, it can be used to order observations of solar activity and space weather," the university said. This includes the occurrence of solar flares and the 10.7-centimeter solar flux that tracks solar coronal activity.

The researchers determined that once past on/off times are obtained from the clock, the occurrence rate of extreme events when the sun is active or quiet can be calculated.

"Scientists spend their lives trying to read the book of nature," lead author and Professor Sandra Chapman of the University of Warwick's Centre for Fusion, Space, and Astrophysics, said. "Sometimes, we create a new way to transform the data, and what appeared to be messy and complicated is suddenly beautifully simple."


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ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 6) details everything you need to know about ARRL Field Day, with 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 11), available on Thursday, July 2, will cover Shortwave Radiogram, web-based remote receivers, and PSKreporter.

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.

New Extra Class License Manual and Extra Q&A Now Available

Go all the way to the top! ARRL has everything you need to pass the Amateur Extra-class license exam with confidence.

The ARRL Extra Class License Manual for Ham Radio is your ticket to every privilege granted to amateur radio operators -- all frequencies, operating modes, and power levels. It has all the questions and answers, with detailed explanations, for examinations taken between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2024.

Use this book with ARRL Exam Review for Ham Radio online to review the material. You can even take practice exams, so there are no surprises on exam day!

When you've successfully passed the exam, The ARRL Extra Class License Manual will serve as your reference as you explore your new privileges!

If you're looking for a more direct route to studying for the exam, ARRL's Extra Q&A contains all exam questions and the answers.

To upgrade to Amateur Extra class, you must already hold a General-class license (or have recently passed all of the exam elements required for a General-class license).

The ARRL Extra Class License Manual new 12th edition spiral bound (ARRL Item No. 1311, ISBN: 978-1-62595-131-1, $32.95 retail) and ARRL's Extra Q&A new 5th edition (ARRL Item No. 1335, ISBN: 978-1-62595-133-5, $19.95 retail) are now shipping. Order from the ARRL Store, or find an ARRL publication dealer. For additional questions or ordering, call 860-594-0355 (toll-free in the US, 888-277-5289). Both The ARRL Extra Class License Manual and ARRL's Extra Q&A are available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle.


ARRL Illinois Section Has a New Section Manager

Thomas Beebe, W9RY, has been appointed as the Illinois Section Manager, effective July 1. He succeeds Ron Morgan, AD9I, who stepped down due to health concerns that became apparent just as he was ready to start a new term. Morgan was re-elected in the spring Section Manager election cycle and had served as SM since February 2017. Beebe, who lives in Marion, will fulfill the 2-year term that extends through June 30, 2022.

Beebe was one of three candidates who ran for the post in the spring SM election. He has served as an Assistant Section Manager, Official Emergency Station, and a Field Instructor and Field Examiner. Beebe has been a ham for more than 50 years.

ARRL Radiosport and Field Services Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, made the appointment after consulting with ARRL Central Division Director Kermit Carlson, W9XA.

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MARS Announces HF Skills Exercise

Members of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) will conduct an HF skills exercise July 20 - 24 to hone their operating skills and messaging-handling capabilities. MARS members will be reaching out to the amateur radio community via the 60 meters Channel 1 Net (5330.5 kHz dial) twice a day, the SATERN HF net (14.265 MHz), and by contacting various stations via HFLink throughout the exercise.

Participating MARS members will be requesting assistance with collecting county status information as well as airport weather information, called METARs. MARS members will also be passing ICS 213 messages to numerous Department of Defense (DoD), federal, and amateur radio addressees.

This exercise will be announced via WWV at 00:10 and via WWVH at 00:50 starting on or about July 13. WWV and WWVH listeners will be asked to take an online listener survey. This HF radio training event will not impact regular communications.

A Department of Defense program, MARS organizes and trains amateur radio volunteers to operate in military radio networks to support HF radio contingency communications. Among other missions, MARS provides communication support to civil authorities and assists in establishing normal communication under emergency conditions. -- Thanks to Paul English, Chief, Army MARS

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: No sunspots this week. Spaceweather.com reported a couple of weak, barely emerging spots (never numbered) but, judging by their magnetic polarity, were from new Solar Cycle 25. We rely on NOAA for official sunspot numbers, and the most recent one reported was 11 on June 15.

Average daily solar flux over the June 25 - July 1 reporting week averaged 68.6, up from 67.7 over the previous 7 days. The average daily planetary A and the average middle latitude A indices both were 5.5.

Predicted solar flux over the next 45 days is 68 each day from July 2 until August 15 -- hardly a promising outlook. Even with no sunspots, it would be nice to see solar flux values north of 70.

The predicted planetary A index is 5 on July 2 - 26; 8 on July 27 - 28; 5 on July 29 - August 1; 8 on August 2 - 3, and 5 on August 4 -15.

Sunspot numbers for June 25 - July 1 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 68.9, 67.8, 68.9, 69.2, 68.7, 68.1, and 68.9, with a mean of 68.6. Estimated planetary A indices were 3, 6, 7, 4, 3, 4, and 6, with a mean of 5.5. Middle latitude A index was 2, 6, 6, 4, 4, 5, and 6, with a mean of 5.5.

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.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • July 4 -- FISTS Summer Slow Speed Sprint (CW)

  • July 4 - 5 -- DL-DX RTTY Contest

  • July 4 - 5 -- Marconi Memorial HF Contest (CW)

  • July 4 - 5 -- Original QRP Contest (CW)

  • July 4 -5 -- PODXS 070 Club 40-Meter Firecracker Sprint (Digital)

  • July 4 - 5 -- YBDXC 80-Meter Contest (Phone)

  • July 6 -- ARS Spartan Sprint (CW)

  • July 6 -- 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.

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Annual 13 Colonies Event Now Under Way

The annual 13 Colonies special event kicked off on July 1 at 1300 UTC and will continue until July 8 at 0400 UTC. Stations representing the original 13 British colonies, plus two bonus stations, will be on the air with 1 × 1 call signs.

The event sponsor stresses that participants do not need to work all 13 colony stations to obtain a certificate and do not need to work the two bonus stations for a clean sweep. All HF bands will be in play, with the exception of 60 meters, and simplex on 2 and 6 meters is encouraged. All modes of operation may be represented.

This year will mark the 12th occurrence of the event. Look for:

  • K2A, New York

  • K2B, Virginia

  • K2C, Rhode Island

  • K2D, Connecticut

  • K2E, Delaware

  • K2F, Maryland

  • K2G, Georgia

  • K2H, Massachusetts

  • K2I, New Jersey

  • K2J, North Carolina

  • K2K, New Hampshire

  • K2L, South Carolina

  • K2M, Pennsylvania

Bonus station WM3PEN will be in Philadelphia (the call sign commemorates the Pennsylvania colony's founder, William Penn). The other bonus station will be GB13COL in the UK.

Announcements July 2
  • ARRL member Wayne Rash, N4HCR, authored a June 30 Forbes magazine article, "Thousands Of Radio Operators Band Together To Practice For The Worst," about ARRL Field Day 2020.

  • Radio amateurs and others may listen for ham radio activity from the International Space Station (ISS) by monitoring 145.800 MHz.

  • Ken Opskar, LA7GIA, has announced the Jan Mayen 2021 DXpedition, using the call sign JX0X, in September of 2021, with an emphasis on 160 - 30 meters.

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the announced W8S Swains Island DXpedition has been postponed until spring 2021 at the earliest.

  • CQ has named Tim Shoppa, N3QE, of Bethesda, Maryland, as the magazine's contesting editor. He succeeds Dave Siddall, K3ZJ.

  • AMSAT has designated China's CAS-6 (TQ-1) microsatellite as TQ-OSCAR 108 (TO-108). Reports indicate that the transponder is active only for intervals of about 2 seconds, but, AMSAT says, "With patience, and quick transmissions, QSOs have been completed."

  • To commemorate the third anniversary of the FT8 Digital Mode Club, special event stations will be on air during the month of July for FT8DMC Activity Days. All call signs will have FTDMC or FTDM suffixes.

Ham Radio Reconnects Boyhood Friends after 60 Years

Two radio amateurs who were in school together in Austria decades ago have reconnected via VoIP ham radio. One of the two had moved to the US, and they lost touch. On June 15, Arnold Huebsch, OE1IAH, heard a call via Echolink from Albin Ennsthaler, KK9HAM, near Spokane.

"At first, I did not want to respond as I was working on a program. But

Arnold Huebsch, OE1IAH.

as I know that usually nobody responds here to calls in English, I answered," recounted Huebsch, who is also KN6EYB and fluent in English.

As it turned out, they chatted for some 20 minutes. Because each was familiar with the geography on both sides of the contact, they had a lot to talk about. Huebsch learned that Ennsthaler was born in Austria and had relocated to the US years earlier. "He pronounced the local city names in perfect German but asked to run the QSO in English, as he felt more comfortable to do so," Huebsch said.

A few minutes after the contact ended, Huebsch turned his attention to serving as the net control station of a daily net on a local repeater in Vienna. "I mentioned the contact with KK9HAM and noted that his name was Albin, a name not common in Austria. That caught the ear of one of the locals, Gerhard Weissenboeck, OE1WED, who recalled someone named Albin from school in Styria about 60 years ago, but had lost touch with him. Weissenboeck wondered if it could be the same person.

"I initiated contact via email between them, as I knew Albin had come from that area of Austria," Huebsch said. "They found out that they had shared a desk in school." KK9HAM and OE1WED arranged a sked via Echolink for a few days later.

"It was an intense, very emotional, funny QSO in a wild mixture of English and German," Huebsch said. "Without our hobby, these two former school friends would never have had a chance to meet again."

Ennsthaler later emailed Huebsch. "I am still speechless about this get-together with Gerhard and Fahrdienstleiter [traffic controller] Arnold and other members of the group," he said. "What a memorable day."

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In Brief...

Intrepid-DX Group Announces Youth Essay Contest The Intrepid-DX Group, a US-based IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes amateur radio in developing countries, has announced its first Youth Essay Contest. The prize is a new Icom IC-7300 transceiver, which the winner must agree to keep and use for 1 year. Participants will submit a two-page essay answering these questions: (1) What are your amateur radio goals? and (2) What can we do to attract more youth to amateur radio? The competition is open to US amateur radio licensees aged 19 or younger. Submit essays in text or MS Word attachment by July 31, 2020, or mail to The Intrepid-DX Group, 3052 Wetmore Dr., San Jose, CA 95148, postmarked by July 31, 2020. The winner will be announced on August 10 on the Intrepid-DX Group website and on its Facebook page. Email for more information. The Intrepid-DX Group hopes to make the Youth Essay Contest an annual event.

SAQ Announces Annual Alexanderson Day Transmission The vintage SAQ Alexanderson alternator in Sweden will conduct its annual Alexanderson Day transmissions on 17.2 kHz on Sunday, July 5. Startup and tuning will begin at 0830 UTC, with the transmission commencing at 0900 UTC. Startup and tuning for the second transmission will begin at 1130 UTC, with the message transmission at 1200 UTC. Both events will be broadcast live via the Alexderson Association SAQ YouTube channel. QSO via the reception report form. Amateur radio station SK6SAQ will operate on 7.035 and 14.035 MHz (CW) and on 3.755 MHz SSB. Send reception reports via email. Two stations will be on the air most of the time. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no visitors will be allowed into the radio station. More details are on the Alexanderson Association website.

National Hurricane Center's WX4NHC Annual Station Test is Successful On May 30, operators at WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), working from home, conducted the annual readiness check of the station and of other amateur radio stations and operators around the country and world. WX4NHC is marking its 40th year of public service in 2020. Assistant Amateur Radio Coordinator at the NHC Julio Ripoll, WD4R, reported that five WX4NHC operators made 146 contacts with US and Caribbean stations. Despite poor HF propagation, operators made contacts with stations as far north as Maine and as far south and west as Aruba and Curacao, Puerto Rico, and Texas. Operators also made many contacts using digital modes, including Winlink as well as Florida's statewide SARNET UHF repeater network that connects 27 repeaters from Key West to Tallahassee. -- Thanks to the ARES E-Letter

Getting It Right!

The article, "Rescued Radio Amateur Says, 'Ham Radio Saved My Life'" in the June 25 issue of The ARRL Letter cited a report in the Bennington Banner. The newspaper's name was incorrect in the article.

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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