BE Informed No. 5.3
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Who Must Throw That
Big Red Switch?
John B. Johnston W3BE
Q. Does the control operator have to cough in order to key the transmitter if VOX is used during a third party voice
transmission? Does the control operator have to stand behind the third party and reach around him/her to activate the PTT?
If a foot switch is used, does the third party have to sit in the lap of the control operator so that the control operator
may activate the foot controlled PTT? If Morse code is used to express the words, does the control operator have to hold the
hand of the third party on the J-38 key while stroking it?
A. Those might work compliantly albeit awkwardly. Your questions
show how one set of how-to protocols cannot fit all situations without being so rigid as to become ludicrous. As the designated Section 97.105 control operator, therefore, you should not allow your Section 97.115(b)
third party message-stating participant to key the mike, tap the key, use VOX, etc., unless you are convinced absolutely that the person will perform exactly as
The FCC granted the
license to you because a team of three Section 97.509 administering VEs certified that you have proven that you possess the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly
the duties of an amateur service licensee. Your grant of a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license is shown on the ULS. You are, therefore, the person who is authorized privileges. You cannot delegate your accountability for performing
properly your designated Section 97.105 control operator duties. When things go wrong, you cannot pass the buck to your Section 97.115(b)
third party message-stating participant.
Q. Most hams do not intend to violate
the rules. The problem lies in the meaning of the term control operator. Isn’t it time for you to request a
definition in this context from the FCC?
A. Our regulator is ahead of us on that one. The definition of the term control
operator is codified in Section 97.3(a)(13): An amateur operator designated by the licensee of a station to be responsible for the transmissions from that station
to assure compliance with the FCC Rules. That definition applies to all contexts: Field Day, contests, special events,
rag chewing, DXing, etc.
Section 97.7 control operator required says:
When transmitting, each
amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:
(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears
on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or
(b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by Section 97.107 of this part.
Moreover, Section 97.105 Control operator duties says:
(a) The control
operator must ensure the immediate proper operation of the station, regardless of the type of control.
(b) A station may only be operated in the
manner and to the extent permitted by the privileges authorized for the class of operator license held by the control operator.
Furthermore, Section 97.103 says:
(a) The station licensee is responsible
for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. When the control operator is a different amateur
operator than the station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station.
(b) The station licensee must designate
the station control operator. The FCC will presume that the station licensee is also the control operator, unless documentation
to the contrary is in the station records.
(c) The station licensee must make the station and the station records available for inspection upon request by an FCC representative.
There is this additional information about
the duties of the Section 97.105 control operator appear on the FCC web pages.
I think it would be advantageous to give any Extra Class on site the right to serve as “control operator” in any
situation where it is desired to exercise Extra Class privileges at that site. The FCC can already check the license status
of any operator, using its computerized records.
A. Designating the Section 97.105 control operator of a Section 97.5 amateur station is a duty assigned exclusively to the Section 97.103 station licensee: the station licensee is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC rules.
Whenever the designated Section 97.105 control operator is a different amateur operator than the Section 97.103 station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station.
You are crediting the ULS with far more capability than it has. From the call sign given in the Section 97.119 station identification announcements, it can provide only the name, Section 97.23 mailing address, and operator class of the Section 97.103 station licensee. It does not provide information on the designated Section 97.105 control operator at any particular time. That information would have to be obtained directly from the Section 97.103 station licensee.
Be informed that the FCC will
presume that the Section 97.103 station licensee is also the Section 97.105 control operator, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records. Also be informed that our regulator has outsourced the maintenance monitoring of our amateur service frequency bands.
We have assumed that since an Extra and General are on site and use their call, a Tech can operate on 20/40/80 meters by answering
CQ's. Must that person operate only in the area of his license?
A. Assume again, this time reading and heeding Section 97.301(e). It codifies the HF frequency bands available to an amateur station having a Section 97.105 control operator who has been granted an operator license of Novice or Technician Class. Note that no privileges are authorized for 20 meters
and only small segments of the 80, 40, 15 and 10 meter bands are authorized.
Q. What are the duties of the control operator?
A. The designated Section 97.105 control operator must ensure the immediate proper operation of the station, regardless of the type of control.
Q. Does our GOTA station control
operator have to be awake at all times during Field Day?
A. Your designated Section 97.105 control operator, certainly would have to be present and alert at the Section 97.3(a)(14) control point in order to continuously monitor and supervise the Section 97.115(b)
third party message-stating participant.
Q. I have never thought that
was a legitimate reading of the regulations that where there is an Extra class operator in the general vicinity, even no-code
technicians would be allowed to operate anywhere in the HF bands. This has come up during field day, special event operations,
and contesting. It has always seemed to me that the person actually operating the radio (changing frequency and operating
any push-to-talk switch) is effectively the control operator of that transmitter and is limited by the license privileges
of his or her own license. Agree?
Almost. Those PTT, etc. conditions, however, are way too much how-to-ism. Use, instead: The Section 97.105 control operator
causes or allows the station to transmit properly.
Q. How far from the station control point may the control operator be while continuously monitoring and supervising
an unlicensed third party operator’s participation in stating the message?
A. Section 97.3(a)(14) says the control point is the location at which the Section 97.105 control operator function is performed. The word point usually means a narrowly localized place having a precisely indicated position. In
this context, good amateur practice requires that the designated Section 97.105 control operator be situated such as to be able to exercise proper judgment while carrying out those duties that the Section 97.105 control operator should do to ensure the immediate proper operation of the station.
Q. Doesn’t the fact that I am sitting right next to this person mean I am the control
The Section 97.105 control operator can only be the person so designated by the Section 97.103(b) station licensee.
Q. That is basically unenforceable.
If my station is operated with the Extra Class bands and modes, who would know who is pushing the PTT?
A. You and the person pushing the PTT
would know. You are, presumably, both trustworthy – a reputation hard-to-earn, easy-to-lose. The extensive privileges
afforded to our amateur service are attributable to the reputation it has earned for self-enforcement in the past. It is difficult
to imagine why anyone would want to damage that. Check with our maintenance monitors as to how they do it.
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October 28, 2017
Supersedes all previous editions