HAMNET Report 16 July 2017

Johann Marais, ZS1JM, of HAMNET Western Cape, and Wilderness Search and Rescue, issued a copy of the letter he received from Sanparks in the Eden district this week, after WSAR had assisted in the post-fire period. It read:

“On behalf of South African National Parks, I would like to extend  heart-felt thanks and sincere gratitude to you for taking time out from your work responsibilities and life, to assist in the infrastructure damage assessment of the Garden Route fires.

Without your dedication, commitment and professionalism this operation would not have been a success. It is generous people like you who make our communities a better place, and we thank you for your involvement and support, without you these things would not be possible. Yours sincerely, Len du Plessis.”

Len is the Manager, Planning, of the Garden Route National Park, and in charge of the damage assessment after the fires. While he addressed the remarks to Johann, I’m sure the thanks were also addressed to the nine operators who drove from Cape Town to do the grid-assessment of all the damage. Well done, all!

Talking of fires, there has been a wonderful fire on the Sun this week, in the form of a huge solar flare and a coronal mass ejection from sunspot region 2665, possibly celebrating Bastille Day on Friday! The M-class 2.4 flare was associated with a 10cm radio burst lasting 44 minutes. A minor S1 radiation storm occurred yesterday, a moderate G2 geomagnetic storm may occur today the 16th, and the coronal mass ejection may affect the earth today and tomorrow the 17th.

This mostly affects HF communications across the earth’s poles with commercial pilots flying over the North Pole. Occasionally airlines delay or cancel flights, fearing radio blackouts. Beautiful auroras will also be visible at high latitudes, both North and South, of the equator.

The Sunspot number is currently 58, Solar Flux 94, and K index 1, as I write this on Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope the bands open for a bit while the numbers are temporarily higher than usual.

In a message from Greg Mossop, G0DUB, of IARU Region One, he says that the Winlink development team will be testing a new central messaging server (CMS) system on July 16th from 15:00 UTC until 17:00 UTC (that’s today for two hours). The team says:

“This test requires no action on your part, other than to use the system as you normally would during the period.

However, if you do use it during this period, potential impacts could include:

-Temporary system outage (unlikely)

-Messages from a winlink account to another winlink account that are not retrieved by the addressee before the end of the testing period will be lost. Mail to Internet (SMTP) accounts as well as mail from Internet accounts will not be impacted.

-Mail from Internet accounts may be duplicated (received a second time) after the testing period.

-Changes made to account settings (password, forwarding address, sysop details, etc.) during the test period will be lost.

With these impacts in mind, we hope you help us by using the system during this period.”

The notice is issued by Steve, K4CJX, for the Winlink Development Team. So, if you’re experimenting with Winlink this afternoon, to use during your emergency comms, please bear this in mind.

Then, the TX Factor team has announced that Episode 17 is now available. This regular HD video insert features an intro to DMR, System Fusion and D-STAR, the path taken by QSL cards in getting to and from you, and a visit to a Field Day event with the Norfolk Amateur Radio Club. The URL is at: www.txfactor.co.uk

Then a major disaster was averted in San Francisco by the wonder of radio communications, when the landing of an Air Canada flight at San Francisco International Airport was aborted.

An Air Canada plane with 140 people on board came within 30 metres of crashing on to two of four planes lined up to take off at San Francisco International Airport last week, according to a preliminary report Canadian air safety regulators released on Thursday.

Instead of lining up to land on the runway, the pilot of the flight from Toronto mistakenly descended toward a parallel taxiway just to the right, where four other airliners were idling in the darkness, on Friday the 7th.

As the Airbus 320 pulled up sharply it flew 30 metres over the first two jets, about 60 metres above the third and about 90 metres over the fourth, the summary said.

“This was very close to a catastrophic event,” said John Cox, a safety consultant and retired airline pilot.

Collisions on the ground are particularly dangerous because planes waiting to take off are loaded with fuel. The deadliest crash in aviation history occurred in 1977 when a KLM Boeing 747 taking off in the Canary Islands ploughed into a Pan Am 747 that was waiting to take off; 583 people died in the crash and fires.

According to the report released on Thursday, the plane was less than a mile from the taxiway, flying well over 160 kilometres per hour, when a voice — apparently one of the pilots on the taxiway — interjected on the landing radio frequency, “Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway!”

Only at that point did the controller order the Air Canada jet to pull up. The jet then did another circuit and landed safely on the correct runway. At worst, five aeroplanes would have been involved in the smash, each with 140 people or more on board, and the risk of about 800 casualties or deaths. The matter is under investigation.

Finally, a strong cold front has just passed across the Western Cape, bringing a fair amount of cold rain to this province, snow to high-lying areas, and cold with snow to inland mountainous areas. If the forecast is correct, the Cape should experience about 50mm of rain, which will be nice, but the snow is equally welcome, because when it melts it runs into our dam catchment areas. Here’s hoping…..

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.