Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hamvention® Honors Hurricane Responders, Antenna Innovator and Ohio Radio Club

Amateurs involved in last year's hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean dominated the Dayton Hamvention® awards for 2018. A longtime cutting-edge antenna innovator and a very active radio club were also honored.

The 2018 Special Achievement Award is shared by three hams, Herb Perez, KK4DCX; Victor Torres, WP4SD, and Emilio Ortiz, Jr., WP4KEY. After Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico's electric and telecommunications infrastructure, Perez brought his ham gear to the studios of a local public radio station. Working with Torres and Ortiz, along with nearly four dozen hams in the continental U.S., the group generated and delivered more than 4000 health-and-welfare messages to worried family members.

The Amateur of the Year Award winner was part of the "Force of 50" group deployed to Puerto Rico after Maria by the ARRL. Valerie Holtzfield, NV9L, had also gone to Texas after Hurricane Harvey to help rescue small animals, according to the Hamvention announcement. She is also an avid contester and DXer, has been on four major DXpeditions and is a co-host of the "Ham Nation" video podcast.

Chip Cohen, W1YW, is being honored with the 2018 Technical Achievement Award. Chip invented fractal antennas 30 years ago and recently received a patent for using fractal antenna techniques to develop an "invisibility cloak" for aircraft and other large objects.

Finally, Dayton's Club of the Year honors go to the Portage County (Ohio) Amateur Radio Service. This very busy club says it has over 40 hours of activities each month, including public service, student outreach, periodic "Build Days" for working on projects together and monthly "Get On The Air" days when the club station is open for members and guests to learn about HF and different modes of operation.

The honors will be presented at the 2018 Dayton Hamvention awards banquet in May.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ARRL Seeks More HF Privileges for Techs

The ARRL has petitioned the FCC for expanded HF voice, RTTY and digital privileges for TechnicianClass licensees. The League says current growth rates in licensing are insufficient to sustain the amateur service in the long run, and points out the long-standing problem that many Technician licensees never get on the air or become active members of the broader amateur radio community. The entry-level license, says the ARRL petition, must "provide sufficient, relevant, operating privileges to allow these individuals to find value in Amateur Radio and to build in a strong incentive to upgrade to the next license class by a culture of involvement among new licensees."
Specifically, the League's February 28 petition asks for RTTY and other digital-mode privileges on current Technician CW subbands on 80, 40, 15 and 10 meters; plus new voice privileges on 3.900-4.000, 7.225-7.300 and 21.350-21.450 MHz. Maximum power output would be 200 watts PEP. At press time, the FCC had not yet given the petition a rulemaking number or requested public comment.

Hamvention: All Online Sales Now Open

The Dayton Hamvention® says online sales are now open for flea market and indoor vendor spaces, as well as individual admission tickets. Online vendor sales were delayed due to changes that needed to be made after it became obvious that the new building planned for the Greene County Fairgrounds would not be completed in time for the Hamvention in mid-May, but that the former furniture building would be available for inside booths. 
According to Inside Exhibits Chair Brian Markland, N8UDQ, exhibitors who complete online orders for the same spaces they had last year by April 15 will be guaranteed those spaces. There will be a lottery among "tent vendors" to see who is able to be accommodated in the limited number of booths now available in the former furniture building. The 2018 Dayton Hamvention will be held from May 18-20 at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio.

ARRL Calls for FCC Antenna Action

Responding to reports that Congress is unlikely to pass any telecommunications legislation this term, including the Amateur Radio Parity Act (ARPA/S.1534) now pending before the Senate Commerce Committee, the ARRL said in FCC comments that the Commission must "take the action on its own initiative that would be called for by this legislation." According to the ARRL Letter, the comments – in response to a public notice seeking input on the communications industry's response to last year's hurricanes - noted amateur radio's role in providing communications in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and said action is needed to require homeowners associations (HOAs) to permit effective outdoor antennas. "It is critical," the League noted, "to have stations located at one's residence in order to regularly participate in disaster preparedness training exercises and drills."
Commenting separately in the same proceeding in response to the ARRL filing, attorney Jim Talens, N3JT, who has written here and elsewhere about his serious concerns that the language of S.1534 will make it more difficult, not less, for hams to put up antennas in HOA-regulated areas, warned that the FCC "should not be deceived by ARRL into believing that moving forward on ARPA will help American emergency preparedness." Talens called on the FCC to adopt rules and procedures for amateur antennas in HOA-regulated areas that more closely parallel rules already in effect under the FCC's Over the Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule for TV antennas and satellite dishes. 

The full text of both comments may be found on the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System website under ET Docket number 17-344.

ARRL to FCC: Time to Legalize PACTOR 4

Commenting in the same proceeding as noted in the previous story, the ARRL also urged the FCC to
act on its 2013 petition to eliminate the current restrictions on "symbol rate" for data transmissions below 29.7 MHz. That petition also called for allowing HF data signals to occupy up to 2.8 kHz of bandwidth, the same as a single sideband signal. The League's main goal in this petition is to get the FCC to legalized the use on HF of PACTOR-4, the mode that is at the heart of the WinLink data transmission system. The FCC granted a temporary waiver to permit its use last fall in connection with hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean.
There is some controversy about the use of WinLink on the amateur bands, as some critics claim it is used by boaters to send and receive e-mail which may include business communications. In addition, the system relies on automatically-controlled relay stations, which some claim will cause interference because they are unable to listen before transmitting to be sure a frequency is not already in use.

FT8 To Add "Fox and Hounds" DXpedition Mode

WSJT-X screen shot (in this case, running JT9)
Source: WSJT-X home page
The developers of the FT8 digital mode say they're working on an enhanced version of the mode specifically designed for DXpeditions. The ARRL Letter reports that the goal is to allow high-volume operators to make FT8 contacts at the highest possible rate, with as little as a single transmission per contact and the ability to make up to five contacts at one time, offering a potential rate of up to 600 QSOs per hour! 

The developers are tentatively referring to DXpedition mode as "fox and hounds," with the DXpedition station being the fox and all the stations "hunting" for it labeled as "hounds." The WSJT-X Development Team says the mode will be included in an upcoming release of a new version of WSJT-X, with hopes for a field test during this summer's scheduled KH1/KH7Z DXpedition to Baker Island.

Much Ado About Bouvet

You can't get there from here… or much of anyplace else, it seems. The long-planned 3Y0Z DXpedition to Bouvet Island had to be cancelled at the last minute – with the island in sight – due to a combination of bad weather and engine trouble on the team's ship. April CQ's DX column has details.
In the wake of the 3Y0Z cancellation, the organizers of the Polish-led 3Y0I DXpedition renewed plans to travel to the island, most likely this coming winter (summer in the southern hemisphere). According to the ARRL Letter, the 3Y0I group had deferred its plans at the request of the 3Y0Z group, to avoid having two major DXpeditions to the same place within weeks of each other. The 3Y0I group says it has chartered a vessel specially outfitted for severe weather and experienced with landing troops on Bouvet, which is a Norwegian dependency. The group said it also plans to conduct video-documented explorations of the island and its glacier, and to leave behind a time capsule at the glacier's peak.

Milestones: KA1FZQ Named President of Harvard; VK3PC SK

Longtime educator and radio amateur Lawrence S. Bacow, KA1FZQ, has been named as the next president of Harvard University. The ARRL Letter reports that Bacow grew up building Heathkits and reading ham magazines (his late father was also a ham). Currently the Hauser Leader-in-Residence at Harvard's Center for Public Leadership, Bacow was previously president of Tufts University and chancellor of MIT, where he was also a professor. He begins his new job on July 1.
Jim Linton, VK3PC, became a Silent Key in late February after a battle with thyroid cancer. He was best-known in the amateur radio community as the chairman of the Disaster Communications Committee for Region 3 of the International Amateur Radio Union and a well-regarded source of news and information about amateur radio activities in response to disasters in the Region 3 coverage area of Asia and Oceania. According to the ARRL Letter, he was also heavily involved in leadership of various activities of the Wireless Institute of Australia, which awarded him its highest honor in 2011.

ARRL Introduces Mobile DXCC Award

Coupled with a warning to avoid distracted driving, the ARRL in February announced a new Mobile DXCC Award, issued for making confirmed contacts with at least 100 DXCC entities while operating "from a working vehicle, with antennas and power source capable of operating while in motion." According to the ARRL Letter, the mobile DXCC is a one-time award, is not endorsable, and is available only for contacts made from land-based vehicles. Contacts made from boats or aircraft do not count. The League's announcement reminded amateurs to always put safety first and said "we hope all mobile operators exercise care when operating from a moving vehicle." 
Unlike the standard DXCC award, one does not have to be an ARRL member to qualify. Certificates are $16. Complete rules are on the ARRL website at <http://www.arrl.org/mobile-dxcc>.

HamSci Workshop Brings Together Amateurs, Scientists

HamSci Coordinator Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, opens
the 2-day workshop held at the New Jersey Institute of
Technology. (W2VU photo)
Radio amateurs and scientists from across the United States and beyond met to compare notes in late February at a workshop sponsored by HamSci, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Initiative. Held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where HamSci coordinator Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, works as a research professor, the workshop brought together some 60 hams and ionospheric scientists for two days of presentations. 

 Last summer's solar eclipse was the focus of the first day, with members of both groups (which sometimes overlapped) shared their findings about propagation changes resulting from the temporary lack of solar energy in the ionosphere. Most of the findings were consistent with each other and with predictions. However, one unexpected – and as yet unexplained – observation was that propagation seemed to recover after the eclipse much more quickly than it had declined as the moon's shadow began to obscure the sun. 
The second day focused on building personal space weather stations to help provide ionospheric scientists with many more points of observation from which to collect and analyze data. CQ attended the conference and will report on it in more detail in an upcoming issue.

ARES Moving to Online Reporting Forms

The ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) will be replacing its traditional paper reporting
forms with an online volunteer management system called "ARES Connect." According to the ARRL Letter, the system will be phased in over the course of 2018, and will cover event signup, reporting and roster management. This follows changes made to ARES forms last year to standardize reporting and make it easier to process information at ARRL headquarters.

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, says the new system will not change anything about the way in which ARES operates in conjunction with a served agency, but "is simply a system that will make managing volunteers and events easier."
The ARRL also reported that ARES membership in 2017 was up by nearly 13% from the previous year and that emergency activations saw a nearly 50% increase over 2016, citing long-term activations in response to major hurricanes in the east and wildfires in the west.

Dominica Cites Value of Amateur Radio, Calls for Increased Recruitment and Training

(Source: CIA World Factbook)
The government of Dominica published a "Post-Disaster Needs Assessment" report in November following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in September. According to the ARRL Letter, the report said that all telecommuni- cations on the island except amateur radio were disabled from September 19-21, but noted that the amateur radio network was "sparse" and suffered from a lack of trained operators and backup power. 

"The Government should rehabilitate the ECN (Emergency Communications Network)," the report recommended, "by offering training to persons interested in becoming Amateur Radio operators nationwide, with the goal of having a licensed Amateur Radio operator in every community with an emergency shelter." It also called for equipping every emergency shelter with ham radio and/or satellite phone equipment, and for purchasing repeaters and "other technology" to provide for swift establishment of communications following future storms.

U.S. ARDF Championships to be Held in California This June

Truckee, California, will be the site of this year's USA Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) Championships, where "foxhunters" will compete for bragging rights and invitations to represent the U.S. at upcoming international competitions. The ARRL Letter reports that the competition sites, near Donner Summit at an elevation of roughly 6300 feet, have never been used for ARDF competitions in the past. The event will be held from June 13-17, starting with an optional training day, followed by a day of "foxoring" competitions that combine foxhunting with orienteering, and then two days of international-rules competitions on 80 and 2 meters.

Canadian Ham Finds Long-Missing NASA Satellite

The IMAGE satellite prior to launch in 2000 (NASA photo)
Amateur radio operator and amateur astronomer Scott Tilley, VA7LF, has done what NASA could not – locate a long-lost space weather satellite. Tilley, who regularly monitors signals from satellites passing over his home in British Columbia, picked up signals in January from the NASA IMAGE satellite, thought to have died in 2005. The first independent confirmation of the signal, according to the ARRL Letter, was provided by yet another amateur, Paul Marsh, M0EYT, in England. Scientists were able to re-establish contact with the satellite and read some basic housekeeping data. 

However, it was reported in late February by NASA that IMAGE's signal began to break up on February 22 and that the satellite again went silent on the 24th. It noted that this instance was not similar to the sudden shutdown experienced in 2005 and that scientists were hoping to re-establish contact and continue efforts to bring the spacecraft's control systems back online.

D-Star One Phoenix Among 11 Satellites Launched from Russia

A satellite using the D-Star digital protocol was launched successfully from Russia on February 1,following the loss of a similar cubesat in a launch failure last November. According to the AMSAT News Service, the D-Star One Phoenix was one of eleven satellites from Russia, Germany and the United States carried into orbit by the Soyuz rocket.  D-Star One Phoenix was a joint project of German Orbital Systems and iSky Technology from the Czech Republic.
The AMSAT News Service also reports that a balloon carrying a WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) beacon, launched by AMSAT Argentina, completed its second circumnavigation on February 11, passing over Buenos Aires before heading out over the Atlantic for a third trip around the Earth. The last reported WSPR and APRS spots for the balloon were on February 12 as it crossed the South Atlantic, so it is uncertain whether it successfully made that third crossing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reminder: CQ Hall of Fame Nominations Due March 1

Nominations are now open for the CQ Amateur Radio, Contest and DX Halls of Fame, with a deadline of March 1, 2018.

The CQ DX Hall of Fame and the CQ Contest Hall of Fame recognize those amateurs who have made major contributions to DXing and contesting, respectively. The CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame recognizes those who have made major contributions to amateur radio as a whole, and radio amateurs who have made major contributions to society at large. The activities and accomplishments that qualify one for membership in these elite groups involve considerable personal sacrifice and can usually be described by the phrase "above and beyond the call of duty."

Nominations to any of the halls of fame may be made by individuals, clubs or national organizations, and must be submitted by March 1 of each year to be considered. A maximum of two (2) people may be inducted into the Contest and DX halls of fame each year. There is no set maximum for inductees into the Amateur Radio Hall of Fame.

Nominations may be e-mailed to hall-of-fame@cq-amateur-radio.com (preferred) or mailed to CQ (Amateur Radio, DX or Contest) Hall of Fame, c/o CQ magazine, 17 West John Street, Hicksville, NY 11801 USA. Be sure to specify for which hall of fame the nomination is made.

Again, the deadline for receiving e-mailed nominations is March 1. Mailed nominations must be postmarked by March 1.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Beta-Testing for Bringing CQ Magazine’s WAZ Award together with ARRL's Logbook of the World is On-going

A joint update from ARRL and CQ...

Newington, CT and Hicksville, NY – January 31, 2018 – Beta testing for bringing CQ magazine's Worked All Zones (WAZ) award program into ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) system has been underway since mid-December and is continuing to move forward, according to officials from CQ Magazine and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio.

Some problems in the implementation were discovered by testers and have since been corrected; the documentation has also been improved by feedback from the testers. In parallel, the LoTW server has been executing a background task that creates and populates a WAZ account for each LoTW user.

Beta testing will continue until this background task completes. When all WAZ accounts have populated, LoTW-WAZ will be made available to everyone.

The goal is for amateur radio operators to be able to directly submit LoTW confirmations for WAZ credit.  Standard LoTW credit fees and separate CQ award fees will apply. Logbook of the World is ARRL's electronic confirmation system for amateur radio contacts. It provides a confirmation when both stations in a contact submit their logs to the system and a match between the logs is confirmed. LoTW has supported the CQ WPX Award program since 2012.

CQ Communications, Inc. (www.cqcomm.com) is publisher of CQ Amateur Radio magazine and is the world's largest independent publisher of amateur radio magazines, books and videos. Worked All Zones is the second-oldest active award program in amateur radio, behind only the International Amateur Radio Union's Worked All Continents award.

ARRL (www.arrl.org), a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs, has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in amateur affairs. ARRL’s underpinnings as Amateur Radio’s witness, partner and forum are defined by five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ARRL Board Backpedals on Proposed Changes

Faced with an avalanche of criticism from members, donors and major clubs across the country, the ARRL board of directors in January decided not to consider several proposed changes to the League's Articles of Association and By-Laws. It did, however, establish a process for presenting proposed changes to the membership ahead of time in the future.
The directors also decided to undertake a complete review of the controversial code of conduct they had previously adopted for themselves, and immediately suspended the section of that code that prevented directors from speaking negatively about board actions and telling members how they voted on various motions. 

The board also voted to make public the decisions of its Ethics and Elections Committee regarding candidates' qualifications as well as its reasons for disqualifying candidates from seeking election (unless, in either case, the candidate requested otherwise). More details on the board actions will be in the March issue of CQ.

Leadership Shakeup in Newington

ARRL Chief Executive Officer Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, announced his retirement, effective March 2, after only two years in the League's top staff position. He cited recent changes in federal tax laws that "made it unattractive for him to continue working in Connecticut," according to the ARRL Letter. 
The board immediately created a CEO search committee and appointed Chief Financial Officer Barry Shelley, N1VXY, as interim CEO and board secretary. ARRL Comptroller Diane Middleton, KC1BQF, was named to replace Shelley as CFO.