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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
June 25, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


ARRL to Hold 2021 National Convention at Orlando HamCation®

ARRL has announced that Orlando HamCation® will host the 2021 ARRL National Convention in Orlando, Florida, February 11 - 14. The convention will mark the 75th anniversary of HamCation -- one of the largest annual ham radio gatherings. The convention theme, "reDiscover Radio," is a rallying call for radio amateurs committed to developing knowledge and skills in radio technology and radio communication.

The convention will kick off on Thursday, February 11, with a series of day-long ARRL Training Tracks and a National Convention luncheon at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld. A complete program and list of presenters will be available later this summer. Registration will open in the fall. HamCation will host the rest of the convention Friday - Sunday, February 12 - 14, at the Central Florida Fairgrounds & Expo Park in Orlando.

HamCation is sponsored by the Orlando Amateur Radio Club (OARC), an ARRL-affiliated club. OARC is supported by volunteers from radio clubs throughout the region. This year, an estimated 24,200 people attended all 3 days of the event.

Details on tickets and information about forums, exhibits (including information for vendors and tailgaters), testing, travel, and preferred hotels with special rates are on the HamCation website.

Online ticket sales begin in August. Tickets purchased (postmarked) by December 1, 2020, will cost $15 and are valid for all 3 days. Read more.

Rescued Radio Amateur Says, "Ham Radio Saved My Life"

Alden Sumner Jones IV, KC1JWR, of Bennington, Vermont, is thankful for amateur radio, after he suffered a medical incident and lost consciousness on June 15 while hiking with others along a remote section of the Long Trail, not far from his home. An EMT from Appalachian Mountain Rescue (AMR), who was hiking nearby, saw Jones pass out, but was unable to connect with 911 via his cell phone. Jones, 41, regained consciousness and was successful in contacting Ron Wonderlick, AG1W, via the Northern Berkshire Amateur Radio Club's K1FFK repeater on Mount Greylock. Wonderlick initiated what turned into an 8-hour effort to get Jones off the trail and to a medical facility, acting as a relay among Jones, emergency crews, and other agencies involved. As the Bennington Banner reported, "The Vermont State Police also received assistance from several licensed amateur radio operators who helped facilitate communications, greatly assisting in the rescue."

A helicopter-supported litter carries Alden Sumner Jones IV, KC1JWR, to safety. [Vermont State Police photo via the Bennington Banner]

Matthew Sacco, KC1JPU, headed to a staging area where rescue crews were gathering. When he could not make it into the repeater, he employed some ham radio ingenuity to fashion a J-pole antenna from some window line he had on hand, casting it into a tree using a fishing pole. That did the trick. An individual on site was able to obtain an accurate location for Jones using the GPS on his cell phone.

After it was determined that rescuers could not reach Jones using an all-terrain vehicle, arrangements were made to have a search-and-rescue crew from New York retrieve Jones by helicopter. Amateur radio participants were able to relay critical information, including an accurate location, as preparations continued.

Jones, meanwhile, took advantage of his time with the EMT and other rescuers to talk up amateur radio and explain how to get licensed. According to one account, rescuers were having trouble making contact with the helicopter, so Jones loaned them a better antenna he happened to have.

Jones was eventually flown to a hospital in Albany, New York, again taking advantage of the occasion to promote amateur radio to the helicopter pilot and crew. Jones is said to be recovering.

"Ham radio saved my life last night, and I am very thankful for how everyone helped me," Jones said afterward.

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, Issues Field Day 2020 Statement

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, has released a statement in advance of ARRL Field Day 2020.

Dear ARRL Members,

For the first time since the event was introduced in 1933, ARRL Field Day will indeed be significantly different this year. Continuing public safety restrictions due to COVID-19 will force many of you to operate from home, while some radio clubs, where permitted, will venture outside in limited gatherings, practicing social distancing. By all means, get on the air this weekend and show the world that amateur radio operators remain adaptable to changing situations.

Although points are awarded, the underlying purpose of Field Day is to demonstrate the versatility and reliability of radio amateurs under simulated emergency conditions. For some of you, especially new licensees, this may be the first time you've established your own home station or portable radio communications capability. Let's use this opportunity to show our friends, families, and community leaders that we are a trained, resourceful, and reliable corps of volunteers, especially when other forms of communications are not available.

In addition to operating, please take a few minutes to document your station with pictures, or even offer to host a videoconference and give virtual tours. Social media is the way most people are discovering amateur radio these days, so post your photos and videos to the social media pages hosted by your clubs and ARRL.

Finally, please use the hashtag #ARRLFD along with community hashtags to get the word out that we are enjoying an amazing hobby that is also a public service. Field Day is the largest gathering of communicators on the face of the earth. Let's show the world what amateur radio can do!

On behalf of ARRL board members and staff, have a fun and safe ARRL Field Day.


ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 6) details everything you need to know about ARRL Field Day, with Contest Program Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE. Learn how to create a simple station setup as a less-experienced operator. The On the Air podcast is a monthly companion to On the Air magazine, ARRL's magazine for beginner-to-intermediate ham radio operators.

The latest episode of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 10) will discuss sporadic-E propagation, antenna modeling, a new approach to spray-on antennas, and an unusual form of computer espionage.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android), as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

Balloon Launched by Popular Web Show Host Completes Third Round Trip

A balloon launched on May 20 by "Amateur Radio Roundtable" web show host Tom Medlin, W5KUB, and his team has begun its third circumnavigation of Earth. The balloon, at 43,000 - 45,000 feet, completed its second trip around the globe on June 19. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean "in record time" at a speed of about 170 MPH, the balloon website reported this week.

Identified as W5KUB-18, the balloon carries APRS and WSPR amateur radio payloads. By the morning of June 25, it was above China, moving at more than 100 MPH.

According to the balloon website, the mission and goal are to launch a high-altitude balloon for long-duration and multiple trips around the world. The balloon, an SBS-13, is capable of flying up to 45,000 feet. "It will be filled with hydrogen to obtain higher altitude," the website explains. "It will be solar powered only (no batteries, so it will only transmit during daylight). We will receive tracking every 10 minutes via WSPR on HF [14.0971 MHz]." Tracking transmissions will be turned off over the UK, Yemen, and North Korea due to regulations. The tracking transmitter runs just 10 mW, but it's being heard as far away as 9,000 miles, Medlin told ARRL.

"The entire tracker with GPS and processor is only 2 grams," Medlin said. "That's about the weight of a penny. The entire payload is only 15 grams total." The current effort is the group's ninth attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

The YO3ICT tracker transmitter onboard the balloon: "I had to build it under a microscope," Medlin said. [Tom Medlin, W5KUB, photo]

Medlin says the balloon project has broadened his horizons. "You have to do a lot of specific engineering and measurements down to the 0.1 gram to fly one," he told ARRL. "You also become a weatherman, watching all the NOAA websites, winds at different altitudes, storms, etc. Storms will bring you down," Medlin said. With the float altitude set at 44,000 feet, he expects to be able to fly above most storms. "You also become very well-versed in geography as it flies," he added.

Medlin's livestreamed "Amateur Radio Roundtable" goes live on Tuesdays at 9 PM Eastern Time and accepts calls from viewers. He has operated a live cam at Dayton Hamvention® for several years. Read more.

ARISS Volunteer Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, Named Member of the Order of Australia

Veteran Amateur Radio on the International Radio Station (ARISS) volunteer Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, has been honored as a Member of the Order of Australia in Queen Elizabeth's Birthday Honours List. Hutchison was recognized "For significant service to amateur radio, particularly to satellite and space communication." The Australian Government's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet noted that Hutchison is one of 10 official ARISS telebridge stations to the International Space Station, as well as a HamTV ground station.

Hutchison's station has served as the ham radio contact point for ISS crew members to speak with schools and groups on Earth via ham radio, when a contact location is not within the footprint of an ISS pass. The students connect via a teleconference line from their school to the telebridge station, and then with the astronaut through ham radio.

Hutchison provided communication support for contacts with Australian astronaut Andy Thomas, VK5JAT/VK5MIR, during Thomas's tour on the Russian Mir space station, and he enabled the first school contact with Mir in 1993. As part of ARISS, he helped 65 schools prepare for ARISS contacts and used his telebridge station for 58 ARISS contacts throughout the world. He is a member of AMSAT-VK.

"Tony's been an ARISS mentor for years, and was lead of Australia's mentors," ARISS-International Secretary Rosalie White, K1STO, said. "He enjoyed talking to the Mir crews long before." White said that Hutchison, who is in his early 80s, remains involved in the ARISS program.

"Although I received the honour, I would like to share it with all team members I work with," Hutchison said. "If it weren't for the work that all the ARISS-International volunteers do, this award would never have been given." Read more.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: No sunspots have been seen since June 15, when one sunspot group containing one sunspot was observed. Each sunspot group is assigned 10 points, and each sunspot gets 1 point, so 11 is the minimum non-zero sunspot number.

Last week's reported average daily sunspot number was 7.9. Average daily solar flux declined from 70 to 67.7.

Geomagnetic indicators are still very quiet, but the average planetary A index rose from 3.9 to 4.6, and the average middle latitude A index went from 4.9 to 5.6.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days is 68 on June 25 - July 2; 70 on July 3 - 12; 68 on July 13 - 25, and 70 on July 26 - August 8.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on June 25 - 26; 8 on June 27; 5 on June 28 - July 3; 8, 5, 8, and 8 on July 4 - 7; 5 on July 8 - 30; 8, 5, 8, and 8 on July 31 - August 3, and 5 on August 4 - 8.

Sunspot numbers for June 18 - 24 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 67.9, 68.8, 67.8, 67.6, 67.6, 67.1, and 66.9, with a mean of 67.7. Estimated planetary A indices were 4, 5, 6, 4, 4, 4, and 5, with a mean of 4.6. Middle latitude A index was 5, 7, 7, 4, 3, 6, and 7, with a mean of 5.6.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. Monthly charts offer propagation projections between the US and a dozen DX locations.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • June 27 -- UFT QRP Contest (CW)

  • June 27 - 28 -- ARRL Field Day (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 27 - 28 -- Ukrainian DX DIGI Contest

  • June 27 - 28 -- His Majesty King of Spain Contest, SSB

  • June 29 -- 10-10 International Spirit of 76 QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • June 29 - 30 -- QCX Challenge (CW)

  • July 1 -- RAC Canada Day Contest (CW, phone)

  • July 2 -- NRAU 10-Meter Activity Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • July 2 -- SKCC Sprint Europe (CW)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on amateur radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.

ARRL Seeks Vintage DX Logs for Archive

ARRL continues to solicit paper logs of prominent DXpeditions or logs from stations and operators active from more rare locations from the 1950s through the 1980s, for inclusion in The DX Log Archive Endowed by JA1BK. The DX Log Archive program was created, thanks to an endowment established by Kan Mizoguchi, JA1BK, to obtain, preserve, and utilize paper logs from rare and significant DXpeditions.

The archive will include pre-1950 paper logs as well as those from interesting operations, other documents from DXpeditions, and logs kept by long-time residents of rare entities. All logbooks received to date have been inventoried and are housed at ARRL Headquarters. Former ARRL Radiosport and Field Services Manager Dave Patton, NN1N, will manage the program.

Patton noted the recent receipt of interesting logs from Hal Turley, W8HC. These included some old logs of Al Hix, W8AH (ex-W8PQQ). Especially significant is the June 1951 7B4QF operation from Andorra -- the first amateur radio operation from that country. Hix was there with Bill Orr, W6SAI; Gus, SM5UM, and Mick, ON4QF. See "Operation Andorra" by Bill Orr, W6SAI, in the October 1951 issue of QST. Other W8AH paper logs include the 1951 PX1AR Andorra and 3A2AC Monaco operations.

Contact Patton for more information about logs or related DXing ephemera that might be of interest to the DX Log Archive.

  • ARRL Field Day is this weekend, June 27 - 28. The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PE) is a new Section for Field Day; check that logging software has been updated, if necessary. If using FT8 or FT4, only WSJT-X version 2.2.2 (and higher) can accommodate the PE Section.

  • A web-to-Cabrillo (W2C) form is now available to aid ARRL Field Day operators who log on paper or spreadsheet and want to generate a Cabrillo-formatted log. The Field Day form functions identically to the W2C forms for other contests. ARRL does not require Field Day logs. Participants must submit a "dupe sheet" or equivalent list of call signs worked by band and mode to ensure the contact total reported does not include duplicates. -- Thanks to Bruce Horn, WA7BNM

  • Pacificon 2020 has been canceled. Held each October, the event is sponsored by the Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club and hosts the ARRL Pacific Division Convention. "The Pacificon Committee has been hard at work planning Pacificon 2020 each and every day, but COVID-19 really has made the event untenable," Pacificon Treasurer Jim Siemons, W6LK, said. "We are looking at options to provide some content for the amateur radio community via web or virtual seminars."

  • The sixth Software Defined Radio Academy will convene this year as a YouTube video stream, June 27 - 28. The program is posted. SDR Academy is usually held in conjunction with HAM RADIO in Friedrichshafen, Germany. -- Thanks to Markus Heller, DL8RDS

  • The 2020 Hurricanes page is now available on the ARRL website.

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo Set for August

QSO Today podcast host Eric Guth, 4Z1UG/WA6IGR, has announced that the first QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo will take place Saturday and Sunday, August 8 - 9. Attendance is free to all, registration is open, and there are early bird prizes for registering now. Built on a live, virtual reality platform used by Fortune 500 companies and major universities, the ARRL-sanctioned hamfest will feature a lineup of well-known speakers. Guth and his team, including George Zafiropoulos, KJ6VU, have assembled more than 50 of the best ham radio mentors in multiple tracks to address this conference from the virtual Expo's auditorium.

Presenters will include Ward Silver, N0AX, on grounding and bonding; Glenn Johnson, W0GJ, on DXpeditions, and John Portune, W6NBC, on building slot antennas for antenna-restricted locations. Demonstrations of new amateur radio gear will be presented, and attendees can speak with exhibitors via video/audio or chat, as well as interact with others online.

"This platform simulates a full convention experience, with an exhibit hall and exhibit booths staffed by live attendants, speaker auditorium, lobby, and lounges," the announcement said. Guth, an ARRL member, decided to go forward with the virtual event after many in-person ham radio conventions were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARRL will be among the exhibitors filling the virtual exhibit hall.

Attendees will be able to share ideas and network with each other via the virtual platform. Following the 48-hour live event, audio/video from presentations and resources published by exhibitors will remain available to registrants on demand for 30 days.

Dayton Hamvention® Announces New Chair, Assistant Chair for 2021 Show

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) has appointed Rick Allnutt, WS8G, as the General Chair for Dayton Hamvention® 2021, heading a team of some 750 volunteers. An ARRL Life Member and a ham since 1982, Allnutt, who served as Assistant General Chair with

2021 Dayton Hamvention General Chair Rick Allnutt, WS8G.

outgoing General Chair Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, has been a Hamvention volunteer for the past decade.

"Hamvention is very important in my experience of amateur radio," Allnutt said. "I am honored to serve as the General Chair of the Dayton Hamvention."

Tapped as Assistant General Chair is Jim Storms, AB8YK, a past president, vice president, and secretary of the SouthWest Ohio DX Association. He has been DARA's vice president and Hamvention advance registration chair for 3 years and is cofounder, director, and trip team leader of the Dave Kalter Memorial Youth DX Adventure.

The DARA Board expressed its gratitude to Gerbs for his service to Hamvention and DARA. The appointments are effective on July 1. Hamvention 2021 will take place May 21 - 23.

In Brief...

A radio amateur's call for help was relayed from across the Atlantic. When Richard Tashner, N2EO, of Massapequa, New York, suffered a medical emergency on May 18, his DMR portable was closer than his phone. His call for help was answered by Maxis Johnston, GM0MRJ, who put out a call for "anyone in the States." Kent County Amateur Radio Club member Ken Dix, KB2KBD, in Delaware heard the call on the local 146.91 MHz repeater, which was linked to the North American talk group. Dix called authorities in Tashner's vicinity, and help was dispatched. Dix said the dispatcher in New York was able to hear part of the call and was amazed at how an amateur radio communication had gone from New York to Scotland to Delaware and then back to New York. The dispatcher expressed surprise at how quickly the information had been relayed across the Atlantic. -- Thanks to the ARES E-Letter via Jerry Palmer, N3KRX

The digital modes suite WSJT-X version 2.2.2 has been released. The update is a bug-fix release. The primary change is to incorporate the new Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Prince Edward Island (PE) Section PE into the FT8/FT4/MSK144 contest mode for ARRL Field Day. Operators planning to be on the air for Field Day should upgrade to this version to enable accurate logging. Another change: the FT8 decoder has been sped up in "normal" and "fast" modes. This offers a decoding speed closer to that of version 2.1.2 without compromising the number of decodes. It is particularly targeted for slower, single-board computers, such as the Raspberry Pi Model 3 or similar. Also, the DX grid field now clears automatically whenever the DX call field is changed.

Registration is open for the 30th annual ARRL-TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC), which will be a virtual event later this year. The conference is set for Friday and Saturday, September 11 - 12, with activities starting at 1300 UTC and ending at 2130 UTC. Tentative plans call for having 26 half-hour time slots. "We will be encouraging talks from all around the world," said Steve Bible, N7HPR, of TAPR, who explained that times will be arranged to favor European attendees in their afternoon. Bible said participating speakers may submit a recorded presentation, if they wish. The plan is for a 20-minute talk followed by a question-and-answer session. An updated speaker schedule will be posted on the DCC web page.

The ARRL Foundation has awarded $3,000 to the Open Research Institute (ORI). The grant will be applied to Phase 1 of the Digital Multiplex Transponder research and development program. ORI is an IRS 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to open-source research and development in amateur radio. This grant will allow hardware prototypes for broadband microwave digital satellite payloads to proceed more rapidly. An independent IRS 501(c)(3) entity, the ARRL Foundation administers programs to support the amateur radio community, including scholarships for higher education, award grants for amateur radio projects, and special amateur radio program grants for The Victor C. Clark Youth Incentive Program and The Jesse A. Bieberman Meritorious Membership Program.

The Yasme Foundation has announced a supporting grant to establish Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) nodes in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The project will be carried out by youth members of Amateurs Radio Algeriens and the Association des Radio Amateurs Tunisiens radio clubs. Build-out of these nodes will increase RBN presence in Africa for both the amateur and scientific communities. The RBN is a network of global software-defined radio (SDR) receivers that monitors amateur radio bands and reports CW, RTTY, and FT8 signals to a central database. -- Thanks to the Yasme Foundation

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Note: Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

Find conventions and hamfests in your area

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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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