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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 19
May 12, 2000


+Available on ARRL Audio News


Despite an infusion of temporary help, Volunteer Examiner Coordinators continue struggling to process the huge influx of exam session paperwork resulting from Amateur Radio "restructuring" that went into effect April 15. As a result, license grants from post-April 15 applications are taking up to four weeks.

ARRL-VEC staffer Nonie Madone files part of the flood of ARRL-VEC post-restructuring application paperwork. Staff member Lynne Anderson works in the background. [Rick Lindquist, N1RL]

"How do y'all spell 'busy'?" asks ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, who, along with his staff, has been putting in a lot of overtime and weekend hours lately. Jahnke jokes about imposing a moratorium on sick leave.

Fred Maia, W5YI, cites a similar situation for applications filed via his W5YI-VEC, where he's added a couple of temporary employees. "We've got mail buckets everywhere," he said this week.

Jahnke and Maia urge amateur applicants to refrain from calling or e-mailing either their respective VECs or the FCC to inquire as to the progress of individual applications. "If we respond to the phone calls and e-mails," Maia said, "we can't handle the processing. We're going as fast as we possibly can."

Maia believes that a lot of the impatience in the amateur community has come from those wanting to either file a vanity call sign application or to upgrade their Volunteer Examiner status. Neither can be accomplished without a license grant from the FCC reflecting the applicant's upgraded class. In a few cases, applicants are awaiting first-time amateur licenses and do not even have interim operating authority.

ARRL-VEC temporary employee Forrest Simpson keys in VE session applications. [Rick Lindquist, N1RL]

Boxes of applications continue arriving to be logged in at ARRL-VEC, which has added three temporary staffers. Jahnke says the ARRL-VEC now has caught up with the paperwork backlog from pre-April 15 test sessions. The ARRL-VEC served nearly 35,800 applicants between January 1 and April 14. It continues to deal with the nearly 16,000 applications logged in from April 15 through April 25, most of them from April 15 test sessions. Jahnke points out that while VE teams have 10 days to ship session paperwork to ARRL-VEC, the transit time can be as long as a week.

"At this point, Jahnke said this week, we're just wrapping up the April 18 receipts and moving on to April 19 and 20.

Once keyed in and sent on electronically to the FCC, most applications are granted overnight. Jahnke says the care ARRL-VEC takes in checking VE session paperwork and applications for "completeness, accuracy and integrity" pays off in avoiding potential problems or questions from the FCC down the road. "We're still saying at least 3-1/2 weeks from exam to FCC grant," Jahnke says, "including transit time from the VEs to us."

Maia cites a similar number. He said it's taking about three weeks "from receipt to filing" and says that license grants applied for via W5YI-VEC are taking up to a month from the exam date. "Right now, we're filing sessions received at W5YI-VEC April 25," he said.

Statistics to date suggest a total of more than 13,000 new Generals and more than 10,000 new Extra class hams as a result of restructuring--and those numbers undoubtedly will continue to rise. As ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, recently put it: "Amateur Radio is on a roll!"


Amateurs now can file Universal Licensing System applications via the Web! With little fanfare, the FCC opened ULS to Internet filers on April 29. It formally announced the system this week.

ULS users now can file applications and notifications via the Internet for all services previously only available by dial-up connection to the Commission's Wide Area Network. To access the new capability, visit the ULS home page and click on "Online Filing." (Users may ignore the on-line survey.) Applicants must first be registered with ULS and use their ULS password to log onto the system.

The ULS--the FCC's interactive on-line licensing application, modification and renewal system for wireless telecommunications services--was deployed for the Amateur Service last August 16. ULS also lets users research the status of applications filed in ULS and licenses issued by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

WTB Chief Thomas Sugrue said this week that many ULS users had requested the ability to access ULS through the Internet in order to utilize their high speed Internet connectivity. He also addressed concerns about the security of transactions handled via the Internet.

"We now have the technology in place that assures the integrity and security of data transmitted over the Internet along with high speed connectivity," he said. "This is another step forward in the expanding functionality of ULS."

The FCC has told the ARRL that making online payments--to file a vanity call sign application and pay on line, for example--requires that users be running the 128-bit encryption version of Netscape Communicator Ver 4.73 or later. The FCC says Netscape 4.7, 4.61 and 4.51 have been tested and are compatible with the ULS. While different browsers and platforms other than Windows-based systems may work for some ULS functions, the FCC currently supports only these recent versions of Netscape for online filing tasks. Netscape 4.6 and versions earlier than 4.51 are not compatible with ULS, however.

Filers should configure browsers to enable Java and Java Script and to accept all cookies. Users also will need to download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 or later as a plug-in to their Web browser. Netscape and Acrobat are available free via the Internet.

ULS support for other browsers and platforms, such as the Mac, is in the works and should be available shortly. The FCC will continue to provide dial-up access to the ULS. Information on making a dial-up connection is available via the ULS home page by clicking on "Connecting to ULS."

Those experiencing problems logging onto the ULS should contact ULS Tech Support at 202-414-1250.--FCC


New Mexico ARRL Section Manager Joe Knight, W5PDY, reports that dozens of Amateur Radio operators are assisting in the Los Alamos, New Mexico, fire evacuation and emergency response.

"We had over 100 people involved," said Knight. Amateurs have served as liaison between all evacuation points, and at least one ham is stationed at every Red Cross shelter. "The hams are cooperating beautifully in getting the help where it's needed." Most of the hams are ARES, RACES or search and rescue team members, plus members of Navy and Air Force MARS. Hams also are active in providing emergency assistance in four other major fire situations in New Mexico.

Knight said cooler temperatures and abating winds May 12 were expected to ease the pressure for the thousands of firefighters.

Salvation Army disaster relief teams are providing blankets, cots, bottled water, meals and other supplies to displaced residents at three shelters near Los Alamos. Emergency shelters have been established at high schools in three nearby towns to house some of the more than 22,000 evacuated residents of Los Alamos, White Rock and West Espanola. A Salvation Army mobile canteen is en route to Santa Fe to assist in providing meals for shelter occupants.

Amateurs in the Los Alamos area have been using VHF repeaters--including one buried underground--to handle emergency traffic. "Communications is going very well," Knight reported. He said the underground repeater--the solar-powered KB5RX machine on 145.19 MHz--has been a mainstay in the Los Alamos emergency response effort.

"It's down in a 32-gallon drum, down in the ground below several feet of dirt," he explained. A piece of Heliax feedline connects the repeater to a fiberglass antenna. "The thing we were worried about was the fiberglass antenna, which is on top of the tower, and the flames were licking up at the tower, but it's still operational," Knight said. "We're still using it for communication, and it's going 24-hours a day."

Jay Miller, WA5WHN, in Albuquerque, reports the 146.82 repeater and 146.52 MHz simplex also have been put to use in carrying fire-related amateur traffic.

Knight says he's been swamped by e-mail, telephone and fax messages. "I have health-and-welfare traffic from all over that I can't get to," he said. "It will be days before we can respond."

Knight says he's received offers of help from amateurs all over the US. "I've had e-mails from as far away as Minnesota and Rhode Island offering help," he said. As things stand now, he said he believes the New Mexico hams can handle the situation.

"We appreciate all the offers of help, but we have enough personnel so far. Hams are cooperating nicely, everybody's pitching together, we're one big family," he said.

Knight said a fund has been established to help those left without financial resources as a result of the fire. "We're trying to help the people who are burned out, and the count varies anywhere from 200 to 400 domiciles," he said.

Contributions are invited to the Los Alamos Disaster Relief Fund, Bank of Albuquerque, Account #7827708026, PO Box 26027, Albuquerque, NM 87125. Contributions also may be sent to The American Red Cross Albuquerque Chapter, 147 Monroe St NE, Albuquerque, NM 87108.--Pat McPherson, WW9E of SATERN and NM State RACES Officer Bill Kauffman, K6YEJ, contributed information for this story


An Amateur Radio operator has been named to chair World Radiocommunication Conference 2000, which opened May 8. Turkey's Telecommunications Authority Chairman Fatih Mehmet Yurdal, TA2MY, was elected by the conference at the first plenary meeting held right after the opening ceremony. Some 2500 delegates from 150 countries were expected for the month-long international conference, held under International Telecommunication Union auspices.

The gathering has a full agenda. High on the list of items is the need for additional spectrum for new and expanded services as well as regulatory issues.

ARRL Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ--attending WRC-2000 in his role as International Amateur Radio Union Secretary--said the fact that an amateur was named to chair the conference was "quite remarkable" in a country with about 1000 Amateur Radio operators in a population of 63 million.

Sumner said this week that there have been no surprises so far at WRC-2000. "However, the Little LEOs are much in evidence, lobbying for attention to their alleged spectrum needs," he added. Little LEO advocates are looking between 400 and 470 MHz, but amateur bands still could come under their scrutiny.

Discussion of the agenda for the next WRC began May 12, and one of the first items of consideration was a proposal to realign amateur and broadcasting services in the vicinity of 7 MHz. Hams are hoping to one day enjoy a "harmonized" 300 kHz worldwide 40-meter allocation. "There was broad support from Europe, the Americas, the Asia-Pacific area and the Arab states for placing the item on the next conference agenda," Sumner said. "In expressing his support the delegate of Syria made specific note of amateurs'contributions to disaster relief." Sumner said that while there's no assurance the item will end up on the next WRC agenda, "the initial signs are encouraging."

Proposals to consider revision of Article S25--which includes the Morse code proficiency requirement for HF privileges--as a future agenda item have not yet surfaced, Sumner said. But he noted that US proposals for future agenda items, published May 12, did not include Article S25. "This should not be interpreted as opposition, but simply as a reflection of the fact that the US is requesting consideration of a long list of proposed agenda items that are regarded as having higher priority," Sumner explained.

Special event station TA1ITU will be active until June 2 to mark the World Radiocommunication Conference 2000. TRAC, the Turkish Amateur Radio Society, is sponsoring TA1ITU, which Sumner said should be on the air sometime this week. QSL TA1ITU via the bureau.

The International Amateur Radio Union has prepared its delegation to deal with the conference issues that might affect Amateur Radio. The Istanbul conference is scheduled to complete its work on June 2.


The ARRL has launched the developmental phase of a Certification and Continuing Education Program pilot project in emergency communications. That announcement came this week from Dan Miller, K3UFG, who recently assumed responsibilities as ARRL Certification Specialist in the new program.

Since February, members have been offering comments and suggestions via the Certification and Continuing Education Program's Web-based educational forum Responses showed a need and desire for emergency communications to be the very first--and most important--topic for further study and learning. A special-interest forum was begun in March under the leadership of Pat Lambert, W0IPL, to gather more details.

Results and progress can be found by browsing the Emergency Communications topic of the forum,

Miller says the next step in putting together an emergency communications curriculum will be to pull together all the training material available from various sources. Once the information's in one place, it can serve as a resource in disaster-response planning.

"If you have a current training plan for any type of public disaster and/or emergency communications, such as SKYWARN, ARES/RACES, NTS-affiliated, or other plan, please share with us so we can share with the world," Miller said. E-mail submittals are preferable, but regular mail also is acceptable. Send submittals to Dan Miller, K3UFG,, or to ARRL Continuing Education Pilot Program, ATTN Dan Miller, K3UFG, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111.

Miller said he hopes to have the emergency communications curriculum in place for the pilot project by the end of this summer.

The ARRL Board of Directors approved the development and implementation of the self-education Continuing Education and Certification Program for radio amateurs at its January meeting. The program is aimed at inspiring amateurs to continue to acquire technical knowledge and operating expertise beyond that required to become licensed.

Miller says that anyone wanting to participate in the program who is not yet an ARRL member can take advantage of a special membership offer for those taking part in the Continuing Education Pilot Project. Call or e-mail Miller for details at 860-594-0340; fax 860-594-0259; e-mail


The FCC is looking into possible irregularities at an ARRL-VEC examination session held last July in North Carolina. On April 26, the Commission wrote Advanced licensee Leo C. Mallard Jr, W4KEM, Extra licensee Ronald J. Knapp, W9EF, and Advanced licensee Edward Gunter, N2VEA, all of Kinston, and Robert E. Jones, KQ4PK, of Dover, North Carolina. All are listed as participating Volunteer Examiners in the July 30, 1999, session in Washington, North Carolina. The ARRL-VEC alerted the FCC to possible discrepancies at the session.

The audit focuses on Form 610 packages submitted for Technician licensees James L. Smith Jr, KB4EIA; Frances B. Freck, KB4EIB; and Charles R. Collins, KG4EIC. The FCC asked the VEs for specific information involving erasure marks, check marks--some of which appeared to have been erased--and circles drawn around correct answers on answer sheets for one or more applicants. The FCC also asked each VE to state if he was present for the July 30 session; if the Form 610 was initialed or signed by him, and if not, whether he authorized anyone to apply the signature; and his involvement, if any, in the session.

FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth reminded the four about penalties for willfully false or misleading responses to inquiries of this type, and he invited them to contact him with any questions.


Propagation prognosticator Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Solar flux and sunspot numbers were sharply lower over the past 10 days but now are heading higher. Average solar flux for the past week was off by more than 30 points compared to the previous week, and average sunspot numbers were down by nearly 13.

The predicted solar flux values for the next five days, Friday through Tuesday, are 190, 195, 200, 200, and 205. Solar flux is expected to peak for the short term around 220 on May 18, then drop down around 130 from June 1-3. Unfortunately, there may be effects this weekend from a coronal mass ejection that occurred on May 8. Predicted planetary A index for Friday through Tuesday is 20, 20, 15, 8, 8 and 8.

Sunspot numbers for May 4 through 10 were 105, 122, 111, 130, 131, 149 and 174 with a mean of 131.7. The 10.7 cm flux was 134.5, 129.8, 126.8, 130.9, 137, 149.5 and 179.2, with a mean of 141.1. The estimated planetary A indices were 8, 14, 12, 7, 6, 11 and 7, with a mean of 9.3.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The CQ-M International DX Contest, the Fists CW Club Spring Sprint, the Nevada and Oregon QSO parties, and the VHF/UHF Spring Sprint (50 MHz) are the weekend of May 13-14. Just ahead: The Major Six Club Contest is the weekend of May 20-21. The CQ WW WPX Contest (CW) is March 28-30. See May QST, page 91.
  • SKYWARN saves the day: The evening of May 10, the FAA radar serving Boston's Logan Airport went down during a thunderstorm. The Connecticut SKYWARN team was asked to get weather data. Roger Jeanfaivre, K1PAI, Harvey Broverman, K1PZS, and Jim McBride, KD1LD, passed weather data to the National Weather Service via telephone and repeater. The Norwich repeater was in priority use with Robert Macedo, KD1CY, and William Granfield, N1YOQ, at NWS and KD1LD running the net. Weather data was passed to NWS on this repeater.--Jim McBride, KD1LD via Connecticut ARES reflector

    [Rick Lindquist, N1RL]

  • Brennan Price, N4QX, to assume NFCO role: ARRL Field and Educational Services staff member Brennan Price, N4QX, will assume responsibilities for the National Frequency Coordinator's Office. Tom Hogerty, KC1J, who had previously held the NFCO position, has assumed new duties in the League's Electronic Publications Branch. That announcement came this week from ARRL Field and Educational Services Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, who pledged the League's support for the NFCO "continuing in the manner of the fruitful meeting initiated by the NFCC and hosted in Newington in February." Price and Hogerty will work together to handle duties involving the production of The Repeater Directory.

  • NASA demos Internet protocols for space: NASA recently demonstrated the ability to use standard Internet protocols to communicate with an orbiting spacecraft--as if it were just another node on the Internet. Working with the Operating Missions as Nodes on the Internet (OMNI) project, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have completed the first step in extending Internet access to future spacecraft. Astronaut Ron Parise, WA4SIR, is one of the driving forces in the project. GSFC engineers successfully used standard Internet PING packets to communicate with UoSAT-12, also known as UO-36, through a ground station in Surrey, England. This marked the first time that a spacecraft ever had its own Internet address and was a fully compliant active node on the World Wide Web. More information is available at Fitzgerald via AMSAT News Service

  • Not every meeting of presidents occurs at a summit: ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP (left), met Japan Amateur Radio League President Shozo Hara, JA1AN, for the first time in Paris, the day before the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the IARU. President Haynie brought along as choice a piece of Americana as he could find in his home town--a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt.--David Sumner, K1ZZ

  • QEX/Communications Quarterly grows: QEX/Communications Quarterly has announced that former Communications Quarterly staffers Peter Bertini, K1ZJH, and Douglas Page will continue their columns in the consolidated magazine. Bertini was Senior Technical Editor at Communications Quarterly and Associate Editor of Ham Radio magazine before that. He also writes the "Radio Connection" column for Popular Communications. His "Tech Notes" column will carry on starting with the September/October 2000 issue of QEX/Communications Quarterly. Starting with the July/August 2000 issue Douglas Page--in his "Science in the News" and "New Products" items--will bring to readers details of timely technology. For more information about QEX/Communications Quarterly, visit


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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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