ARRL member and Edmonson County Emergency Coordinator Tim Skees, K9KSP, a firefighter in Brownsville, Kentucky, was among those responding to an April 23 fire dispatch call he heard on his ham station scanner reporting a possible drowning in the Green River. Radio traffic indicated that the potential victim was a 40-year-old male.

"After assessing the information provided by family members at the scene, [I] went downriver approximately 300 yards, located the victim in water, washed up on a shallow rock shoal in the river," Skees told ARRL. "[I] waded out to the victim, dragged him to the riverbank, and, as other responders showed up and came to where the victim was, he was pulled up the bank of the river. He was suffering exposure/hypothermia from being in the cold water for hours

"I submit this as a testament to the need of hams to get involved with emergency services and foster good working relationships with [emergency managers] and local agencies," Skees said.

Beginning May 20, 2021, all amateur examination applicants will be required to provide an FCC Registration Number (FRN) to the Volunteer Examiners (VEs) before taking an amateur exam. This is necessary due to changes the FCC has made to its licensing system.

Amateur candidates who already have an FCC license, whether for amateur radio or in another service, already have an FRN and can use the same number. All prospective new FCC licensees, however, will be required to obtain an FRN before the examination and provide that number to the volunteer examiners on the Form 605 license application. An FCC instructional video provides step-by-step instructions on how to obtain an FRN through the FCC's COmmission REgistration System (CORES).

The video is available at, https://www.fcc.gov/rofrn

The ARRL Board of Directors will look into the use of electronic balloting systems "to augment paper balloting for ARRL elections." The Board instituted a hybrid paper and electronic balloting process in the fall of 2012, which was popular among those who took advantage of it, but overall voter participation declined significantly. In 2015, the Board's Ethics and Elections Committee decided to return to using solely paper ballots. The Ethics and Elections Panel said continuing changes in technology, the acceptance of remote meetings, and significant advancements in voting processes since then have made electronic balloting worth a second look.

"Electronic balloting is now in common use among professional organizations," the Board said. "Using electronic balloting would be of benefit to members who find paper ballots difficult to use. Providing electronic balloting as an alternative to paper balloting may result in a cost savings to the organization and decrease delays and potential conflicts over delays of paper ballots. It is likely, also, that the use of online balloting will be attractive to younger members who are more accustomed to online transactions."

The Board directed its Administration & Finance Committee to investigate the state, cost, and availability of commercial electronic balloting services as a member-selected alternative to paper ballots distributed and collected via the postal service. The committee will report back to the Board within a year.

UPDATED 2021-01-12 @ 1902 UTC: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne has scrubbed the Wednesday launch date and now says it will launch no earlier than Sunday, January 17. The vehicle will carry the AMSAT/Vanderbilt RadFXSat-2/Fox-1E CubeSat into space. The LauncherOne vehicle will carry 10 other satellites. RadFXSat-2/Fox-1E carries an inverting linear transponder, with uplink at 145.860 MHz – 145.890 MHz, and downlink at 435.760 MHz – 435.790 MHz. Telemetry will downlink on 435.750 MHz. More information is on the Space Launch Now website. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service/AMSAT-UK

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has announced that seven schools or host organizations selected for the July – December 2021 contact window have moved forward planning process to host a scheduled amateur radio contact with a space station crew member. ARISS’ primary goal is to engage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) activities and raise their awareness of space communications, radio communication, space exploration, and related areas of study and career possibilities.

ARISS is now working with hosts to complete acceptable equipment plans that demonstrate their ability to carry out the ham radio contact. Once their equipment plan is approved by the ARISS Technical Mentors, the final list of host schools/organizations will be scheduled as their availability and flexibility match up with contact opportunities offered by NASA.

The schools/organizations are:

  • Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tarwater Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona
  • Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse, New York
  • SpaceKids Global and Girl Scouts of Citrus in Winter Park, Florida
  • Illinois Wing Civil Air Patrol in St. Charles, Illinois
  • Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC
  • Savannah River Academy in Grovetown, Georgia.

This year, ARISS is celebrating 20 years of continuous amateur radio operations on the ISS. 

In a January 5 Public Notice, the FCC requested comments on whether the current 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) are sufficient to facilitate the efforts of their accredited Volunteer Examiners (VEs) in administering amateur radio examinations, or whether up to five additional VECs should be authorized. The ARRL VEC is the largest of the 14 VECs in the US. Comments are due by February 5, and reply comments are due by February 19. After Congress authorized it to do so, the FCC adopted rules in 1983 to allow volunteers to prepare and administer amateur radio examinations, and it established the system of VECs and VEs.

“VECs introduced consistency into the volunteer examiner program by centralizing accreditation of volunteer examiners, coordinating the dates and times for scheduling examinations, and managing the various administrative tasks arising from examinations,” the FCC said. Authorized VECs may operate in any of the 13 VEC regions but must service at least one region. The FCC pointed out that some VECs now offer remote examinations.