Friday, March 3, 2017

Nominations Open for Young Ham of the Year Award

Is there a young ham in your community - or in your family - who's doing incredible stuff with or for ham radio? Is he/she helping to advance radio technology? Performing significant public service? Helping to promote the hobby in innovative ways?
Consider nominating that young person for Amateur Radio Newsline's annual Bill Pasternak Young Ham of the Year award, of which CQ is a proud co-sponsor. The nominating period is open until May 31. Nominees must be 18 or younger and live in the United States or its possessions, or in Canada. Complete information and nominating forms are available online at the YHOTY tab on <>.

Hamvention® Honors Go Around - and Above - the World

Three leading radio amateurs and one club will be recognized for their contributions to our hobby next month by the Dayton Hamvention.® The Dayton Amateur Radio Association's Amateur of the Year for 2017 is Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, chairman of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. 
CWops co-founder and former president Rob Brownstein, K6RB, wins this year's Technical Achievement award for the CW Academy program, through which more than 800 hams have been mentored in Morse code skills. Dayton's Special Achievement award goes to S. Ram Mohan, VU2MYH, Executive Vice Chairman and Director of India's National Institute of Amateur Radio, and the 2017 Club of the Year is the Clark County Amateur Radio Club, W7AIA, which serves southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon. The club licensed 95 new hams last year, has a growing youth program and created the "Eyewarn" program, which was featured in the October, 2016, CQ Emergency Communications special issue. The awards will be presented at next month's Dayton Hamvention® in Xenia, Ohio.

Speaking of the Hamvention and Xenia, the ARRL reports that Xenia High School has decided to cancel classes on Friday, May 19, to allow students to attend the Hamvention's opening day. The world's largest hamfest will be held in Xenia for the first time this year, following the closure last year of its longtime home, Hara Arena.

Orlando Hits New Attendance Record

The 2017 Orlando Hamcation® set a new attendance record, which may now make it the world's third-largest hamfest. 

According to the ARRL Letter, official attendance this year at Orlando was 19,000, up 2,000 from 2016 and higher than Europe's largest hamfest, "Ham Radio" in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The only two larger hamfests are the Dayton Hamvention and the Tokyo Ham Fair in Japan.

Rep. Kinzinger Honored by ARRL

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
(U.S. Congress photo)

Amateur Radio Parity Act sponsor Representative Adam Kinzinger has been honored with the ARRL's Barry Goldwater, K7UGA, Achievement Award for 2017.  The Illinois Republican has sponsored the bill to require homeowners' associations to permit some form of outdoor amateur radio antennas in the last three sessions of Congress. The bill has passed the House twice, but has yet to come up for a vote in the Senate.

Ex-FEMA Head: Training is Great, But…

Former FEMA Administrator Craig
Fugate, KK4INZ
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, says the agency is willing to work with any amateur who has key information in an emergency, regardless of whether that amateur has formal emergency communications training or is a member of an EmComm-focused group, such as ARES or RACES. 

According to the ARRL Letter, Fugate told "Ham Radio Now" host Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, that "(t)raining is great," but "(w)e shouldn't think it's exclusionary." He said FEMA needs to be responsive even to a ham without formal training "because that person may be the only one up and running," adding that "If you have the luxury of being exclusionary, it's probably not a bad disaster."

The Letter also reported that Fugate told a House committee at the end of February that his former agency needs a new, and experienced, administrator soon, noting that "It's not a good job (in which) to do on-the-job training." As press time, a permanent FEMA administrator had not yet been nominated by the president.

First, the Woodpecker; Now, the Foghorn

Old-timers may remember the "Russian woodpecker," an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system in the 1980s that moved through the HF spectrum, creating major interference on the ham bands whenever its signal passed through. Now, according to the ARRL Letter, a mysterious foghorn-like signal has been disrupting communications on the 40, 30 and 20-meter bands. The IARU's Region 1 Monitoring Service says it has traced the source of the signal to a Chinese OTH burst radar system.

FCC Takes Next Step on ARRL's 5-MHz Petition - March 20 Comment Deadline

The FCC responded to the ARRL's January petition to expand the 5-MHz (60-meter) band by requesting public comment on the proposal. The comment period opened in mid-February and closes on March 20. 

The League is asking the Commission to authorize a new, non-channelized, amateur allocation between 5351.5 kHz and 5366.5 kHz, to match the international allocation approved at the 2015 World Radiocom- munication Conference (WRC-15), as well as keeping four of the five current channels on the band (the fifth is within the band segment noted above). 

The petition also asks the FCC to retain the current 100-watt PEP power limit for the entire band, as opposed to the 15-watts EIRP limit set by WRC-15. The next step in the process would be for the FCC to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the request.

New Ham Gear on the Space Station

Falcon 9 launch from Kennedy Space Center on
February 19, 2017 (Courtesy SpaceX)
The International Space Station (ISS) has a new 2-meter handheld radio, replacing the original Ericsson MP-A VHF rig that failed last fall after 16+ years of service. The new HT was part of the supply package delivered to the ISS by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on February 19. 

ARISS Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, told the ARRL that the new handheld is only an interim measure until fundraising and testing are complete for a new "interoperable radio system" that ARISS hopes to launch in the not-too-distant future.

Milestones: CQ Contest Hall of Famer, Past ARRL Director K4VX, SK

Lew Gordon, K4VX, of Hannibal, Missouri, became a Silent Key on February 25 at the age of 87. He had been suffering from cancer, but the ARRL reported that he had remained active on the air until the time of his death. 

Gordon served in the Air Force during the Korean War and later worked for the CIA. An avid contester and mentor of young contesters, Gordon was elected to the CQ Contest Hall of Fame in 1996. He also served for six years as ARRL Midwest Division Director in the 1990s.

HAARP Uses Classical Music to Probe the Ionosphere

The newly-reactivated High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Alaska was back on the air in February under the auspices of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. There were two types of experiments, according to the ARRL Letter

One was called "airglow" and was an effort to create an artificial aurora. The second was a transmission of a series of tones to test the so-called Luxembourg effect," in which tones transmitted on two different frequencies mix in the ionosphere to reflect back a combination of the tones on a single frequency. 

Reception reports were requested. Stay tuned for more tests in the future.

"Window" for ARISS Contact Proposals Open Until April 15 - Info Sessions 3/7 & 3/16

Educators interested in scheduling contacts with the International Space Station (ISS) through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program have until April 15 to submit applications for possible dates in the first half of 2018. 

According to the ARRL, ARISS is seeking proposals "from schools and organizations that can attract large numbers of participants and integrate the contact into a well-developed education plan." 

Proposal information and documents may be found on the ARRL's website at: <>. Information sessions are scheduled for March 7 at 0000 UTC (7:00 p.m. March 6 EST) and March 16 at 2000 UTC. Pre-registration is required via <>.

EO-88 On Air With Message From Dubai's Ruler

Emirates-OSCAR 88 - the United Arab Emirates' first amateur radio satellite, is in orbit and on the air. Previously designated as Nayif-1, the nanosatellite was one of a record 104 satellites launched on a single rocket from India on February 15. 

The ARRL reports that it carries a FUNcube communication package which includes a dual-band linear transponder for SSB and CW (uplink 435.045-435.015 MHz; inverting downlink 142.960-145.990 MHz) as well as a telemetry transmitter on 145.940 MHz. 
Prior to beginning regular service, the satellite transmitted a pre-recorded message from Dubai's ruler and United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashad. The message, in Arabic, says, "The renaissance of peoples, nations and civilizations starts with education; and the future of nations starts at their schools."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

NEWS RELEASE - CQ to Introduce MF/LF Column

CQ to Introduce MF/LF Column
John Langridge, KB5NJD/WG2XIQ, to be Column Editor

      (Hicksville, NY, Feb. 15, 2017) -- As ham radio operators in the United States await final FCC action to open new amateur bands at 630 meters (472-479 kHz) and 2200 meters (135.7 kHz – 137.8 kHz), CQ magazine is getting a head-start by introducing a column that will help interested hams get ready to "hit the ground running" once the FCC issues its final rules. The new column - to be titled "MF/LF Operating: Life Below the AM Broadcast Band" - will appear quarterly, starting in the April 2017 issue, and will be edited by John Langridge, KB5NJD/WG2XIQ.

      Licensed as a high school student in 1989, John's interest in "life below the AM broadcast band" extends back even further, when, at age 11, he read an article in Radio-Electronics magazine about the unlicensed 1750-meter band (160-190 kHz). He had to content himself with operating on 160 meters until the opportunity arose in 2012 to join the ranks of Part 5 experimental stations authorized by the FCC to conduct propagation research in preparation for the new medium frequency (MF) and low frequency (LF) bands at 630 and 2200 meters respectively. He was granted a construction permit and station license for WG2XIQ and maintains a regular schedule of beacon transmissions and two-way contacts on 630 meters. He also shares tips and posts a "grabber," or bandscope view, of 472 kHz (which updates every 5 minutes) on his website at <>.

      In his column, John says he plans to cover a variety of topics, including station building, propagation, news events affecting LF/MF, and operating strategies. "My goal," he says, "is to market the bands to people who know nothing about them." The title of his inaugural column in the April issue is "Ham Radio Below 500 kHz: What is All of This About and Where Should I Start?"

      Professionally, John is a consultant in broadcast engineering and information technology, working for a variety of clients. He has a degree in physical chemistry and is currently working toward his Ph.D. in that field. John and his wife, Paula, KD5YHI, live with their pets in the Dallas, Texas, suburbs. John's column will appear in the January, April, July and October issues of CQ.

      "We are looking forward to sharing John's knowledge and experience with our readers," says CQ Editor Rich Moseson, W2VU. "CQ has always been a leader in promoting new bands and modes, and in helping hams use and enjoy them. We are already seeing a growing interest in our soon-to-come MF and LF bands and John's column will be here to help our readers get active on them as soon as they become available for general use."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Shakeup at Ham Radio Deluxe

Following a social media firestorm regarding customer relations, HRD Software co-founder Rick Ruhl, W4PC, has left the company and the ham radio industry. In a January open letter to customers, co-owner Michael Carper wrote that he and fellow co-founder Randy Gawtry would be assuming day-to-day management of the company. 
The story goes back to last September, when a Ham Radio Deluxe customer posted a negative review of the product on a ham radio website. HRD management became aware of the review and added the customer's callsign to an internal "problem customer" list that blocked him from running future versions of the software. In December, the customer encountered some problems and created a "trouble ticket," according to Carper. A technician suggested that he install the latest version of the software, not knowing that it would not run under the customer's call. Apparently, the customer then had trouble re-installing the previous version and took his beef to social media, complaining (inaccurately, according to Carper) that HRD had hacked his computer. The post went viral and was reposted on a variety of blogs.

In addition to Ruhl's departure, Carper said the capability to disable the program based on a customer's callsign has been removed from the software and the license agreement has been modified to clarify that a customer has a perpetual license to use the version of the software that he/she has purchased.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Amateur Radio Parity Act Passes House … Again

The House of Representatives has again passed the Amateur Radio Parity Act, re-introduced in the new session of Congress as H.R. 555 and again sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The bill would require homeowners' associations to permit the installation of outdoor amateur radio antennas, subject to "reasonable written rules" on height, location, etc. 

The House passed the same bill, then known as H.R. 1301, in the previous Congress, but it was not acted on by the Senate before Congress adjourned. The new bill once again passed with unanimous consent and, at press time, was once again awaiting Senate action.

Ajit Pai New FCC Chairman

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (FCC photo)
President Trump has named FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai as the agency's new chairman. Pai, a Republican, was named to the Commission in 2012 by President Obama and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. 

Pai has promised to use a "weed whacker" to eliminate outdated or unnecessary FCC regulations, and to bring more transparency to the Commission's decision-making process. 

One of his first moves was to begin a pilot program of releasing the texts of Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRMs) and Reports & Orders scheduled to be considered by the commissioners at the next FCC meeting. Until now, texts have been released only after adoption by the Commission.
At press time, there were two vacancies on the FCC - one for a Republican and one for a Democrat - that need to be filled by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

ARRL Requests 60-Meter Expansion

The ARRL has petitioned the FCC to expand current amateur allocations on the 60-meter (5 MHz) band to include the 15-kHz segment from 5351.5 kHz to 5366.5 kHz while keeping the discrete channels and power levels currently authorized.

The additional frequencies were authorized worldwide by the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) for a secondary allocation to amateurs. U.S. amateurs have been permitted to operate on five discrete channels within the band since 2003, and according to the ARRL, there have been zero reports of interference by amateurs to the primary federal users of the band. 
Four of the five current channels are outside the band segment authorized at WRC-15, and the ARRL asked the FCC to retain those while adding the new segment. In addition, the League asked the Commission to retain its current maximum power level of 100 watts PEP effective radiated power for hams on 60 meters, rather than the 15-watt effective isotropic radiated power limit set by WRC-15.

ARRL to FCC: Ground Drone Transmitters Being Sold as Ham Gear

The ARRL has filed an "extremely urgent complaint" with the FCC, asking it to take enforcement action against the sale of certain audio/video transmitters for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) that it claims could cause interference to air traffic control and navigation. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the LawMate transmitter and companion 6-watt amplifier are marketed as amateur radio equipment but operate on frequencies between 1010 and 1280 MHz, potentially interfering with air traffic control transponders, navigational aids, GPS and other critical aeronautical safety systems. The complaint notes that only one of the frequencies used - 1280 MHz - is even within an amateur band, and says "the target market for these devices is the drone hobbyist, not licensed radio amateurs," adding that as configured, the devices have "no valid Amateur Radio application." There was no word at press time as to any FCC response.

FCC Dismisses Two Licensing Petitions

The FCC has turned down two requests for changes in amateur licensing and operating privileges. According to the ARRL, James Whedbee, N0ECN, petitioned to have all existing Novice Class licenses converted into Technician Class, and likewise, for all Advanced Class licenses to be converted to Extra Class. Jeffrey Siegell, WB2YRL, asked the FCC to open  Extra Class CW subbands to Advanced Class licensees. 

The commission noted that it had received - and turned down - similar requests in the past and said the petitioners had not shown that anything had changed to the extent that reconsideration was warranted.

630 Meters Becoming "Mainstream" as U.S. Hams Wait for Authorization

WSPR - Weak Signal Propagation Reporter - is frequently
used on 630 meters to help with propagation research.
Activity on the 630-meter band (472-479 kHz) is increasing and propagation is improving as the sunspot cycle heads toward its minimum, according to the coordinator of the ARRL's 600-Meter Experimental Group, operating as WD2XSH. The ARRL Letter says Fritz Raab, W1FR, reports that there are frequently more WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) signals on 630 than on 160 or 80 meters. "In a sense," he says, "630 meters has become a mainstream ham band, in spite of not being authorized in the US." 
The "sliver" band is open to all hams in some countries as well as a limited number of US amateurs operating under experimental licenses. The FCC proposed a secondary allocation for US hams nearly two years ago but has not yet issued a final ruling. CQ will begin publishing a quarterly column on 630-meter and 2200-meter operating in the April 2017 issue.

New US Ham Licenses Again Exceed 30,000 in 2016

For the third year in a row, the FCC in 2016 issued more than 30,000 new amateur licenses, with 32,552 new hams joining the hobby. According to ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, just over 32,000 new licenses were issued in 2015 and more than 33,000 were granted in 2014. Over the three-year period, nearly 100,000 new amateurs joined our ranks. 

The ARRL Letter also reports that the total number of US amateurs at the end of 2016 was 742,787, up nearly 7400 from the end of 2015, although down slightly (by 216) from the all-time record of 743,003 as of November 30, 2016.

Milestones: Longest-Licensed US Ham Becomes SK

Charlie Hellman, W2RP, became a Silent Key in late January. At age 106, he was believed to be the oldest living US amateur, as well as the longest-licensed, having been consecutively licensed since 1925, a span of 92 years! Hellman's first license would have been issued by the Federal Radio Commission, the predecessor of the FCC.
The first woman in Maine to become a licensed amateur has also died. According to the ARRL, Mary Wallace Cousins, ex-W1GSC, passed away January 28 at age 108. She was first licensed by the Federal Radio Commission in 1933. She told a Bangor TV station last fall that at that time, ham radio "was something that the girls did not do, and the boys were doing it all the time, and I said, 'I can do it, too.' And I did."

Former New York Marathon Race Director Allan Steinfeld, W2TN (formerly KL7HIR) also became a Silent Key in late January. He was 70. According to the ARRL Letter, Steinfeld is considered one of the fathers of the modern running movement, having developed many of the protocols necessary for successfully conducting a major event.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 12-year-old Bryant Rascoll, KG5HVO, will be heading to Costa Rica this August to take part in the Youth DX Adventure. Rascoll is this year's winner of the Dave Kalter YDXA essay contest. His winning entry also netted him a transceiver, power supply, antenna and feedline. For more information on YDXA, visit <>.

Listen for Special Canadian Prefixes

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation, and amateurs there are being permitted to use special prefixes all year to celebrate. The ARRL Letter reports that Canadian hams holding VA-prefix calls may substitute CF as their prefix. Likewise, VE-prefix hams may use a CG prefix this year; VO calls may be identified with a CH prefix and VY call sign holders may substitute CI.