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RD Data Sheet No 5

Glider and Balloon Radio Licensing

Frequency Allocation

During the 1950s, the frequencies 130.1, 130.4 and 129.9 MHz were allocated to the BGA by the CAA for use in sporting gliding within the UK. 130.1 MHz and 130.4 MHz were dedicated frequencies with the BGA designated as the sole user, while 129.9 MHz was used on a shared basis with other sporting aviation interests such as ballooning.   Following the introduction of 25 KHz channel spacing on 1 Jan 80, the BGA applied to the CAA for a third dedicated frequency and was allocated 130.125 MHz.   At the same time 129.9 Mhz was withdrawn from airborne use by gliders and re-allocated as a ground to ground frequency.   This frequency is now shared with other aviation interests, mainly sports parachuting clubs.   In October 1986, the BGA were allocated a further frequency; 129.975 MHz specifically to enable other aircraft to contact gliding sites.   The operating restrictions for this frequency are that only one ground transmitter can be used in a single airfield installation for the local control of airborne traffic, both gliders and powered aircraft below 3000 ft.   It is not permitted to use this frequency in a mobile or retrieve radio set neither is it permitted to use it as a general gliding frequency.   In 1984 balloons were allocated a dedicated UK frequency, 122.475 MHz.

Frequency Utilisation

The BGA Operational Regulations make recommendations regarding the use of each of the BGA allocated frequencies for different activities within the gliding movement.

  • 130.400 MHz
    • This is to be used for cloud flying and relaying cross-country location messages only.


  • 130.125 MHz
    • Primary Use: Training (lead and follow) and cross-country location messages.

    • Secondary Use: Local flying; competition start and finish lines.


  • 130.100 MHz
    • Primary Use: Competition start and finish lines; local flying.

    • Secondary Use: Training (lead and follow).


  • 129.975 MHz
    • To be used only as a gliding airfield local control frequency within 10 nm radius and below 3000 ft. This frequency may be used by power aircraft requiring clearance through a gliding airfield circuit.


  • 129.900 MHz
    • Ground to ground and retrieve recovery only.


  • 122.475 MHz
    • This is the primary frequency for balloons.


  • Aircraft/Balloon/Glider.

    Any aeronautical transceiver operated in an aircraft, glider, hang glider or balloon is required to be licensed by the CAA.   This includes handheld transceivers when used as a airborne radio.   Application for the licence is made on the form which can be downloaded from this link and forwarded, together with the current annual licensing fee of 20.00, to the CAA, Aircraft Radio Licensing Section, CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6ZX.   The radio equipment described in the licence application has to be of a type approved by the CAA and the Type Approval number has to be quoted on the application.


  • Operator's Licence.

    CAA regulations require a radio telephony operator's licence to be held by every person who operates an aeronautical radio. However, the CAA have given the BGA dispensation from this ruling and glider pilots, when using the authorised gliding frequencies only, do not need any form of operator's licence. This dispensation does not extend to the use of other aviation frequencies by glider pilots and therefore, if you have a 760 channel transceiver installed in your glider, for operation on non-gliding frequencies the user must hold a current CAA radio telephony operator's licence.


  • Ground and Mobile Transceivers.

    The CAA also license ground based and mobile transceivers operating on gliding and balloon frequencies,   Application is made on the Form available at this link.    The completed form should be sent to the CAA Radio Licensing Section at the address above, together with the current annual licensing fee of 25.00.   You will also need to include a Certificate of Conformity which is issued by the radio supplier and confirms that the transceiver meets current technical standards.


    Channel Spacing

    On 1 Jan 80, the use of 25 KHz radio equipment became mandatory for all new aircraft installations, including gliders.   At that time, existing glider and mobile radios fell into 2 groups; those that were initially designed for use on aviation frequencies and those that were designed to meet the requirements of the private mobile radio bands and have subsequently been modified for aviation use.   Generally, radios in the first group built before 1 Jan 80 will have 50 KHz filters fitted and will need re-aligning or the filter changing to enable them to discriminate between transmissions spaced 25 KHz apart.   For instance, a radio fitted with 50 KHz filters and tuned to 130.1 will also receive transmissions made on 130.125.   The second group will already be fitted with either 12.5 or 25 KHz filters and may meet the new specification without any further modification.

    • 360 Channel 50KHz Transceivers.

      With the introduction of 25 KHz channel spacing and 720/760 channel transceivers, it is permitted to continue to use existing 50KHz spaced equipment, providing the transmitter stability is deemed to be acceptable.   The CAA have published a list of 360 channel/ 50KHz transceivers that comply.   These 360 channel sets can only be used in installations that were originally licensed before the introduction of 25 KHz spacing; they cannot be used or licensed in new installations.


    • Introduction of 760 Channel Transceivers.

      The CAA have extended the aeronautical VHF band from 135.975 MHz to 136.975 MHz.   This 1 MHz extension provides an additional 40 channels increasing the total available from 720 to 760.

    Checking of Aircraft Transceivers

    A statutory requirement exists for the checking of the frequency accuracy of all transceivers, both airborne and ground mobile, every 4 years. This is not a new regulation and has been a mandatory requirement for some time. This regulation has largely been ignored to date by the gliding/balloon community. However, during recent years the CAA have carried out regular checks of the regulations including:

    • Examination of all licences for gliders, tugs and ground mobiles.

    • Examination of 4 year frequency accuracy certificates where appropriate.

    • Carrying out specific performance checks on randomly selected installations.

    • Checking that all radio equipment, both mobiles and airborne, is of an approved type.

    Handheld Transceivers

    The regulations regarding the licensing of handheld transceivers are a grey area.   However, the following is believed to be correct.   Handhelds can be licensed as ground mobile transceivers as outlined above.   If this is done, then transmission is only authorized on those specific frequencies listed on the licence.   Alternatively, handhelds can be licensed as a glider/balloon primary radio as outlined above.

    If your glider/balloon is equipped with a permanently installed legal licensed transceiver, then you can carry a handheld as an emergency backup radio without any further licence.   Should this handheld be removed from the glider/balloon, then a possible defence may be to say that is it has been removed from the aircraft for security reasons.   If however, you are standing on the airfield with the radio in your hand and in use, then this defence is unlikely to carry much weight and you require a ground mobile licence to be legal.

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