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Using Airband Radios (UK Practical)


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If you are interested in using an airband radio but feel that it raises a few interesting questions,here is a PDF that may entice you to get a VHF RT License and invest in an airband radio. The link is at the bottom of the page.

The legalities need to be followed but once you have an RT license you can use a (licensed) installation in the air to talk to each other and ATC units. Probably not a big deal if you beat up and down a hill, but if you travel distances and want to integrate safely with other traffic - essential.

Here is a link for CAP413, the CAA's publication covering the RT license requirements.

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If you will accept a little advice from a PPL;

The initial call to an agency should include the nature of the service you are requesting. i.e.

'Brize Radar this is Tipper Formation requesting flight information service.'

The rest of the transaction will continue as described, except the likely initial response from the agency will be;

'Tipper Formation, pass your message'

Do not be surprised if an agency takes quite a while to respond to an initial call, or if they ask you to 'stand-by'. They may well be working military traffic on UHF that you will not be able to hear. Often under these circumstances, as the formation have a slightly unusual call-sign, ATC will ask you to repeat your call sign; i.e.

'Formation calling Brize Radar, repeat your call-sign.'

If you experience problems, i.e. engine failure, although not an emergency as such in a paramotor, do not be afraid of using a 'PAN' call to alert ATC of the situation. i.e.

'Pan-Pan, Pan-pan, Pan-pan

Tipper formation, one aircraft experiencing engine failure, descending under full control.'

Once the situation is sorted, ie aircraft landed safely, then tell ATC of the fact, and what the contingencies are. eg aircraft being recovered by ground support, no further assistance required. This information can be passed by radio direct or by telephone via the D&D cell.

And one small point, although frequencies do exist to allow paramotors to communicate on airband with each other, it is not for chat. The radio should only be used to ensure the safe operation of the flight.

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If you will accept a little advice from a PPL;

The initial call to an agency should include the nature of the service you are requesting. i.e.

'Brize Radar this is Tipper Formation requesting flight information service.'

The rest of the transaction will continue as described, except the likely initial response from the agency will be;

'Tipper Formation, pass your message'

Do not be surprised if an agency takes quite a while to respond to an initial call, or if they ask you to 'stand-by'. They may well be working military traffic on UHF that you will not be able to hear. Often under these circumstances, as the formation have a slightly unusual call-sign, ATC will ask you to repeat your call sign; i.e.

'Formation calling Brize Radar, repeat your call-sign.'

If you experience problems, i.e. engine failure, although not an emergency as such in a paramotor, do not be afraid of using a 'PAN' call to alert ATC of the situation. i.e.

'Pan-Pan, Pan-pan, Pan-pan

Tipper formation, one aircraft experiencing engine failure, descending under full control.'

Once the situation is sorted, ie aircraft landed safely, then tell ATC of the fact, and what the contingencies are. eg aircraft being recovered by ground support, no further assistance required. This information can be passed by radio direct or by telephone via the D&D cell.

And one small point, although frequencies do exist to allow paramotors to communicate on airband with each other, it is not for chat. The radio should only be used to ensure the safe operation of the flight.

Phil,

Of course, always pleased to receive advice from qualified sources.

You might try establishing contact first, then having done so ATC will either offer you what they are able to provide given their workload, or as you point out you can request a specific service. In the specific instance I quoted the call was set up for zone penetration and transit but formed a good example of a general call. Yes if you are vague about what service you are requesting they may quiz you or again, state what service they are prepared to provide - Flight Information/Radar Advisory.

Responses to an initial call can be anything along the lines we suggest. There is no fixed format unless you are an Australian controller - they eat their manuals for breakfast and don't deviate from their 'form of words'.

The standard call is, "say again your callsign." that one does tend to be used.

Good points on the 'Pan' situation. You might add the the little memory jogger NIP, Nature - Intention - Position when putting out any form of distress call, if you are really busy just tack "Standby" onto the end of the call to stop ATC/Others from bothering you. Nature of your problem, Intention of the aircraft commander, Position of the aircraft.

Yea, OK. Perhaps I tacked a casual rider on the use of dedicated VHF frequencies but you can use them for any purpose you choose. Calls need to be properly constituted and relevant to flight operations. That said it is sound practice to cut extraneous chatter to a minimum, if for no other reason than to save the ears of everyone on the freq. We have a nauseating individual on the Atlantic chat frequency (American) who insists on playing iPod clips to everyone. He thinks he is being funny but I guess you know what most of us think eh Phil. Tw@t! LOL

My intention in putting out that PDF was to introduce the generalities of Airband RT. CAP 413 should be the reference for serious study and particularly boning up for the RT license exam.

You and I both know that there is a reluctance to embrace the radio at first, students take a little while to catch on during initial training and I have no reason to believe that PPG pilots would be any different, particularly given their lack of exposure to the regular aeronautical RT environment. This is by no means a criticism, it is just the nature of the sport at the moment but I am sure that cross country flying will blossom and when it does....

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It's OK Norm, it's a great piece of work and I applaud any effort to improve RT comms. I in no way meant to be critical, only to provide additional input. I really get a bee in my bonnet when I listen to some of the sloppy transmissions to Waddington and Cranwell that I listen to at home, they sometimes make me cringe. More umms and errrrs than useful information. I always try to sound as professional as possible when talking to an equally professional controller, I consider it common courtesy.

My point about requesting service on initial contact is the correct procedure (CAP413 2.7.2.3)

"An aircraft should request the service required on initial contact when freecalling a ground station"

ie 'Westbury Approach, G-ABCD request Lower airspace radar service'

Nit picking I know, sorry.

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Phil,

LOL, nitpick away, no problem, I should be more specific I suppose but I am trying to encourage the ascent of the qualification process and provide a general briefing for the (licensed) T2T pilots who will be using the radio but have perhaps limited exposure. You are much more current in the use of GA based RT than I am and your familiarity adds an interesting dimension to the conversation. My regular usage outside controlled airspace is rusty though I did spend a decade or so bouncing around in the weather below FL100 earlier in my career..

Maybe we should develop this so that we can drive standards up. I have considered applying to become an RT License examiner to make the process of obtaining the license a little easier for our bunch. The trouble is the process is expensive (two dedicated computers plus software) and targeted to regions with examiner slots being allocated to ensure no saturation. Sensible I suppose as there is therefore good standards control and currency among the examining body but it does make it less than simple to instigate. An examiner is then required to make a minimum charge of around £90 for the course and exam. Some might baulk at this charge.

Still, it is worth looking at. As for sloppy RT, at Swanton Morley some time ago we used to share a frequency with Netherthorpe. I guess the mixture of Yorkshire lilt and (then) poor RT training regime produce cringe-making listening. Truth is, we all have to learn and that learning is better taking place on discrete, general frequencies than as part of the airspace system generally inho. I hope more PPG pilots use the 'airband' radio and that an inexpensive, small and very light weight transponder comes into general use. If it does the sky will become a safer place for us all. The last thing any of us need is a 450kt, 12 ton aluminum suppository whilst enjoying the magic of the wild open spaces above us.

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I came across a site where they were developing a lightweight transponder. I left my email for update info, but not heard anything to date. I'd agree, that apart from the cost aspect, every paraglider/motor should have one. 'See and be seen' is ok as far as it goes, but there have been too many documented airprox's with aircraft of all shapes and sizes for us to be complacent. I was wondering about one of the proximity warning devices that uses the transmissions from other aircraft's transponders to determine collision risk, they might not notice you, but at least you'd be able to act if you preceived them as a threat.

I must admit, I wonder if I would have gone to the trouble and expense of getting a FRTL if I didn't have one as a PPL. That said, before I completed my PPL course, and therefore was granted my FRTL by that route, I did actually study, pass and get one issued so that I would be able to use the ground end of the radio at a small private field that was in the process of opening up near home. Really unfortunate that that site never got off the ground, (scuse pun) because it could have been a good PPG site.

I really think that one of the biggest problems people have with R/T, is a sort of fear of the radio. They become very timid as soon as they press the PTT button, and turn into a gibbering wreck. Practice and reassurance is good. Another thing that can be helpful is group organized visits to ground facilities so that pilots can see that controllers are 'human' in every sense of the word, that they are there to help us and are more than happy to do so, as long as you know the right way to talk to them.

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'Knowledge dispels fear' For any PPG pilot to go to the trouble and expense of getting licensed and kitted up with a radio they need to understand the nature of the payback. If they just want to putter around their local area as I suspect most do, then it would be a waste of cash and an intrusion into the commune with the environment.

If we start talking wandering around the UK then a radio (airband transceiver) starts to become an essential item. The only way they can fully understand that is to engage.

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