FAQs

On this page we try and answer the questions that have come in the course. Each week, as we work through the course, we'll update this page.

Zoom and the schedule

Do I have to attend on the same day each week?

No - feel free to choose whichever sessions fit your schedule. But you'll need to register separately for each day (that helps us, since we can then keep track of numbers)

Can I cancel my attendance on a particular day?

Yes, by all means. There's a link in the email that you should have received when you registered for a session

I didn't get an email when I registered

Check your SPAM folder. If it's not there, let me know (paul@ruskin.me.uk) and I'll send you the credentials

What if I can't make any session during the week?

Don't panic. The key learning is in the course videos. If you ask we can let you have a link to a recording of the session, though you'll miss the practice. But you can catch up with that.

Is Zoom secure?

Adequately for our purposes (note the UK Government Cabinet have been using it. This is quite a good article discussing the security issues if that's the sort of thing that interests you.

What do I do if I'm not allowed to load Zoom onto my work laptop

You can run Zoom in a browser, without having to install an app. Here's someone explaining how.

Part 1 - Introduction

How should you address the launch point at a gliding club?

For a club based at Anytown Airfield, the callsign should be something like Anytown Base, or Anytown Launch Point. It shouldn't be Anytown Radio because the suffix Radio is reserved for Air-Ground Communications Services (and that requires an appropriate Certificate of Competence for the operator).

Is a FRTOL needed for a gliding airfield with a discrete frequency (eg 127.580 at Hus Bos)

No, it is not. A gliding airfield with a discrete frequency is what's known as an Operational Control Aeronautical Radio Station. You need a FRTOL to talk to an ATSU (Air Traffic Service Unit) - someone providing Full ATC, an AFIS, or an AGCS. A gliding airfield generally has none of those, so a FRTOL isn't needed by the pilots talking to each other or to the launchpoint on frequency.

Why should a glider pilot bother getting a FRTOL?

The key reasons are:

  • allows us to be good citizens, and communicate with airfields as we go past them. That reduces the need for airfields to apply for controlled airspace because of all the non-talking traffic they see!
  • allows us access to airfields when we want to thermal, or possibly to land out
  • allows us access to controlled airspace, particularly when it's not busy.

Would you need to take a conversion test if moving from glider to power?

No - on this course we're teaching you everything you need to know to get a full FRTOL. And the test will be for that full FRTOL.

Should we include what we're squawking in the initial message?

It can be a useful thing to do, if you know you're talking to a radar equipped unit, and you want them to know who you are. Because gliders mostly don't carry transponders, a radar unit might assume you don't have one. Or they might ask whether you have one. You can short circuit that by making your initial message something like "Glider G-ABCD, squawking 7000, request Basic Service". Expect to be given a squawk in the reply.

Can we use “Glider + comp no” or “Glider + trigraph” rather than Glider G-ABCD as our callsigns?

Strictly, you should use the G-reg as your callsign. We'll do that for this course. However, Glider plus competition number, or Glider + trigraph (the three letters assigned to the glider by the BGA) works very well, and is shorter and quicker than using the G-reg. You'll find most cross country pilots do this. A couple of caveats - it needs to be unique (if a trigraph, it's the one the BGA assigned, and if a competition number - it's yours and you're paying for it so no-one else can claim it), and if you have a transponder, you're transmitting the same callsign. Of course, some gliders (Annex II) only have a trigraph, so the decision is easy.

Do we need to say over or out after our message?

No. These are words very rarely used in VHF communications. Over means, "I've finished, now it's your turn", Out means "the whole conversation is finished". Over and Out only occurs in bad movies. We don't use them because it's generally obvious from context and the sound of the radio what we mean.

What's the difference between Roger, Wilco and Affirm?

People often get these confused. Try not to.

  • Roger means "I have received all your last transmission"
  • Wilco means "Will Comply" - "I understand your message and will comply with it"
  • Affirm means "Yes"

How do you know whether to address an airfield as Information / Approach / Tower etc?

You should have that information with the frequency information - such as the Frequency Reference Card. That will give you the available options. If it's a larger airfield you're likely to talk initially to Approach, Radar or Zone. Then, later, if you get to the ATZ, you'll talk to Tower. However, if you don't know, just address them by their name (eg "Cambridge"). They'll respond with their proper callsign (eg Cambridge Approach).

Where can I find examples of RT that I can listen to?

The flying reporter has been suggested as worth watching. There's a video where he tries gliding too.


Part 2 - The flight

Do you have to ask for a service, or can you just ask (eg) for a MATZ crossing

In most cases it's worth asking for a service plus whatever else you want. Otherwise the controller is likely to ask you what service you want and the whole thing takes longer. The obvious exception is if you're talking to an AGCS (so "Somewhere Radio") who can't give a Basic Service - so ask for "Airfield Information".

Can we just say 'No service required'

We don't recommend it. If you're bothering to call them, you'll probably be on frequency for a little while, and you want them to tell you about anything significant that might affect you. That's all a basic service is, so you may as well ask for it - and then everyone knows what the deal is.

Might a basic service be denied?

It's very rare. I've had it happen once (Cranfield had four or five aircraft in the hold and several others on frequency). More likely to be denied would be a traffic service.

Will we get a Zone transit without a transponder?

MATZ transit, no problem. Class D - much more likely with a transponder, but it's going to depend on the traffic, and how well you define what you want (if you can say you will remain east of X, say, and they're not using that bit, then you have a chance).

Should we write down things we need to read back

You can if you want. I don't normally have a kneepad in a glider though, so I don't. I do set a QNH on my altimeter as soon as it is given, and a squawk on the transponder though. The other things I remember (I know what the wind is, so the runway is usually obvious).

How many LoAs like Cambridge are there, and where do I find them?

Most LoAs are specific to the gliding club concerned. Some (like the Cambridge one) are more general. You can find them at https://members.gliding.co.uk/library/loas/

I got a little confused this week when the required info at the end of the full message, the next turn was the 'correct' message as this wasn't mentioned previously.

Because the 'proper' format of the full message has from/to as its second item, and this isn't very useful for a glider doing an out and return or a triangle, we're suggesting putting something in the 'other' part of the message that tells the controller what you're doing. The next turnpoint is a very convenient way of doing that, though not the only way (I sometimes use 'tracking east' or something similar). I wouldn't normally bother with the from/to part of the message in a glider - but we want you to do it for the test.

At what point would you say "changing en route"

When I was clear of the area of interest of a controller, and I wanted to go back to a gliding frequency. If I was going to change to the next ATSU (Air Traffic Service Unit) I'd probably say "changing to X"

Would they always tell you the runway info even if asking to penetrate the ATZ in order to thermal?

Almost certainly, and you'd want to know it, since then you know where the traffic is likely to be.

If you are talking to a AGCS, do you need to inform them when you are changing frequency (as they are not offering an ongoing service)?

Yes. It's at the very least polite to tell someone you are leaving their frequency. Even if you had specified 'no service required' to an ATSU, you ought to tell them that you are going.

In the Enstone example, what would the RT be to actually land there? Are you requesting a join? Would you simply say “G-CD, requesting join” or would you provide 3D position info, especially if a standard overhead join is not possible?

You'd ask them for airfield information. Probably then tell them where you were and say you were looking for a climb. Then tell them you needed to land and ask for a join - maybe specifying which type you wanted. Unless you knew you needed to land from a long way away (say the day had died) in which case say you need to join to land from the start. The complication is if they are PPR (Prior Permission Required), in which case it might be worth making it clear that wasn't the original plan. So that would look something like

  • Enstone Radio, Glider G-ABCD, request join
  • Glider G-ABCD Enstone Radio, Pass your message
  • Glider G-ABCD 3 miles south of you, 1500 feet QNH, unable to stay airborne, request join downwind (say)

You still want to give them situational awareness of where you are. I'd leave out the from/to in real life

As an observation, I think more examples of landing a glider at a radio equipped / controlled airfield would be really useful. I know this is only a tiny part of the exam, but in real life, this type of knowledge would help many glider pilots, even if they only rarely actually need it.

You'll see one in Part 3, and in at least two of the scenarios we've put together for coaching afterwards.

Would it please be possible to provide examples of calls requesting if Danger / Parachute area are active, and of calls where no-service required, but a QFE / QNH reading is required?

The Danger Area Activity information service / Danger Area Crossing Service can be found in CAP413 5.42. You do need to know who to call - found in the AIP, and I think, on the half mil map.

  • Westbury Approach Glider G-ABCD request DAAIS for Danger Area 113 (DAAIS pronounced "Day-Es")
  • Glider G-ABCD Danger Area 113 active
  • Danger Area 113 active Glider G-ABCD, changing back to XXX

If there's a DACS available, they would give you the frequency

For parachute zones something simple (the problem being finding an authority to tell you it's safe)

  • Chatteris Glider G-ABCD request status of your parachute zone

The issue is, you might learn that they're busy, but you can't take the absence of a reply as a sign that they are not. If Chatteris are jumping, their jump planes get a traffic service from Lakenheath, so you can hear what they're doing, but that's still not authoritative. So I tend to stay out of them.

For a QNH

  • Cranfield Approach Glider G-ABCD request QNH
  • Glider G-ABCD Cranfield QNH 997 hectopascals
  • QNH 997 hectopascals, changing en-route, Glider G-ABCD
  • Glider CD roger

Should we on a cross-country flight request updated / regional QNH readings to ensure airspace compliance?

Yes, or leave a big enough margin. I generally find that I'm talking to enough ATSUs to keep track of what's happening to the QNH. But I leave a bit of a margin between me and CAS anyway, so a mb or two on the QNH isn't going to matter.

When crossing a Class D / MATZ, because of the type of flying we do, should we state Special VFR conditions rather than VFR?

It's an option for Class D, although as I understand it, Special VFR is only available in a Control Zone (which is something that goes down to the ground), and not a Control Area (or in Class E). It's not a worry for a MATZ because you're not asking for a clearance, and you don't need to state your flight rules, and there's nothing to stop you being IFR. However, if I was crossing a MATZ I'd let them know if I was IMC [and possibly at that point ask for a Traffic Service if I was transponder equipped].

When crossing an ATZ / MATZ, do you request zone penetration, crossing or transit? I've seen all 3 versions.

They are more or less synonyms. CAP413 mostly uses MATZ penetration. Say MATZ penetration or ATZ penetration rather than Zone penetration so you're clear which one. But if you asked for a crossing or transit you'd be understood.

On the whole, I try to stay out of ATZs. Go in there, and you're getting in the way of its traffic. So only do it if you have to - that generally means you're getting a bit desperate, and the runway in the ATZ is where you're going to go if all else fails. If you do go in, you need to communicate well about your intentions.

Would it be possible to give an example of a full call where the position is based on a bearing rather than a feature?

  • Lakenheath Radar Glider G-ABCD request basic service
  • Glider G-ABCD, Lakenheath, pass your message
  • Glider G-ABCD, from Gransden Lodge to Gransden Lodge, Bearing 270 from you at 15 miles, 3000 feet, QNH 1011, next turn point 10 miles to your south east

Quite useful for Lakenheath, who have American controllers who often don't know very many local place names.

To cross an ATZ, should we contact the tower directly (rather than the chart frequency) as they are the ones likely to provide the clearance?

If you're getting close to an airfield that has both approach and tower frequencies, you really want to be talking to approach long before you get anywhere near the ATZ. Ask them for a basic service. If you then need to go into the ATZ they'll pass your details to the tower controller, and you won't need to do the full message. But again, I would only go into the ATZ if I had to, and landing at the airfield was my fallback option.

Do you have advice on the form of the call if one wishes to cross the instrument approach feathers of an airport (outside the ATZ and other controlled airspace).....?

....An example would be flying from DSGC (North Hill) southwards toward the coast and crossing the eastern approach to Exeter airport. (We normally keep to the north of the A30 by agreement).

From a radio point of view it's straightforward. Call, ask for a Basic Service, tell them where you are, and where you're going in a way that they can understand. So just what we've been practicing. They may ask you to report at a certain point, so do that if requested.

But I'd want to understand where the traffic was likely to be, and to listen to see what's happening (I don't know how busy Exeter is). If you look at the approach plates (publicly available in the AIP ) you can see where and at what heights it's likely to be. So I might be able to plan my route to be more helpful. If they have traffic in the hold, I might consider it wise not to fly through it, for example. On the other hand if their instrument traffic is using radar vectors to the ILS or the RNAV approach, then I might be better west of the EX beacon, where the instrument traffic is lower.

I find that, when speaking to a ground station during practice, I’m concentrating so much on what I have to say next that I omit to listen to what I’m being told. Hopefully, this will resolve with experience.

It will. Try to capture anything important in the moment - so set a QNH you're given on the altimeter and so on.

How important is the order of items in a full message...

...The full message in the example given, requesting a Basic Service and receiving ‘Pass your message’ is very straightforward but supposing one asks for Airport Information in the Initial message and ground immediately gives the information some of which has to be read back. Where does the read back go in the full message? Before route, position and altitude or after and is the order important?

If you get the order wrong you'll still be understood - but it's worth getting the order of the full message right since that's what the controller is expecting, and the order they want to write it down. If you get some other information that needs a readback before your full message, I'd get that out of the way first, so you don't need to remember it.

And when does the pilot change from giving his callsign at the start to giving it at the end?

When they are responding to a transmission that ATC have made. So it goes at the beginning on the initial message, the full message, and then when the pilot starts the conversation by making another call. Otherwise on the end.

We’re told that AFIS operate within a 10nm range of an airport but Edinburgh Information, for example, appears to have a range in excess of 30nm.

Possibly a slight confusion of terms here. An AFIS (Aerodrome Flight Information Service) is typically what you'd find at a small airport. They're not much use to you more than 10nm away from them (although if I was inbound in a powered aircraft I might call them a little further out than that). The frequency has a coverage area (DOC of Designated Operational Coverage I think), which, for example, in Northampton's case is 25nm and up to 3000 feet alt. (You can find this information in Part 3 of the NATS eAIP - google it).

Edinburgh is a big airport and has Approach and Radar frequencies, and surrounding controlled airspace, and will likely be talking to aircraft further out than that. Their DOC is 40nm and 10,000 feet. Edinburgh Information is their ATIS (an automated transmission of their weather conditions) and the DOC for that is 60nm and 20,0000 feet - but there's no service provided on that frequency - it's one way.

I wonder if you could give some guidance about the use of the gliding cloud flying channel and when (or if) it would be better to talk to someone on the ground instead?

Good question.

My personal view - it depends on where you are, who's around, and what the relative risks are. It's also worth noting that the risks are low, there hasn't been a mid-air in a cloud for decades.

If I'm flying in a comp, or with a lot of other pilots doing the same task, then I might consider my main risk to be other gliders. At that point, my priority is making calls on the cloud flying frequency. In that case, I'd:

  • Announce call-sign, altitude (QNH) & position in relation to a prominent 1:500,000 chart feature on 130.535 before entry
  • Call my altitude at 500 ft climb intervals
  • Call when clear of cloud
  • Maintain min. 500 ft height separation from others operating nearby on 130.535

If however, I think my risk is powered aircraft, and especially if I can get a traffic service (because I have a transponder), I might talk to an ATSU. Particular examples when I have done that is when cloud climbing above a MATZ - I'd like them to know I'm there and I'm IMC.

A lot of radios are dual watch - you can listen to two frequencies at once. In that case, you can do both of the above - but remember, fly the aircraft first. Especially in cloud.

Part 3 - The flight (continued)

Enstone has 3 runways, all the same orientation. Which one should I land on?

If landing there and never having even seen it before, how does one know which one to land on? Or is it as simple as calling them on the downwind leg (if one has the time and is not suffering from total work overload) and asking?

If Enstone Radio call for say a RH circuit and you can’t comply because you are too low to cross over and with only enough height to manage a LH circuit. Do you keep telling them that and rely on them diverting other traffic?

You could ask, or pick one and tell them. In a glider I'd probably pick one of the grass runways since it would be easier to get the glider clear.

On circuit direction do whatever is safe. If you're low enough that you're forced to do one or the other, you're probably not in the way anyway - and you might well be joining straight in or base. If they say left and you can only do right base say 'Unable, too low, request right base'

The chart shows Enstone as a training Aerodrome, but how do I know that it is an Air/Ground service rather than AFIS?

You can look at the FRC, or in the Airfields file that I publish, or on any of the flight guides and you'd find its callsign was 'Enstone Radio'. But if you called them and said Enstone Information, they'd respond as Enstone Radio, so you'd know. Some airfields switch between the two depending on the qualifications of the person on the ground. (In the same way that you don't know whether you'll get Cambridge Radar or Cambridge Approach when you call).

If the chart shows a site as an aerodrome, will it always have one of the three types of 'control'?

Nope. For example, almost any gliding site. Also an AGCS isn't guaranteed to be there.

Where would I land on a long runway like Cranfield?

I’ve never even thought of trying to land anyway that has an ATZ and as first choice would be looking for a field outside the zone.

If one receives permission and lands there, then presumably one lands on the main runway, but whereabouts on it? It’s 1800m long.

Do airfields like that have recovery vehicles with long lengths of thin rope so that one can very slowly walk the glider to somewhere safe?

I've landed there a couple of times. I think once they had me land on the grass in front of the control tower. If I was landing on the hard, I'd try to do it so I was able to turn off onto one of the taxi ways (if R/W 21) or the intersection (if R/W 03). Basically so I could get out of the way. They'll almost certainly have some sort of vehicle, but a really useful piece of gear to carry in your glider is a tow rope with a Tost ring on the end of it. That makes it wholly easier to move your glider around.

When talking to a Air/Ground station, the text provided seems to indicate that there is no "pass your message", but rather that we ask for 'airfield information' and then they give that straight back. Is this correct?

We're suggesting 'request airfield information' rather than 'request basic service' because they can't give a service, and any information that they have is what you want. You might get it straight back, you may get 'pass your message'

Should I report my bearing from or to an airfield to a controller

The controllers tell me that they much prefer the bearing from the airfield

Are MATZs active at weekends?

Some are, some aren’t. You’ll have to check by calling.

Should I call if flying close to, or overhead, but not through a MATZ

Absolutely. Here’s a nice video that Luke Dale took when passing close to Mildenhall. Fortunately, they were talking to Lakenheath Radar, so were able to co-ordinate.

Should we set the transponder to 2000 when entering cloud?

If you’re going to fly within 1000 feet of cloud, that means you are IMC at least part of the time, so set your transponder to 2000, rather than 7000 for conspicuity. You don’t have to keep switching it to 7000 when you become more than 1000 feet from cloud.

You mention "listening squawk", I am unclear what this is. Is it the conspicuity 7000 setting or another? I guess the 'listening' refers to having the radio on a/f frequency.

It's a specific squawk for a specific airfield which you set and listen to the appropriate frequency. You don't need to talk. See P21 of Part 1, and P18 of Part 3.

Where can I find listening squawks?

There’s a reference card with them on published by the Airspace and Safety Initiative (see P21 of the Part 1 video). Also the AIP, and the half million map.

When getting a traffic service across Class CDE airspace without a transponder, presumably the glider is visible to them under normal radar?

You are very unlikely to get a traffic service without a transponder. Just possible, but the problem is you may not show up on the radar, and it takes work to identify you, which involves you turning onto specific headings which you may not want to do.

Can Flarm be seen by radar

No it can’t. Nor can PowerFlarm, or ADSB, or PilotAware. Only a transponder.

Part 4

I note that with Class E we are responding Roger, Wilco, to some of the calls and not just Wilco

I see that this is what CAP 413 shows in its examples; however is there a rule that tells us when to say Wilco and when to Roger, Wilco?

An interesting feature of this course has been the need to examine stuff you don't normally think about!

The way this was written (probably without much thought about this point) was that the 'Roger' acknowledged information being passed, and the 'Wilco' acknowledged a request. So

  • Glider CD report when leaving the frequency -> Wilco
  • Glider CD entering controlled airspace -> Roger
  • Glider CD entering controlled airspace, report abeam X -> Roger, Wilco

A quick look at CAP 413 finds some examples that do that too. I don't know whether we've been completely consistent in the course material to this principle though. RT isn't something with a well defined protocol, rather there are a series of not always self consistent examples.

Having said that, I think if I were designing it, I'd argue that the Roger in Roger, Wilco was redundant (and we generally try to leave out redundant words in RT). There are examples where CAP413 seems to agree with that as well, for example "Bigjet 437, closing the localiser from the right, report established" "Wilco, Bigjet 437".

So I think you could happily say one or the other, but not have both.

According to the FRC Cambridge RAD/APP are the same freq. 120.965

Is this a misprint, or please, am I missing something?

Not a misprint. Cambridge have a discrete frequency that they could work radar on. In practice they don't - their approach frequency becomes radar if they have a radar controller at his station. So you won't know whether you're talking to radar or approach till you call (unless you hear them making a call first).

In a non-transponder equipped glider and in VMC would one actually ask for a Traffic Service,

bearing in mind that due to poor radar returns it may take ATC a while to find you initially?

Unlikely, for the reasons you state. But in this example, we've assumed the Falke has a transponder.

Is there a more precise way of expressing “clear of you” on slide 8?

Strictly speaking, you should report leaving the ATZ with your position and height. I would tend to report a bit further out. You could give an actual position (in my glider, going east to west through Cambridge I might report "west of the M11"). "Clear to the east" or similar works quite well.

Should the words "Information Yankee" be included in the exchange on slide 10? It is suggested on slide 9.

Yes. Should really say "Information Yankee" with the initial call. My mistake.

In the video/audio of slide 13 should the wind strength be expressed as wun zero rather than ten?

Strictly, yes.

Why has the word Wessex rather than QNH or QFE been used by the glider and then then word Greenfield by the tower, in the exchange on slide 23?

The glider is flying on the Wessex RPS, which is a QNH but is unlikely to be the same as Greenfield's. Greenfield Approach pass their QNH which they are using for zone traffic

What is a Regional Pressure Setting (RPS)?

The country is split up into Altimeter Setting Regions (ASRs), with names such as Chatham, Wessex and so on. You can see these regions on a half million map. Don't mistake them for airspace. For each region a QNH is forecast an hour ahead. The lowest QNH in the region is the Regional Pressure Setting (RPS). It's a conservative QNH - if you use it, you will be a little further from the ground than your altimeter suggests. It's mostly in use these days by the military, and you may well be given it if you talk to a military ATSU when you ask for a LARS or a MATZ crossing.

It's generally more useful in a glider to use the QNH of a nearby airfield - since it is usually that QNH by which airspace is defined - if you use an RPS you could find yourself up in airspace by accident.

What is a Transition Altitude or Transition Level

The Transition Altitude is the altitude at which, in the climb, you are meant to change from the QNH to the Standard Pressure Setting (1013) and your level is defined as a Flight Level. The Transition Level is the level at which you switch to the QNH on the way back down. The Transition Altitude is standard for a particular place - the Transition Level will depend on the pressure of the day. The standard Transition Altitude in the UK is 3000 feet, but large parts of the country near to TMAs have it higher - in much of southern England it is 6000 feet.

In practice, much of the time when flying a glider, we stay on QNH and talk about our Altitude (partly because we keep going up and down through the TA/TL). However, there are some places (eg near Daventry) where the base of airspace is defined as a Flight Level, and we need to know what our Flight Level is. It also becomes much more important when flying high in wave.

It is not mandatory in the UK for VFR flights (it is for IFR) to change to FLs above the transition altitude, however it is in some states.

What should I do if I land out whilst in receipt of a service

If you can, tell the ATSU that you're landing out. They should know, but you could emphasise that it's not an emergency. If you don't manage to do that, you could give them a telephone call afterwards to say you're OK. Also, it's worth calling the Distress and Diversion Cell (D&D) (London Centre). Put their number in your phone (01489 612691). That way they know not to send helicopters out for you if they get a report of a crashed aircraft.

If I make a mistake (for example telling someone my position) what should I do?

Own up, as soon as you realise. Use the phraseology "Correction to my last..."



Part 5 - Emergencies and direction finding

Does 121.5 cover Scotland or is that Scottish Information (119.875, I think)?

It covers the whole of the UK FIR

What height would a three line trace be available in Scotland?

It's going to be affected by the mountains. One of our Scottish coaches suggests at least 6000 ft in places.

In an emergency, what should I squawk?

If you have a discrete squawk (ie not 2000 or 7000), you should keep it unless otherwise advised. If you are squawking 2000 or 7000 you should squawk the emergency code, 7700 for a distress state.

Do I have to read back a VDF bearing given to me?

Yes, it's one of the compulsory read-backs.

How do I know if a station can give me a VDF?

You'll find the frequency next to the letters VDF on the half million map. It's normally on the Approach frequency (it can be used for a crude form of instrument approach).