Sunday, August 2, 2015

W0ANT Sweeps Youth Awards

Fourteen-year-old Anna Veal, W0ANT, of Littleton, Colorado, has been named the winner of both the 2015 Newsline Young Ham of the Year award and the ARRL's Hiram Percy Maxim award. 

Veal, whose parents are both hams, has been licensed since age 8 and holds a General Class ticket. She started a ham radio club in her elementary school and is now president of her high school ham club. Anna has been a presenter at the Radio Club of America youth forum and took part in the TI5 Youth DX Adventure program in Costa Rica.
As Newsline Young Ham of the Year, Anna will receive radio equipment from corporate co-sponsors Yaesu, Heil Sound and RadioWavz, as well as a week at Space Camp, courtesy of CQ. The ARRL's Maxim award of $1500 recognizes young people who provide leadership in amateur radio. 

W0ANT is scheduled to receive the Young Ham of the Year award at the Huntsville Hamfest in August.

ARRL Adopts New HF Band Plan, Proposes Major Changes to 75/80 Meters

The ARRL's Board of Directors adopted a new HF band plan at its July meeting, accepting virtually all of the recommendations of a committee charged with developing a new plan. Most of the changes have to do with recommended frequencies for automatically-controlled data stations, but major changes are proposed for the 80-meter band.

According to the ARRL Letter, the League will petition the FCC to shrink the 75-meter phone band by 50 kHz while adding 50 kHz to the CW/RTTY/data segment of the band (3600-3650 kHz). In addition, it will seek to grant RTTY and data privileges on the band to Novices and Technicians and to make the 3600-3650 segment, now an Extra-Class-only phone band, open to all for CW, RTTY and data. The petition will also seek RTTY/data privileges for Novices and Techs on 15 meters.

ARRL to Increase Dues by $10

 The ARRL will increase its annual dues to $49 at the beginning of next year. The change was approved at the League's July board meeting. According to the ARRL Letter, this will be the first dues increase since 2001. CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the organization had managed to hold its cost increases to 19% over the past 14 years, while inflation overall in the U.S. has been 32% in the same period. He described the dues increase as "a necessity, not an option."

Vanity Call Sign Fees End in September

 The ARRL reports that the FCC's decision to eliminate fees for requesting or renewing a vanity call sign will take effect next month, possibly as early as September 3. The commission had previously announced the change, stating that the costs of administering the program and providing refunds when requested calls were not available were higher than the revenues received. The decision also eliminates application fees for licenses in the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).

Amateur Radio About to be Primary Across 160 Meters

An FCC decision to elevate the status of amateur radio on 1900-2000 kHz from secondary to primary takes effect on August 6, but with an asterisk. In the course of receiving comments in the rule making proceeding, the Commission learned that commercial fishermen had for years been using offshore buoys operating in this frequency range without FCC authorization. Since there had been virtually no interference complaints, the FCC decided to authorize the buoys rather than force the fishermen to replace them en masse. The top half of 160 had previously been allocated on a primary basis to the radiolocation service, but has not been used for that purpose in many years.

FCC Finalizes Plans on Field Office Closures

Amid loud complaints from amateurs, the broadcast industry and Congress, the FCC in July adopted a scaled back version of its previously announced plan to close two-thirds of its field offices. Under the final plan, 11 offices will close while 13 will remain open. 

Radio World reports that the offices slated for closure are: Anchorage, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Norfolk, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Juan, Seattle and Tampa; while operations will continue in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbia (MD, outside Washington DC), Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland (OR) and San Francisco. In addition, rapid-response Enforcement Bureau "tiger teams" will work out of the Columbia and Denver offices, and all field agents will now be required to be electrical engineers.

Is There Another High-Orbit Satellite in Our Future?

The last high-orbit amateur satellite launched was AO-40 in late 2000, which suffered an on-board explosion in orbit and never became fully operational. Ever since that time, a backup satellite "spaceframe" has been in storage in Germany, where much of the work on AO-40 was done. 

Now, Virginia Tech, working with AMSAT-DL and AMSAT-NA, has approached the U.S. government about launching that satellite into high-earth orbit in order to support scientific payloads as well as amateur radio transponders. The AMSAT News Service reports that members of AMSAT-DL approved shipping the Phase-3E spaceframe to Virginia for "further construction, testing and preparation for eventual launch" should the U.S. government approve the proposal and provide funding. High-orbit satellites are generally visible from the ground for many hours at a time and have large "footprints" that allow contacts over very long distances.

Newsline Returns to the Air, Names New Writer/Editor

Amateur Radio Newsline returned to the air in early July after missing several broadcasts due to the death of co-founder and Executive Producer Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF. What is being termed "Newsline 2.0" returned on July 9 with Caryn Eve Murray, KD2GUT, joining the all-volunteer staff as lead writer and editor. Caryn is a newspaper reporter and editor in New York.

Enforcement: FCC Gets Tough With Michigan Ham

The FCC has affirmed a proposed $22,000 fine against Michael Guernsey, KZ8O, of Parchment, Michigan, for repeated instances of interfering with other amateurs and failing to identify. Guernsey had asked that the fine be reduced or eliminated due to economic hardship, but the Commission upheld the full fine, noting that complaints against him went back more than a decade and that he had ignored repeated written warnings.

In another enforcement action, the FCC has proposed fining David Tolassi, W4BHV, of Ringgold, Georgia, $1000 for repeatedly failing to identify his station.

ARRL Begins Search for New CEO

The ARRL board of directors has started the wheels turning for search for a new Chief Executive Officer for the organization. The ARRL Letter reports that current CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, has set a target retirement date of May 1, 2016. Sumner has been on the ARRL staff for 44 years and has held the top staff position, under various titles, since 1982.

Ham Named Chief Astronaut

Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy,
Astronaut Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, has been named chief of NASA's Astronaut Office, according to the ARRL Letter. A U.S. Navy Captain and former Navy SEAL, Cassidy  spent six months in space on the International Space Station in 2013 and took part in six spacewalks. He also conducted several Amateur Radio on the International Space Station contacts while in orbit. He replaces Air Force Colonel Robert Behnken, who is also a ham, holding call sign KE5GGX.

CQ's K5ZD Among ARRL Award Winners

CQWW DX Contest
Director Randy Thompson,
K5ZD (N6TV photo)
CQ World Wide DX Contest Director Randy Thompson has been honored by the ARRL for his work in promoting amateur radio to the public, particularly in connection with his role as chairman of last year's World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC-14), which was held in Massachusetts and received nationwide news coverage. He was named this year's winner of the Philip J. McGan Silver Antenna Award for volunteer public relations work.
Also honored, according to the ARRL Letter, were Anna Veal, W0ANT, with the Hiram Percy Maxim Award; David Hershberger, W9GR, with the Doug DeMaw Technical Excellence Award for his work in reducing audio distortion on single sideband transmissions, and the Microwave Development Award went to the developers of Broadband-Hamnet for their contributions to microwave mesh networking.

Dayton Attendance Up Slightly

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association reports that attendance at this year's Dayton Hamvention ® increased by about 750 over 2014 to a total of 25,621. It is the first time in several years that the official attendance figure has exceeded 25,000. The highest attendance ever at the annual event was over 33,600 in 1993.

Illinois Ham Found Murdered

Police are investigating the apparent murder of Henry Murphy, WB9TFX, of Rockford, Illinois. According to a report in the Rockford Register-Star, police say Murphy and his dog were both shot to death before their house was set on fire. Firefighters responding to the blaze found their bodies. Murphy was retired from AT&T, and according to a post on by NN9P, owned a local 70-centimeter repeater and was "a 'master' of repeater duplexer cavity fine-tuning," helping other repeater owners in the area maintain their equipment. No arrests had been made as we went to press, nor had police revealed a suspected motive.

Party Balloon Completes Double Circumnavigation

Australian ham Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, just keeps outdoing himself. We've reported several times recently on Andy's successes in flying ham radio-equipped Mylar party balloons around the world. Now, the ARRL Letter reports, his latest effort - pico balloon PS-46 - made two complete trips around the world and was into its third loop before it was forced down in the Indian Ocean by bad weather. The balloon transmitted WSPR and JT9 signals on 20 meters and was tracked by hams around the world, including at least two in the United States.

HAARP to Resume Operations as University Research Facility

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program - better known by the acronym HAARP - will be returned to service under the stewardship of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF). The facility had been built by the US Air Force in 1990 and its high-powered transmitters were used to create artificial auroras for research purposes (the facility had also been a favorite of conspiracy theorists). Last year, the Air Force shut it down and announced plans to demolish it. Now, according to the ARRL Letter, a combination of pressure from political and scientific circles has prompted the Air Force to agree to sell the facilities and equipment at HAARP to UAF. The transfer was to be effective on August 11, with additional negotiations to be conducted over the next two years for the sale of the land on which the facility is built as well.

Yasme Foundation Makes Wide-Ranging Grants

The Yasme Foundation has announced its most recent grant recipients. The ARRL Letter reports that the group will provide support to the organizing committee for the 2018 World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) in Germany; provide funding for the Reverse Beacon Network to set up a node in Ethiopia and to help the Voodoo Contest Group purchase amateur radio training materials for use in Liberia. The Yasme Foundation provides grants to help promote amateur radio in developing countries and to conduct amateur-radio related scientific and educational projects.

ARRL Files Interference Complaints over Lighting Devices

The ARRL has formally complained to the FCC that The Home Depot has been marketing RF-ballast lighting devices in violation of FCC rules. According to the ARRL Letter, the League alleges that the home improvement chain has been selling RF lighting devices to consumers that are rated only for commercial and industrial use. These devices have a higher level of permitted emissions - which can cause RF interference - than those rated for consumer/residential use. 
The ARRL has also filed three new interference complaints regarding so-called "grow lights," along with urging the Enforcement Bureau to take action regarding a similar complaint that it filed more than a year ago. These grow lights are used for cultivating plants indoors, and are commonly used by marijuana growers.