RADIO PROTOCOL / July 92
Radio communications have expanded our capability. Good networking procedures can enhance our awareness and facilitate safety, rescue, logistics, training, and our search for the critical connections.
KEY POINTS CONDENSED
The network thrives on information exchange. The frequency is used somewhat like a bulletin board. Information is broadcast, and users collect pertinent data. Space permitting, discussion can clarify and aid the decision process.
The cache of information is built from status reports. The reports should include a pilots position, altitude, and activity (climbing, gliding towards, holding, searching, struggling, scratching, milking, drifting, flushing, needing, ect.). On occasion, pertinent weather info should be added (wind at altitudes, drift, temperature, climb rate, air quality, thermal tops, glides, ect.). This info is most useful from the lead pilots, but it's good to get reports from throughout the pack. Ground Crew should report their positions and give surface winds. All pilots need to broadcast an update, even if your stuck over launch or not intending to go XC. This is necessary for logistical evaluation and safety. We need to coordinate where and when to look for whom.
Do not begin a transmission asking for a copy. Give your status first, and then ask your question. If you don't receive acknowledgment, do a radio check.. example; break for Rotor, Sundowner southbound from Rayes with 95, comeback Rotor. Rotor should respond with his status and SD can confirm by saying copy.
All transmissions need to be acknowledged. If the intended receiver does not acknowledge in 5 or 10 seconds, somebody should acknowledge the transmission and offer any information.. example; if Rotor didn't answer in 5 or 10 seconds; copy Sundowner, JP heard Rotor eastbound from Chief's with 6,000, 20 minutes ago. Sundowner would then acknowledge JP. Low importance transmissions can be acknowledged by a simple "rodger", "copy", or 2 clicks. 2 click acknowledgements are typically used to confirm receipt of requested non critical information.
Read back critical information. This may have to be relayed several times if chase is spread thin and lagging well off the lead. example TQ, 45 hundred Wheeler Gorge ... Sundowner copies, TQ critical Wheeler Gorge ... Topa Chase copies, TQ possible landing Wheeler Gorge.
Listen and track the developments. The status reports will indicate what's hot and cold. "Roll Call" on occasion to see who's not accounted for. Strategies need to be discussed, but keep the excess chatter to a minimum. There are often 10 to 20 people using the network, sometimes broken into several subgroups. Be considerate and don't tie up the frequency with lengthy discussions. If a situation requires extended conversation, give lengthy pauses every 25 seconds or so to provide critical transmissions access to the network. Consider taking lengthy discussions to an alternate frequency on busy days.
Give reasonable priority based on the urgency. example; if a distant pilot is on final glide, give assistance in trying to establish and relay their position. Remember, once a pilot is on the ground, they may be down and "out" of radio contact (no line of sight).
Attempt to establish contact and confirm after landing. Don't shut your radio off while breaking down. Somebody might need to confirm your position, or need a wind report. Clip the radio to your belt and listen on "the side".
It is your legal responsibility to ascertain that your transmitter is operating properly. If your transmitter sticks on, you are creating a hazardous, and logistically difficult situation for everybody. If you haven't heard anybody for about 5 minutes, verify you are in the receive mode. This can be done by testing volume with your squelch control knob. Verify your headset is switched to PTT and not VOX. NEVER use VOX. It is difficult to verify the threshold is set correctly. The VOX can trigger on intermittently without the culprit being aware they are disrupting the network.
Be aware that it can be difficult to understand your transmission. Speaking slow makes it easier to comprehend the content of your transmission. The chase crew needs to lower the music volume when transmitting.
If a pilot is unreadable, somebody needs to quiz him with yes or no questions. The unreadable transmitter can respond with "clicks" of the mike. Recommend 2 clicks for "yes" and 3 clicks for "no" (one click is sometimes used for no, but one click is often ambiguous because it's not always clear as to weather it was really a click, or just static noise. Since 2 clicks is a standard acknowledgement, it is more appropriate for "yes" than "no"). Basic information questions include:
When a lost pilot is heard, chase should try to stop and establish contact. In variable terrain it is important to stop because there might be a narrow phenomena permitting communication. This is less critical if the lost pilot is known to be ahead over flat ground. The chase crew should break for lost pilots frequently and adjust the squelch. The chase should include their status in all transmissions. Pilots out of reach should remember they might be heard due to their vantage so continue to give "blind status reports". Don't continue to ask for a "copy" without including your status. It's quite frustrating for the chase to listen to a pilot repeatedly ask for a "copy", but not give any information.