Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wheeler, O'Rielly Confirmed for FCC Posts

The U.S. Senate this week confirmed the nominations of Tom Wheeler as FCC Chairman and Mike O'Rielly as FCC Commissioner, bringing the commission back to full strength for the first time in several months.

Wheeler is a venture capitalist and former telecommunications industry lobbyist. In the 1970s and 80s, he was CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) and president of the National Cable Television Association. A Democrat, he was nominated by President Obama in April to succeed Julius Genachowski as FCC Chairman.

Mike O'Rielly fills the Republican vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Robert McDowell last spring. O'Rielly has been an advisor to U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate's Minority Whip.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Update - K9W Wake Is. DXpedition Rescheduled to Nov. 3-15

The K9W DXpedition to Wake Island - postponed due to the federal government shutdown - has been rescheduled for November 3-15, 2013. Team members are en route now. For more information and additional updates, see the DXpedition website at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Government Shutdown Impacts Widespread But Short-Lived

The two-and-a-half week shutdown of the U.S. federal government had widespread effects on hams, but most were temporary and resolved quickly once the government re-opened.

The FCC was effectively closed from October 1-16, and no applications for new licenses, license renewals or vanity call signs were processed. After the shutdown ended, the Commission said any filings due between October 1 and 6 would be extended to October 22, and due dates on filings due between October 7 and 16 would be extended by 16 days. 

Amateurs who filed renewal applications before the shutdown for licenses expiring during the above time period were permitted to continue operating, and the Universal Licensing System (ULS) began processing applications immediately after the government re-opened. Vanity call applications filed or received during the shutdown, as well as those filed between October 17 and 22, were treated as though all had been filed on October 22. Finally, the deadline for reply comments on the FCC's reassessment of RF exposure limits (ET Docket #s 03-137 & 13-84) was extended to November 18.

 The government shutdown also forced postponement of the long-planned K9W DXpedition to Wake Island. At press time, expedition leaders said they were working with the U.S. Air Force (which controls the island) to set new dates. 

In addition, organizers of the annual National Wildlife Refuge Week amateur radio special event from October 12-20 suspended the rule requiring that operations be conducted from the grounds of a national wildlife refuge.

FCC Says No to Expanded 10-Meter Tech Privileges

The FCC has turned away a petition to allow Technician Class hams to use 10-meter FM repeaters. The Toledo Mobile Radio Association had asked the FCC in June to allow Techs to transmit between 29.5 and 29.7 MHz, the repeater subband, in addition to current privileges from 28.0-28.5 MHz.

In an unusually-quick response, the FCC said no, noting that Techs may already use VHF or UHF inputs that are linked to many 10-meter repeaters, and that Technicians who really want to use 10-meter repeaters may easily upgrade to General Class by taking only a 35-question written exam.

Hamvention® Seeks Award Nominations

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association is soliciting nominations for next year's Hamvention® awards, which include Amateur of the Year, Special Achievement, Technical Excellence and Club of the Year.

Nominations must be received by January 17, 2014. For more information, visit <>.

California Ham Honored as "Champion of Change"

KI6RBS (Photo via
Matt Brisbois, KI6RBS, of Newport Beach, California, has been recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change for Community Preparedness and Resilience," in recognition of his work as coordinator of the city's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

According to the ARRL Letter, Brisbois has trained more than 1000 of his fellow citizens to help in emergencies, giving Newport Beach the highest volunteer-to-resident ratio for any CERT program in California. He was presented with the award in September at a ceremony in Washington headed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ.

South Sudan To Be Activated for CQWW CW Contest

An international group of hams, including CQ DX Editor Wayne Mills, N7NG, is planning to operate from South Sudan as Z81X from November 14-28, a time period that includes the CW weekend of the 2013 CQ World Wide DX Contest.

The group of 10 hams includes two local operators and is led by International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 President Hans Timmerman, PB2T, according to Mission Goodwill South Sudan spokesman Martti Laine, OH2BH.

The operation is hosted by South Sudan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and will include a series of workshops aimed at developing a permanent amateur radio licensing and regulatory structure. On
the operating side, the plan is to activate all HF bands with an emphasis on 80 and 160 meters. QSL via OH0XX.

Ham Industry Changes

Some changes of note in the amateur radio industry: 

DaySaver Power Systems is merging with Elk Antennas of Walnut Creek, California. DaySaver products will continue to be offered by Elk, which reported that the merger helps fulfill its goal of expanding its line of products for emergency communications and remote or portable operating.

DX Engineering has become the sole distributor for Hi-Z Antenna products, taking on marketing, distribution, customer service and fulfillment for both product lines. Hi-Z specializes in receiving antennas.

And QRP kit-maker Small Wonder Labs has closed its doors. In an announcement on its website, owner Dave Benson, K1SWL, said "There comes a time in everyone's career when they've 'had enough!' I've reached that point." At press time, Benson said he was negotiating with "another QRP vendor" to take over manufacturing and sales of his popular RockMite CW transceiver kit.

W5OLY, ex-AC4RF, Silent Keys

HF design pioneer and CQ author Warren Bruene, W5OLY, passed away in late September at age 96. Bruene was one of the people "behind the scenes" at Collins Radio and later at Rockwell Collins, working on many aspects of HF design during a 44-year career. According to the ARRL Letter, he held 22 patents and was a prolific writer. Bruene's most recent article for CQ - "How a Few Elmers Unknowingly Changed the World" - appeared in our August 2013 issue.

Retired British diplomat Robert Ford, ex-AC4RF, died in London at age 90. According to the ARRL Letter, he operated from Tibet from 1948 until China took it over in 1950. He was responsible for starting the Tibetan government's shortwave station, Radio Lhasa. Ford spent five years imprisoned in China for "radio espionage," and later served in a variety of postings for the British Diplomatic Service. He retired in 1987.

Still alive and active at age 96 - but stepping down from a longtime position as Wireless Room Manager aboard the Queen Mary museum ship - is Nate Brightman, K6OSC. Newsline reports that Brightman, who established the W6RO club station and has served as its manager for 34 years, cited a recent illness and his age as reasons for retiring. The new W6RO station manager is David Akins, N6HHR.

Saying HI to Juno

Artist's conception of Juno orbiting Jupiter (NASA image)
Hams around the world joined forces on October 9 to collectively say "HI" -- in Morse code -- to the Juno spacecraft as it swung around the Earth for a gravity-assisted boost on its journey to study natural radio signals from Jupiter.

The ARRL Letter reported that hams were asked to spread out across the 10-meter band and to transmit "HI" in very slow-speed Morse (1/25 of a word per minute) on a precise time schedule over a 2-1/2 hour period. The goal was to see if the spacecraft would be able to detect the signals within its receiver's 1-MHz bandwidth. Principal Engineer Don Kirchner, KD0L, said preliminary indications were that "we had very large and enthusiastic participation."

Another "Last Man Standing" Ham Episode

"Last Man Standing" producer John Amodeo, NN6JA, reports that lead character Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) finally gets on the ham bands during the program's Thanksgiving episode, which was shot in mid-October and scheduled to air on November 22 on ABC.

According to John, Mike heads to his basement ham shack to escape a house full of guests waiting for Thanksgiving dinner to be served.

This is the second "Last Man Standing" episode to include ham radio as a story element, and the first in which Allen's character is seen operating his ham station.

AMSAT Celebrates 30 Years of Hams in Space

It was 30 years ago this coming November that Owen Garriott, W5LFL, became the first person to operate a ham radio station from space, aboard the Shuttle Columbia. The AMSAT News Servie reports that the anniversary will be a key element of AMSAT's 31st annual Space Symposium and annual meeting, being held - appropriately - in Houston on November 1-3. 
Garriott's contacts were the first time that an astronaut in orbit was able to communicate with people back on earth without going through NASA's communication system. His operation led to what is now the ARISS program, in which astronauts on the International Space Station use amateur radio for school contacts as well as occasional personal operation.

AMSAT VP Named to Top University Post

Mark Hammond, N8MH, AMSAT's Vice President of Educational Relations, has stepped down from the volunteer position after being named Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost of Campbell University in Buis Creek, North Carolina. The AMSAT News Service reports that E. Michael McCardel, KC8YLD, has been appointed to complete Hammond's term in the AMSAT leadership.

Army MARS Looks to Work With ARRL/ARES

The ARRL Letter reports that officials of Army MARS (the Military Auxiliary Radio Service) met with League staffers in early October to discuss ways in which the two organizations might work together in emergency response.

The immediate focus was a national-level MARS test of backup communications scheduled for early November, for which the Army group had already invited participation by its colleagues in Navy-Marine Corps and Air Force MARS, as well as CFARS, the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System. The 48-hour test is designed to measure the capability of MARS to provide backup communications in the event that normal communications are disrupted throughout North America.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

U.S. Government Shutdown Affects Licenses, DXpedition

Hams around the world will be feeling the impact of the U.S.government shutdown that began on October 1.

Here in the U.S., the FCC has shut down all but safety-of-life functions, meaning that no licenses are being issued and very little enforcement activity is taking place.

In addition, the K9W DXpedition to Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean that was planned to commemorate the World War II massacre of 98 American civilian workers there on October 7, 1943 has been indefinitely postponed. The island is a U.S. possession and is administered by the military. According to Bloomberg News (, the organizers were waiting for one final approval when the government shutdown began, and they realized they would not be able to get the necessary signature in time to make the once-every-two-weeks flight to the island from Hawaii. Watch for updates on the DXpedition home page at (Tnx N4XX)

The FCC has suspended issuance of new or renewed amateur licenses. Hams whose licenses expire during the course of the government shutdown will have to use their own judgment as to whether to keep operating. In the past, when various events have delayed the issuance of licenses, the FCC has permitted amateurs who have filed their renewal applications in a timely manner to continue operating until their renewals are processed. However, no one from the FCC has been available in this instance to confirm whether that will be the policy this time.

The U.S. federal government suspended most operations on October 1, the start of the government's new fiscal year, after Congress and the President could not agree on terms of a budget resolution. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the primary responsibility for appropriating money for government operations.