Register Account

Login Help

ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
December 21, 2023
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


ARRL's Year of the Volunteers Success

2023 has been a remarkable year for amateur radio. There were many noteworthy opportunities for hams to use their license privileges for the greater good. An annular solar eclipse saw radio amateurs engaging in projects of scientific research about our ionosphere, devastating firestorms gutted entire cities and saw Amateur Radio Emergency Service member-volunteers rise to activate, hurricanes threatened life and property, bicycle races spread across the desert necessitating robust communications provided by hams, and high school students led and executed contacts with the International Space Station. Many amateur radio operators stood to serve in ways that made headlines, and all of them were volunteers.

Still, tens of thousands of others did work that never made the pages of QST, didn't become the lead story on the local news, and didn't become fodder for online forums. Perhaps it was the ARRL VE who administered tests, welcoming the next generation of hams into the hobby, or the National Traffic System net manager who handled traffic from hams checking in. It could've even been the mentor who took the time to show a learner how to solder. These are the unsung heroes of the Amateur Radio Service -- these are the volunteers.

ARRL has nearly 60,000 volunteers within its membership, without whom it could not function. They are the lifeblood of this hobby. ARRL designated 2023 as the Year of the Volunteers to recognize their efforts, encourage new prospective volunteers to follow their lead, and call existing volunteers to reach one rung higher on the ladder of service. The Volunteers On the Air (VOTA) operating event has been popular among hams, with some operators making nearly 30,000 QSOs throughout the yearlong activation.

A young man from north Texas emerged as a leader.

Sam Lovett, KI5RSV, was awarded the 2023 Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Award. [ARRL, photo.]

Sam Lovett, KI5RSV, is just a teenager but has been awarded the 2023 Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Award for his success with developing interest in amateur radio among his peers. He leads a youth net and has been instrumental in building a strong ham culture in his Trail Life USA troop. A video interview with Sam will be featured in the February 2023 digital edition of QST.

Lyn Alfman, N8IMW, of Norwich, Ohio, was honored for her volunteer work in the public information space.

Lyn Alfman, N8IMW, on the right, is presented with the 2023 ARRL Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award by ARRL Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK.

She received the 2023 ARRL Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award. The proclamation issued by the ARRL Board of Directors says that Lyn "exemplifies the skills and depth of understanding [needed] to convey to media outlets the fascinating world of amateur radio."

ARRL's George Hart Distinguished Service Award honors the work member-volunteers put in to use their license privileges to serve others. Jo Ann Keith, KA5AZK, of Diana, Texas, is the 2023 recipient.

Jo Ann Keith, KA5AZK (in the center), is presented with the 2023 ARRL George Hart Distinguished Service Award by ARRL West Gulf Division Director John Robert Stratton, N5AUS (on the left), and Section Manager of the ARRL North Texas Section Steven Lott Smith, KG5VK (on the right.)

Jo Ann is the net manager of the 7290 Traffic Net, a public service traffic net that has been in operation since 1953. She has a long history of volunteer work, dating back to her youth when she served as a candy striper. Like tens of thousands of others, Jo Ann uses amateur radio in the spirit of service.

These are just a few stories that can be told from the Year of the Volunteers. There are so many other stories out there, and we encourage you to tell your own.

While the Volunteers on the Air event closes on December 31, 2023 at 2359 UTC, the spirit of this year will continue as long as there are hams standing to serve others through amateur radio.

From all of us at ARRL, thank you!

VOTA: Badges on the Air

Join all of ARRL's volunteers on December 31, 2023, from 0000 - 2359 UTC, for the last day of the yearlong Volunteers On the Air (VOTA) operating event for your final chance to get some VOTA points. Last week's Red Badges on the Air for VOTA was a hit, and ARRL wants to do one final push to cap off the year of operating that acknowledged and honored the service of volunteers to the amateur radio community.

There are no more W1AW/ portable operations scheduled for the year, but operators at ARRL Headquarters have the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station active on weekdays, so there is still a chance to earn 100 points per band-mode for contacting ham radio's most famous call sign. Plus, listen for W1AW during VOTA: Badges on the Air, as it will be active in the event. Remember to download your certificate after the event is over. The link to generate it can be found here.

The VOTA leaderboard is quite impressive. As of December 21, 2023, the top-20 scores were as follows:

ARRL Straight Key Night 2024

The moment VOTA: Badges on the Air ends, another popular event gets started:

ARRL Straight Key Night (SKN) is held on January 1, 2024, from 0000 UTC through 2359 UTC.

Many hams look forward to SKN as one of the highlights of their operating year.

ARRL Straight Key Night (SKN) is January 1, 2024, from 0000 UTC through 2359 UTC.

Operators participate using Morse code (CW). All you need is your favorite straight key or bug. Many participants dust off vintage radios and keys and put them back into service each year just for this event.

SKN is not a contest, so there's no need for quick exchanges. However, all hand keys, regardless of age, are welcome. The number of contacts you make is not important. The reward is meeting new friends as you get together on the air.

Send a list of stations contacted, SKN stories and photos, and your votes for Best Fist and Most Interesting QSO to by January 31, 2024.

More information is available at

YouTube Telethon to Raise Money for ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology

There's a fun way to raise money for the future of amateur radio. On Friday, December 22, 2023, starting at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, ARRL Education and Learning Manager Steve Goodgame, K5ATA, will be live on a YouTube telethon. The event, hosted by several popular ham radio YouTubers from the Ham Radio Tube channel, aims to raise money for the ARRL Teachers Institute (TI) on Wireless Technology. The TI is entirely donor-funded and has seen many successes recently. This year, 65 educators attended and 95% of them are now licensed hams; 20 of them got their license during the TI and 12 more upgraded their license class. Graduates of the program leave with equipment and instructional material to take into the classroom to incorporate amateur radio into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Click on the image below to watch a promotional video of the event. To support the TI directly, visit

Status of CQ Magazine

ARRL has heard from many members concerned about their print subscriptions to CQ magazine. CQ magazine is not an ARRL publication, however ARRL members enjoy the ability to pursue earning the CQ Worked All Zones (WAZ) and Worked All Prefixes (WPX) awards through Logbook of The World (LoTW).

CQ Editor Rich Moseson, W2VU, acknowledged the delays in delivering CQ magazine. He indicated that the November and December issues are delayed but plans are to get them out to the readership as soon as circumstances permit.

ARRL Holiday Schedule

ARRL Headquarters will be closed Monday, December 25, 2023, and Monday, January 1, 2024, in observance of Christmas and New Year's Day. There will be no W1AW bulletins or code practice those days. There will be no issue of The ARRL Letter on December 28, 2023, or ARRL Audio News on December 29, 2023.

Amateur Radio in the News

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

"Carbon radio club celebrates 75 years" / (Pennsylvania) December 18, 2023 -- The Carbon Amateur Radio Club is an ARRL Affiliated Club.

Share any amateur radio media hits you spot with us.

ARRL Podcasts

On the Air
Sponsored by

The December 2023 episode of the On the Air podcast ties into a feature in the November/December issue called "Bits and Baud," which discussed important elements of digital communication, namely the quantity of information a transmission delivers -- known as bit rate -- and the rate of speed at which the information is delivered, which is known as baud rate. In this podcast episode, we're joined by the article's author, former QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY, who explains more about the differences between bit rate and baud rate, as well as why hams are concerned with these measurements in the first place.

ARRL Audio News
Listen to ARRL Audio News, available every Friday. ARRL Audio News is a summary of the week's top news stories in the world of amateur radio and ARRL, along with interviews and other features.

The On the Air podcast and ARRL Audio News are available on blubrry, iTunes, and Apple Podcasts -- On the Air | ARRL Audio News.


The US Islands (USI) Awards Program is an amateur radio award program centered around chasing and activating river, lake, and ocean shore islands within the US and its territories and protectorates. USI is offering a special 30th Anniversary Award for hunters and activators from January 1 to December 31, 2024. As a club or as individuals, hunters can work toward confirming 30 different US islands during 2024. The award will be issued in five island increments. Activators can work toward activating or qualifying 30 different US islands, any combination of expeditions, or fixed locations. Activators and island expeditions can also work toward operating from 30 different US islands in any combination of activations or qualifications. A minimum of 15 QSOs must be made for a new island qualification and an island activation to be considered for the award. The award can be issued to a club call sign, multiple members under one call sign, or an individual. There are also bonuses for qualifying new islands. More information and a detailed list of rules are available on the USI website.

In Brief...

The Intrepid-DX Group has announced the winners of the Fourth Annual Youth "Dream Rig" Essay Contest. The first-place winner is Abigail Matsuyoshi, KK7CFJ; in second place is McKenzie Denton, KO4GLN, and the third-place winner is Cameron Frey, KD9VGV. The recipients' ages range from 11 to 19 years old. Thirty essays were received from young amateurs in Canada and the US, and the judges reported that each essay was unique in thought and very well written. Extra consideration was given to the essays with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The essays gave interesting perspectives on how to reach out and connect with today's youth, and those ideas will be shared in subsequent postings. The Intrepid-DX Group is a US-based nonprofit organization that promotes amateur radio activities around the world. The Youth "Dream Rig" Essay Contest is designed to gather the views and ideas of young people involved in amateur radio.

There is still time to make amateur radio holiday contacts. A few opportunities are listed below:

  • The CQ Santa Net is held every evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas on 3.916 MHz at 7:00 PM Central Time (check-in opens 30 minutes before).

  • The Valencia County Amateur Radio Association (VCARA) Christmas in Bethlehem special event station runs through December 23, 2023, from 1400Z - 0600Z on 10, 15, 20, and 40 meters using SSB, PSK31, and FT8. QSL cards are available by mail from VCARA, PO Box 268, Peralta, New Mexico 87042. For more information, contact VCARA via email at

  • The Scarborough Amateur Radio Club Special Christmas Day Net on December 25, 2023, will begin at 2:30 PM EST on the 146.940 VE3TOR repeater.

  • The Maritime Mobile Service Network is planning to have a Santa Net on December 24, 2023, from 12:00 - 10:00 PM EDT. The net will be on 20 meters at 14.300 MHz. Everyone is welcome to join, and children are cordially invited.

  • At approximately 21:00 UTC on December 24, 2023, Brian Justin Jr., WA1ZMS, of Forest, Virgina, will operate his experimental station WI2XLQ on 486 kHz AM for the Reginald Fessenden commemorative transmission. Transmissions will last for at least 24 hours. Another transmission will take place on December 31, starting at approximately 21:00 UTC and will run for 24 hours. All transmissions will only consist of the two Christmas songs claimed to have been played by Fessenden on his violin, during his historic broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1906,as well as a brief bible verse. WI2XLQ's voice ID and transmission description will be broadcast via a computer-generated voice. The story of Fessenden's alleged first voice transmissions, using an Alexanderson alternator on December 24 and December 31 in 1906, has never been proven to have taken place. "While doubt remains that such a transmission ever took place, Fessenden did perform some crude voice transmissions over a few miles distance in early December of that year near Washington, DC, as a demonstration for the US Navy," said Justin. Fessenden is credited for his early pioneering work of human speech using RF rather than the typical spark generated CW operations of the time. Long wire antennas with a simple, modern software-defined radio (SDR) are recommended to copy WI2XLQ. SWL reports can be sent via email to WA1ZMS@ARRL.Net and an email confirming the reports will follow. Audio samples of the reception are also welcomed at the same email address.

The 10-year amateur radio special event and countdown to the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto will continue on February 11 - 19, 2024 (UTC), and celebrate Clyde Tombaugh's discovery from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Members of the Northern Arizona DX Association will operate from Lowell Observatory and their home stations using the special event call sign W7P. The annual QSL cards, the event certificate, and more information about the event can be found at W7P 2030 (

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, of Seattle, Washington, reports for this week's ARRL Propagation Bulletin, ARLP051:

The solar disk image was taken on December 21, 2023. [Photo courtesy of NASA SDO/HMI]

The winter solstice (the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere) will occur at 0327 UTC on December 22, 2023. This also marks the start of the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Solar activity increased over the last reporting week of December 14 - 20 with 11 new sunspot groups emerging.

One new sunspot group appeared on December 15, four more on the following day, another on December 17, three more on December 18, and two more on December 19 - 20.

The average daily sunspot number rose from 110.3 to 137.4, and the solar flux rose from 129.8 to 162.7. The planetary A index increased from 5.6 to 18.4, and the middle latitude A index grew from 4.6 to 13.7.

The most active day was Sunday, December 17, when the planetary A index was 36, and Alaska's college A index was 88. reported the cause was from the strongest flare of the current solar cycle, an X2.8 class, and it caused a radio blackout.

You can watch a video of the brief flash at also reported that another flare is coming from sunspot group AR3529. Watch the movie they supplied at

Predicted solar flux is 190, 188, and 186 on December 21 - 23; 182, 180, 170, and 165 on December 24 - 27; 145 on December 28 - 30; 150 on December 31; 145, 140, and 138 on January 1 - 3, 2024; 136 on January 4 - 5; 140, 145, and 148 on January 6 - 8; 145 on January 9 - 12, and 150, 147, 145, and 140 on January 13 - 16.

Predicted planetary A index is 10, 5, 12, and 8 on December 21 - 24; 5 on December 25 - 29; 8 on December 30 - 31; 10 and 8 on January 1 - 2, 2024; 5 on January 3 - 7; 10 on January 8 - 9; 8 on January 10; 5 on January 11 - 13; 15 on January 14; 12 on January 15 - 16, and 8 on January 17 - 19.

Watch Dr. Tamitha Skov's, WX6SWW, new video from earlier this week at

Read about big solar flares at,, and

Read about a temporary radio-signal blackout at

Sunspot numbers for December 14 - 20, were 126, 130, 163, 129, 137, 144, and 133, with a mean of 137.4. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 155.1, 144.3, 149, 154.6, 161.4, 179.3, and 195.3, with a mean of 162.7. Estimated planetary A indices were 16, 12, 14, 36, 28, 12, and 11, with a mean of 18.4. The middle latitude A index was 13, 8, 10, 32, 16, 10, and 7, with a mean of 13.7.

Send your tips, questions, or comments to

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 the Propagation Page of Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA.

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

Share your reports and observations.

A weekly, full report is posted on ARRL News.

Just Ahead in Radiosport

Yearlong -- ARRL Volunteers On the Air (VOTA). State activations of W1AW Portable Operations have concluded, but the VOTA: Badges on the Air event runs December 31 0000 - 2359 UTC.

Listen for Volunteers On the Air.

Upcoming Contests:
  • December 21 - 22 -- Walk for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • December 21 -- NTC QSO Party (CW)

  • December 24 - 31 -- CW QRS Xmas Activity (CW)

  • December 26 -- Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest (phone)

  • December 26 -- DARC Christmas Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 27 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • December 27 -- Phone Weekly Test (phone)

  • December 30 -- RAC Winter Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 30 -- YOTA Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 30 - 31 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • December 31 -- Bogor Old and New Contest (phone)

Visit the ARRL Contest Calendar for more events and information.

Upcoming Section, State, and Division Conventions

Search the ARRL Hamfest and Convention Database to find events in your area.

Happy Holidays from The ARRL Letter Team
It is our privilege to prepare this newsletter and share with you the latest happenings in amateur radio each week. This is the final ARRL Letter for 2023. We will be back with the next issue on January 4, 2024. As we spend time with our families during the holidays, we hope you and yours are merry and bright. Thank you for your continued support and readership.

The ARRL Letter team:
John Ross, KD8IDJ, ARRL News Editor
Sierra Harrop, W5DX, ARRL Public Relations and Outreach Manager
Dana Kasowitz, KC1SEB, ARRL Managing Editor
Leanna Figlewski, KC1RMP, ARRL Editor
Amanda Fahy, ARRL Assistant Editor
Sam Shaner, ARRL Assistant Editor

Have News for ARRL?

Submissions for The ARRL Letter and ARRL News can be sent to -- John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, ARRL News Editor

ARRL -- Your One-Stop Resource for
Amateur Radio News and Information

  • Join ARRL or Renew Today! No other organization works harder to promote and protect amateur radio. Membership supports benefits, services, programs, and advocacy to help you get (and stay) active and on the air. Membership includes access to digital editions of all four ARRL magazines: QST, On the Air, QEX, and NCJ.

  • Listen to ARRL Audio News, available every Friday.

  • The ARRL Letter is available in an accessible format, posted weekly to the Blind-hams email group. The group is dedicated to discussions about amateur radio as it concerns blind hams, plus related topics including ham radio use of adaptive technology.

  • NCJ -- National Contest Journal. Published bimonthly, features articles by top contesters, letters, hints, statistics, scores, NA Sprint, and QSO parties.

Free of charge to ARRL members...

  • Subscribe to the ARES Letter (monthly public service and emergency communications news), the ARRL Contest Update (biweekly contest newsletter), Division and Section news alerts, and much more!



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.

Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be given to The ARRL Letter and The American Radio Relay League.

Back issues published since 2000 are available on this page. If you wish to subscribe via e-mail, simply log on to the ARRL Web site, click on Edit Your Profile at the top, then click on Edit Email Subscriptions. Check the box next to The ARRL email newsletter, the ARRL Letter and you will receive each weekly issue in HTML format. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Delivery problems (ARRL member direct delivery only!):

Editorial questions or comments: John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, at


The ARRL E-Letter e-mail is also available in plain-text version:

Outlook Express

1. From the Inbox view, select the Tools menu and the Options selection.

2. Click the Read tab

3. Check the Read All Messages In Plain Text box.  When you open the e-mail, it will be in plain text without images. Other e-mail programs may be able to make a Mail Rule for e-mail received from the address so that the plain-text-only display is selected automatically.

Outlook 2007

Use the same procedure as for Outlook Express, although the global option is under "Tools/Trust Center/E-mail Security".


Use the menu item "View/Message Body As/Plain Text" or "View/Message Source" options.

OS X Mail (Mac)

Use the "View/Message/Plain Text Alternative" menu item.


Use the "Message text garbled?" link in the drop-down menu at the upper right of the displayed message block. pine, alpine Set "prefer-plain-text" in your ~/.pinerc configuration file: feature-list=..., prefer-plain-text, ...


Instragram     Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     LinkedIn