Hello everyone? How did you spent your Giro rest day? We spent it talking about TV broadcasting after yesterday’s Giro stage.

Many topic will be touched in this small piece on Reddit, but for who isn’t new on how a cycling race is produced for live TV a small recap: there are camera motos, there are camera helicopters, there are radio helicopters and radio plane. Camera motos and camera helicopters send their signal to radio helicopters and radio plane, that flew above the race. These two send signal to the van at the finish line that is cabled and handles the broadcast.

This fleet is redundant. In raining conditions, for example, there are no camera helicopters and radio helicopters. Signal is sent directly to radio plane. Or at least this is what happened yesterday in MercanTour or in Tour de Romandie Stage 5. In Giro instead we didn’t have a plane because it was not given the permission to take off from Venice airport, in which the plane landed after Sunday stage. We’ll come back later for this.

Mercantour TV broadcasting condition, worse than Giau yesterday

What we know is that Rai is using a different airplane that the one of France TV. Going on Flightradar, for example, we can see here the model used in Montalcino stage, that is used for Giro and all the italian races. It was used in Milano-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of The Alps this year

Giro d’Italian plane in Montalcino: Piper PA-31T Cheyenne 2

France TV plane (we’ll call it in this way, even if we’ll see is it used for other TV) is a different model. We’ll keep out Tour de France TV production on this post because they actually uses three planes. We’ll compare Giro with other France TV production that uses one plane only – like, for example, the Mercantour.

Mercantour TV plane: Beerch 200 Super King Air

The first INTERESTING stuff we found on flightradar, is that this plane seems to be the standard for TV productions out of italy. The same plane F-HFRF (so not only the model, but vehicle, was used for the broadcast of the infamous Stage 4 of Tour de Romandie 2021 – and it stayed above all the area until Woods crossed the line.

Tour de Romandie 2021 Stage 4 is the same plane.

The same plane seems to be used by ASO for their races. On Flightradar with a premium subscription, you can access the flight plan and you can see, for example, that was used in the recent Tour du Hongrie

F-HFRF flight plan

With great suprise, we checked also some planes used in other races. Itzulia 2021 seems to use also a Beech B200C Super King Air, not the same of ASO

Itzulia 2021 plane

Same model of plane, but different aircraft, was used this year also in Ronde Van Vlaanderen

Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2021 plane

To conclude the saga, the “optimum”. Tour de France. Three planes used, two of them are Beech B200 Super King Air, one is Piper PA-31-350 (same used in Giro)

Tour de France 2020 production

At this point, I was lucky to know a person that is currently finishing his engineering studies in Italy and spent 2 year and his bachelor degree thesis on Air Simulators (dreaming also to became a pilot) and how these stuff works. I spent some times with him this morning, asking to clarify some questions about how Mercantour and Romandie were able to get production live, while stage (also Giau) wasn’t.

First step: helicopters. It’s possible to have anti-ice helicopters but according to him if there is strong fog or it’s rain, it’s not reccomandable to take-off. These are mainly used for medic stuff and emergencies, not for TV production. All the new helicopters has de-icing system according to him. An option we considered is that France TV has helicopters with de-icing system and RAI has outdated one, but didn’t makes sense considering that Mercantour didn’t use them, so we dismissed the hypotesis of helicopters not having that system. Seems simply caution.

Second step: airplane models. Piper first flight was in 1969, Super King first flight was in 1972. According to him they are very similarThese planes are base model for civil aviation that the TV buys. The first thing he went to check also with flightradar, was the elevation in which they could fly. Both planes flight at same elevation, 35.000ft according to their base model technical specifications. This put on the table some options like civil aviation different rules or different technology of moto.

About the different technology, we put the hypotesis immediately off the table, simply because in a stage like yesterday the plane didn’t even attempt to take off because was not authorized to – according to RAI. Every time the signal dropped on Giro, Stages 4, 8 and 16 for now, was because plane wasn’t on the race.

The question in the discussion moved on another point: was the plane able to go for an instrument flight over the Giau? The answer he gave me it was absolutely yes. Both planes (France TV and RAI) flew at 25.000ft when recording – so at that altitude you are able to flew only with an instrument flight and not with a visual flight.

But in Giau stage the plane wasn’t able to take off. Was because of the weather near the starting airport? Of course not, because civilian planes started in the same hours as it’s possible to see in the timetable of Venice airport of yesterday.

In our discussion so something doesn’t seem right because even if Rai model seems outdated, the instrumentation seemed similar. So it could’ve took off, and he could’ve flew over the area, even if later than the original plan. Technically if take off was the problem from Venice, it could’ve happened from a non Italian airport, avoiding Italian Civil flight laws for the take off. Why didn’t happen?

We went back in our discussion to Sestola. In Sestola the plane coverage dropped suddenly because started to rain and we were told by RAI journalists that the plane was called back from the control for the risk of the ice that can form in motors.

We went back checking both models agains according to the technical specifications. Both models has de-icing system and he found the possible problem: if plane doesn’t have electric injection, ice can obstruct carburetor, and I don’t think this model has this type of injection, being a turboprop.

So, Rai plane indeed can’t flight (and is asked to land when it’s raining at low temperatures) because it doesn’t have electric injection. It’s over? No.

France TV plane base model doesn’t have electric injection too. But it stays up. So, from now, what follows is speculation.

It’s absolutely possible that France TV plane got upgraded compared to the base model (we had technical details available for the base model, but every aircraft can be upgraded and changing the injection type is definitely possible according to him). We can’t say that, because we have only the infos on the general model – of course – and not on the single aircrafts.

The main hypotesis on the table are so these two

  1. France TV airplane having been upgraded since the 70s with an electric injection, avoiding ice problems forming in the carburetor, so able to stay upright and film without problems, while RAI airplane hasn’t.
  2. Stricter civil laws / order from italian civil aviation compared to the rest of the world. Accorging to him, this is also a chance because many of them are outdated and excessively precautious with nowadays technology.

So if the question is: could’ve France TV plane flew over Giau yesterday? The answer is “maybe“. We are missing a piece of information here – and that information is the key: if RAI upgraded too its airplane with an electric injection, so being able to flew on that area without risking ice in the motor. In this case it’s indeed the different between italian civil aviation laws and the rest.

Thank you for the pacience to reach this point, and follow our subreddit if you like.

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