Notes from the shack…

The ARRL and Me

What does the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) do for me? 

I am a member of the ARRL.  The ARRL sends a nifty magazine, QST, to my mailbox every month.  QST provides news, equipment reviews, How To articles and upcoming events.

The ARRL has a very comprehensive line of books.  Topics cover everything from How To get licensed, to How To get on-the-air to the enduring annual ARRL Handbook and more advanced How To books.

The ARRL sends members weekly and monthly newsletters. Some of the info makes its way into QST and some does not.

The ARRL tries to offer something for everyone.   Various insurance programs, discounts, classes, seminars, awards and license exams are at your fingertips.

Cumberland Amateur Radio Club (CARC) is an ARRL Affiliated Club.  That relationship brings the club benefits when it comes to attracting new members and promoting our club!

 

See ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

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Achievement Test…  A+ Results


The Cumberland Amateur Radio Club is proud to recognize one of its members for producing A+ results in a recent Achievement Test.

Congratulations to Doug Stenger, KC3CPT for hitting the books, studying, and passing the FCC General Class License Exam.

As a follow-up, the other day Doug got on 20 Meters to exercise his newly earned privileges.  He was rewarded with a nice DX QSO with OS8A located in Belgium.  Doug worked Didier on the first call,  Impressive.

If you look to the left you will see a snapshot of Didier’s Club Log screen showing KC3CPT on the second line from the top. 

Ninety-eight more countries and we will have a DXCC Party for Doug.  

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Amateur radio on the international space station

20th Anniversary Celebration

SSTV Image reception

from space

is within your reach !

The 20th anniversary of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station event is going on through December 31, 2020.  The astronauts and cosmonauts on-board the ISS are transmitting a series of Slow-Scan Television (SSTV) images periodically.  There are at least 8 different images.

The transmissions are freely accessible to those who have suitable radio reception equipment and PC sound card image decoding software. 

The equipment that will do the job is something many ham radio operators already have in their radio stations. 

As part of our How Do I…? series we posted a step-by-step article earlier this year when a similar event took place.  The link to that article is https://www.radioclub-carc.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ARISS-SSTV-Presentation.pdf 

 

To be recognized for your accomplishment, and to receive an award certificate, upload one of your received images to https://www.spaceflightsoftware.com/ARISS_SSTV/index.php 

 

To be eligible for a certificate please complete your upload by January 3, 2021.

The ISS is transmitting on 145.800 MHz FM Simplex and using SSTV mode PD-120. 

 

See  ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Image shows school children participating in an event promoting Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS)

 

Ham Radio on Kate’s Ag

A little birdie told me I should spend a few minutes watching one of the newest YouTube videos on the Kate’s Ag channel.  The title is:
A BLAST FROM THE PAST – PART 1

As I watched I learned a lot about farming in Montana.  Kate and her father took me on a tour of the farm while explaining several of the retired farm machines.

One of the last scenes shows Kate opening the mail she received at her Post Office Box.  What a surprise to see her with an ARRL Ham Radio License Manual in her hand and on- camera.

Publicity such as this is priceless.

Thank you to CARC Vice-President Frank Mellott, KB3PQT, for his far-reaching promotion of Ham Radio.

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Screen snapshot of Kate, host of a popular farming-related YouTube Channel, holding a copy of a ham radio license study-guide that was sent to her by a viewer.

 

 

 

 

Learning new stuff is always good!

My dad’s cousin is 86.  She was a math teacher and has been interested in computers since the late 1970s.   She studied and earned her amateur radio license around the same time and became an ARRL Life Member.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cut back on her activities and her friends and family use ZOOM for video calls.  This weekend she decided she wanted to join the fun.  She has successfully completed setting up ZOOM and was able to log in to her first meeting.

CARC uses ZOOM for the monthly meetings and in conjunction  with the 10 meter net on Wednesdays.

If you are a CARC Member, the Zoom Meeting ID and Passcode can be found on our website in the password protected MEMBER AREA > MEMBER LINKS. 

If you are not yet a CARC Member, and someone who would like to attend one of our meetings, please eMail our Club President AF3I (AF3I@RadioClub-CARC.com), introduce yourself, and express your interest in attending either or both of the meetings.  He will send you the Zoom Meeting information you need.

 

Please note:  There are two separate Zoom Meeting Invitations. 

  • One invitation for the Monthly Meeting that takes place on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m..
  • A separate invitation for the 10 Meter Net that takes place on all the remaining Wednesday’s of the month at 8:00 p.m.

 

For useful articles on amateur radio, computers, technology and other fun stuff follow the trail to:

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.
Frank KB3PQT

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Take a break from radio…

…or play radio outdoors !

 

Amateur radio is a fun hobby!  It is amazing to receive a Slow-Scan Television (SSTV) image from the International Space Station, or realize the FT8 digital contact you just completed put a new state or grid square in your logbook.

 

But sometimes you just need to take a break, or play elsewhere.  Fall is a beautiful time of the year.  Whether it’s wandering off to Leidigh Park to sit by the creek and fish, watch birds, or photograph trains as they cross the nearly 100 year old railroad bridge, take a ham radio along!

 

That Hand-Held Transceiver (HT) you routinely use for accessing the nearby repeater can make a great scanner for listening to railroad communication, or with a handheld yagi antenna and a lot of luck, you could make a QSO with another ham operator via earth-orbiting satellite. 

 

You might enjoy putting a mobile HF rig in your car or truck.  Some of your fellow ham radio operators might be in need of a two-way radio contact from one of the rare counties.  Consider combining a sight-seeing trip with some ham radio activity.  If you give out rare contacts be prepared to send QSL cards to the lucky men and women on the other end of the contact.  They will appreciate your efforts.

 

Follow the trail below to find more articles on radio, SSTV, rail-fanning and other stuff:

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Photograph of ham radio operator W3VRE operating his ham radio transceiver.

 

Photograph of a farm goat standing in the pasture. The location of this scene is adjacent to where the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club set up its portable ham radio stations as part of the 2020 Pennsylvania QSO Party.
One member of the herd kept a watchful eye on the K3IEC Portable, Multi-Op, York County operations.

 

 

Part of the Notes From The Shack… series.

 

The Pennsylvania QSO Party for 2020 is over and hopefully your log has been submitted.

 

Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Members Andy AF3I, Doug KC3CPT, and Frank KB3PQT went to the home of club member Dave W3VRE in York County and got K3IEC on-the-air as a Portable, Multi-Operator operation.

 

Band conditions Saturday afternoon were terrible.  Andy and Dave made nearly all the QSOs on 80 meters using phone and CW.   (Thanks to Valli N8QVT for the 40 meter QSOs also!)

 

Chef-For-Life Doug KC3CPT prepared an excellent lunch which was enjoyed be all those who were present.  Visiting members Valli N8QVT, Harry K3EYL and Glenn K3SWZ added their momentum to the Team activity as well.

 

Did I mention that Dave W3VRE is a gentleman farmer?  We set up our stations in the back of his pasture within an arm’s length separation from the livestock.  See the nearby photo.

 

The Goat Wranglers K3IEC Contest Crew had a great time.  We are making our plans for PA QSO Party 2021.

 

For more information on the Pennsylvania QSO Party and contesting, follow the trail to

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

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Part of the Notes From The Shack…
series.

Scott Davis, N3FJP and his fine team at Affirmatech have created a constellation of software logging packages.  His AC Call Log is one of the more popular software loggers, and there are dozens of computer assisted logging programs.  Not only does his software do the usual logging, easy uploads to e-QSL and Logbook of the World, address labels, but under the VIEW tab I found some interesting statistics. 

A screen snapshot taken from my log:

Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

 Band       CW   Phone     Dig   Total       %
 —-           —      —–         —     —–       —

  160        0       9      25      34       1

   80        0   1,192     178   1,370      41

   40        0     208     210     418      13

   30        0       0      70      70       2

   20        0      55      81     136       4

   17        0       8       2      10       0

   15        0       4      20      24       1

   12        0       1       0       1       0

   10        0      96       2      98       3

    6        0       1       0       1       0

    2        0   1,137       5   1,142      35

            —   —–     —   —–     —

 Total       0   2,711     593   3,304     100

 

A few months ago, 80m made up 43% of my total contacts, and 2m made up 33%.  This Summer and Fall I made a deliberate effort to make contacts on “anything but 80m”.  That has not gone so well, as the shift from 80m to 2m shows, but I made more contacts on 30m (a fun band!) as well as 20m and 40m.  I am always amazed at how, while my perception is that most of my radio time is spent on digital modes, phone is the mode on which the bulk of my contacts have been made.

The N3FJP statistics also show the ARRL sections (usually obtained from contest loggers and imported into AC Call Log afterwards), states, countries, etc. The item I wish it tracked was mode by type:  RTTY; PSK31, FT8 etc.

 

Total Contacts by State \ Prov:

 State       Total     %
 —–         —–    —

 PA          1,283    39

 VA          1,016    31

 NC            189     6

 (blank)      98     3

 MD            63     2

 FL              47     1

 

This screen snapshot shows my top five states (plus the ever popular “blank”). 

I am not sure which surprised me more: that 70% of all my contacts were made with two states, or that NC ranks third, or that MD ranks fifth.

 

Follow the trail below to the Know-How Resources Tab to read more about computers and amateur radio,   https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

Image shows a scale-model diorama representing a fictional ham radio station and farm buildings in the background with an orange farm tractor in the foreground.

 

Every Ham Needs a Kubota Tractor

The other day a group of Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Ham Radio Operators were gathered together for a contest operation.  Now and then the conversation turned to topics other than Ham Radio. 

This group talked about tractors.  It occurred to the four of them and each had a Kubota tractor which is used for chores around their rural properties and gentlemen’s farms. 

Someone asked — “What about Andy — AF3I?  What kind of tractor does he have?”   The leader of the group knew that Andy did not have any tractor, making him the odd man out.

The group decided that Andy needs a Kubota tractor if he is going to be part of the group.
And they knew that many of the same people would be gathering for the Pennsylvania QSO Party.

One of the four was designated to visit a popular farming supply house and arrange for Andy to have his own Kubota tractor.  With great fanfare, the group presented Andy with his very own Kubota tractor.

The tractor is shown positioned on the farmstead diorama that CARC club members presented to Andy at the time of his retirement. 

You may recognize that Andy’s farmstead also features a replica of a famous ham radio station — the original is located in Newington, Connecticut.

Thank you, gentlemen.  This was a great surprise.

#####

 

 

 

 

RTTY Software and Contesting

 

RTTY – radio teletype – is a fun digital mode.  I became active in the hobby when I learned about FLDIGI software and PSK31 and Domino.  Andy AF3I suggested I’d like RTTY and gave it a try.  I think I actually have more RTTY contacts in the log than PSK31 contacts.  RTTY unfortunately seems to be used more often as a contesting mode and less often for casual conversations.

 

The ARRL promotes a few RTTY contests each year as does CQ magazine.  The last full weekend in September is the CQ World Wide RTTY contest.  That was September 26 and 27, 2020.  I normally have other things to do, but I played around in the contest a bit.  Band conditions were horrible, and while I saw a few stations I suspect were running a lot of power making QSOs, my 100 watt station didn’t do so well.  I also found it interesting that most of the US call signs I saw were 1×2 and 2×1 (K3FM and AF3I would be examples). Not sure why that was. 

 

Not sure I passed this tip along, but FT8 can be a good predictor of the band conditions.  I am finding if there is a lot of FT8 activity and the noise levels are conducive to FT8, other modes may work.  But if FT8 is essentially dead, or all you are seeing are -15 and worse reports, other modes like RTTY, and Olivia will not do so well.  PSK31 is a toss-up.

 

I spent most of the time comparing RTTY software packages.  For more information follow the trail below to the Know-How Resources tab to read the full article. https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Image shows a ham radio handheld VHF transceiver, sometimes called a Handi-Talkie or HT.

How Far Can You Go?

Sunday night August 30, 2020 the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Weekly Two Meter Net had two visitor check-ins.  We welcome visitors.  In that sense, there was nothing unusual about one or even two visitor check-ins that evening.

What was impressive is that Denny KC3PVU was operating from on top Blue Mountain near Linglestown with a Yaesu FT-60R hand-held transceiver and a mag-mount antenna.  He was operating in the “Light Up Two Meters†on-the-air activity event where the object was to get as many two-way radio contacts (we call them QSOs in ham radio jargon) as possible on the 2 meter Amateur Radio band between 1800 and 2000 EST.

That little 5 watt radio and antenna successfully reeled in Valli N8QVT and Harry K3EYL in York Springs, Doug KC3CPT in Mt. Holly Springs, Andy AF3I in Dillsburg, Glenn K3SWZ in New Cumberland and other club members in the Mechanicsburg area.

I do not know how many contacts Denny made overall, but he got 9 entries in the log by talking with CARC members.

 

Denny was joined on Blue Mountain by his mentor – Mike W3MSB who had the same objective to Light Up Two Meters.

 

I am impressed.  If you need proof that ham radio is all about location and the more elevation the better, this is it.  If you ever thought a little handheld has too little power, you could be wrong.  From his Blue Mountain location to York Springs, home of N8QVT and K3EYL, was about 40 miles.

 

And even better – Denny had been licensed just 10 days at that point.  He has more QSOs in his log now than I did after 5 years in the hobby under my own call sign!

 

Thank you everyone who was not only willing to devote their time to assisting two fellow hams, but who eagerly added to their scores:

Andy — AF3I,
Harry — K3EYL,
Glenn — K3SWZ,
Doug — KC3AB,
Frank — KB3PQT,
Doug — KC3CPT,
Logan — KC3FFI,
Steve — N3FWE, and
Valli — N8QVT.

 

This activity was not planned, but that is part of the magic of ham radio!  Things happen.

 

The CARC Two Meter Net meets each Sunday evening at 7 p.m. on 146.490 MHz FM simplex.  If you are within ear-shot we invite you to check-in.  Listen for Net Control Station KB3PQT as he calls the net and invites check-ins.

 

If you are beyond the ear-shot distance you may wish to participate in our net using EchoLink.  Our EchoLink station can be reached on Node 259045 using Station ID AF3I-L

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

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Not just for grown-ups!

 

Faye KN4WDF recently was the Virginia Fone Net  Net Control Station and reported that she had talked to a newly licensed ham on another net she runs.  The new ham is an 8 year old girl.  Unfortunately I do not know the young lady’s call sign.

Faye is an enthusiastic supporter of the ham radio hobby.  While has not been licensed very many years herself, Faye seems to be very good at drawing people into the hobby.  She has expressed several times she wishes she had gotten into ham radio decades ago instead of waiting until after she retired.

How enthusiastic is Faye?  She was still getting her 50 required check-ins in order to become a VFN member when she said she was willing to be a net control on Saturdays, a day when the net can get 50 or more check-ins.  That’s enthusiastic!

 

The Virginia Fone Net meets on 3.947 MHz, at 1630 and 1930 Eastern time daily.

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

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Upcoming State QSO Parties — Ohio and Hawai`i

Cumberland Amateur Radio Club has a goal of building its bench strength in preparation for a big showing in Field Day 2021.

Part of our preparation strategy calls for placing greater emphasis on the many State QSO Parties and using them as a development opportunity.  Many of the skills that an operator needs for Field Day are the same skills as she or he would use when operating in a State QSO Party.

Our approach begins by reviewing the QSO Party Rules looking for areas that can be standardized and simplified for the beginning contester entering as a single operator station. 

So, here we are at the end of July 2020 making our plans and drumming up interest. 

To our south, the bordering state of Maryland has the Maryland-DC QSO Party on the horizon with an August 8 date.  

To our west, the bordering state of Ohio has the Ohio QSO Party around the corner with an August 22 date.
And, if there is someplace I would love to have on my Bucket List it is the 50th State with its Hawaii QSO Party, also with an August 22 date.

Go back a few days in the News Blog and you will find a link to the MDC QSO Party summary that was written as a starter.

Once you have the Maryland-DC QSO Party under your belt please set your sights on Ohio and Hawaii.
Here are a couple of links that will take you to our content.

Aloha.

I am so ready to learn about the OHIO QSO Party. Take me to the PDF.

I can handle two QSO parties at the same time. Take me to the Hawaii QSO Party PDF.

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New Weekly Statewide WIRES-X C4FM Net and Eastern PA DMR Talkgroup

Earlier today ARRL Members in the EPA Section received information from Jay Silber, ARRL Public Information Coordinator for the Eastern Pennsylvania Section, describing new weekly digital nets.

Jay’s announcement appears in the PDF shown below. 

If this topic is of interest to you please follow the link to the full text of his announcement. 

Link to announcement:   Notes From The Shack New Statewide Talk Group [PDF]

73,
Andy Forsyth AF3I and Frank Mellott KB3PQT

 

Practice Makes Perfect.

With a special focus on the Maryland — DC QSO Party
Scheduled for August 8, 2020

 

Cumberland Amateur Radio Club recently recapped its performance in the ARRL 2020 Field Day Operating Event.  The short version is that we believe the event will be more enjoyable if we take steps to sharpen our skills.

One way of sharpening skills is to practice regularly.  Almost every weekend provides an opportunity to practice those Field Day operating skills by operating in one of the on-air Radio Sport contests.

With that in mind, the purpose of this post is to share a few thoughts about the upcoming Maryland – DC QSO Party.  CARC Club Members and other ham radio operators may enjoy spending quality time on-the-air as they develop their skills and share contest points with colleagues.

 

[ There is a lot of good information in the accompanying PDF which rounds-out and completes the introductions shown above.  Click the button and the file will download right before your eyes.]

I want to read. Take me to the PDF

 

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Are You a Fan of Portable Operation?


Looking for a portable antenna that is easy to use and affordable?

Looking for a portable antenna that pairs well with a Yaesu 817 or 818 series radio transceiver, or an Icom 703 or Icom 705?

Looking for a portable antenna that is rated to handle up to 100 watts for those times when you feel the need for more power?

If so, the Comet HFJ-350M 9-Band Telescopic Antenna might be the portable antenna for you.

Follow the trail to the KNOW HOW RESOURCES page for more information on a nifty new antenna from Comet!

I want to follow the trail. Show me the Full Story

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

Frank Mellott on-the-air using portable ham radio equipment.
Frank Mellott, KB3PQT operating as a Portable Station

 

Powerwerx Test BUDDY

Looking for a way to keep all the MAGIC SMOKE inside your ham radio gear – where it belongs?

Check out the KNOW-HOW RESOURCES page for information about that red blob in the bottom right corner of the photo.   [Sorry, the photo is not cooperating.  You will not see any red blobs during your visit.]

Click on the SALMAGUNDI link and you will be whisked to the page where the answer and all kinds of helpful information has been uploaded.

Or, simply click on the button below and you will have the document on your screen in seconds with no additional navigation required.  What could be easier than that?

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

How do I Test Buddy [PDF]

 

Field Day, Contesting and Random Operating Thoughts

After Field Day 2020 was in the books a group of us from the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club K3IEC Field Day crew discussed what worked, what didn’t work, and what we can do to improve.  Some of our thoughts may well apply to your radio shack.

  1. Know thy radio! Sure, you have a brand new super duper KenIYea1000 with every bell and whistle you could possibly want.  But do you really know how to use it?  Or every time you want to adjust something you need to get the manual out?  Doesn’t have to be a new radio, just new to you or maybe an old favorite that doesn’t get used much.  The point is if you are spending more time looking at the book than operating, maybe you need more practice!
  1. What should you expect to achieve? If your antenna works best on 80 meters, you may have a less than satisfactory QSO rate in the early hours of Field Day, but wait until dark and it could be your time to shine!  If you are able to cover multiple bands, either with one or several antennas, you can hopefully make contacts regardless of what band is “open”.  Starting on 20 or 40 meters (or even 10 or 15 meters) then gradually moving up (or is that “moving down”) to 80 meters may net you more contacts and increase the fun level!
  1. On Field Day a “clean sweep” – working every ARRL section – is an awesome accomplishment. But if you cannot sit still for a long time, have family or household responsibilities and know you can operate for only a few hours, you may need to lower your expectations.  The point is to have fun, not generate stress!

 

What you just read is the first three of ten proven techniques that will help improve your operating results — whether it be the Field Day Operating Event, or any one of the many Radio Sport Contests that fill the airwaves most weekends. 

To read the entire group of ten proven techniques, please follow this link which will bring you directly to the PDF file.  How Do I Field Day Tips [PDF]

Or, you may wish to visit our Know-How Resources tab to see the many different subjects and topics our authors have written about.  It is a treasure trove.

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Newly Licensed Hams…

Welcome to the CARC Two-Meter Net

Editor’s Note:  This information was first posted over a year ago.  The content remains an important part of our Club approach to encouraging involvement and participation in ham radio events.  I am re-posting the content with minor revisions as needed due to the COVID-19 situation.

 

A good friend of Ham Radio shared with me a story.  The story involved a newly licensed Amateur Radio Operator who set out to make some radio contacts after receiving his license from the FCC.  His call sign and his on-the-air techniques revealed that he was a newcomer to ham radio.

To make the story short — this newly licensed ham received a somewhat chilly reception to his on-the-air communications attempts and may have been turned-off by the whole experience.  How sad.

The Cumberland Amateur Radio Club would like to warmly welcome newly licensed hams. 

We stand ready to provide assistance enabling you to get on the air and to make contacts with other hams who appreciate the hard-work you put into studying and passing the Licensing Exam.

First, we invite you to attend our Club Meetings.  Details are in the THINGS TO-DO/CARC EVENTS page of this website.  We have a special FREE MEMBERSHIP OFFER for newly licensed hams.  How can you beat that?  If you are looking for help selecting and setting up your first radio station this is a good place to begin.

Second, if you already have ham radio equipment we invite you to participate in our weekly Two-Meter Net.  CARC Members and guests gather each Sunday Night at 7 p.m. local time on 146.490 MHz, FM Simplex in the Two-Meter Band.  No Repeater Offset, No PL Access Tones.  Simply tune your transceiver to 146.490, listen for the Net Control Station to announce the net.   Frank, KB3PQT, usually is our Net Control Station.  He is a friendly guy and a great supporter of the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club and ham radio in general.

When it is time, key your microphone, say your call sign, release your mike, and wait to be acknowledged by the NCS.  The Net Control Station will say a few words welcoming the people who checked into the net, and then give each person his or her opportunity to speak by saying that person’s call sign.  Tell us your name, your location, and perhaps let us know if you have questions.  After you have said what is on your mind, simply say “This is [your call sign], Back To Net Control.” and release your mike.  It is that simple.  No worries, No pressure, No cold shoulders.  

If you experience any difficulty when trying to participate in the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Two-Meter Net please email me your name, call sign, location, and a few words about your radio and antenna.  We will try to perk-up our ears and listen more carefully for you the next week.   eMail:  Andrew Forsyth  AF3I@RadioClub-CARC.com

 

• Author:  Andrew Forsyth AF3I

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Cover of ARRL License Manual book