Use of Radios
- Whilst the use of VHF radios by the free flying community is of dubious legitimacy it does provide some clear benefits. There is, however a negative aspect to radio use. So, whilst not encouraging or condoning the practice, the following advice is intended to be helpful to those pilots who wish to participate.
- The benefits
- Safety is the most obvious benefit, particularly in incident/accident management.
- Radio has an essential role in coaching and training.
- The ability to share information is particularly valuable to XC gaggles. XC performance and enjoyment is improved by good radio communications.
- The above points are ‘hard’ benefits, radios use also provide some 'soft' benefits. Paragliding is for many a social activity and some pilots report pleasure and an increased feeling of security and enjoyment from an active radio net, even if they are not actively involved.
- There is a negative side to radio use. It is frequently cited as the most annoying part of flying. Common complaints are:
- Irrelevant chatter which can be at best irritating and worse a distraction from safe flying.
- Long rambling transmissions, hogging the net, are annoying and can block out more important or urgent transmissions.
- Radios jammed on ‘transmit’ block the net.
- Objectional language puts potential users off.
- Poor radio procedure leads to confusion, repetitive transmissions and frustration.
- It is vital to remember that when using a radio you are in public space. It is not a cell phone, your messages are not private but can be heard over considerable distances.
- The essence of acceptable radio usage is good Voice Procedure (VP).
- Transmissions should be short, concise and to the point. Decide what you need to say before pressing transmit. Don’t make it up as you go along.
- Don’t mumble, waffle and send long messages.
- The essential ingredients of any transmission are:
- Who is the intended recipient.
- Who is asking.
- The information/question.
- The End
- Hence, typical transmissions might be:
- Hi Pete, this is Chris. I’m approaching cloud base and about to go over the back. Over. ‘Over’ is universally accepted as the indication that this transmission is complete AND a response is expected. In this case a response from Pete might be: Okay, got that Chris. Good luck. Out. ‘Out’ is universally accepted as signaling the end of a conversation, no reply expected.
- Or perhaps a message to multiple recipients: All pilots flying in the vicinity of Clough Head, this is Chris Jones. There has been an accident. Air Ambulance is likely. Please land now. I repeat, please land now. Please keep this frequency free from non-essential transmissions. Out. The ‘out’ in this case indicates that no response is expected however any pilot can transmit as necessary, perhaps along the lines: Chris this is Steve, Roger that but there are some pilots operating on the Dales frequency. You’ll need to contact them, Over. From Chris: Thanks Steve. I’ll do that. Out. ‘Roger’ is the universally accepted expression for message understood.
- There will be times when a message does not get a response. The intended recipient may be out of range, occupied with more pressing matters or is trying to ignore you. In this situation, leave a pause for around 15 seconds and then repeat. After a few attempts if a response is not received then close the transmission with something along the lines: Steve this is Chris, nothing heard. Out. This closure is important as Steve may have heard and attempted to reply to the messages. ‘Nothing heard’ lets him know he has a communication problem.
- Individual pilots must be judges of what is appropriate radio traffic. What is ‘appropriate’ will depend on the situation. A small group flying together on a local site may feel able to adopt a more relaxed and informal approach. A crowded day on a popular site will require a more disciplined approach. However even the small local group needs to be aware that its hilarious transmissions and minutiae of their flights has the potential to annoy pilots on the other side of the Lake District.
If you have an emergency, you need to use one of the 2 emergency words in your call. If you hear one of these transmissions, you should stop transmitting and listen out. If you can assist directly with the caller, then transmit.
Mayday - A Mayday radio call should be reserved for life threatening situations.
Pan-Pan - A Pan-Pan radio call should be used for urgent situations that are not immediately life threatening, but require assistance
When making a emergency call, say the keyword 3 times, i.e. "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" followed by who you are, where you are and the nature of your emergency. Other pilots may need to relay the message or contact the emergency services if the pilot in distress cannot them directly.
If you are new to VHF radios take advice. A wide range of radios are available including cheap Chinese models many of which don’t fall apart or burst into flame when charging. Get to know your radio before appearing on launch and ensure you can master the basics.
- VOX (voice activated transmission) mode is not appropriate for free flying.
- Use a power setting appropriate to your intended flight. For local flying, low power should be the default. It restricts the range and extends the battery life.
- Be aware of the limitations of VHF. It operates 'line of sight'. No amount of repeat transmissions or shouting will make contact with a pilot flying behind a hill. Conversely, a pilot flying at base will potentially have a very large audience.
- Choice of frequency. This is an area of some contention. The suggestions below are not prescriptive and individuals and groups will make their own decisions based on the circumstances and hopefully with due consideration for other pilots.
- The CSC frequency is 143.700. This allows pilots arriving at any CSC site to tune into the local net. Visiting pilots are encouraged to use this frequency when using CSC sites. This has particular relevance to safety and accidents management.
- CSC Pilots flying on other clubs’ sites should tune to (or monitor if the radio has the facility) that club’s frequency. Local clubs’ frequencies are
- Dales - 143.85
- NHPC - 143.95
- Wingbeat - 143.75
- Caley - 143.65
- Coaching/training groups should not normally use the club frequency.
- XC pilots will select a frequency appropriate to their flight plan.
It is neither practicable nor desirable to be prescriptive on radio use. Pilots must make their own decisions but please have consideration for other pilots.
(Note: None of the pilots’ names used above relate to any actual pilots living or dead)