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The ARRL Letter Online

Volume 17, Number 12 (March 20, 1998)

The ARRL Letter Index
ARRL Audio News

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Some new rules go into effect this year for Field Day. The popular summertime operating event takes place each year on the fourth full weekend in June. This year, it will be June 27-28.

A major change this year is the elimination of bonus-point credit for packet and VHF/UHF contacts. Field Day stations no longer will be allowed to count contacts via digipeaters, packet nodes, or similar arrangements. Class 2A and higher Field Day stations still may operate a "free" transmitter exclusively for VHF or UHF operation (ie, above 50 MHz) without changing their basic entry classification, but not for bonus points. "It's better than bonus points, and groups are likely to spend more time on VHF and UHF because of that," predicted ARRL Membership Services Manager Chuck Hutchinson, K8CH. As in the past, crossband and repeater contacts other than via satellite do not count for Field Day credit.

Field Day stations now can earn point credit for digital (ie, non-CW) contacts on each band. The phone, CW, and non-CW digital segments are considered separate "bands" in the Field Day rules. This means, for example, that you now may work the same station for point credit on 40 meters three times: once on SSB, once on CW, and once on RTTY, packet, or one of the TOR modes. SSB contacts count one point, and CW and non-CW digital contacts count 2 points apiece, so adding non-CW digital capability presents a real opportunity to rack up substantial additional points! "We're expecting an interesting year because of the digital modes," Hutchinson said.

The complete, official Field Day rules will appear in the May edition of QST. Basic Field Day rules have remained unchanged for several years now. The new rules undoubtedly will generate a flurry of computerized contest logging program revisions as developers scramble to incorporate the changes into their software.


Hams called out in the wake of recent flooding in Georgia have shifted gears from assisting with emergency shelter communication to aiding long-term recovery efforts. Dougherty County EC Arthur Shipley, N4GPJ, in Albany, Georgia, reports that members of the ARES team in his area had been providing communication for a feeding center operated by Georgia's Baptist Relief and for cleanup crews, FEMA, and the Red Cross. "They are doing a great job," he said. "Our relationship with the local disaster officials have been extremely close-knit. They have asked us to provide advice and are extremely impressed and cooperative with the Amateur Radio efforts here."

Now, the hams' role has shifted from emergency response to long-term cleanup and care as many ARES members had to return to their jobs this week. Shipley reports some 500 houses were damaged in Dougherty County, and 200 in Lee County. "Teams are still assessing Miller County and others south of us," he reported on March 17. Approximately 11,000 residents were evacuated in Dougherty County alone.

Shipley said the flooding primarily came from Kinchafoonee and Muckalee creeks, which feed the Flint River. As of mid-week, more rain was expected. "We will be leaving our temporary stations set up until this weekend, just in case," he said.

Shipley estimated that as many as 50 hams were directly involved in emergency response, flood relief, damage assessment, and recovery efforts. He said hams will continue to support the Red Cross and other agencies, and he expects some use of HF or repeater linking to maintain communication with outlying areas not accessible via existing VHF or UHF systems.

The troublesome Flint River flows into Lake Seminole on the Florida border, and the Apalachicola River continues south into Florida's West Panhandle. ARES members in Northern Florida have been keeping a close eye on rising rivers and streams there and in supporting Red Cross shelters handling evacuees from flooded communities.--thanks to Arthur Shipley, N4GPJ, and Nils Millergren, WA4NDA


The full-court press is on in Virginia, where hams are urging Gov Jim Gilmore to sign into law a bill that limits local regulation of Amateur Radio antennas. In the face of fierce opposition from the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties, Senate Bill 480, "Placement of Amateur Radio Antennas," has passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. But that victory did not come without compromises.

For all areas of the state, the bill incorporates the essence of the limited federal pre-emption known as PRB-1 into the Commonwealth's statutes. It requires local ordinances involving the placement, screening, or height of antennas to impose the "minimum regulation necessary to accomplish the locality's legitimate purpose." The original bill would have prohibited all localities from restricting antenna height to less than 200 feet above ground level "unless an Amateur Radio antenna clearly represents an unreasonable risk to human health or life." The version ultimately approved by the General Assembly keeps the 200 feet regulatory minimum but contains provisions for a lower height restriction--75 feet--in more densely populated communities.

The new law would require "reasonable and customary engineering practices" be followed in erecting towers. Municipalities would still be able to set "reasonable requirements" on screening, setback, placement, and health and safety requirements.

The measure, Senate Bill 480 (SB 480) was introduced January 26 by State Sen John Edwards of Roanoke. At the time, many observers gave the bill little chance of success. Bill supporters say they had assurances that Gilmore would sign the original bill, but they're not taking any chances now that the bill has drawn fire from powerful lobby groups.

Virginia Section Emergency Coordinator Frank Mackey, K4EC, was elated at the outcome of the legislative effort. He has credited Bob Ham, KK4IY, of Vinton, "for initiating and spearheading this Herculean effort." Ham, the bill's aptly named and most prominent booster, has been using ham radio and the Internet to apprise the Old Dominion's amateur population of the bill's progress. Ham recently circulated the Governor's office telephone number (804-786-2211), fax number (804-371-6351) and address (State Capitol, Richmond, VA 23219) as part of an effort to keep up the pressure until Gilmore's signature is on the dotted line.

Ham personally wrote Gilmore this week to plead for his signature on the measure. "Never have I had to fight so hard to give something away," Ham told Gilmore. "That gift is the assurance of adequate and effective Amateur Radio communications for the citizens of this Commonwealth in times of disaster, emergency, and disruptive weather." Ham played upon Gilmore's designation of Virginia as "The Technology State" in encouraging support for what he called Virginia's "most precious and valuable technology, Amateur Radio."

Ham has said that the bill's language "provides Virginia with what is likely the strongest and most favorable state statute for amateur radio of any state in the United States," and he thinks it could serve as a model for other states. "I won't rest until this bill is signed," he said this week.--Frank Mackey, K4EC; Bob Ham, KK4IY


NG9B congratulates 4-year-old hams

Volunteer Examiner John Bowman, NG9B, gives a congratulatory hug to hobby newcomers Samuel Lewis, KB9RYP (left), and Sarah Bruno, KB9SEG (right). Both youngsters are four years old. (Photo by Bill Peterson, N9LL)

At a time when older hams bemoan the dearth of youthful licensees in the hobby's ranks, along come Samuel Lewis, KB9RYP, and Sarah Bruno, KB9SEG, both Gary, Indiana, and both just four years old. Samuel, who turns five on June 1, just upgraded to Tech Plus; Sarah, who won't be five until September 8, got her Novice ticket February 25.

Both are members of families where both parents and all but the infant members are licensed amateurs. Sarah’s parents are the Rev Ronald Bruno Jr, KG9LY, and Pam Bruno, KB9RVX. Her siblings include Ronald III (15), KG9MH, Jeffrey (10), KB9RHO, and Joshua (5), KB9RER, who upgraded to General in December (he said the written test was hard). Their grandfather is the Rev Ronald Bruno Sr, KB9NWM, and their grandmother is Judith Bruno, KB9QZK.

Samuel's parents are the Rev Daryl Lewis, KB9RRG, and LaDonna Lewis, KB9RRK, plus siblings Gabriel (9), KB9REP--who just got his General ticket--and John (7), KB9RRF. Samuel studied several months for his ticket and said passing the code test to upgrade was difficult.

All of the youngsters attend the senior Rev Bruno's Grace and Truth Baptist Academy in Gary, where ham radio has been a regular part of the curriculum for about a year now. The school has a ham station on site and classes run 52 weeks a year. KB9NWM says it's not uncommon for kids approaching age 4 to be able to read pretty well. He says the two families and other members of the church community use ham radio to stay in touch and for potential use during an emergency.

The eldest Bruno says he started out with his Tech license a couple of years ago, but decided he'd like to try HF and began learning the code. While he says the youngsters in his school readily grasp Morse code, he concedes the code was "a killer" for him. He now has his Advanced ticket.

The younger Rev Bruno soon will depart for the Philippines as a missionary and plans to take ham radio along with him.--thanks to Bill Peterson, N9LL


A MIREX-sponsored test using the Automatic Packet/Positioning Reporting System (APRS) via the R0MIR digital repeater aboard Mir is being called a success. This despite the fact that it was called on very short notice and some of it ended up taking place in the wee hours of the morning. Even so, when the APRS packets finally were digipeated via R0MIR aboard Mir, the special Mir-APRS Internet page began plotting stations as the space station moved from west to east across the US.

The "father of APRS," Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, says the main idea was "to show possible methods for improving the visibility of MIREX communications to students and schools." As it turned out, the test began when most schoolchildren were not yet awake.

Initially, the Mir-APRS test was set to happen on two orbits on March 10, from 1455 UTC to 1651 UTC. As it turned out, the Mir packet system went off the air on these two orbits, so the test was extended to include the next few orbits over the US. A main reason for holding the test during orbits that covered the continental US was the large number of APRS ground stations that could be available to fully load the system. The delay meant the next orbits over the US occurred during the early morning hours. "As a result, the test was extended for a full five orbits to allow testers to choose a pass and still get some sleep," reports Bruninga, noting that the five passes--from 0819 UTC through 1614 UTC on March 11--covered 70% of the world's ham population.

To make Mir appear to move on all ground station maps, three special tracking-uplink stations beaconed the moving position of Mir via the R0MIR digipeater. One in California identified as Mir-6, one in Michigan used Mir-8, and one in Maryland used Mir-3, to match their call districts.

Bruninga said that to inject the Mir downlink into the Internet, a few of the normal APRS I-Gates tuned their radios from the normal APRS frequency to the Mir downlink frequency. "These Mir packets were intermingled with the normal stream of APRS packets into the APRServe Internet system," he said. To distinguish these from the usual 1000 to 1200 or more APRS stations on the air, a special Web page was designated to filter out only the APRS-Mir packets and display them separately. "During the day of the event, there were over 11,000 hits on the server system representing a peak load of 150 simultaneous users and as many as 1000 users," he said.

Steve Dimse, K4HG, was one of those participating in the experiment. "It looked especially cool on the APRS page," he reports. "It was blank. Then suddenly all these stations started popping up."

Bruninga said the test was completely successful in meeting all of the original objectives. "The short notice and early morning hours helped to reduce the number of participants to a nominal 100 stations." He said that number was "representative of the nominal number of schools that could be authorized to simultaneously participate in future such Mir experiments."

James French, KD4DLA, was all set to take the Mir-APRS experiment to a local school for a demonstration, as originally suggested by MIREX. "I did have the station torn apart and packed away into the truck and took it to a elementary school this morning," he reported the day of the test. "I had fun showing everything off to 30+ sixth graders." Clay says he spent four hours showing and demonstrating APRS and ham radio, "plus a lot of discussion about Mir and the space Shuttle." He says he plans on doing it again, even without another "experiment."

Some schools in Hawaii and in the Eastern US still were able to check in via R0MIR. The list included Pearl City High School, WH6CVT, in Hawaii, the US Naval Academy Amateur Radio Club, W3ADO, in Annapolis, Maryland, Halifax County High School in Virginia (using NM4V), and schools in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.--thanks to Dave Larsen, N6CO; Bob Bruninga, WB4APR; James French, KD4DLA; and AMSAT News Service


Inscribed on the New York City Post Office are the words: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The same might be said of those who braved a blizzard to attend the Nebraska State Convention March 6-8 in Norfolk. HQ staffer Steve Ewald, WV1X, who represented the League at the event, said he lucked out because he got to Norfolk just ahead of the storm.

"The convention, with flea market, forums, and Saturday-evening banquet, went on as scheduled," he reports. "The forum on severe weather spotting was one of the best attended forums on Saturday."

Ewald says about 250 attended the convention, and early Friday evening attendance at the flea market was "pretty good." Ewald speculates those hamfest goers wanted to get there before the weather conditions turned sour. Snow began Friday evening and continued through Saturday--about six to eight inches in all but with high winds and lots of drifting and hazardous driving conditions throughout the region.

Ewald conducted a forum on ARES, and ARRL Midwest Director Lew Gordon, K4VX, moderated the ARRL Forum. The weather began to clear Sunday as the convention wrapped up, but the storm had just moved east. "Although I got home okay, I heard that it took Director Gordon two full days of slow driving to get back to Missouri," Ewald said.

Now, that's dedication!


Biologists from the Canadian Wildlife Service are seeking help from ham operators and monitoring enthusiasts. Twelve endangered burrowing owls equipped with radio collars were being track on their southward migration from Saskatchewan last fall. Bad weather kept tracking aircraft grounded, however, and the signals from the owls' transmitters were lost in North Dakota. Researchers think that, if alive, the owls now are in southern Texas or nearby in Mexico. They are expected to begin their northward journey during the last week of March. The exact migration time is uncertain, and it could extend to mid-May.

If you have a scanner or extended range two-meter receiver and live in central states between Texas and North Dakota, you can assist by listening for the radio tags, which emit pulsed signals near 170 MHz. They have greatest range at night when the birds are in flight. Your help is especially needed if you have portable direction-finding equipment. For more information including exact frequencies, technical tips and how to contact the biologists, see the K0OV Radio Direction Finding Web site,

For additional information, contact ARRL ARDF Coordinator Joe Moell K0OV, Box 2508, Fullerton, CA 92837; tel 909-483-4082 (days); 714-879-6895 (eves/weekends); e-mail Moell, K0OV


Solar scribe Tad Cook, K7VVV, of Seattle, Washington, reports: Solar activity took a big jump over the past week. The solar flux reached 133 on March 15--the highest since January 5, 1994. Average solar flux for the previous 90 days rose from 94 to 96, and flux values were well above this level on every day this week.

Although the March 15 solar flux was very high, the daily reported value is always for noon in British Columbia. A measurement three hours earlier that day showed the solar flux at 140.3!

For the next few days look for solar flux to drop to 124, 122 and 116 for March 20 through March 22, and then down to the mid-90s before the end of the month. Flux levels should go above 100 again by April 6. Possible disturbed days are April 6 through 11, with the worst days around April 6 and 7.

This higher activity is all good news combined with the move into the spring season. Look for longer openings on higher bands, and because the length of the day is similar in northern and southern hemispheres, similar propagation conditions prevail in each hemisphere as well. When solar flux is high, 20 and 15 meters should be best during daylight, and after sundown the best conditions should be on 20 and 40 meters.

Jan Alvestad, the author of the recently mentioned Web site which compares solar cycles at,wrote to comment on the material in recent bulletins concerning when the recent cycle actually started. Because the history of solar data collection is relatively short--only 22 previous cycles--he feels that the best and most objective way to plot the month-by-month cycle progress comparisons is to always start with the minimum between cycles. This is because it is difficult with so few cycles to develop a general definition.

Sunspot numbers for March 12 through 18 were 114, 115, 119, 110, 92, 81, and 102, with a mean of 104.7. The 10.7-cm flux was 101.6, 104.9, 119.6, 133, 123.9, 125.5, and 127, with a mean of 119.4. Estimated planetary A indices were 12, 13, 10, 18, 13, 7, and 4, with a mean of 11.

In Brief:

This weekend on the radio: The Alaska QSO Party, the Virginia QSO Party, and the Bermuda Contest all are on tap for this weekend. Stay tuned for the CQ WW WPX Contest (SSB) March 28-29. See March QST, page 101, for details.

Hail and farewell! Educational Activities Coordinator Glenn Swanson, KB1GW, has resigned from the HQ staff to take a position as a technology support specialist for the West Hartford, Connecticut, public schools. Glenn had worked at HQ in various capacities since 1993 and has been a frequent contributor to QST. Replacing him in Educational Activities is Jean Wolfgang, WB3IOS, who moves up from a part-time position. She is the wife and mother, respectively, of HQ staffers Larry Wolfgang, WR1B, and Dan Wolfgang.

Mir-school contact rescheduled: Another attempt will be made March 23 to give students at Westchester Elementary School in Coral Springs, Florida, a chance to speak via ham radio with US astronaut Andy Thomas, KD5CHF/VK5MIR, aboard the Russian Mir space station. The first effort to complete a QSO on March 12 was unsuccessful. A scheduled contact this week with students of two New Mexico high schools had to be scrubbed because of work demands on the Mir crew. It also will be rescheduled. Other Mir-school contacts are set to take place in April.

Special event: Kaufman, Texas, celebrates its 150 anniversary March 20-21 with a special event station, KG5VX, on the General portions of 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands. The station will be on the air from 0300 to 1400 UTC each day. Send a large SASE for a certificate to KG5VX, 2251 Sundown Dr, Kaufman, TX 75142. Donations to the to the Trinity Valley Amateur Club to offset the cost of the certificate would be welcome.--Andy Ross, KG5VX

January QST Cover Plaque Award: Martha Underwood, N2VRF, was the winner of the January QST Cover Plaque Award, for her article "Tornado!" which described ham radio activity in the wake of a devastating twister in Jarrell, Texas. Congratulations, Martha!

Two-meter beacon for Europe activated: The VE1SMU/H two-meter beacon is on the air at 144.300 MHz (at least for this spring and summer) from St Mary's University in FN84 in Nova Scotia beaming Europe at 61 degrees. The transmitter runs 250 W and identifies in CW with the call sign and a long dash.--Serge Szpilfogel, VE1KG

Outtakes: Writer John Verity, who authored the March 5 article, "Ham Radio, Version 2.0, for the Silicon Era," for the New York Times, says sidebars on the Morse code and Amateur Radio Web sites failed to make it into the piece. The Times may run the cut sidebars sometime in the future, according to Verity. By the way, the Times' article also was picked up by the Detroit Free Press (and possibly by other publications).

League Director Frenaye airs in Cuba: Tom Walsh, K1TW, was on vacation and didn't get a chance to operate the recent ARRL International DX SSB contest. But he did take along his portable shortwave receiver, and he heard the call sign of veteran contester and ARRL New England Director Tom Frenaye, K1KI, in an unexpected spot on the dial: Radio Havana. Walsh says Arnie Coro, CO2KK, featured his contest exchange with the K1KI multi-multi effort during his twice-weekly radio program on Radio Havana. Coro's program is broadcast Tuesday and Saturday nights. "As an example of the ARRL DX contest, he taped his 15-meter contact with K1KI and played it during the program for all to hear," Walsh reported on the Yankee Clipper Contest Club Reflector. CO2KK apparently never let on he had the tape rolling. "Hey! That's news to me," said Frenaye. "Real interesting!"

More APRS shifting: The SkyWarn Technical Committee, working in conjunction with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, has announced its support for the APRS frequency shift from 145.790 MHz to 144.390 MHz. The APRS Network serving the 34 counties in the Mt. Holly NWSFO County Warning Area will make the change the weekend of April 5-6 unless severe weather threatens the area. APRS activity is moving to provide more elbow room for Earth-space communication at 145.80 MHz.--Robert Hill, WX3ROB

DOVE-OSCAR 17 crash: DOVE-OSCAR-17 has stopped transmitting on 2 meters and, as of March 12, control op Jim White, WD0E, has been unable to reset the satellite. White says he expects the S-band transmitter operation to be intermittent as he works with the ROM software and loader. DO-17 first experienced apparent onboard computer problems two years ago.--thanks to Jim White, WD0E, and SpaceNews

REACT International moves HQ: REACT International has relocated from Wichita, Kansas, to the Washington, DC, area. The new address is REACT International Inc, 5210 Auth Rd, Suite 403, Suitland, MD 20746-4394; tel 301-316-2900; fax 301-316-2903; e-mail; For now, the office is being staffed by local REACT volunteers.

New RAC bulletin manager: Guy Charron, VA3FZA, will be the new Radio Amateurs of Canada bulletin editor. He succeeds Jacques D'Avignon, VE3VIA, who has decided to retire after many years of service.--Doug Leach VE3XK

The ARRL Letter

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. Joel Harrison, W5ZN, President; David Sumner, K1ZZ, Executive Vice President.

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that's available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise, and readable. The ARRLWeb Extra at offers ARRL members access to late-breaking news and informative features, updated regularly.

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.

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