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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
July 22, 2021
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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Board Creates Emergency Communications and Field Services Committee

At its just-concluded July 2021 meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors approved By-Law changes creating a third Standing Committee that joins the existing Administration and Finance Committee and Programs and Services Committee. The charter of the new Emergency Communications and Field Services Committee (EC-FSC) is to develop and recommend new or modified Board policy and programs for emergency communications through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System™ (NTS™) entities.

The committee also will offer enhanced support for its Field Organization leadership volunteers, including Section Managers, and an increased focus on ARRL-Affiliated Clubs.

Further, the EC-FSC will provide guidance to the CEO in translating Board policy into prioritized tasking, funding, and staffing of programs, services, and training in support of amateur radio emergency communications, Field Organization volunteers, and recruitment and retention of new and existing members through assistance to Affiliated and Special Service Clubs.

The EC-FSC will have the additional responsibility of monitoring and assessing trends in emergency communications technology and participant skills worldwide, and for identifying "best practices" for voluntary emergency communications provided by ARES and NTS, coordinating and cooperating with other amateur radio national societies as appropriate. -- Thanks to The ARES Letter

Amateur Radio Responds to Flooding in Western Europe

International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 Emergency Communications Coordinator Greg Mossop, G0DUB, reported over the weekend that amateur radio volunteers have responded in the wake of widespread flooding in Germany, Belgium, and the

A man in Germany photographs the flooding with his cell phone. [Klaus Baerwinkel photo]

Netherlands. The flooding, resulting from unprecedented heavy rainfall, has claimed more than 120 lives. Hundreds more remain unaccounted for.

The Dutch Amateur Radio Emergency Service (DARES) was on standby since July 14, as the first reports of flooding came in. An initial attempt to establish a point-to-point link from the provincial capital of Maastricht to the north of Limburg province was halted due to heavy traffic, as residents evacuated low-lying areas. DARES volunteers were in contact with members of the Belgian Emergency Amateur Radio Service (B-EARS) to coordinate their efforts.

The European Civil Protection Mechanism was activated, and emergency groups across the region reported that their governments were sending extra assistance and supplies to the areas where damage was worst. The floodwater surge continued to make its way north, leading to further evacuations, and amateur radio emergency groups focused on requests for assistance. B-EARS was asked to provide a backup VHF link between the emergency call center in Brussels and the province of Hainaut, while DARES had four stations active in the Limburg area ready to respond if needed.

Marc Lerchs, ON3IBZ, Information Director of the Walloon Brabant Crisis Centre, told Crisis Response Journal that the police building in Wavre, including its TETRA antenna and computers, was left

High water in Kordel, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. [CHZ photo]

completely underwater. Some 30 ham radio volunteers deployed in the region to support communication for fire and ambulance stations, hospitals and emergency medical vehicles, the main command post in Wavre, and 112 ("911") dispatch in Mons.

The greatest loss of life and damage has occurred in Germany, where more than 1,000 residents remain unaccounted for. The loss of mobile telecommunication networks has slowed the effort to locate people, while many others are without power or homes. The emergency communications unit of the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC) has been handling inquiries for amateur radio support in the worst-hit areas, but members in the area have been flood victims as well, losing equipment or their homes.

"Amateur radio clubs have been in contact with relevant authorities, but there is currently no need for operational support from radio amateurs," the DARC reported. A mutual aid arrangement exists among amateur radio organizations in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Mossop said emergency communications groups in the affected and surrounding regions are ready to respond to requests and have been coordinating their efforts as needed.

"This emergency will last for some time as infrastructure is repaired and the threat from damaged dams and more rainfall is reduced," Mossop said.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 19) features a discussion with ARRL Lifelong Learning Manager Kris Bickell, K1BIC, about the launch of the new ARRL Learning Center later this month.

The latest edition of Eclectic Tech (Episode 38) features a discussion with Dr. Brian Callahan, AD2BA, about his work in sending binary data via Morse code. The episode also includes a brief discussion of the pros and cons of leaving your station computer powered up for prolonged periods.

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.

ARRL 2020 Annual Report Now Available to Download

The ARRL 2020 Annual Report has been posted and is available to download. The report summarizes ARRL program and fiscal activity for the year.

In his introductory remarks, ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said that 2020 was a difficult and challenging year for ARRL. "The coronavirus pandemic changed everything, from the way we socialized, to the way we worked, to the way students learned," Roderick wrote. "Events we look forward to every year were canceled and the future seemed uncertain. Hamfests, club meetings, and other gatherings looked different, as videoconferencing became the new way to conduct business and get together."

Roderick said ARRL remained determined to overcome any obstacles in order to serve its members. "Due to the pandemic and state-imposed work restrictions, ARRL Headquarters closed and employees suddenly had to adjust to working remotely," he recounted. "ARRL staff banded together and kept things running for our members. I'm proud of our staff for how quickly they adapted and worked together as a team. They made the shift to working from home as seamless as possible, and they continued to develop new products and services." He went on to explain that these new services "included things like the ARRL Learning Network webinars, allowing members to expand their radio knowledge from home through video seminars from industry experts, and the At Home virtual events held by the Marketing department, providing ARRL staff with an opportunity to engage with members and give video tours of W1AW through a new online platform. They did a remarkable job!"

ARRL CEO David Minster, NA2AA, who came aboard in 2020, said he feels ARRL's new ideation process is proving successful. "Stemming from an authentic interest and need to become more inclusive as a community, especially to newly licensed hams, our members have great ideas about how ARRL could be doing things better," Minster said. "To expand upon that culture of collaboration, we now have a web page and email address where members can send their thoughts and well-formatted ideas about changes to ARRL programs and services to the management team for consideration. This process has enjoyed early success, and we look forward to much greater interaction with members in the future."

Two major initiatives came to fruition -- in January with the introduction of On the Air magazine, and in February with the inauguration of the ARRL Volunteer Monitor Program. 2020 marked the first time when both QEX and NCJ were available digitally.

The 56-page Annual Report recounts and summarizes the activities of all ARRL departments and includes a complete 2020 fiscal report. ARRL ended 2020 with 158,494 members, which was ahead of its goal for the year.

FCC Investigating Alleged Jamming on 40 Meters

Reports suggest that jamming stations have been deployed on the lower portion of 40 meters. The jamming appears to be coming from Cuba. The signals, spaced at regular intervals, exhibit a squishy, popping noise. The apparent jamming showed up after anti-government protesters took to the streets in Cuba, followed by a government crackdown. So far, there's no proven connection between the jamming and the protests, as evidence has been circumstantial. DX spots suggest that Cuban hams are on the air on SSB but do appear rare on 40 meters. A lot of Cuban spots point to FT8 activity. The jamming issue has drawn the attention of the FCC, which is looking into the matter, according to one tech publication.

"Too many people around the world are fighting uphill battles to be able to use technology to expand economic opportunity, express themselves, and organize without fear of reprisal," an FCC spokesperson told Motherboard. "The FCC is committed to supporting the free flow of information and ensuring that the internet remains open for everyone. We are assessing these reports in conjunction with our field agents and communicating with the Department of State as this issue develops."

Josh Nass, KI6NAZ, of the YouTube channel, Ham Radio Crash Course (HRCC), is calling the interference "The Cuban Rum Runner," an oblique reference to the "Russian Woodpecker" of yesteryear.

Outside of ham radio, the ability to connect with some social media sites and even with the internet inside Cuba has been reportedly tricky. Connecting to the Federación de Radioaficionados de Cuba (FRC) website (Cuba's IARU member-society) from outside of Cuba has been unreliable. This week, users attempting to do so -- at least those in the US -- got a shrugging cartoon character and the legend, "Acceso Denagado" -- access denied. The FRC Facebook page is accessible, but links to the FRC website are blocked. FRC had warned of "possible outages" more than a week ago, attributing the problem to maintenance being done in the data center where FRC is housed.

Well-known amateur radio contester and DXer Fred Laun, K3ZO, pointed out in a July 17 post to the Potomac Valley Radio Club reflector that typical ham radio contacts with Cuba "are not normally about politics, though I suppose in the wake of recent events they may have become so."

International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 2 (the Americas) President Ramón Santoyo, XE1KK, said no complaints had been received by July 20.

ARRL Learning Network Webinars

Visit the ARRL Learning Network (a members-only benefit) to register, check on upcoming webinars, and to view previously recorded sessions.

Learning with High-Altitude Balloons -- Jack McElroy, KM4ZIA, and Audrey McElroy, KM4BUN / Thursday, July 22, 2021 @ 3:30 PM EDT (1930 UTC)

Jack McElroy, KM4ZIA, and Audrey McElroy, KM4BUN, discuss their experiences with high-altitude balloons and explain how others can launch them successfully. The discussion will also focus on using high-altitude balloons to engage youth in ham radio and create learning experiences for students.

Introduction to DMR and Digital Voice -- Tim Deagan, K8UJ / Thursday, September 9, 2021 @ 3:30 PM EDT (1930 UTC)

An introductory overview of digital voice (DV) technologies for ham radio. This presentation will focus on DMR with notes on System Fusion, D-STAR, and more. There will be a description of DV architecture and components, and the interesting opportunities, as well as challenges, that DV presents.

ARRL members may register for upcoming presentations and view previously recorded Learning Network webinars. ARRL-affiliated radio clubs may also use the recordings as presentations for club meetings, mentoring new and current hams, and discussing amateur radio topics.

The ARRL Learning Network schedule is subject to change.

ARRL Announces Leadership Changes in the Central Division

ARRL Central Division Director Kermit Carlson, W9XA, has stepped down as Central Division Director, making the announcement at the July 2021 Board of Directors meeting this past weekend. Vice Director Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, has acceded to the Director's chair, and

Brent Walls, N9BA, during a visit to W1AW.

ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, has appointed Brent Walls, N9BA, to succeed Luetzelschwab as the Central Division Vice Director.

An ARRL Life Member, Walls served as Indiana Section Manager from 2016 until 2018. Active in ARES, he is a former ARRL Indiana Section Emergency Coordinator and also served as Marion County, Indiana, Emergency Coordinator. He is an ARRL VEC Volunteer Examiner.

Carlson served both as Vice Director and then Director of the Central Division for a total of 12 years. He said his resignation stemmed from "an intractable conflict" between Board and family obligations that would impinge upon his travel on behalf of ARRL. "It would be impossible to maintain the level of in-person engagement with the Members that I believe is essential," Carlson said.

Carlson said his "most challenging and rewarding experiences" include 11 years as Chair of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Committee (EMC) and his recently concluded term as the chair of the ARRL CEO Search Committee. He will continue to chair the EMC.

Massachusetts Court Okays Amateur Radio Tower, Citing Board of Appeals' Error

A judge in the Massachusetts Land Court has ruled that the Zoning Board of Appeals in the City of Framingham "erred" in revoking a building permit for an 80-foot ham radio tower as an accessory use. The Building Commissioner in Framingham had granted ARRL member Mikhail "Misha" Filippov, KD1MF, a building permit for the tower, and Filippov had begun pouring concrete for the tower footings. Neighbors complained, however, and the Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the permit, citing the setback requirements of the city's wireless communications facilities (WCF) special permit bylaw. Land Court Judge Howard Speicher reversed the Zoning Board of Appeals' decision and ordered the town building commissioner to reinstate the permit.

"The City of Framingham has provided, for the benefit of amateur radio operators, exemptions from its zoning requirements from the construction of radio antenna towers for amateur radio operators," the court noted. This case was not settled on the basis of PRB-1 considerations, but strictly on which setback requirements should apply. PRB-1 requires local governments to reasonably accommodate amateur radio installations.

The Zoning Board of Appeals had argued that Filippov's project plans failed to meet setback zoning requirements, but the Land Court determined that the board could not enforce this, because of an exception that exempts structures, including amateur radio towers, from these requirements as long as a building permit is issued.

The court ruled the Zoning Board of Appeals "erred in overturning the decision of the Building Commissioner to issue a building permit for the erection of the proposed radio antenna tower." Read an expanded version.

Amateur Radio in the News

ARRL Public Information Officers, Coordinators, and many other member-volunteers help keep amateur radio and ARRL in the news.

Share any amateur radio media hits you spot with us.

  • The Yasme Foundation Board of Directors has announced an additional grant to the Maranyundo Girls School in Rwanda and its Makerspace program. This grant provides access to material from ARRL's Teachers Institute and funds to purchase material and supplies for classroom experiments. In June, the Yasme Foundation supplied the school with amateur radio-related books for classroom use.

  • The third annual World Wide Digi DX Contest is set for August 28 - 29. See the website for details. -- Thanks to Ed Muns, W0YK

  • The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) Board of Directors has announced the appointments of Scott Williams, VK3KJ, as WIA's new President, and Lee Moyle, VK3GK, continuing as Vice President. The Board thanked outgoing President Greg Kelly, VK2GPK, for his commitment and contributions to the WIA; he will continue to serve as a WIA board member.

  • A group of US radio amateurs has fielded special event operation W4C "to raise awareness about the current humanitarian crisis affecting the island of Cuba. Instead of taking to the streets, we realized that our efforts will be more efficiently utilized by getting on the air and making a special event out of it." W4C will be on the air until the end of July.

  • The World Wide Radio Operators Foundation (WWROF) has amended the Cabrillo file standard to include a new "YOUTH" CATEGORY-OVERLAY, at the request of several contest sponsors who want to encourage and recognize youth participation. The Cabrillo v3 header specification has been updated to reflect this change. Details are on the WWROF website.

  • After months of negotiations with the new Coral Island Management Authority, the HARAOA VK9HR DXpedition to Willis Island planned for this November has been canceled, says Ed Durrant, VK2JI, Publicity Officer. The problem was a combination of new rules banning the installation of any structures on the islands by the new authority and the fact that COVID-19 has now spread to four Australian states.

In Brief...

AMSAT-NA has issued its first call for papers for the 39th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium. The event is set for October 29 - 31, 2021, at the Crowne Plaza AiRE hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. Proposals for symposium presentations are invited on any topic of interest to the amateur satellite community. A tentative presentation title is requested, with final copy submitted by October 18 for inclusion in the symposium Proceedings. Send abstracts and papers to Dan Schultz, N8FGV.

Over-the-horizon radars are operating with impunity in ham radio allocations. In its June newsletter, the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 Monitoring System (IARUMS) said over-the-horizon radars (OTHRs) have not yielded their dominance as ham band intruders. "The number of observations varies slightly but is always within a similar range," the newsletter said. "The same is true for other radio systems (such as CIS-12, etc). With summer propagation (including sporadic E), numerous driftnet radio buoys and other fishing gear were again being heard on 10 meters, illegally serving to mark fishing nets at sea, the newsletter said. These typically operate in the 28.000 - 28.450 MHz segment. Transmissions are short but frequent throughout the day. These often identify in CW, transmitting from one to three letters, although buoys with a constant carrier are also observed. GPS buoys transmit short bursts in FSK (F1B) with their positions scrambled. Monitors regularly encounter "pirates" operating without any identifier.

Many stations will take to the airwaves August 2 - 15 to celebrate the 4th anniversary of FT8. All stations will use call signs with "FTDMC" or "FTDM" in the suffix. The activity also celebrates the 2nd anniversary of the FT8 Digital Mode Club. Logs will be uploaded to LoTW and eQSL. QSL cards will be available. Stations planning to participate include: 4J8FTDM, OZ8FTDMC, RO3FTDM, 9K8FTDMC, A60FTDMC, DQ8FTDMC, GB0DMC, HZ8FTDMC, and many others. A certificate will be available with bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels for working them. -- Thanks to The Daily DX

AO-109 (RadFxSat-2/AMSAT Fox-1E) is now open for amateur use. AMSAT's Engineering and Operations Teams advise operators to use efficient modes for making contacts, such as CW or FT4, because issues with the satellite make SSB voice contacts "challenging at best." An article in the May/June 2021 issue (Vol. 44, No. 3) of The AMSAT Journal details the various attempts to characterize AO-109 and its apparent problems. -- Thanks to Jerry Buxton, NØJY, and Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA

DX Engineering has acquired Top Ten Devices. The new owner will manufacture and distribute three of Top Ten Devices' signature products under the Top Ten Devices brand -- the A/B Station Selector, the Op Swapper, and the Band Aide Band Decoder. Formed by Dave Hawes, N3RD, and George Cutsogeorge, W2VJN, in 1991, Top Ten Devices built a strong reputation for producing high-performance and affordable equipment for the amateur radio community. "DX Engineering is excited for the opportunity to carry on the legacy that the innovators at Top Ten Devices have built over the past 3 decades," said DX Engineering CEO Tim Duffy, K3LR.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: It is exciting to observe increasing sunspot activity. Recently, Solar Cycle 25 has produced new sunspots frequently, and I watch them pop up every day on New sunspots appeared on July 14, 16, 17, 19, and 20, and two new ones appeared on July 21.

Average daily sunspot numbers more than doubled from 21.3 last week to 48.9 during the July 15 - 21 reporting week. Average daily solar flux jumped from 72.9 to 81.3.

Geomagnetic numbers held steady, with both the middle latitude and planetary A index averages at 6.4.

Predicted solar flux is 94 and 92 on July 22 - 23; 90 on July 24 - August 1; 85 on August 2; 75 on August 3 - 12; 78, 80, and 80 on August 13 - 15; and 85 on August 16 - 21. Flux values may rise to 90 or more during the last week of August.

Predicted planetary A index is 8, 18, 16, and 8 on July 22 - 25; 5 on July 26 - 27; 8 on July 28; 5 on July 29 - August 1; ?? August 2; 5 on August 3 - 9; 12 and 10 on August 10 - 11; 5 on August 12 - 16; 8 on August 17 - 18, and 5 on August 19 - 28.

Sunspot numbers for July 15 - 21 were 22, 35, 53, 42, 45, 59, and 86, with a mean of 48.9. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 73.5, 75, 77.4, 80.4, 82.6, 87, and 93.5, with a mean of 81.3.. Estimated planetary A indices were 10, 4, 4, 4, 7, 10, and 6, with a mean of 6.4. Middle latitude A index was 12, 5, 4, 5, 4, 9, and 6, with a mean of 6.4.

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 this Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • July 24 - 25 -- RSGB IOTA Contest (CW, phone)

  • July 25 -- ARS Flight of the Bumblebees (CW)

  • July 26 -- RSGB FT4 Contest Series

  • July 28 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • July 31 - August 1 -- Russian WW MultiMode Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • July 31 - August 1 -- Missouri QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • August 1 -- SARL HF Phone Contest

  • August 2 -- K1USN Slow Speed Test (CW, maximum 20 WPM)

  • August 3 -- Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest

  • August 3 -- ARS Spartan Sprint (CW)

  • August 3 -- RTTYops Weeksprint

  • August 4 -- Phone Weekly Test - Fray

  • August 4 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • August 4 -- UHF FT8 Activity Contest

  • August 4 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • August 5 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • August 5 -- RTTYops Weeksprint

  • August 5 -- NRAU 10-Meter Activity Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • August 5 -- EACW Meeting (CW)

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Some conventions and hamfests may 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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