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Clear-Com Cuts Through The Noise At Reno Air Races

To maintain clear communications in the high noise levels at pylons for the Reno Air races, the judges must have top-flight intercom equipment.

Reno in the US State of Nevada is promoted as ‘the biggest little city in the world’, famous for its casinos and being the birthplace of the Caesars gaming empire. It is also home to the National Championship Air Races, a fast-moving and noisy event that calls for immediate and clear communication between the judges - which is why Clear-Com technology has become an integral part of the set-up.

The Reno Air Races, as they are popularly known, were established in 1964 and feature different classes of aeroplane flying multiple laps round an ovoid course of between three to eight miles. These are marked out at intervals by pylons, each of which has a team of between four to eight judges. With the size and speed of the event, a fast and efficient communications system is needed to make everything run smoothly and safely.

Intra-pylon communications are supplied by Production Wireless Services, a specialist in radio mics/headphones, intercom and in-ear monitoring based in Burbank, California. The company's sales executive, Greg Parsons, explains that primary communications for the event are controlled over sixteen channels of two-way radio. "The pylon judges use one channel to communicate between Home Pylon and all the other pylons," he says.

The Reno Air Races require sixteen channels of two-way radio. To connect the pylon judges, Production Wireless Services uses a Clear-Com intercom system that interfaces all the proper channels so the pylon judges can communicate with each other.

The Reno Air Races require sixteen channels of two-way radio. To connect the pylon judges, Production Wireless Services uses a Clear-Com intercom system that interfaces all the proper channels so the pylon judges can communicate with each other.

Production Wireless Services partnered with Pylon Captain Dean Patmor and other judges at pylon ‘Inner-Five’ to incorporate a wireless intercom system capable of interfacing with the two-way radio traffic and providing additional audio feeds to the judges. "Clear-Com offers products that cover everything for the wired and wireless user," Parsons says. "Many of the products and their functions are not offered by other manufacturers.”

The core of the system is an HME DX200 intercom, which is configured for six users, although it can accommodate up to 15. It connects to a Clear-Com PK-7 party line power supply and a TW-47 two-way radio interface. The DX200 is a wireless system designed for professional wireless communications and operates in the 2.4GHz ISM band, which is license free in North America.

The installation is housed in a portable rack that is powered by an inverter in one of the vehicles used by the judges. The radio scanners used during the event are programmed to selected channels of the race and are interfaced using the DX200’s rear auxiliary input.

The Clear-Com HME DX200 intercom is key to the communications system provided by Production Wireless Services for the pylon judges.

The Clear-Com HME DX200 intercom is key to the communications system provided by Production Wireless Services for the pylon judges.

The system is pre-racked and powered, which makes for fast set up and use. "Daily judging schedules vary and can last up to six hours," Parsons says. "The Lithium-ion batteries supplied with the DX series provide worry-free operation." Once races have finished, the judges often continue using the system to observe safety regulations and protocols while in separate vehicles.

“Having a wireless intercom on the Reno Air Races means all judges are able to observe and communicate easier and equally," says Parsons. “The planes sometimes fly over at only 50 feet above the pylons and the noise is often over 100dBm, which makes ordinary verbal communication from judge-to-judge and judge to the two-way radio intercom impossible. The single or dual headsets provide separation from the noisy environment, and the noise reduction vastly improves judge-to-judge communication." Users have the option of the HS15 single headset or the HS15D dual driver version.

Production Wireless Services crew.

Production Wireless Services crew.

Dean Patmor, who has been a judge for over 15 years, comments that the system increases both communication and safety at pylon ‘Inner-Five’. "It allows me and my judges to maintain verbal communication simultaneously as we observe the aircraft on our portion of the racecourse," he says. "Previously we discussed our judging observations after the racers left our pylon. The comms system allows the judges to communicate to Home Pylon and hear Race Control to identify maydays and race information in real time.” Prior to the comms system, one judge would communicate with Home Pylon using a handheld radio while another judge would monitor Race Control on a handheld scanner.

The Clear-Com system also plays a major role in preserving the aural health of each judge. "Hearing protection is provided by the headsets," says Patmor. "Previously, internal and/or personal external hearing protection was worn, which interfered with understanding the real-time communication from the handhelds and meant we could not hear from other judges during the race.”

Pylon judges must endure hours of high-noise levels. The Clear-Com intercom solution ensures the judges can communicate clearly with each other over the roar of the aircraft.<br />

Pylon judges must endure hours of high-noise levels. The Clear-Com intercom solution ensures the judges can communicate clearly with each other over the roar of the aircraft.

Patmor also credits the system for increasing safety on his Inner 5 Pylon as, even though all precautions are taken by officials and the highly skilled pilots, aircraft can still get into difficulties. He explains: “The comms system enables the judges to react quickly. An important aspect of our role is the mayday safety function. One judge is responsible for watching any distressed aircraft until it has safely landed on the ground, when he/she announces 'aircraft has landed'. This is a tremendous safety enhancement because the other judges can focus their attention on the race knowing the mayday judge will announce an impending threat or, preferably, a safe landing. If more than one mayday is declared, I can assign another judge to watch the additional aircraft."

As a key component of the Reno Air Races, Clear-Com and Production Wireless Services are playing an important part in keeping 'the world's fastest motor sport' as safe as possible.

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