Monday, November 27, 2017

ARRL Board Censures Director


Longtime ARRL Southwestern Division Director Dick Norton, N6AA, has been publicly censured by the League's board of directors for allegedly telling members that he opposes a board policy that prohibits directors from criticizing board policies. Last January, the board adopted a code of conduct for its members that included a prohibition on speaking publicly about votes on issues before the board and on criticizing board actions. 

According to the ARRL, Norton repeatedly violated this and other provisions of the code, even after being warned to stop. His actions, the board ruled, drew "the Board's collective decision making into disrepute" and "caused harm to the League." The resolution stated that "Mr. Norton is admonished by the Board that no further, similar behavior will be tolerated." Several amateurs who attended the meeting at which this criticism supposedly occurred have denied that it ever happened, and said that Norton presented the policy in neutral terms and said that he supported it.

Federal Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of W3JY's Suit Against ARRL


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has upheld a District Court ruling that threw out a
The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals courtroom in
Philadelphia (US Courts photo)
lawsuit against the ARRL by Joe Ames, W3JY, the former Eastern Area Manager for the National Traffic System and former Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager. Ames had sued the League for defamation after it removed him from his NTS post for allegedly making commitments on behalf of the ARRL's message-handling system to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) without authorization, and posted an article explaining the action on its website. 

 
According to "Law360," a federal judge dismissed Ames's suit last summer on the basis that the statements in the article were "true on their face." Ames appealed and the third circuit agreed with the district court judge in November, noting that "(t)ruth is an affirmative defense to a defamation claim under Pennsylvania law."

FCC Chairman Thanks Hams for Relief Work in Puerto Rico


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (FCC photo)
Amateur radio operators were among the many people and groups praised and thanked for their help by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai during a two-day visit to Puerto Rico last fall. According to RadioWorld, Pai came to the U.S. territory for a first-hand look at recovery efforts still under way more than a month after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. 

According to the report, "Pai praised the efforts of the individuals and companies that have been a part of the recovery effort, including amateur radio operators, broadcasters, cable operators, fixed wireless companies, wireline carriers and mobile providers." The hurricane wiped out virtually all of Puerto Rico's electrical and telecommunications infrastructure.

FCC Denies Reconsideration of Petition for Greater Advanced Class Privileges


The FCC has turned down a petition for reconsideration filed by Jeffrey Siegell, WB2YRL, after it denied his original petition to grant Extra Class CW privileges to Advanced Class license holders. The Virginia amateur's logic behind the request was that all holders of Advanced Class licenses (which have not been issued since 1999 but may be renewed) have passed Morse code exams, while Extra Class licensees no longer need to prove code proficiency in order to earn all amateur operating privileges.

The Commission said in its initial denial, and reiterated in its November decision not to consider the petition for reconsideration, that back in 1999, it specifically rejected suggestions to automatically upgrade Advanced Class licenses to Extra Class, "concluding that it would be inappropriate for these licensees to 'receive additional privileges without passing the required examination elements.' " 

The current decision said the question had been revisited in 2005 and that the basic reasoning behind it had not changed then and has not changed now. "Consequently," the decision continued, "we conclude that the (Mobility) Division correctly dismissed your petition for rulemaking, and we deny your petition for reconsideration." The Mobility Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has responsibility for amateur service rules under the current FCC organizational structure.

ARRL to Seek Expanded HF Privileges for Technicians


Even though the FCC has refused to consider giving more operating privileges to Advanced Class hams, the ARRL is hoping it will agree to consider expanding the HF privileges currently available to Technicians. 

According to the ARRL Letter, League officials will be working on specific proposals for additional HF phone and digital privileges for Technicians, to be presented to the board of directors for consideration at its January meeting. The League's Entry Level Licensing Committee has been looking at ways to further increase the appeal of amateur radio.

Fox-1B Satellite Launched, Now AO-91


AMSAT's newest amateur satellite - Fox-1B (also known as RadFxSat) - was launched on November 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and successfully entered orbit and started transmitting. It has been designated as AMSAT-OSCAR 91.
 
According to the AMSAT News Service, the cubesat carries a scientific package - developed by Vanderbilt University - designed to measure the effects of space radiation on electronic components. It also includes an amateur FM transponder with an uplink on 70 centimeters and a downlink on 2 meters.

K6WAO Elected AMSAT-NA President, Announces New Satellite Program


The board of directors of AMSAT-NA has elected Joe Spier, K6WAO, of Reno, Nevada, as the amateur satellite organization's new president. He succeeds Barry Baines, WD4ASW, who stepped down after nine years at the helm. The AMSAT News Service says Spier has previously served as the group's executive vice president and VP for educational relations.
 
Immediately after assuming office, Spier announced the next phase of AMSAT's cubesat program, abbreviated GOLF for "Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint." Tiny cubesats typically are launched into low Earth orbit and have limited coverage areas. The goal of the GOLF program, according to ANS, is to use and build on proven cubesat technology for satellites to be launched "to a wide variety of orbits, including LEO, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), or beyond."

ARRL Launches International Grid Chase


Building on the success of its 2016 National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program, the ARRL has launched a year-long grid square competition. The goal will be to make contacts during the course of 2018 with stations in as many Maidenhead grid squares as possible, using all amateur bands except 60 meters. 

The program requires the use of the League's Logbook of the World (LoTW) online contact confirmation system. Grid squares will not need to be exchanged on the air, since each station participating in LoTW enters its grid locator into the system upon registration. Full details are in the December 2017 issue of QST.

Hams on TV (Good and Bad)…


(From CBS.com)
Ham radio continued to pop up on TV dramas in November, but was not always shown in a good light. An episode of NCIS used ham radio as a key plot element, but unfortunately portrayed amateurs as societal misfits. 
 
On a more positive note, one of the major characters on MacGyver revealed that his long-deceased father had been an amateur, telling MacGyver that "my dad would have liked you … as long as you didn't take apart his ham radios." MacGyver responded, "You know how much I love taking apart ham radios!" Perhaps we'll get to see him do that on a future episode!

YASME Foundation Announces 2017 Awards


The YASME Foundation in November announced the presentation of five Excellence Awards and one supporting grant for 2017. The awards recognize significant contributions to amateur radio.

According to the ARRL Letter, the five Excellence Awards go to:

   - the Dayton Amateur Radio Association for its smooth transition of the Hamvention® to a newhome on short notice;
   - Paul Verhage, KD4STH, and Bill Brown, WB8ELK, for their ongoing leadership of amateur radio high-altitude ballooning programs, and through them, introducing hundreds of students to amateur radio;  
- Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and Magda Moses, KM4EGE, for establishing the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) program and sponsoring the Solar Eclipse QSO Party, which YASME says was the largest amateur radio experiment ever conducted;
  - the WSJT Development Team, led by Joe Taylor, K1JT, for their ongoing advancements in digital communications; and
  - Dale Hughes, VK1DSH, for his work representing the interests of amateur radio at the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference, where 60 meters was designated as an amateur radio band worldwide.
  
 - In addition, Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, received a supporting grant to help cover his expenses in producing and distributing videos through his Ham Radio Now podcast.

Milestones: CQ Hall of Famer Mario Ambrosi, I2MQP, SK




Mario Ambosi, I2MQP, president of Italy's national amateur radio association (ARI) and a 2005 inductee into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame, became a Silent Key in November. Ambrosi was an active contester and DXer as well as being a prolific author and Editor of ARI's magazine, Radiorivista.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CQWW DX Contest Propagation Update – Focus on the Low Bands



CQ Propagation Editor Tomas Hood, NW7US, updates us on expected propagation conditions during both the SSB and CW weekends of the 2017 CQ World Wide DX Contest…

CQ WW DX SSB Contest conditions look poor to fair, and somewhat unstable

Poor to Fair Conditions Expected

Here is an updated forecast made a week in advance for the general propagation conditions expected during the 2017 CQ World Wide DX SSB Contest weekend of October 28-29.  Based on the 27-day recurrence tendencies of solar and geomagnetic conditions, we predict poor to fair conditions on both days. Expect the contest to start weak, but to improve slightly as Sunday dawns.

Daily 10.7cm solar flux levels are expected to be around 85 during the contest weekend, so the higher HF bands will be barely productive, with our workhorse remaining 20 meters.  The geomagnetic Planetary A-index is expected to be variable between 10 and 15. The lower frequencies will be more productive, and will allow for weak signals to be heard on higher frequencies when an opening exists on some given path.

Remember that at any time during the contest, if there are sunspots present, a flare may occur.  When flares erupt, it could cause a radio blackout on the Sun-facing side of the Earth.  These last between ten to sixty minutes, depending on the strength and location of the flare.  We don’t expect much solar flare activity. However, as we witnessed recently, a sunspot region may still suddenly develop, and unleash a flare or two (or more).


We're still a month-plus away from the CQWW CW Weekend, but here's how things are looking as of now…

CQ WW DX CW Contest conditions look fair, and stable

Fair Conditions Expected

Here is an updated forecast in late October for the general propagation conditions expected during the 2017 CQ World Wide DX CW Contest weekend of November 25-26.  Based on the 27-day recurrence tendencies of solar and geomagnetic conditions, we predict fair conditions on both days. Expect the contest to start fair, but to improve slightly on Sunday.

As with the SSB weekend, daily 10.7cm solar flux levels are expected to be around 85 during the contest weekend, so the higher HF bands will be barely productive, with our workhorse remaining 20 and 40 meters.  The geomagnetic Planetary A-index is expected to be between 5 and 8; stable. The lower frequencies will be more productive, and will allow for weak signals to be heard on higher frequencies when an opening exists on some given path.

Remember that at any time during the contest, if there are sunspots present, a flare may occur.  When flares erupt, it could cause a radio blackout on the Sun-facing side of the Earth.  These last between ten to sixty minutes, depending on the strength and location of the flare.

For very last-minute updates, visit NW7US's Facebook page at:

New Ham Bands Occupied and Busy


The two newest ham radio bands – 2200 and 630 meters – are open for general amateur use and are
already being well-used. It appears that the first approval letters from the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) – which must sign off on notices that individual hams intend to use the bands – arrived on October 13, and some stations immediately got on the air. Amateurs wishing to use these bands must notify UTC and wait until an approval letter is received or until 30 days go by with no response before getting on the air.

Location of the 630 & 2200-meter bands/
in relation to surrounding spectrum.
CQ MF/LF Editor John Langridge, KB5NJD, reports that a record-setting 630-meter QSO of just over 7457 miles (12,002 kilometers) was completed on October 17 between Larry Molitor, W7IUV, in Quincy, Washington, and Roger Crofts, VK4YB, of Queensland, Australia using the JT9 digital mode. John says the previous record was 7333 miles (11,802 kilometers), set in 2016 between VK4YB and Steve McDonald, VE7SL, in Mayne, British Columbia (630 meters has been authorized in Canada for several years).

Meanwhile, the ARRL Letter reports that some denial letters have been received as well, including at least two amateurs who had been operating on the new bands under experimental licenses without reports of interference to power line carrier (PLC) systems, which share these frequencies in some locations. The FCC rule granting US amateurs access to these bands prohibits operation within 1 kilometer of power transmission lines on which PLC is in use.

On a related note, the ARRL says updated amateur frequency charts showing the new bands are now available for download, in several formats, from <http://bit.ly/2xhkUjF>.