Black Mountains Gliding Club

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Use of radio

Based on notes produced by Don Puttock

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The club





Like so many things we need to learn in aviation, there is a mixture of hugely practical and some relatively useless stuff.
Understanding comes from recognition of the structure of control within the UK and some history.

  1. Early radios were very unreliable and sometimes difficult to hear. Standard phraseology came about to reduce the length of transmissions and make messages easier to understand.
  2. There is a very real risk that radio might be used as a part of a terrorist attack for instance. Anyone with an aviation transceiver could send bogus messages, and disrupt air traffic into busy airports. Licensing is part of a safety control mechanism.
  3. The civil aviation authority (CAA) controls all UK aviation radio operations. The aims are, 1) to ensure the sets themselves (referred to as stations), operate correctly without interfering with other transmitters and 2) the users are trained to follow strict procedures. Glider pilots are exempted from holding formal licences provided they stick to the limited range of frequencies allocated to them. At Talgarth you have been using 130.1 MHz routinely. All sets must have a radio communications licence (issued by the CAA.)
  4. Some of the Bronze C syllabus covers subjects that cannot be practised without an operators licence, but is still required knowledge.
  5. British Glider Pilots are amongst the worst in the world for radio skills. At the end of this introduction you will begin to recognise some of the failings that routinely happen. Good operating skills are obvious to those "in the know", many pilots operate in ignorance without realising they are making fools of themselves.

Radio transmission techniques

  1. Think before you transmit.---being prepared reduces the umms and errs.
  2. Listen to ensure you are not interrupting anyone else.---Their message may be critically important.
  3. Remember, when you press the push to talk button no one else can get through. (stuck mike is not unusual, so if it seems to have gone quiet on the radio, make sure you are not sitting on the microphone switch).
  4. When talking maintain a constant distance from your mouth to the microphone.
  5. Enunciate each word clearly and distinctly using a normal conversational tone.
  6. Keep your speech rate constant, a maximum of 100 words per minute.
  7. Avoid using hesitation sounds such as er.
  8. Keep the operation of the transmit button to a minimum. Depress the button fully before speaking and do not release it until the message is complete.
  9. make sure the button is released after transmission and that it cannot be inadvertently switched on after stowage
  10. VHF radio transmissions are line of sight---the higher you are the further it is possible to transmit and receive. (at altitude it is important to make your location clear----"Tango four nine , five thousand feet descending over the airfield" will be heard at the other end of the country!!!
  11. Keep transmissions brief and to the point.

Radio around the airfield

  1. Ground stations can never give instructions to an aircraft unless they are air traffic controllers operating in a controlled environment.----"Talgarth base, Tango Four nine, request circuit instructions"-------"Tango Four nine , gliders seem to be flying right hand circuits landing South-west"-----(in other words—its up to you to decide, but this is what everyone else seems to be doing)
  2. Transmissions are often blind, a reply is not necessarily expected—"Talgarth, Tango one zero, downwind, landing east."
  3. Transmissions always start with the station being called, followed by your call sign---"you, this is me"
  4. If you expect a reply don't pass your question in on garbled outburst.-------"Tango one zero, Tango four nine"----(wait)---"Tango four nine pass your message"-----"Tango one zero, what are your intentions?"----"Tango one zero, intend commence right hand circuit"
  5. A general safety announcement might sound like this------------"Talgarth Gliders be advised a heavy rain shower is approaching the airfield"

Readability scale

It is good practice to check your radio is working properly;

"Golf-Papa-Alpha, tango one zero, request radio check"………….."tango one zero readability five"

The scale goes from 5 (perfectly readable to 1 (unreadable), 3 is readable with difficulty.

Gliding Frequencies

Frequency Primary use Secondary use
130.125MHz Training (lead and follow)
Other cross-country location messages
Local and other flying
Competition start and finish lines
130.1 MHz Competition start and finish lines Training (lead and follow)
130.4 MHz Cloud flying and relaying cross country messages only
129.975 MHz As a control frequency within 10 nautical miles and up to height of 3000ft above certain approved airfields
129.9 MHz Ground to ground only

(Source Laws and Rules for Glider pilots)

Call Signs

  • Gliders registration letters or competition number--------("Tango one zero"---"nine eight nine")
  • Cars…include designation "mobile"---------------("nine eight nine mobile")
  • Sites…include the designation "base"---------------("Talgarth base")
(Source laws and Rules for Glider pilots)

In addition:-

Airfields and other services have other designations

("Shobdon Radio") ------ a non air traffic controlled radio station.

("Cardiff information") ----- an information service available to all aviators in the vicinity

Distress and diversion

In the event of difficulty (uncertain of position, or some other pressing situation) you should remain on your base frequency, however if you get no response 121.5 MHz is the UK distress frequency. This frequency is manned 24/7.

Airspace and Radio

All airspace is designated a letter (from A to G). A is the highest. The rules are tougher the higher the designation.

Class D airspace (D reminds me of dialogue), you must have 2 way communication with the air traffic controller before entering. (Bristol and Cardiff are examples). Without an operators licence, you cannot talk to air traffic control, so you cannot go in. However if you do have an operators licence, you can talk to him and he might let you in.

Class E downwards you do not need to maintain radio contact.


There are two recognised states of emergency, classified as follows:-
  1. Distress---A condition of being threatened by serious and/or imminent danger and requiring immediate assistance.
  2. Urgency---A condition concerning the safety of an aircraft or other vehicle, or of some person on board or within sight, but not requiring immediate assistance.

In the case of distress, the call is prefixed MAYDAY<MAYDAY<MAYDAY, in the case of urgency the call is prefixed PAN>PAN>PAN

Whenever possible the emergency message should be relayed in the following order.
  2. Name of station addressed
  3. Your call sign
  4. Type of aircraft
  5. Nature of emergency
  6. Intention of person in command
  7. Present or last known position, height and heading.
  8. Pilot qualifications.
  9. Any other useful information.

Standard Words and Phrases

I have included all standard phrases and meanings, for the bronze paper and general radio use you should know the phrases shown in bold

Word/Phrase meaning
ACKNOWLEDGE Let me know you have received and understood this message.
APPROVED Permission for proposed action granted
BREAK Indicates the separation between messages
CANCEL Annul the previously transmitted message
CHANGING TO I intend to call…(unit) on…(frequency)
CHECK Examine the system or procedure (no answer normally expected)
CLEARED Authorised to proceed under the conditions specified.
CLIMB Climb and maintain
CONFIRM Have I correctly received the following…? Or Did you correctly receive this message?
CONTACT Establish radio contact with…(your details have been passed)
CORRECT This is correct.
CORRECTION An error has been made in this transmission (or message indicated) The correct version is…
DESCEND Descend and maintain.
DISREGARD Consider that transmission as not sent
FREECALL Call…(unit) (your details have not been passed—mainly used by military ATC)
HOW DO YOU READ What is the readability of my transmission
I SAY AGAIN I repeat for clarity or emphasis
MONITOR Listen out on (frequency)
NEGATIVE No; or permission not granted; or that is not correct
OVER* My transmission is ended and I expect a response from you
OUT* This exchange of transmissions is ended and no response is expected.
PASS YOUR MESSAGE Proceed with your message
READ BACK Repeat all, or the specified part, of this message back to me exactly as received.
REPORT Pass requested information
REQUEST I should like to know…or I wish to obtain
ROGER I have received all your last transmission.—under no circumstances should this be used in reply to a question requiring a direct answer---(AFFIRM or NEGATIVE)
SAY AGAIN Repeat all or the following part of your last transmission
SPEAK SLOWER Reduce your rate of speech
STANDBY Wait and I will call you
VERIFY Check and confirm
WILCO I understand your last message and will comply with it
WORDS TWICE Please send every word twice or I am sending every word twice.(because communication is difficult)


Meteorological information is transmitted continuously (for the bronze you only need to know it exists). Volmet contain current aerodrome reports and (sometimes) trends.

The content of a volmet broadcast is as follows;-
  1. Aerodrome identification
  2. Surface wind
  3. Visibility
  4. RVR (Runway visual range)
  5. Weather
  6. Cloud
  7. Temperature
  8. Dew Point
  9. QNH
  10. Trend (if applicable)

Phonetic alphabet

Alpha November
Bravo Oscar
Charlie Papa
Delta Quebec
Echo Romeo
Foxtrot Sierra
Golf Tango
Hotel Uniform
India Victor
Juliet Whiskey
Kilo X-Ray
Lima Yankee
Mike Zulu

Transmission of numbers

Numeral or numeral element Latin alphabet representation
Hundred HUN DRED
Thousand TOUSAND

(A) Messages Containing

Call signs—altimeter settings—flight levels—headings—wind speeds/directions—transponder codes and frequencies.

Each digit is transmitted separately. Examples below
Number Transmitted as Pronounced
K13 Kilo one three Kilo wun tree
FL80 Flight level eight zero Flight level ait zero
190 degrees One nine zero degrees Wun niner zero degrees
15 knots One five knots Wun fife knots
130.1 One three zero decimal one Wun tree zero dayseemal wun

(B) messages containing

Altitude—height—cloud height—visibility---(which contain whole hundreds and whole thousands).

Should be transmitted by pronouncing each digit in the number of hundreds or thousands followed by HUNDRED or TOUSAND


Number Transmitted as Pronounced as
10 One zero Wun zero
100 One hundred Wun hundred
2500 Two thousand five hundred Too thousand fife hundred
11000 One one thousand Wun wun tousand
25000 Two five thousand Too fife tousand

Q codes

The only Q codes you need to know at Bronze level are:-

QFE…The pressure level at airfield level.
QNH….QFE reduced to sea level pressure using the standard atmosphere lapse rate.

You may hear the term QNE…..with 1013mb set in the altimeter subscale, this is the height shown on the altimeter when at airfield level, you do not need to remember this

February 2004