New rules for paragliding and hang gliding in the Dolomites mean pilots must have a separate licence-free PMR radio dedicated to a local safety channel.
Rodolfo Saccani from Italy’s FIVL said that the high number of free-flight accidents in the region in the peak season of September/October had forced authorities to take action.
Now, after negotiations between rescue authorities and free-flight organisations, it has been agreed that all pilots in the area will carry a dedicated safety radio.
PMR 8-16 is now the official radio channel for free flight safety in the Dolomites.
Saccani said in a statement: “If you come flying in the Dolomites you are required to keep a radio always tuned on this channel. It must be a second radio dedicated to safety, not the same radio you use for other conversation. Don’t worry PMR radios are very cheap.”
He explained: “Before starting a rescue operation, the helicopter rescue team will broadcast on this channel information about the area involved by the rescue operation, in English and in Italian.
“They will inform all free flight pilots that a helicopter is about to arrive and they will identify the area where the rescue operation will take place. Free flight pilots are required to leave the area immediately and any take-off must be suspended.
“Thanks to the ongoing collaboration with the rescue operators and authorities we have managed to keep the Dolomites open to free flight pilots from all over the world but we still face the risk of free flight being banned in the area because of justified safety concerns.
“We keep working both on prevention and for safer and more efficient rescue operations.”
The problem in recent years has been the high number of pilots flying in the Dolomites. Rescue helicopters have not been able to attend rescues because of airspace congested with free-flight pilots.
“When the helicopter arrives, the area is expected to be free,” Saccani said. “It is very, very important that this dedicated channel is used properly: it must stay silent all the time and it must be used only for safety communications.
“This means that having a second radio dedicated to this channel is absolutely important. This radio must be always tuned on the safety channel. Never transmit on this channel unless you need to coordinate a rescue operation. In this case you will have the advantage of being able to talk directly with the rescue operators on the helicopter.
“If we use this tool properly, it will certainly help everybody: the people who need rescue, the rescue operators and our community of free flight fellow pilots who will still be able to visit and fly in a unique area.”
PMR radios are licence-free radios that can be bought for €20.
“Tune it on channel 8 and subchannel 16 (for the tech-savy channel 8 and CTCSS subtone 16). That’s why we call it channel 8-16, in Italy it’s a channel conventionally used for safety in the mountains.”
Saccani added: “For the real radio geek, the frequency is 446,09375 MHz and the subtone is 114,8 Hz. But don’t worry, it’s not complicated: just get a PMR radio and tune it on channel 8, subchannel 16, keep it on all the time and you’re all set.”
The radio can not be used to call for rescue. To call for rescue use a phone and ring 112.
Saccani said: “We want to keep these wonderful flying sites open to all pilots, we want to keep everybody safe, we need collaboration from all the pilots.
“This radio requirement is immediately effective, rescue operators are already equipped to use this radio channel.”