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NTS Letter

The NTS Letter
February 6, 2024


From the Editor

Thanks to all who have subscribed to The NTS Letter, and those who have promoted the newsletter throughout other groups. We have received very positive responses. For example, Michael Ford, WZ0C, who operates the APRS-NTS Gateway, reports that The NTS Letter had been circulated via the Packet BBS Circuit.

Currently we have over 1,500 subscribers. Unfortunately, there was a slight problem in the distribution process and not everyone who opted in to receive the newsletter was receiving it. We believe this problem has been solved. If anyone continues to experience problems, please let us know.

Update on NTS 2.0 -- One Year Later

We promised to keep the traffic handling community updated on the progress of the NTS 2.0 subcommittee, which currently oversees the efforts of several teams or "working groups" of traffic handlers. It has been one year since the working groups began meeting weekly. The groups have focused on:

  • Digital Networks
  • Emergency Communications and Agency Engagement
  • Recruitment and Training
  • Updated Access and Delivery
  • Performance Standards and Activity Reporting

In addition, several of the working groups are beginning to focus on recruiting new traffic handlers through outreach and mentoring of new and inactive licensees. A few of the accomplishments include:

  • NTS 2.0 website -- A new website,, has been created as a source for documentation, training, tools, and information that have been created as part of the NTS 2.0 effort.
  • The NTS Letter -- in collaboration with ARRL HQ, we have created a monthly e-newsletter, The NTS Letter, which features progress on the NTS 2.0 project and spotlights people and activities that represent the great work being done by traffic handlers across the US.
  • ARRL Net Directory 2.0 -- A specification document for a new, more maintainable net directory tool has been created, was reviewed with the ARRL HQ team, and is in the process of being implemented. This tool, when complete, will serve as a source of information about nets of all types, including traffic nets.
  • Web-based tool to enable public origination of traffic -- A web-based tool, the NTS 2.0 Radiogram Portal, has been created to enable members of the public and amateur radio operators who are not traffic handlers to originate traffic to be handled by NTS.
  • Plan to update and modernize recognition for traffic handlers -- A specification that seeks to update and decentralize recognitions for work done by traffic handlers has been created and is in the process of being reviewed and revised by ARRL HQ. Consistent with other recognition programs, the approach proposed relies on members of the ARRL Field Organization to administer the updated recognition vehicles.
  • Tools and procedures to originate traffic via the APRS system -- An NTS gateway for originating traffic has been created and deployed. Documentation and video training have also been created for this tool.
  • Article about NTS in QST magazine - The article, "The National Traffic System - A History and ARRL's Path Forward," appeared in the July 2023 issue, and won the QST Cover Plaque Award for that issue, due to receiving the highest number of ARRL member votes.
  • Articles in On the Air magazine - The July/August 2023 issue featured "Talking About Traffic," and "ARRL Section Traffic Volunteering."

There are many other activities in progress as well. The ongoing work is focused on areas such as improving ties between NTS operators and other amateur radio emergency services, expanding and modernizing digital traffic handling, tools to enable nationwide traffic system tests and performance assessments, and updated and modernizing training and documentation. The NTS 2.0 team is looking forward to another productive year in 2024.

Treasure Hunt -- Let the Hunt Begin!

It's time to begin the NTS Treasure Hunt, as described in the December 2023 issue of The NTS Letter <>. This is a fun, on-air, multi-step competition in which you will respond to a "judge" with your answer to an initial clue or question via radiogram. The judge will reply via radiogram with the identity of the next judge, along with the next question or clue in the hunt.

Are you ready? Here's your first question:

Where and when was Hiram Percy Maxim born?

Send your answer via NTS radiogram to Ray Webb, KB8GUN, Laurelville, OH 43135.

The text of the radiogram should consist of the words "TREASURE HUNT ROUND 1," followed by HPM's place and date of birth. Be sure to form the NTS message properly, with the message number, the station of origin, and the correct check.

You will receive a confirmation radiogram back with the next clue or question and addressee; or a message explaining that your answer is incorrect and to please try again.

Good luck!

"Radiogrammers" Needed for Web-based Radiogram Portal

Here is a great opportunity to create third-party radiograms, add message traffic to our traffic nets, and introduce NTS message handling capabilities to other amateurs and the public! Last month we reported on a new web-based radiogram portal that introduces radiograms to the public and provides an easy way for the public to submit messages that can be originated as formal traffic. As creator Jonathan Taylor, K1RFD, reported, "This portal has two goals...First, to explain what amateur radio messaging is all about, to an audience that might not be familiar with Radiograms -- or for that matter, amateur radio in general. And second, to provide a quick and easy way to boost the volume of true third-party traffic into NTS." This portal has been tested and is about to go live. However, we are now in need of traffic handlers to volunteer to check this portal on a regular basis, similar to checking into a traffic net or DTN hub. The January 2024 issue of The NTS Letter explained how this portal works, and the NTS 2.0 folks are preparing a training document. If you would like to be able to generate more traffic while performing a public service, send an email to You will be given further instructions.

Traffic Tips: Best Practices

We all need reminders from time to time about best practices in message handling. A couple of topics have recently been brought to my attention.

Servicing undeliverable radiograms. We all know that a message that cannot be delivered requires a service message regarding the status of that message, but to whom and where do we send it?

It is important first to distinguish between a message Originator and a Station of Origin, and second, to understand what location goes into the Place of Origin field in the header. For example, John wishes to send a message via amateur radio. If John is a licensed ham and familiar with radiogram format, he formats that message into a radiogram with his call sign and location in the header. However, if Bill, who is not a ham or is a ham not familiar with how NTS works, asks John to send a message for him, John formats that message, adding an appropriate header with his own call sign as the Station of Origin, even though the message is really from Bill, whose signature will be at the end of the message. Therefore, it is Bill's location that should appear as the Place of Origin.

Bill, however, does not know anything about radiogram format. If you, the delivering station, send a service message to him, it will likely be confusing. It is more appropriate to send that service message to John, and he can notify Bill of the message status.

Remember, however, that the Place of Origin in the header is not John's location, it is Bill's location. Because John is a licensed amateur operator, his call sign and address will be listed in an online database such as, and there you will find where to send that service message.

Note that we have been talking about "service messages" and not "replies." If the message recipient wants to send a reply (ie. "thanks for the greeting") to Bill, it would, of course, be sent directly to Bill.

Delivering radiograms containing ARRL numbered message texts. This is something most of us understand, but some new to traffic handling may not. Imagine being Patsy Public and receiving a phone call (or email) from a ham radio operator who reads, "ARL FIFTY ARL FORTY SIX." You might hang up the phone or delete the email, thinking this is some kind of scam.

If you're going to deliver one of these ARRL numbered radiograms, please keep in mind that most licensed amateurs don't know anything about them, and won't have a clue as to what you are talking about. Before trying to deliver such a radiogram, look up on the ARRL website and be prepared to "translate" that number into a complete phrase that the recipient will understand.

Notes on Training

As a Section Traffic Manager, I can say it is important and helpful to have the support of one's Section Manager, so I wanted to share these comments from Western Massachusetts Section Manager Ray Lajoie, AA1SE. Ray is also a member of the NTS 2.0 Steering Committee and facilitates the Recruitment and Training working group:

Your net is a valuable resource for new hams who are interested in emergency communication and traffic handling. Providing education and training during a net is a great resource for newer traffic handlers. There are many opportunities for instruction, and the few extra minutes can lead to new traffic handlers, net control stations, and even ORS appointments.

If your net already provides education before, during, or after the net, congratulations! Keep at it. For those that are experiencing declining participation, consider adding instruction to your format. It could be as simple as asking if anyone has any questions about NTS.

Sure, there is lots of material on the web, but that doesn't replace the hands-on experience that an actual net can provide. Here are some suggestions:

· Spend a few minutes in a Q&A session. Offer to send a training message and explain message structure

· Write a short tutorial on sending and radiogram traffic and how a message is relayed across the country

· Conduct small discussions after the net to discuss topics in greater detail

· Give a presentation at your local radio club meeting. Don't forget to provide times and frequencies of nets that they can listen and check in to.

The possibilities are endless. Stick with it. There will be dry spells. Don't let it discourage you from trying.

Over time you may find a greater level of participation on your net. You might even find more willing volunteers to take net control and liaison assignments.

If your group has interesting stories and examples about how you train future traffic handlers, we would love to hear from you.

Spotlight -- "Bud" Hippisley, W2RU

Bud Hippisley, W2RU, was about to enter 10th grade and had been General-class licensee K2KIR for a few months when he was introduced to traffic handling.

Bud, W2RU, with the matrix and hex nut combination he popularized for net controlling EAN. [Linda Hippisley, KA2WIN, photo]

During a ragchew on 40-meter CW one summer afternoon, he was asked to receive and deliver a radiogram addressed to someone in his upstate NY community. Bud did so, and the "bug" bit. From his local radio club mentor, he learned of both the New York State CW Net (NYS) and the Empire Slow Speed Net (ESS). After a trip to the local radio and television repair store to buy the necessary crystals, Bud became a regular member of both nets and within a year or so was named manager of ESS -- a post he held until heading off to college.

Soon Bud was an enthusiastic proponent of ARRL's nascent National Traffic System, with new assignments taking him to the Second Region Net (2RN) and Eastern Area Net (EAN). Later, he added Transcontinental Corps (TCC) skeds to the mix and earned a public service award for relaying emergency traffic between Alaska and Washington State following the Great Alaskan Earthquake of March 27, 1964, when poor HF propagation often made direct contact between those two regions impossible.

In high school and college, Bud occasionally served as a backup EAN net control station (NCS). On January 2, 1963, he became the regular Wednesday evening NCS, a position he held until the beginning of 2017, some 54 years later! Bud notes that for the first 12 years and 2 months he did not miss a single Wednesday evening assignment despite a variety of obstacles, both laughable and serious, along the way. And in 1964, he became manager of EAN, a position he also held until the beginning of 2017 -- a 53-year tenure.

Looking back over the decades, Bud can boast many contributions to NTS: Early on, he successfully lobbied ARRL HQ for expansion of the System from five evenings a week to seven. In the 1960s and '70s he convinced organizers of ARRL Division and national conventions to include programs about NTS structure, traffic handling, and net controlling techniques. While chair of the Eastern Area Staff (EAS), he was instrumental in bringing an independent confederacy of daytime traffic nets into the NTS fold, and he was the originator of the scalable four-cycle System schedule that integrates and connects daytime and evening nets and TCC functions and provides expansion modes when traffic overloads so dictate. In the '80s, during a second "tour" as EAS chair, he arranged a meeting between early proponents of digital HF message handling and the Staff to demonstrate concepts and explore paths forward.

In 2010 Bud was honored to receive the George Hart Distinguished Service Award "for at least 15 years of distinguished and exemplary service to the League's field organization," primarily as a result of his work with NTS. As Roanoke Division Director between 2019 and 2021 he co-authored the Board motion that created its new Emergency Communications & Field Services Committee.

Bud recently collaborated with Phil Sager, WB4FDT, to compile a history of amateur traffic handling, with Bud detailing the origins of NTS based on post-World War II correspondence between ARRL HQ and leading traffic handlers. This article will soon be available at the NTS 2.0 web page,

Currently, Bud holds a weekly assignment as NCS and 4RN rep for Virginia's CW Section Net (VN). He is a member of the NTS 2.0 Steering Committee and coordinator for the project's EmComm team. He and his wife Linda, KA2WIN, live in south central Virginia, where both are active in community service organizations. These days, the two of them number among their closest friends some of Bud's fellow NTSers from way back when, including Daniel Clark, N2DC (ex-W2ZRC), now 90, who was 2RN Manager and NCS the first time Bud checked in!

NTS Resources

The National Traffic System® (NTS) is a network of amateur radio operators who move information during disasters and other emergencies. General messages offering well wishes also move through the NTS to help test the system and to help amateur radio operators build traffic handling skills. While the NTS is primarily set up to serve the United States and Canada, it is possible to move traffic internationally through the NTS through various local, regional, area, and international network connections.

Sign up to Receive The NTS Letter

The NTS Letter is published monthly and is free of charge to ARRL members. Subscribe:

Editor: Marcia Forde, KW1U, Section Traffic Manager -- Eastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

ARRL Director of Emergency Management: Josh Johnston, KE5MHV

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NTS is a program of ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio®. No other organization works harder than ARRL to promote and protect amateur radio! ARRL members enjoy many benefits and services including digital magazines, e-newsletters, online learning (, and technical support. Membership also supports programs for radio clubs, on-air contests, Logbook of The World®, ARRL Field Day, and the all-volunteer ARRL Field Organization.



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