Interesting Rule Quirk

I was posting on the NA-SOTA slack channel concerning a summit that I was proposing to activate tomorrow morning. Another SOTA activator happened to mention that this summit is also a launch point for hang gliders, which got me wondering whether the rules would allow you to activate a summit from a hang glider. So I decided to look into this further. Based on the rules as they currently exist, it appears you would have a proper activation and would earn points if you activated a summit from a hang glider (not a motor vehicle) so long as the QSOs occurred within the hroizontal boundary defined by the locus of points 25m below the summit (i.e., you were making QSOs from a non-motorized hang glider and were positioned above the AZ for the entirety of the QSO). There is nothing to suggest that you must actually be operating from the ground (perhaps I missed it in my cursory review). What is the liklihood of this ever happening? Probably zero (or nil for my U.K. friends), but it was an interesting hypothetical.

Additionally, as I was undertaking this legal jaunt, I happened to notice that probably needs to be revised to state that at least one QSO must be from within the AZ (and not “from the Summit” as it is stated in the rule). It makes it ambiguous and inconsistent with other rules permiting operating positions to be within the AZ. I think everyone understands the intent, but why not make it more correct and less ambiguous.


The GR refers to operating from the summit. Someone in a hang glider, hot air balloon or kite is not actually on the summit so any contacts made from above the AZ would not be valid, with the exception of being on a watch tower, refuge or cafe.

1 Like

I disagree, operating from a summit means operation within the AZ and as the rules are currently drafted it does not exclude the possibility of operating at altitude above the AZ in something that is not a motor vehicle.

1 Like

So per your analysis we need only be positioned within a vertical column above the AZ at any altitude ? If a seamount could be registered as a SOTA peak could we then activate from the H2O fluid above the seamount summit, similar to the N2-O2-CO2 fluid over existing SOTA
summits ?

1 Like

I am merely interpreting the rules as they are written. I did not write them. As they are written this would be permissible. The sea Mount argument is based on a false premise and is therefore invalid - there are no seamounts that qualify for SOTA.

The challenge of operating a radio, flying the glider, logging and also chatting on Signal or Whatsapp, and baking a cake could earn a Darwin award as well as, or instead of, a SOTA award.



Well it’s an interesting question but it’s called Summits on the Air not Flying over Summits on the Air.

I think you need one foot, or equivalent, on the ground.

It’s not going to be easy to fly within the confines of the AZ vertical projection, which at the very least you would have to do. I suggest you would have to not be higher than 25 m above the summit? The AZ should have a mirror equivalent should it not?

Seems like a distinct sport to me rather than a subset of SOTA.



Of course one could always lift the top of the antenna instead of the rig and operator end

“The Operating Position must be within the Activation Zone. The operating position must lie within a closed contour line at the permitted maximum Vertical Distance below the summit. (Typically the contour line is 25 metres below peak height of the summit). The Operating Position is taken to be the position of the operator.”

key words are “below the summit”, not “above the summit”

In any case, applies here too.


Err… No, operation above the summit height in a man made structure like a watch tower is explicitly permitted. See Brian’s post above.

It’s the closed contour line that is below the summit, not the operator.

Where does it say this? I can see no reference to it in the general rules. However, see my comment below.

All SOTA operations are expected to be conducted in the spirit of the programme.

Most ambiguities in the rules can be interpreted to be consistent with this. Operating from a glider is not operating from the summit and so is not in the spirit of the programme. Operating from a summit tower seems perfectly reasonable.

Do we really need specific rules for every scenario when common sense can usually answer the question?


Hi Richard,

Making the Rules to cover every possibility would require an army of lawyers and even then someone would claim a quirk allows them to do something odd. They could be so voluminous that no one would read them which would be counterproductive.

While I have previously said certain bits of the Rules needed clarifying I have now accepted the status quo as good enough.

Common sense is not common, which is a problem, and the intent of the program can be hard for non-UK residents to completely follow.

Clarity can be obtained by asking a question on this platform as has just been done.

Operating within the Spirit of SOTA does require some commonsense. Some people are going to do things they think are OK if they are not specifically and explicitly excluded by the Rules because it suits them, not because the common sense activator would do it.

That’s when a member of the MT is likely to politely mention this is not acceptable. If the hint is not taken then database adjustments and virtual anvils landing on keyboards can be expected.

Make the most of the good weather.


1 Like

The opening sentence of 3.1, the preamble to 3.7, then and 3.7.2 all talk in terms of operating from a summit. A watch tower, cafe, refuge or other structures are in contact with the summit and may be considered part of the summit. Even climbing a tree on the summit to get better VHF coverage would be permissible since the tree is also in contact with the summit, though I dont know if that has actually ever been done! The GR do not explicitly forbid operating from an airborne station simply because we considered that the language used in the GR was clear that operating was from the summit, and I know because I was one of the people responsible for revision 1.20. I doubt that the next revision will contain language forbidding airborne operation because the “from the summit” wording making it unnecessary will still remain.


That is not a correct interpretation of the language as “below the summit” refers to the contour line not the operating position.

Also catch-all rules are usually pretty worthless as no one truly knows what they actually mean, which is why they are rarely used in legal world.

Not suggesting that one should or should not be allowed to use a hang glider airborne over an AZ and count the contacts, just merely pointing out that it would technically be permissible as the rules are currently drafted. Whether or not that is in the spirit of the program, who knows as 100 different people will give 100 different opinions. I do suggest, however, that should be revised to refer to operating within the AZ or expressly define operating from a summit as operating within the AZ or else it is ambiguous as to whether one QSO must be from the actual summit.

It is simple. If you are floating in thin air then you are not on a summit.


OK fine, but that is not what the rules say.

3.14 “Its decisions are final.” The MT gets to decide what is in the spirit of the program.


I guess it’s different in different countries, but I know that with my licence I’m specifically not allowed to operate while airborne.

Spirit of the program doesn’t apply in this case, though, where you have a specific rule that is applicable. Cannons of statutory construction, my friend, specific controls over the general where there is ambiguity.

This all beginning to sound like entries from ‘Pedants Corner’ in the magazine ‘Private Eye’…