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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 20
May 19, 2000


+Available on ARRL Audio News

NOTE: To accommodate travel schedules for the Dayton Hamvention and the 2000 ARRL National Convention, abbreviated editions of The ARRL Letter and ARRL Audio News for May 19, 2000, is being posted Wednesday, May 17. The solar/propagation bulletin will be transmitted Friday by W1AW and available via e-mail to bulletin subscribers. See you in Dayton!--Rick Lindquist, N1RL


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

Patience is the byword from ARRL-VEC, which now says it could be another two weeks or more before some new and upgrade amateur license applications from April 15 VE sessions are filed with the FCC. The ARRL-VEC had been estimating up to four weeks between test session and license grant. Now, it's revised that estimate upward.

Depending in large part on how fast the session paperwork arrived at ARRL-VEC, grants from April 15 applications could show up "tomorrow or possibly two weeks from now," said ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ. As of Wednesday, the ARRL-VEC staff was working on applications received April 19, most from April 15 VE sessions.

Click to view a larger version of this chart

A chart comparing ARRL-VEC activity for January 1-April 25, 1999, and the comparable period in 2000. (Larger version)

Jahnke says the ARRL-VEC has electronically filed with the FCC 2,000 of the approximately 10,000 applications from April 15. He says seven fulltime staff members plus three temporary employees continue to plow through the rest of the backlog.

"At the rate we're going now, it could take up to 16 more work days," Jahnke predicted. The ARRL-VEC is handling up to 500 applications a day right now, but that number varies. Staff members have been putting in overtime and working weekends in an effort to keep up with the applications. Arriving paperwork is scrutinized carefully, session results are recorded, and individual applications keyed in and sent on electronically to the FCC. Typically, the FCC grants most applications overnight, although it can take another day or so.

The ARRL-VEC is now posting the status of test session processing at

Jahnke says that dealing with telephone inquiries has become part of the challenge of handling the huge workload, and he urged applicants to avoid calling to check on the progress of an application. "Every three to five minute phone inquiry means 10 to 15 license applications that don't get processed," he explained, adding that the people best equipped to answer callers' questions also happen to be best equipped to process applications.

Jahnke says the ARRL-VEC has added temporary help as the workload has increased, but he points out a drawback to piling on more bodies at this point. "Adding more personnel will mean diverting experienced staff members from processing applications to training inexperienced workers," he said.

It's estimated that more than 13,000 new Generals and more than 10,000 new Extra class hams have or will be hitting the airwaves as a result of restructuring.


With just a few days to go till Dayton Hamvention, forecasters were calling for rain on Friday--the first day of largest annual Amateur Radio gathering in the world--and partly cloudy weather for Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-60s the first two days and the low 70s on Sunday.

Hamvention officials report that advance ticket sales are up over last year. Typically, upwards of 30,000 visitors turn out from around the world each spring to attend Hamvention, sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association. FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH--a popular presence at last year's Hamvention--will be this year's banquet speaker. The Smothers Brothers will provide the post-banquet entertainment.

ARRL will sport a new booth display. The "new look" has been kept under wraps to the extent that most Headquarters staffers don't even know what it looks like.

As always, a contingent of ARRL Headquarters staff members will be at Hamvention and the ARRL National Convention. ARRL Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ, will be flying in from Istanbul, Turkey, to attend. Sumner is on the International Amateur Radio Union team representing Amateur Radio interests at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2000, which continues through June 2 in Turkey. Sumner will present an ARRL Forum "Vision for Amateur Radio's Future" on Saturday at 1 PM (Room 1) at Hara Arena.

The ARRL National Convention 2000 commemorative button.

League officials and HQ staffers will conduct or participate in other forums during the three-day Dayton Hamvention program, and Hamvention visitors also will get to meet the ARRL's new president Jim Haynie, W5JBP, who took office in January. Haynie will be available at the ARRL booth in North Hall during the show and will appear at the ARRL Forum Saturday at 2 PM with Great Lakes Division Director George Race, WB8BGY.

Other League forums include Space and Education; Public Service Wants You! Special Communications Technical Forum; ARRL Public Relations; RF Safety; and the ARRL Section Managers and Field Organization Forum. The ARRL Public Relations Forum will include the "PR Sprint"--a special presentation for those interested in publicizing Amateur Radio.

Manufacturers often use the occasion of Dayton Hamvention to debut new equipment. Ten Tec says it plans to introduce its new Pegasus FP (for "front panel") HF transceiver. The new rig is a desktop transceiver that's based on the design of the popular PC-controlled Pegasus HF transceiver Ten Tec introduced last year at Hamvention.

Elecraft, which introduced its K2 HF transceiver kit a couple of Hamventions ago, will have its new K1 dualband low-power transceiver kit at this year's event. The K1, aimed at the traveler and backpacker, preserves the look and feel of its larger sibling, Elecraft says.

Kenwood also appears poised to make a major new equipment announcement in conjunction with the Dayton Hamvention. A new player, Mobat Communication, will debut the MICOM H transceiver at Dayton. It should be on the market by June.

For the fourth consecutive year, Newsline will host its "Ham Radio Town Meeting" at Dayton, Saturday. The theme of this year's event is "The Fun Is Back!"

DX luminary Martti Laine, OH2BH, has been named Hamvention's Amateur of the Year for 2000. Hamvention will present its Technical Excellence Award to SETI League Executive Director H. Paul Shuch, N6TX. The Special Achievement Award goes to former FCC official A. Prose Walker, W4BW. The awards will be presented at the Saturday evening banquet.

For more information on Dayton Hamvention, visit


The FCC has posed more questions to Fred Maia, W5YI, of the W5YI-Volunteer Examiner Coordinator as part of a continuing FCC audit of the VEC. The FCC gave Maia 60 days to reply to its latest inquiry.

The FCC told Maia May 11 that his April 12 reply to its earlier inquiry didn't go far enough. "Your response is inadequate and does not answer the concerns raised about the integrity of your testing program," FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth said. The FCC has been looking into allegations that licenses and upgrades were sold by W5YI-VEC volunteer examiners and that examination irregularities occurred at W5YI-VEC sessions in Puerto Rico.

In its May 11 inquiry, the FCC said it wants to know if Maia's April 12 letter was his "final report" on his fact-finding trip to Puerto Rico that month and his investigation into licensing irregularities there. Among other things, Maia had told the FCC in his reply that he'd uncovered apparent irregularities regarding code tests at a March 18 test session in Salinas, Puerto Rico. He also reported that an applicant listed on the session roster subsequently said she had not taken any examinations at all.

The FCC questioned if Maia had contacted other applicants alleged to have been at the Salinas session and for whom paperwork was submitted, if he had met with the VEs involved in the session, and if he intended to furnish additional session details and documents.

Citing a "lack of confidence" in the integrity of his Amateur Radio examination program, Maia in April discontinued the services of all Puerto Rico VEs but the Arecibo Observatory Amateur Radio Club. Maia told the FCC that the W5YI-VEC would put in place "special examination procedures" to ensure integrity. "All VEs would have to be reaccredited and new VE teams re-established," Maia told the Commission.

In the May 11 follow-up inquiry, Hollingsworth said the FCC wants to know if Maia had ever previously decertified any of his Puerto Rico VEs, if any such examiners later were reinstated, and if any previously decertified VEs were still with the W5YI-VEC as of March 30, 2000. The FCC also asked if Maia intends to reinstate any VEs decertified in the past.

The FCC said it wants a list of W5YI-VEC volunteer examiners in Puerto Rico as of April 8, 2000; asked why only about a third of the 100 W5YI-VEC volunteer examiners then on the rolls in Puerto Rico turned out April 8 at Maia's VE meeting there; and asked if Maia was attempting to contact the VEs who failed to show.

Hollingsworth also questioned Maia's report of a 1995 examination session that allegedly had not been publicly announced, for which only one VE was said to have been in attendance, where an applicant said he was turned away for not having an appointment, and where no Morse code tapes were available, even though tests were being given for licenses above Technician. The FCC asked which, if any, Puerto Rico testing sessions since January 1, 1998, had been held without required public announcement.

Hollingsworth also enclosed complaints about the W5YI-VEC from amateurs in Texas and Vermont and asked Maia to respond to the individuals.

The FCC recently canceled the licenses of 24 Puerto Rico licensees who had been examined through the W5YI-VEC after the licensees failed to appear for retesting as requested.


The FCC has affirmed $8000 fines levied on two Texas hams for allegedly causing malicious interference with communications on a local repeater and with failing to identify. General licensee Paul E. Holcombe, K4TOF, and Technician licensee Robert L. Meyers, N5WLY, both of Houston, each received a Forfeiture Order earlier this month from the FCC's Houston office. The fines followed an FCC investigation last year that involved the use of direction-finding equipment.

The FCC has said the interference "was allegedly caused by stations transmitting unidentified tones, inflammatory or derogatory remarks, and unmodulated signals, none of which were identified with an FCC-assigned call sign."

Last year, the FCC had sent first a Notice of Violation and then a Notice of Apparent Liability to each licensee. Each responded both times by denying the allegations. The FCC was unconvinced by their assertions, and said their denials were contradicted by the observations of the FCC agent. The FCC noted that an FCC agent on separate occasions used direction-finding equipment to track interfering signals to Holcolmbe's and Meyers' vehicles. The agent surreptitiously observed each vehicle while the Memorial Emergency Repeater Association's 145.47 machine in Houston was being interfered with. In its Forfeiture Order to Meyers, the FCC indicated that Holcombe and Meyers had acted in concert to interfere with the MERA repeater.

Both men were given 30 days from the May 3 release of each Order to pay.


ARRL RF Safety Committee Chairman Greg Lapin, N9GL (left), discusses the epidemiological study of radio amateurs with principal investigator Kenneth Cantor of the National Cancer Institute during a meeting at ARRL Headquarters. [Rick Lindquist, N1RL]

National Cancer Institute researcher Kenneth Cantor has embarked on an epidemiological study of radio amateurs. Cantor wants to evaluate whether causes of death among amateurs differ from those of the general population. If it turns out that they do differ, he then wants to find out whether the individual's "usual occupation" might explain the differences.

Representatives of the ARRL RF Safety Committee met with Cantor at League Headquarters April 28 to discuss the project. On hand were Committee Chairman Greg Lapin, N9GL, Committee members Robert Gold, WB0KIZ, and Kai Siwiak, KE4PT, and David Sumner, K1ZZ, and Ed Hare, W1RFI, of the ARRL staff.

In addition to identifying ways that the League could assist in improving the study's accuracy, the meeting was aimed, in part, at educating committee members and League staff about the specifics of the proposed study.

Cantor described his investigation as an "inexpensive kind of quick study" that would not yield fine detail. As a result, he told the group, it would be "wrong" to ascribe the deaths to any particular factor.

The session presented an opportunity for Cantor to learn about influences amateurs tend to be exposed to in addition to RF energy. Cantor and the amateurs also were able to gain an appreciation for each other's points of view--Cantor on the public's sensitivity to the words used to explain the results of such an epidemiological study, and the amateurs on the significance of different types of epidemiological studies.

Some discussion at the session focused on a similar study done 15 years ago by Samuel Milham. Wording in that study's conclusions led many to believe that the Milham study had presented evidence that RF energy caused "an excess of leukemia."

Cantor emphasized that his investigation is a preliminary study, based on a statistical comparison of FCC licensing records and State of California death records. Additional death records might be included as needed. The initial "cohort group" for Cantor's study includes more than 100,000 men and women--seven times larger than the earlier Milham study.

"This type of study can be performed at minimal cost, but it has the potential for misleading results," said Lapin--himself a research professional. Lapin explained that in the event of "apparent associations" in the results of Cantor's study, a follow-up study would be conducted. The followup would involve individual questionnaires and contact with the families of Silent Keys--something the Milham study did not attempt to do.


ARISS team member Alberto Zagni, I2KBD, explores the ESA's ISS Columbus module mockup during a break at the ARISS team meeting in the Netherlands.

A new chapter in the history of Amateur Radio will begin later this year when ham gear is installed aboard the International Space Station for the first time. Three major events must happen before the first QSO is made from the ISS, however.

First, the Russian-built Zvezda Service Module is scheduled for launch in early to mid-July, providing the living quarters for the first ISS crew. Then, the initial amateur station hardware will be sent up to the ISS aboard shuttle mission STS-106 in August. Finally, the initial crew of US astronaut Bill Shepard, KD5GSL, and Russian Cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev, U5MIR, and Yuri Gaidzenko will be launched in October from Russia aboard a Soyuz spacecraft for what's expected to be a long-duration mission.

Amateur Radio will be available to the first crew members once it's been installed temporarily aboard the Zarya Functional Cargo Block module, already in space. Earlier plans had called for the initial station gear--primarily VHF and UHF hand-held transceivers--to be put aboard the Service Module. Launch delays forced the change, however. The amateur gear likely will be transferred to the Service Module next year. The initial station will use existing antennas on the Functional Cargo Block. The system is being adapted to support Amateur Radio operation on 2 meters but not on 70 cm.

A Russian station license and call sign, RZ3DZR, have been granted for the ISS ham radio station. Long-term plans call for obtaining an international call sign for the ISS station to recognize the cooperative nature of the ARISS project. With assistance from the International Amateur Radio Union, efforts are under way to request a specific ISS call sign block from the ITU.

"A multinational call sign block is the most desirable route," said ARRL First Vice President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, after a meeting of the ARISS international partners earlier this year in the Netherlands. ARISS team members continue to pursue licenses in their respective countries. A German call sign, DL0ISS, has been issued, and a US call sign has been applied for.

The initial ISS amateur station will provide primarily FM voice and "improved" packet capability on 2 meters and--once aboard the Service Module--on 70 cm using Ericsson hand-held transceivers. It's expected that slow-scan TV, various types of amateur TV, and experimental projects eventually will be added.

A primary goal of ARISS is to continue a schedule of Amateur Radio contacts with schools, so students can interview the astronauts and cosmonauts directly--as a major component of a classroom project. NASA "clearly supports the educational outreach aspects" of the ARISS project, US delegation member Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, told the Netherlands gathering.

Bauer is scheduled to discuss progress on the ARISS project during the Dayton Hamvention AMSAT forum Saturday, May 20.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The Major Six Club Contest is the weekend of May 20-21. Just ahead: The CQ WW WPX Contest (CW) is May 28-30. See May QST, page 91.

  • Riley Hollingsworth: Is my face red? FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth says he was just trying to see if the amateur community was paying attention when he suggested on his recent Radio Amateur Information Network enforcement news report ( that the use of phonetics during station identification was contrary to the amateur rules. As Hollingsworth has since conceded, after being challenged from several quarters, the applicable FCC station ID rule--§97.119(b)(2)--specifically encourages "use of a standard phonetic alphabet as an aid for correct station identification" [emphasis added]. "I plead temporary insanity," Hollingsworth told the ARRL. "I was working too close to my antennas the evening before."

  • Former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, JI1KIT, SK: Former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, JI1KIT, died May 15. He was 62. Obuchi had been hospitalized in Tokyo since suffering a stroke April 2. The former foreign minister, Obuchi took over as prime minister in 1998.

  • Vote on QST Cover Plaque Award: The winner of the QST Cover Plaque Award for May was James Kates, N9GBB, for his article "Confessions of a DXing Dad." Congratulations, James! ARRL members are reminded that the winner of the QST Cover Plaque award--given to the author(s) of the best article in each issue--now is determined by a vote of ARRL members. Voting takes place each month on the ARRL Members Only Web site at As soon as your copy arrives, cast a ballot for your choice as the favorite article in the June issue of QST. Voting ends June 15.

  • "Walkie-talkie" and pager inventor honored: Al Gross, W8PAL, the inventor of the "walkie-talkie" and the first wireless pager, recently was honored with the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for invention and innovation. Gross, often called the "founding father" of wireless communication, developed the walkie-talkie in 1938 while he was still in high school in Cleveland. Now 82, Gross says he became a ham at an early age. "I wanted to be mobile, that was my desire," he said in an April 28 interview with The Boston Globe. "I worked hard to figure out a transceiver." The project caught the attention of the Office of Strategic Services--the World War II precursor to the CIA. Gross developed for the agency a two-way air-to-ground communication system used during the war. Gross says he's amazed by the proliferation of wireless technology today. "The genie is out of the bottle," he told the Globe.


The ARRL Letter

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.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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