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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter
Vol. 19, No. 50
December 29, 2000


* +AO-40 returns!
* +Hams on ice in US Southwest
* +New FCC system speeds license grants
* +Colorado company to acquire Alpha/Power
* +Wireless pioneer Al Gross, W8PAL, SK
*  Solar Update
     This weekend on the radio
     Vintage transmitters on the air for Straight Key Night
    +Kid's Day is January 6
    +New section managers take office January 1
     Germany drops code speed to 5 WPM
     K6DUE to anchor Parade of Roses
     MARS celebrates 75 years of service
     Second and third ARISS contact schools named
     Slain Texas police officer was amateur
     Snowbound ham uses 2-meter H-T to call for help

+Available on ARRL Audio News

Best wishes for 2001 from everyone at ARRL Headquarters!


Merry Christmas, AMSAT--AO-40 is back! Following a 12-day silence, AO-40
once again is transmitting telemetry. In response to an L-band command sent
Christmas Day by command station ZL1AOX, AO-40 resumed transmitting on 2.4
GHz. Software was reloaded to permit telemetry transmissions on 2401.305
MHz. Some problems remain on the satellite, however.

"Recovery of AO-40 continues, and some housekeeping tasks were performed by
the command stations to improve and stabilize the situation," said Peter
Guelzow, DB2OS, of the AO-40 team. Guelzow says new software routines were
loaded successfully to restore the battery-charge regulator system and other
housekeeping functions. "We will now start a detailed analysis of the
situation," he said.

Telemetry transmissions from AO-40 ceased December 13 while ground
controllers were testing the onboard 400-Newton propulsion system following
an initial orbital shift. Some observers feared the satellite had been
irreparably damaged. Guelzow says ground stations now have regained control
of the satellite. Ground controllers hope the telemetry might yield some
clues about what went wrong aboard the satellite to make it stop

After onboard software watchdog routines failed to restart beacon
transmissions automatically, a full reset command and an initialization
block to switch on the S2 S-band transmitter were sent via L-band.

Guelzow said telemetry revealed that some temperature sensors have failed
and some current sensors indicated incorrect values, but solar sensors
seemed to be working fine. The good news was that AO-40's power
situation--in particular the battery voltages--looks nominal. 

Guelzow said additional software would be loaded in the next few days and
the various uplinks checked out before any attempts are made to turn the
2-meter transmitter back on. "Clearly, we need more time to analyze and
understand what has happened here," Guelzow said. He said that while there
are no indications that the 2-meter beacon transmitter has failed, ground
controllers don't want to risk losing communication again. "So for the next
days the spacecraft will continue to be transmitting on S-Band only," he

Phase 3D Project Leader Karl Meinzer, DJ4ZC said AO-40 command stations
"will continue to follow a conservative philosophy" with a primary goal of
not causing additional damage while retaining as much evidence as possible
to analyze what made the beacon transmissions stop.

On December 22, AMSAT proposed holding an inquiry into the incident that led
to the loss of communication with AO-40. A letter from AMSAT-NA President
Robin Haighton, VE3FRH, said "AMSAT believes that it is in the best
interests of our organization to determine all the facts surrounding this
incident and to make sure that a similar situation cannot happen again
either on AO-40 or on a future satellite." 


Ice storms this week have caused power and telephone outages and hazardous
driving conditions in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and more bad weather was
on the way. Amateur Radio Emergency Service nets have been activated on HF
and on local repeaters to handle emergency traffic and to support public
safety and relief agencies. Several deaths have been attributed to the
severe weather.

President Clinton has declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma and
Arkansas. At week's end, hundreds of thousands still were without power, and
many still had no telephone service--even cellular systems were out. Utility
companies were saying it might be a week or longer before power could be

Hams also have been locating and assisting the many stranded motorists.
South Texas Section Manager Ray Taylor, N5NAV, says an estimated 200 Texas
hams have been pitching in. At one point, ARES members helped with
communication after hospital telephones were knocked out; they also got a
generator going after one hospital's emergency power system failed.

Hams also have been supporting relief activities of the Red Cross, the
Salvation Army and the Baptist Men's Kitchen as well as state police. The
Red Cross has opened shelters to assist those stranded by the inclement
weather or left without utilities.

At Taylor's urging, the FCC asked the amateur community to cooperate in
recognizing the existence of a voluntary communications emergency and to
stay clear of 3870 to 3878 kHz to accommodate the Texas ARES Net. The Net
has been on 7285 kHz during daylight hours. Taylor said he requested the
voluntary declaration because the nighttime emergency and tactical traffic
net frequency on 3873 kHz was being subjected to apparent intentional QRM.

Taylor said Thursday that his latest concern was possible flooding in South
Texas from runoff in the north and west. Hams were preparing to monitor
levels on several rivers in that part of the state, he said. 

In Arkansas, Amateur Radio reportedly served as the only link between the
state capital and DeQueen, a city in southwestern Arkansas that was
particularly hard hit by the latest ice storm. The state suffered another
ice storm in mid-December. Arkansas Section Manager Roger Gray, N5QS, says a
TV report credited Amateur Radio with facilitating communication between Gov
Mike Huckabee and the mayor of DeQueen. Residents in up to a dozen counties
reportedly have lost power, telephone service and water.

At week's end, the storm that affected the US Southwest was moving eastward
and expected to join another system to create blizzard conditions in the


The FCC's new system to handle batch-filed amateur applications from
Volunteer Examiner Coordinators has cut processing time from hours to
minutes. The FCC inaugurated the more rapid amateur license application
processing system December 28--slightly ahead of its original schedule.

"Way to go, FCC!" said an enthusiastic ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ,
after his office fed its first batch of license applications into the
system. Jahnke says five dozen ARRL-VEC applications resulted in license
grants about 52 minutes later. The W4VEC in North Carolina and Central
America VEC also took advantage of the new system for the first time.

Except for a two-hour window right after midnight each day, the speedy new
system looks for VEC submissions each hour on the half hour. With FCC
license grant processing now measured in terms of hours instead of days, the
major factor now determining the time from exam to license grant is how
quickly VE teams get their test results to their VECs.

The FCC has been estimating a processing window of up to 90 minutes,
depending on volume and arrival time. License grant results should be
available immediately on the Universal Licensing System Web site,, using the license search option.

Applications processed by the FCC one day will appear in the public update
("zip") files the following morning. Public call sign servers on the
Internet should be able to update within 24 hours after FCC action--rather
than the 48 hours that's been typical.

On-line filings from individuals, weekend filings and FCC-manually processed
applications put into the hopper during weekdays at Gettysburg will continue
to be handled as have been. These are batched for midnight processing, and
weekend filings will not queue up until Monday midnight.


CrossLink Inc, a Boulder, Colorado, delivery tracking and telemetry company,
is expected to acquire the assets of Amateur Radio amplifier manufacturer
Alpha/Power Inc. An announcement from Alpha/Power Chairman and CEO Dick
Ehrhorn, W0ID, said a buyout agreement would be completed by year's end.

In September Alpha/Power, based in Longmont, Colorado, announced plans to
cease engineering and manufacturing operations once its current run of Alpha
87A and 99 amplifiers was completed. Ehrhorn left open the possibility of
selling Alpha/Power, provided the right buyer came along. 

Under the anticipated agreement, CrossLink (
will acquire all assets of, and rights to, the Alpha Amateur Radio product
line. It's anticipated that production at the CrossLink facility will resume
early in 2001.

In a joint statement CrossLink President/CEO Gary Zarlengo, WA0KLP, and
Chief Technical Officer Gordon Hardman, KE3D, said they were "very pleased
to have the opportunity to continue bringing the world-renowned Alpha name
and product line to the amateur radio community." CrossLink will continue to
provide full factory warranty and post-warranty service for existing Alpha
owners, Zarlengo and Hardman said.

Ehrhorn, formerly W4ETO, founded Ehrhorn Technological Operations in 1970
and designed all the early Alpha linears. He sold ETO several years ago. In
1996, Ehrhorn and Dave Wilson, AA0RS/G3SZA, bought back the Alpha amplifier
business from ETO. Alpha/Power purchased the RFConcepts line of VHF-UHF
power amplifiers from Kantronics in late 1998. 

A nucleus of Alpha/Power personnel, including Business Vice President Scott
Ehrhorn and Customer Service Manager Glenn Pladsen, AE0Q, will join
CrossLink. Scott Ehrhorn will become Alpha Product Line Manager, while
Pladsen will continue to handle Alpha customer service. According to
Hardman, additional space and facilities available at CrossLink will allow
ongoing Alpha production at previous rates or greater.

Additional details, including the new Alpha address, telephone, fax and
e-mail information, will be posted on the Alpha Web site
( as they become available.


The man who brought the world such indispensable wireless communications
concepts and devices as the walkie-talkie, pager and cordless telephone has
died. Al Gross, W8PAL, of Sun City, Arizona, passed away on December 21. He
was 82.

Gross obtained his Amateur Radio license in 1934 at the age of 16. His early
interest in Amateur Radio helped set his career choice while he was still a

Gross pioneered the development of devices that operated in the relatively
unexplored VHF and UHF spectrum above 100 MHz. His first invention was a
portable hand-held radio transmitter-receiver. Developed in 1938 while he
was still in high school in Cleveland, he christened it the "walkie-talkie."
The device caught the attention of the US Office of Strategic Services--the
forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. The OSS recruited Gross, and
this led to the invention of a two-way air-to-ground communications system
used by the military behind enemy lines during the World War II. The system
allowed OSS agents to communicate with high-flying aircraft.

After World War II, Gross set up Gross Electronics Inc to design and build
various communications products, some of them under government contracts. He
also launched Citizens Radio Corporation to design, develop and manufacture
personal wireless devices.

Cartoonist Chester Gould asked if he could use Gross' concept of a
miniaturized two-way radio in his Dick Tracy comic strip. The result was the
Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, Gross secured several patents for various
portable and cordless telephone devices. In September 1958 Gross Electronics
received FCC type approval for mobile and hand-held transceivers for use on
the new Class D 27-MHz Citizens Band.

"If you have a cordless telephone or a cellular telephone or a walkie talkie
or beeper, you've got one of my patents," Gross once said. He added that if
his patents on those technologies hadn't run out in 1971, he'd have been a
millionaire several times over.

Over the years, Gross worked as a communications specialist for several
large companies. Since 1990 and until his death, he was a senior engineer
for Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Gross received numerous awards and honors during his distinguished career,
including the 1992 Fred B. Link Award from the Radio Club of America and the
1999 Edwin Howard Armstrong Achievement Award from the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

As his IEEE biography put it: "It is clear that Mr. Gross was a true pioneer
and helped lead the way to today's wireless personal communications

Gross is survived by his wife, Ethel. A burial mass was held December 27 in
Sun City.--thanks to The W5YI Report and the IEEE for this information


Propagation prognosticator Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports:
Average solar flux was down just a bit this week, declining by a little more
than three points. Average sunspot numbers were off by more than 26 points
since last week.

The week has been quiet, with very stable conditions on every day except
December 23, when unsettled conditions yielded planetary K indices of four
and five and a planetary A index of 20. Higher latitude conditions were not
much worse, with Alaska's College A index at 22. Mid-latitude A and K
indices were quite stable. 

The current forecast calls for stable geomagnetic conditions until January
4-6, when they may become unsettled with planetary A indices of 12 to 15.
The solar flux outlook for Friday through Tuesday is 185 for December 29-31,
175 for Monday and 170 for Tuesday. Solar flux is expected to bottom out
near 140 around January 5, then reach the next peak around January 13-17. 

Happy New Year to all! Next week's bulletin will include some averaged solar

Sunspot numbers for December 21 through 27 were 161, 164, 130, 155, 164, 189
and 171 with a mean of 162. The 10.7 cm flux was 194.5, 190, 190.9, 193,
187, 188.8 and 187.6, with a mean of 190.3. The estimated planetary A
indices were 5, 7, 20, 5, 6, 4 and 7 with a mean of 7.7. 



* This weekend on the radio: ARRL Straight Key Night, the RAC Winter Contest
and the Stew Perry Topband Distance Challenge are the weekend of December
30-31. JUST AHEAD: The CCCC Millennium Contest,is January 1-2. The ARRL RTTY
Roundup and the Japan International DX Contest (CW) are the weekend of
January 5-7. See December QST, p 97, and January QST, page 99, for details.

* Vintage transmitters on the air for Straight Key Night: The Maritime Radio
Historical Society K6KPH will be on the air January 1 UTC for Straight Key
Night from the historic KPH commercial station site. The station will
transmit on 7050 kHz. Operation on 20 meters also is possible. K6KPH Chief
Operator Dick Dillman, W6AWO, says the group will attempt to activate a
1950s-vintage RCA 303L on 14,028.6 kHz. Transmitters are located at the
original RCA transmitting station at Bolinas, California. Operators will be
at the RCA receiving station at Pt Reyes, keying the transmitters by a
landline link.--Dick Dillman, W6AWO 

* Kid's Day is January 6: Kid's Day is intended to encourage young
people--licensed or not--to enjoy Amateur Radio. As a "mentoring
opportunity" for experienced amateurs, Kid's Day can give youngsters
hands-on experience that might lead to an interest in Amateur Radio. The
next Kid's Day is January 6, 2001, from 1800 to 2400 UTC. There's no limit
on operating time. The suggested exchange is name, age, location and
favorite color. Stations may work the same station again if an operator has
changed. Call "CQ Kid's Day." Suggested frequencies are 28,350 to 28,400;
21,380 to 21,400; and 14,270 to 14300 kHz plus 2-meter repeater frequencies
(with permission from your area repeater sponsor). Observe third-party
traffic restrictions when making DX QSOs. Logs and comments may be posted to and reviewed at All
participants are eligible to receive a colorful certificate. Send a 9x12
SASE to Boring Amateur Radio Club, PO Box 1357, Boring, OR 97009. For more
information, visit the Kid's Day Web site, 

* New section managers take office January 1: New ARRL section managers take
office January 1 in several sections. In Eastern Pennsylvania, Eric Olena,
WB3FPL, takes over for veteran SM Al Breiner, W3TI, who steps down December
31 after many years as an ARRL field organization volunteer. In Eastern
Massachusetts, Phil Temples, K9HI, recently was elected to succeed Joel
Magid, WU1F, who did not seek another term. In West Texas, Clay Emert,
K5TRW, takes over the reins from Charles Royall, WB5T, who is stepping down
due to health problems. In North Dakota, Kent Olson, KA0LDG, replaces Roger
"Bill" Kurtti, WC0M, who is moving out of the section. Incumbent section
managers in Missouri, Nebraska, New York City-Long Island, Northern New
York, South Carolina, Southern New Jersey, West Central Florida, and Western
Pennsylvania recently were elected without opposition for two-year terms
that begin January 1.--Rosalie White, K1STO 

* Germany drops code speed to 5 WPM: Germany has approved a change in its
Amateur Radio rules that lowers from 12 WPM to 5 WPM the Morse code text
speed required for HF operation. The Second Order for the Change of Amateur
Radio Regulations was issued December 13, 2000, by the Federal Minister for
Economics and Technology.--IARU

* K6DUE to anchor Parade of Roses: For the 16th consecutive year, former NBC
correspondent and producer Roy Neal will anchor the New Year's Day
"international" Tournament of Roses Parade telecast. (The international
telecast is available north of the border on CBC and on C-band G4R
transponder 24, 6.8 audio subcarrier.) Neal's history with the Rose parade
goes back to the 1950s, when he produced the parade coverage for NBC--which
telecast it back then in glorious black and white. In the late 1960s, Neal
co-anchored the parade for NBC with Betty White. An active amateur, Neal has
served as chairman of the Space Amateur Radio EXperiment Working Group and
remains involved in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station--or
ARISS--program that schedules chats via ham radio between ISS crew members
and schoolchildren and helps to administer Amateur Radio activity on the
ISS.--ShopTalk via Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF

* MARS celebrates 75 years of service: What's believed to be the largest
MARS net on record took place November 24 when 527 Military Affiliate Radio
System members from 47 states, Puerto Rico and Guam checked into the MARS
net to celebrate its 75th anniversary of service to the US Armed Forces.
Five veterans of the original Army Amateur Radio System were on hand for the
occasion, including Marvin Bernstein, W2PAT/AFA1DA--age 85 and first
licensed in 1932. Founded in 1925 the AARS became the Military Amateur Radio
System in 1948 and was later renamed the Military Affiliate Radio System.
For more information, visit the Army MARS Web Site, .

* Second and third ARISS contact schools named: Schools in Virginia and New
York will be the second and third schools to attempt Amateur Radio contacts
with the Expedition 1 crew of Space Station Alpha, the International Space
Station. Armstrong Fundamental Elementary School, Hampton, Virginia, and Jan
Sheldon Elementary School, Varysburg, New York, hope to complete contacts in
January as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station--or
ARISS--program. The QSO with Armstrong School is tentatively scheduled for
January 4 or January 5. The Sheldon School QSO is tentatively scheduled for
the January 15-19 time frame, but all school QSO schedules are subject to
change. The first ARISS school contact between Expedition 1 Commander
William "Shep" Shepherd, KD5GSL, and youngsters at Burbank Elementary School
in Burbank, Illinois, was completed December 21. 

* Slain Texas police officer was amateur: An Irving, Texas, police officer
shot and killed after answering a robbery call was an Amateur Radio
operator. Aubrey W. Hawkins, KC5USI, a Technician licensee, died on
Christmas Eve while responding a robbery-in-progress call. He was 29.
Hawkins had been a police officer in Irving since October 1999. Police said
this week that seven escaped prison inmates wanted in connection with the
killing remain at large. An Eagle Scout, Hawkins was active in RACES and
SKYWARN. Marv Kontak, N5MK, reports that more than 2000 attended Hawkins'
funeral December 28. Hawkins' wife and a nine-year-old son survive.--Marv
Kontak, N5MK 

* Snowbound ham uses 2-meter H-T to call for help: Suffering recently from
bronchitis and pneumonia, Jim Stewart, KK7VL, a homesteader in a secluded
area near Bettas Pass, Washington, used his 2-meter hand-held to summon
help. Stewart called his friend, Jim Flint, W7TXU, on the Kittitas County
Repeater Association's repeater, advising him of his worsening condition and
requesting assistance. Flint, a member of the Kittitas County Search and
Rescue team, enlisted the help of Deputy Sheriff Robb Lipp. But, snowdrifts
prevented them from reaching Stewart's home. A snowmobiler passing by took
the rescuers to Stewart's house. Lipp then used his GPS and radio to guide a
rescue helicopter to the scene, and Stewart was airlifted to a hospital in
Yakima. "Many of our present rescue team members are already hams," said
Flint, "and as a result of this rescue being reported on local radio,
several people have called and asked to join our team, and to learn more
about Amateur Radio."--The Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington)

The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the American
Radio Relay League--The National Association For Amateur Radio--225 Main St,
Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax 860-594-0259; Jim Haynie, W5JBP, President

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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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