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The telephone rang at the Klippeneck competition office.

 By Tijl Schmelzer

 On the line was the air traffic control of Zurich-Kloten. Two glider pilots were blocking the tower frequency of the international airport with continuous chatter. These pilots did not react to the calls from the ATC to leave the frequency. As a consequence, airliners approaching Kloten got in communication difficulties, and they were forced to activate an emergency-backup frequency.

From their information, they knew that the gliders were flying over the Swabian Alb. As it was a busy Sunday with fantastic weather, there were hundreds of gliders flying in that area. So, the ATC looked on the Internet for gliding activities on the Alb and contacted all competitions and the main airports in that area, in the hope to establish contact with the offending glider pilots that way.

The ATC were clear, that they were close to sending an aircraft to the area, capable of tracking the radio source, and thus identify the gliders. If that were to happen, the consequences would be severe for them. In the end, luckily for both pilots, they decided not to do this.

The chatter did not end that day, so the main tower frequency remained blocked. But the next days there were no incidents anymore. Either because the glider pilots were not flying, or because the story had reached them as well. According to my information the pilots were never identified. But how could this have happened? Why did these pilots not react to the calls from the ATC?

Our new radios work very differently

Submitted by John Trubridge