These are our current best practices for planning a day of XC flying. You don’t have to do it this way, but it works better if we all do it the same way.
For more information on the items in these checklists, check the details in the following sections.
Use the Telegram group to come up with a plan. Things to consider:
Note that our group decisions tend to be tentative, and are often not explicitly stated, because all pilots are free to do their own thing, there is typically not a single leader, and we are subject to the constantly changing weather forecast, actual weather, and weather observations. If in doubt, err on the side of overcommunication.
Use Telegram to coordinate on the ground. If there is only one site being flown then use the ACTHPA group, otherwise it’s best to create a group for the day for each site. Post an invite link on the ACTHPA group so that those interested can join.
If nobody is currently flying then coordination using radios is also acceptable, but once people are in the air they don’t want to be distracted by this. Consider making a phone call instead (see the XC Contacts spreadsheet).
We can use Telegram’s poll feature as a site check-in tool, so we know if someone has gone missing (and so the curious can see how many went flying). Using this is optional, but recommended.
If you arrive at a site and someone has created a poll, you can:
Anyone can create a check-in poll for a site for the day, and someone should. Create it on the main ACTHPA Telegram group, even if you’re using a different group for other coordination. To create a check-in poll:
Use your UHF radio on SAFA 1 (formerly HGFA 1). You may wish to make a call when:
You may wish to tell people:
There are various tracking protocols and resources available, each with pros and cons.
Err on the side of more location sharing options being better, but satellite tracking (either a Garmin InReach or Spot device) is the only type that will work outside of mobile reception. Turn on your tracking before you launch, and turn it off when you are safe on the ground (or after being retrieved).
For your Garmin InReach account (at https://explore.garmin.com/Social), so that people can find and track you, turn MapShare on and then in MapShare Settings:
A good non-satellite option is Skylines. Here is a simple guide for setting it up. It is also supported by XC_Guide (which you can connect to XCTrack), or anything that supports the Skylines or LiveTrack24 protocols (see https://skylines.aero/tracking/info).
A fallback live tracking option is Telegram Live Location sharing. In Telegram, tap the paperclip, choose Location, then choose ‘Share My Live Location for…’, then choose ‘for 8 hours’. Don’t choose ‘Send My Current Location’, it won’t track you! Note that live location sharing will drain your phone’s battery faster, mostly because it turns the GPS on, or it’s not entirely reliable because of most phones’ energy saving settings.
If you plan to fly XC you should get yourself registered for High Cloud by emailing your InReach, Spot or Skylines sharing details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
High Cloud shows InReach, Spot and Skylines information for multiple pilots on one page. This doesn’t show altitude and is sometimes slow to update.
XContest LIVETRACK. Shows all users of XCTrack with live tracking enabled, in real time, as long as they have mobile reception.
Telegram Live Sharing: Everyone who is sharing their live location with the Telegram group should be visible on its location sharing map. Unfortunately Telegram has proven not reliable due to battery optimisation settings both on iPhone and Android, and it doesn’t provide altitude nor a record of the track.
Look up the pilot’s tracking details in the XC Contacts spreadsheet.
InReach: Each device has its own map share page at https://share.garmin.com. It may update at 2 minute or 10 minute intervals, depending on their current subscription. It does show altitude, which is very handy!
Spot: Similarly, each Spot device has a share page somewhere under http://share.findmespot.com, but you need to know the pilot’s page.
If you have not gone XC, or have already been retrieved, consider whether some pilots may still require a retrieve.
If you are feeling generous enough to do this then feel free to make a radio call on SAFA 1 to the pilot(s) in question. If they know someone is coming to get them then they may change their plans, either because they want to land somewhere convenient for you, or because you have given them the confidence needed to fly further!
If you can’t radio, try Telegram, SMS or a phone call, but in this case you may not hear from them until they land, possibly many hours later! An InReach share page can also sometimes be used to send a message to the device.
Once you’re in contact, ask them to share their live location if possible (e.g. through Telegram), or arrange a pick-up location.
If you have landed and have no organised retrieve:
Once you are in contact with someone who is willing to retrieve you, share your live location with them and/or arrange a place to meet them. Do not accept a lift with someone else without letting them know.
In an emergency, such as a flying accident in which a pilot sustains serious injuries, consider the following, as required:
After the emergency is over:
If a pilot may be missing, consider trying the following escalation list until you can ensure they are safe:
The InReach line of products is the most reliable form of communication we have, because it allows two-way communication anywhere on earth. But it can be confusing to use, so here are some tips:
If you both have reception then this may be easier!
This will work if you have reception but they don’t.
If someone sends you an SMS from an InReach then you can reply to it, but you can’t initiate this conversation! Try their MapShare page, as this should have an option to message them, if they have this feature turned on.
This will work if you don’t have reception but they do.
The InReach can be used to send SMS messages (or emails), but it’s easier to use the Earthmate app on your phone (the Earthmate app links to the InReach device using bluetooth). From there you can use your phone’s address book to find their number.
This is the only option that will work if neither of you have phone reception.
You will need to know their InReach address, which looks like an email address, <something>@inreach.garmin.com, but it isn’t one. The <something> is typically from the email address you signed up with, if it is available. E.g. email@example.com will become firstname.lastname@example.org, unless someone already has this, in which case Garmin will tack on a few random characters. To be sure, look in the XC Contacts spreadsheet. Use the Earthmate app to send to this address using your InReach, or use the device directly if you prefer or have to.