Posted Oct 1, 2020
September 30, 2020
Greetings from the High Country (Where Fall Has Begun)
Some of the leaves up here have begun to change color and some have fallen to the ground during recent rains. Since my last newsletter, we had two nights when the overnight low was around 38 degrees and on one recent morning, there were reports of frost near Banner Elk.
Fall officially began on September 22 with the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox. Nights are now becoming longer than our daylight period and the period of darkness will continue to lengthen until December 21 when we have the Winter Solstice, the date of the longest night of the year after which the period of daylight will increase about a minute and a half each day through Winter until Spring arrives on the Vernal (Spring) Equinox.
Next month, most of the United States will return to Standard Time on November 1, although some people wish that the United States would choose the stay with either Daylight Time or Standard Time all year long.
Longevity Has Its Place
Last Friday, I drove to Gastonia to participate with the Gaston Amateur Radio Society in a birthday celebration for Oscar Norris, W4OXH, who turned 103 on September 25.
Approximately 35 GARS members came to the assisted living facility (Caromont Apartments) where Oscar resides. Oscar sat in a chair under the front portico and his friends drove by and individually gave Oscar their good wishes. Others spoke to him on 146.52 Simplex over the portable radio that he keeps with him.
My friend, Cy Rowe, K1CY, reports that Oscar lost his sight in 1949 but continued to work, straightening bicycle wheels by correctly tightening the spokes until the wheel spun true. He also has been a winner in fox hunts by listening to how quiet the signal would become when pointing the antenna properly and directing others to find the fox.
In behalf of the North Carolina Section, I presented Oscar with the following framed citation:
Awarded to Oscar W. Norris W4OXH
For Being an Outstanding Amateur Radio Operator
On the Occasion of Your 103rd Birthday
WA4NC NC Section Manager
If you hear W4OXM on the Shelby or Gastonia repeaters or on the PRN digital system, give him a shout and wish him well.
Another OSCAR Heard From
Amateur Radio Satellite OSCAR-7 has an interesting history. Silent after going dark in in 1982, OSCAR-7 has resumed operation during times when it is in full illumination of the Sun (from September 25-December 26). OSCAR-7 was launched nearly 46 years ago and operated for several years before going shutting down due to a suspected short in a battery. Apparently, the solar cells provided enough power to burn out the short and now, when the satellite is bathed in enough sunlight, OSCAR-7 comes back to operation in Mode A (2 meters up, 10 meters down and Mode B (432 mhz up, 2 meters down). Sometime back in 1992, I stumbled across OSCAR-7 one night on 10 meters and was lucky to hear my friend N4WET in Boone talking to a ham in Wisconsin.
OSCAR stands for Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio. Information about OSCAR-7 and other amateur radio satellites can be found at https://www.amsat.org.
Amateur Radio May Participate in October MARS Exercise
Paul English, Chief of Army MARS, announced that there will be a communication exercise (COMEX 20-4) which will begin on October 3 and end on October 26. The exercise will be held on 60 meters and will involve amateur radio operators as well as MARS stations. Information about the exercise will be broadcast in special bulletins over WWV at 10 minutes and 50 minutes past each hour.
You may know that there are five designated channels on 60 meters which are primarily allocated to US Government stations; amateur use is secondary. During this COMEX, various US Government agencies, MARS stations and amateur operators will exchange information on the status of local critical infrastructure and pass messages for local and state emergency management agencies.
Amateur stations are specifically authorized to contact US Government stations during exercises like this one and during actual emergencies.
As part of the upcoming MARS COMEX, I received a request for a list of the various nets in North Carolina. Current net lists maintained by ARRL seem outdated. As a result, we are preparing a new list.
If you know of a net, whether local, statewide or whatever, drop me a line listing the name of the net, its frequency and when it is held.
I will collate the answers and post a net directory which on the NC ARRL webpage so that visitors and others can quickly locate information about the various nets held across North Carolina. My email is WA4NC@arrl.org.
NVIS and Propagation – Choosing the Correct Frequency Band
As part of the continuing education effort led by the various Section Managers to increase ham radio’s preparation for emergency situations, Idaho Section Manager Dan Marler (K7REX) arranged for an excellent video presentation by Marty Woll (N6VI) that focused on Near Vertical Incidence Skywave propagation.
Although we all know that various frequency bands provide significantly different propagation according to the time of day and season, Marty gave a tutorial on choosing the best frequencies for getting the message where it needs to be received.
Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) propagation is a concept that refers to the fact that particular frequencies reflect differently off the D and F layers in the Ionosphere. At any given time, some frequencies will pass through the Ionosphere and coverage will be limited to ground wave propagation. Other frequencies, by contrast, at various times of the day will reflect off the different layers of the Ionosphere at angles which cause the transmitted signal to come down to Earth further or closer to the transmitting station.
This is important in reaching stations during a disaster.
Understanding this effect of the changing angle of reflection, depending upon the frequency, is highly useful in choosing the frequency band that will most likely deliver a useful signal where it is needed rather than overshooting your target.
Marty’s presentation can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/461684123.
Because of the ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19, many of the FEMA and DHS EmComm training courses are being retooled for distance learning. NCEM is presently beta testing delivery of the FEMA ICS 300 and ICS 400 courses for remote learning. CISA (Cybersecurity and Information Security Administration) within the Department of Homeland Security has begun reworking the COML (Communications Leader) training for web-based instruction and the Auxc (Auxiliary Communications Course) will likely be offered through remote learning in 2021. However, once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted there will be classroom training as well.
The Dupont Rescue Experience, offered annually in November at the Dupont State Forest near Brevard, will not be offered this year due to the Corona Virus. Dupont normally included a Communication Exercise that allowed a number of persons to complete portions of their Position Task Books which are required for credentialing by NCEM.
The Auxcomm database is being updated to eliminate inactive accounts and to insure that the information is current and useful. The three Branch Coordinators will soon be meeting to discuss the process of updating the Auxcomm database. The first meeting involves leadership personnel in the Western Branch. Sometime in the near future, emails will go out to persons listed in the Auxcomm database to confirm their continued interest in participating as well as gathering information on the communications capabilities of each member.
Save the Date
If you are a Facebook user, you may want to sign up for a virtual tour on November 7 (or December 5) of the Very Large Array located near Socorro, NM. This facility operates as part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The Very Large Array has 27 active 25 meter diameter dishes which operate between 1.0 and 50.0 GHz. The VLA is used to map large scale structures of gas and molecular clouds and can pinpoint ejections of plasma from supermassive black holes in Deep Space. There is a free monthly virtual tour while the facility remains closed to the public.
Go to https://public.nrao.edu/telescopes/vla/ for information. This may be something that you or others in your family may be interested in.
FCC Proposed Application Fee
Several clubs and individuals have sent me copies of their comments about the proposed amateur license application fee. Some wrote directly to their Senators and members of the House of Representatives while others filed their comments directly with the FCC through its Electronic Comments Filing System (www.fcc.gov/ecfs). I checked at the of business on September 30 and found that the FCC had received 1440 comments, 65 of which came from persons in North Carolina.
Hams continue to ask me if the ARRL intends to weigh in on the proposed fee like the League did when it took a stand on the Amateur Radio Parity Act. A League Vice Director assured me that the ARRL intends to make a filing near the end of the comment period. What the filing will say is being developed by the 15 members of the ARRL Board and the ARRL position on the proposed fee will be submitted by their FCC Counsel at some time in the future.
I encourage those who have not yet expressed their opinion to do so. Personally, I believe that a thousand comments from ordinary hams carries more weight with the FCC than a carefully polished document filed by the ARRL’s paid lawyer but I may be wrong.
Whichever side you come down on, respectfully express your opinion about the proposed fee to the FCC and your elected Senators and member of the House who represents your area.
Occasionally, as I tune across the HF bands, I come across numbers stations. Actually there are two types of numbers stations and the purpose of one set of the stations remains somewhat murky.
The HFGCS (High Frequency Global Communications System) is a Defense Department system that goes back to the Cold War era when the Strategic Air Command had when numerous nuclear equipped B52 Bombers airborne and another 1/3 of the fleet was ready on the flight line for immediate launch in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.
Numerous times each day, HFGCS stations broadcast test and actual Emergency Action Messages from fixed and airborne command posts around the world to facilities, aircraft and military ships. Information about the HFGCS can be found at https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/USAF_High_Frequency_Global_Communications_System.
More intriguing to me are the enigmatic numbers stations that are reputed to be operated by various countries to give instructions to undercover operatives, generally known as spies. Back during World War II, Germany sent encoded numeric messages to embedded spies in the New York area and the FBI and FCC tracked weak transmitters responding to the messages. During the Cold War period, Soviet-controlled agents inside the West were sent numeric and code word messages over shortwave. On our side, the CIA is presumed to have contacted undercover agents embedded in Communist-controlled countries in a similar fashion. The Spy Museum in Washington DC has examples of radios used by undercover operatives.
Some may be surprised to learn that there are mysterious numbers stations still in operation. Here is an example of a numbers broadcast that was reported over I blog that I receive. The SWL posted this message:
“Just got a live traffic message from our English Gentleman, as logged: E07A: Date: 270320: Time 1630Z
Freq. 10173usb: Call Sign: 413: Group Count: 61: Messages sent: One:
Preamble:413 x3: 1(One): 68447:
(Message Information) 251 (Code Key)-61:(Sent twice) Message Text: 69580 82859 23608 17936 44628 52003 87434 00170 06220 19068 19275 08949 81368 54985 58907 26446 51911 82265 79836 18567 83123 05878 16729 91661 96709 12872 17605 16984 65542 89536 06744 70833 09529 89116 81540 79601 60775 54127 63723 29651 64513 46735 88571 79171 52327 89342 42247 75006 55783 98396 21376 34878 44896 03417 30416 80776 99345 33917 11404 50963 19105: 000 000.
Signal/Audio OK but with background QRM. Conformation of text welcome. Message recorded. Rig used: FRG7700 with long wire aerial into FRT7700 aerial matcher and FF5 notch filter. My QTH is near Cardiff, UK”
Radio Direction Finding suggests that some of the numbers transmissions originate in Russia, others appear to come from South America and still others appear to originate in Africa.
There is great curiosity over who is sending the messages and to whom they are being directed. What is the purpose of these transmissions when other means of communication seem to be readily available?
A recent episode of Ham Talk featured number stations. If interested, you might want to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1oEf_HcEDY or view the information on the web at
Searching in Greenland for Fallen Heroes and Frozen Aircraft
Sunday evening, I channel surfed on tv and came across an interesting story about the Lost Squadron which some of you may have already heard but, if not, here goes.
During a sudden, severe blizzard in July 1942, a squadron of two B-17 Bombers and six P-38 Fighters were forced to crash-land on ice in Greenland during a flight from the US to Britain. Some of the crew members were rescued but the planes were abandoned and eventually became covered in 250-300 feet of ice.
More recently, one aircraft was located in 1992, recovered from the ice and restored. It is flown periodically to appear at airshows. In 2009, the privately-financed Fallen American MIA Foundation sent crews to Greenland in hopes of finding crew remains and potentially to recover additional aircraft. In 2011, using ground-penetrating radar, search crews located some of the aircraft encased in ice for seventy years.
Details of the search and recovery efforts can be found at https://science.howstuffworks.com/crew-finds-lost-squadron-plane-under-greenlands-ice.htm and https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/glacier-girl-the-back-story-19218360/?all .
If you have an idea for a topic for a future newsletter, let me know. Our goal is to produce a newsletter with items that will touch on at least one of the many interests held by ham operators.