National Traffic System – Pen Pal Program

From this month’s Wisconsin Section news update:

NTS Pen Pal Program
by Ivin Flint, W9ILF, NM and ORS

The purpose of the NTS Pen Pal Program is to gain new friends within amateur radio through the national traffic system. It will create a traffic flow back and forth between two stations. This traffic flow will become a consistent path through the NTS. It will very likely cross modes and forge a strong, reliable link between two points that may incidentally be beneficial in a time of emergency while two stations get to know each other though frequent correspondence.

To get this started I have created a yahoo group with a page to place interested operator’s name, call letters, city, & state. To gain a new pen pal simply look through the list and choose an area of the United States you would like to correspond with someone. Write a radiogram message to the individual you choose, inviting them to be your NTS pen pal. Next, just bring your traffic to any traffic net of your choice.

If you receive a request, respond with an agreement or a response as to why you cannot be a pen pal with this station at the moment. You may get multiple pen pal requests so keep the number to a comfortable amount. If you feel you have enough pen pals indicate you are not currently available for more on the web site. When you have an opening due to more time or a loss of one pen pal then indicate your availability again on the pen pal web site.

On the website there will be lots of information on how to correspond and “break the ice” to get started and ways to track your message to delivery.

Regular NTS participation with one or more traffic nets is encouraged as this will then ease delivery of your traffic. Daily check-in isn’t required but multiple times weekly is good. Local NTS operators will get to know what traffic net/nets you are most active with and will route your messages there.

The benefit the NTS pen pal program will have to ARRL traffic nets is that as traffic is routed to nets pen pal participants will show up eager to get their traffic from the net and inject more unique traffic into the system. Individual traffic is a joy to handle from a relay operator’s point of view so more operators will be interested in moving traffic along getting an expected message though. The more traffic two stations generate to each other the stronger and more efficient the path to get traffic delivered will become.

If you feel your message may not have been delivered and got stalled along the way, I would encourage you to follow up with the person you gave your message to. Good record keeping is important and part of the NTS system. Each relay station should be able to tell you who they gave the message to, the date and time. Most of the time the message will have been delivered or there is a good reason your message has gotten stuck. By your interest in following up it will encourage the relay station to hunt and find an outlet for your traffic. Once the outlet is established by a relay station they will use it time and time again. You can see then, how your regular traffic to a specific station makes the NTS path stronger.

Please do not use e-mail to contact your pen pal. If there is a reason a single letter has to be lengthy spend just a little money and send it via the United States Postal Service. They could use the extra letter and it is in the spirit of a good pen pal. Those I have been in correspondence with regularly have required a letter from time to time, but most of our communication has been through the NTS.

Chess was once a common use of the NTS. If you would like to add extra fun to your NTS experience then indicate you know the game and how to notate chess moves. It works very easily with NTS messages and it has been very enjoyable for me the few times I have tried it.
Adding a game into the mix of your correspondence is easy and adds to the anticipation of getting another message though with your next move.

Have fun and enjoy getting more involved with the National Traffic System.

What an excellent idea – will need to find me a buddy to do this with with whom I don’t email (much)!



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