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Mark Pugh

Airband Radio in UK

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I've always flown paragliders with a VHF 2m FM radio and used frequencies just below the amateur band of 144-146 Mhz; when I started paramotoring, I found many pilots used the UHF amateur band in a similar way, so I purchased a combined VHF/UHF radio (I do have a full amateur license, but it's actually illegal to transmit when in the air on these bands, ok for arranging retrieves if you land out or summoning help if you are stuck in trees!).

But recently I've been launching at a couple of green field grass strips and other users use Airband, so I purchased a Yaesu airband AM radio. I hope I'm correct in that I can listen in on these frequencies no problem, but I started asking light aircraft pilots and most informed me that the RT UK license was easy to pass with a written exam (about £30) and then a actual practical test that cost more like £120. They generally did not have lessons but asked a more senior pilot to show them what to do and bought them drinks for the night as they were shown!

But it also appears that the annual license is another £120, this is usually paid for by the aircraft fees as the radio is attached to the plane. While looking at the CAA website it seems to show that glider pilots get a few frequencies for free to use.

Does any PPG pilot have any more information about taking this license and getting permission to transmit in the airband range? It seems that usually it's light aircraft or even jet pilots that use airband whilst powered paragliding few pure PPG pilots get a license.

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There is a grey area regarding hand held airband radios. Because they are portable they are not attached to any aircraft so don't command an annual 'license' as fixed kit does.

It is 'understood' that many of these are carried in a flight bag as possible emergency comms if the fixed radio fails.

So saying it is usual for a hand held radio to be used by PPG pilots, as I do. You do need to pass the operators license known as the Flight Radiotelephony Operator's Licence, or FRTOL for short. Search for FRTOL and you will find information on training and exams.

Once passed you are up to speed with correct terminology and procedures and use is encouraged, particularly when close to airfields.

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Cost of course, exams and another radio.

You are not obliged to be radio equipped even If you fly close to controlled airspace.

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It does appear to be the only legal way of transmitting from the air. Even with a full amateur license I can't use from the sky. I think the cost is not the issue, we manage to spend £10,000 on kit, even second hand costs about £3,000. I think using an "illegal" frequency means we can "chat" on the radio. What do we actually say? "Which town is that?", "Shall we go over there?" "Let's go up to the clouds", etc. 

I don't think we'll ever need to speak to a control tower, or ask permission to land; we can do most of that by mobile before we even launch. The only pilots that seem to use airband and the ones that are already licensed from other air sports, i.e. pilots of light aircraft, or commercial jets.

Has any other pilot actually taken the exams just for paramotor use?

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Yes I have. I am also a licensed amateur but I have flown from a commercial airfield on 14 occasions and still take off from a field that is right next to the ATZ.

It gives a greater sense of safety plus I know which runway is in use and subsequently which circuit pattern.

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So Alan_k, in preparation for the RT license, did you take lessons with a local flying club? . I presume knowing "Q" codes and the phonetic alphabet from Amateur license helps, but surely radio procedure has to be learnt, it just seems that only a very small percentage would be useful for PPG.

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Yes I did have to learn quite a lot. I booked up with an RT course and the instructor sent pre-course materials to learn. It was a one day course with the exams at the end.

Being an amateur helped a lot in the practical whereas others were very nervous.

Good luck if you do go down this route.

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I like the idea of a one day course after learning the material which is pre-sent. Who did you do this with, can't find anyone offering this on google and my local glider school want me to turn up daily for months at quite a cost!

I have already bought a Yaesu radio with 8.33 kc steps, just because the price was right. I'm up for tuition and paying, but can't find a one day course anywhere. It took me 6 weeks just to learn morse code to the correct speed, 12 wpm. It only took me 2 weeks to know it to 10 wpm... but getting up to speed was the hardest, you lost the thinking milliseconds between letters. It's crazy to have airband and not use it.

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The course I took was Planespeak Aviation RT, usually held at Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green airport. A really nice fellah and relaxed atmosphere.

andy@planespeak (dot) com

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Hi Alan, great information here!

If OK, I'm going to contact this chap as I have always wanted to gain my FRTOL. I even have my trusty unused icom A6 gathering dust in the garage. Hopefully he still does these courses and would entertain the idea of helping a PPG flier.

Thank you Alan!

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He does the course when he has about 6 people that want to do it.

Is your 'trusty' A6 8.33 KHz compliant, if not it is obsolete and can't be used. A lot of frequency changes have occurred that now use the extra channels.

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1 hour ago, alan_k said:

Is your 'trusty' A6 8.33 KHz compliant, if not it is obsolete and can't be used. A lot of frequency changes have occurred that now use the extra channels.

Doh...

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Used to be 3 concurrent qualifications for legal UK use of airband:

1 Pilot suitably rated

2 Aircraft suitably rated

3 Radio suitably rated

Has it changed?

Richard

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Alan, thanks to you I'm now on Andy's waiting list! As you say, he does these sessions in groups so I'm just waiting for a few others to join and then he'll run it.

Cheers mate 😉

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You will find he is an excellent teacher, plus he doesn't take failures, he wills you through it, his enthusiasm is infectious.

  • Thanks 1

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On 10/02/2019 at 07:40, alan_k said:

1 and 3 correct but no 2 is for fixed installed kit.

A hand portable isn't classed as fixed.

Ok, it has changed then. In the mid 90's you couldn't legally operate any airband radio in flight unless you had a G-XXXX registered aircraft. Guessing this change is as a result of the licencing authority transfer to Ofcom. (We can still register our aircraft). Richard

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On ‎07‎/‎02‎/‎2019 at 07:40, alan_k said:

The course I took was Planespeak Aviation RT, usually held at Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green airport. A really nice fellah and relaxed atmosphere.

andy@planespeak (dot) com

I learnt to parachute at Halfpenny Green in 1982/83....

 

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