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Author Topic: Callsign Hijacking - FCC ULS Database Corruption  (Read 1318 times)

Posts: 1

« on: January 26, 2004, 09:13:55 PM »

This twisted tale of call sign hijacking and FCC ULS database corruption began nearly two months ago for me when another ham informed me that he couldn't find me in the QRZ database. (Now, my license still says that it is valid for some time yet.) The next day I notified the FCC, but even after nearly two months the FCC still shows no real inclination to straighten the mess out, despite numerous phone calls and e-mails by myself and others.

For anybody interested in details, the FCC ULS database has a security flaw which allows an amateur license to be hijacked by another individual. In my case, this was apparently done errantly by an aircraft licensee having the same callsign/tailnumber.

For proof, look up N5BU in the FCC ULS database. Then look up the aircraft call 5BU in the FCC ULS database and go back to December 13, 1999 for both. On that date notice that the FRN and addresses are the same for both callsigns, although the names are different. This error cascaded into license cancellation and reassignment of the callsign (in the vanity program, of course) before I had any inkling of a problem. You might also note that my license expiration date is out in the future, although the database indicates cancellation.

Since I earned my license the hard way and was duly granted operating privileges by the FCC and still have the original license in my possession stating its validity, I consider that I can operate legally with my assigned callsign, N5BU, regardless of the errant data in the FCC database. (I've even queried the FCC about this three times now and they are still at a loss to tell me otherwise).

I am told by the ARRL that they are aware of database corruption showing up in at least one other ham license record a few years ago that eventually got corrected.

I have been having frequent discussions with the FCC, but currently, the matter is assigned to the "legal division", where it was transferred within a few days of the time I notified the FCC, but as of yet they've not assigned anybody to work the matter. In other words, they have been sitting on this matter for almost two months now, apparently doing absolutely nothing.

Bill Sorsby, N5BU (since 1976, licensed since 1964)

P.S.  I strongly recommend that everyone with an Nx2 callsign check the FCC ULS database for errors. If my understanding of the corruption issue is correct, any Nx2 callsign (except N "zero") is subject to being hijacked by a similar call in the aircraft database. The reason this happens is that aircraft callsigns in some cases are identical to ham callsigns. The FCC normally distinguishes between them by showing the aircraft call in the ULS database without the "N" prefix. Nevertheless, the paper license for an aircraft licensee displays the full callsign, including the "N" prefix, and the database allows an aircraft licensee to enter the callsign with the "N" prefix. When an aircraft licensee does this inadvertently (apparently they normally know better) and the identical ham callsign exists, the ham callsign is hijacked! (I spent many hours digging through raw data in the FCC ULS database to understand this phenomenon.)

Posts: 4


« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2004, 10:42:49 PM »

You can check out aircraft callsigns on

I checked my call and found it to be issued to a Piper PA-31-310 Twin Turbo Navajo. I wonder if I could lay claim to that airplane....I think not. I could buy some new ham gear and probably a new QTH.

Grant N7AS
Longview, WA

Posts: 32

« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2004, 11:06:49 PM »

You might try contacting your Congress-person and see if he/she can help speed things up. Worth a try.

Posts: 14


« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2004, 03:01:06 AM »

When I first signed myself and my daughter up using ULS, I would get a message that the database had not been updated.  It took 3 tries to get it to admit she was in.  Later, I did a search and found that she was in their database 3 times!  I emailed the FCC using a link provided on the page, and was able to get things fixed within hours.  Perhaps this was an easier situation for them to deal with, than a bad connection between two databases.  Also, I am sure they are much less concerned with messing up a ham's license than that of a pilot.  More at stake in the latter case.

Howard AE0Z
1 Peter 4:10

Posts: 1190

« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2004, 04:47:00 PM »

  So you are Sorsby who is this Willard guy the pilot ?

Posts: 158

« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2004, 06:41:54 PM »

If a pilot can erase an Amateur license, can an
Amateur erase an aircraft license?  Seems a good way
to get the FCC in a willing mood to clean this up.

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