We are all required by law to ensure that our flights can be made safely. This means that even if you only plan some ridge-soaring
you should be aware of any local airspace restrictions and you should take the steps outlined below. If you plan to fly cross-country
then your flight planning will obviously need to include checking a great swathe of the country for possible restrictions.
NOTAM (Notices to Airmen) were difficult to interpret - the listing had to be sorted to what is relevant to a given area or period.
Today the information is made available through a website - displaying a map with various filters - so that quickly a leisure pilot can assess
the restrictions where a flight is intended.
While flying in the OPC area, pilots must check for this information on NOTAM Info - prior to set out for a day flying.
- Flying outside 'leisure' days:
Pilots flying on a weekday should remember that OPC flying sites are situated in Tactical Training Areas (TTA); thus military aircrafts are liable to practice
Operational Low Flying (OLF) training in our airspace; particularly helicopters, transporters (Hercules) and occasionally fast jets.
OLF covers open airspace from Surface to 2,000 feet (610m) AGL (above the ground level) but in practice such training is conducted in the 100 to 150 feet (30 to 45m) AGL.
The monthly timetables for OLF training by RAF
fast jets and Hercules aircraft are available
here; the OPC 'Ochil' hills sites are situated in "Northern Scotland" - LFA 14(T);
while the 'Gargunnock and Fintry' hills sites are covered by the LFA 20(T) "Borders area of southern Scotland".
Outside Weekends and UK-wide Bank Holydays a pilot must check on these military activities!
- Civil Aircraft Notification Procedure (CANP):
(Using CANP to alert Military to your presence when flying midweek).
If five or more gliders are likely to be operating on a given site; proceed as follows. This will not establish an avoidance area but it does ensure
that military pilots will be alerted to your presence. Because it can take up to four hours to get the information out to military pilots before they take off,
the notification procedure should be started as soon as possible - ideally the evening before.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org (or Freephone 0800 515 544) to provide the following details:
- 1. Activity: Paragliding (If site with a 'Site Code' then state 'Paragliding Avoidance Area' here).
- 2. Location: Site grid reference (2 letter 6 figure) and name (If 'Site Code' then state that first).
[see "Sites Information" for details].
- 3. Area of operation: 1NM (Nautical Mile) diameter.
- 4. Date and time flying will start / finish.
- 5. Expected number of gliders.
- 6. Contact telephone number (ideally a mobile that will work on the site).
- 7. Normal contact details (if different to number above).
You will be given a unique Reference Number to note.
(Should you change your mind and no flying would take place
- cancel the NOTAM using this Reference Number.)
The Low Flying Booking Cell (LFBC) is manned Monday to Thursday 0700-2300 and Friday 0700-1700; and closed at weekends.
If you email out-of-hours you will be called back by phone with the Reference Number when the office is next manned and the associated
notification has been passed to military pilots. You can only assume that you have avoidance/notification status once you have received this.
If at any stage it becomes clear that the site won't be used after all, you should cancel by calling 0800 515544, quoting the Reference Number
and amending the details.
The LFBC personnel are a helpful bunch whose sole aim is keeping us all safe. If your flying situation doesn't exactly match the criteria above
it is still worth giving them a call for advice - they might still be able to do something to help.