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Should Radio Controlled Flight be Regulated?

November 08, 2007

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This page has 8 comments.

Southern Ontario
Posted:May 30th, 2016
9.28 PM
Thanks for the article. I can see you're speaking for many R/C flyers and modellers.
When I was a kid a 2-channel cost $650. I waited for about 45 years (!) before picking up an electric park flyer at a garage sale and having a go. I joined a club last week. Nice guys. Hope I don't turn out to be one of the appalling dilettantes you describe.
All I can say is I flew my simulator for at least 40 hours before my first real flight. Why? Because I'm thin-skinned enough to want to avoid avoidable crashes, or worse. The park flyer wore out its motor on the fifth flight so, wait for it, I replaced it. The guys are going to roll their eyes but (i) I still have 1 1/2 kids in college and (ii) shame on me otherwise.
I don't know if I'll become the scratch-builder everyone admires. All I know is when I build a static 1:72 scale Hurricane time stands still.
Wish me luck Paul.
 jim mcglynn
Posted:December 1st, 2006
3.29 PM
This whole idea about regulation at model fields raises two types of debate the first is usually we are ok so leave us alone or who needs anyone else to intervene in our{usually meaning MY hobby}.
Most people who I have encountered who are against any regulation are the people who create the problems either by lack of consideration,or by being ignorant of their own failings safety wise.
The bet example of this was from a really supportive club member who had problems dealing with tail dragger model's.As a club we had decided to install a safety fence around our pilots stance,some members complained it was too short some too long some too high and some not high enough.We as a committee decided that site meeting was necessary so that all the members with any interest could share their views,at this meeting the member described earlier made his point that the fence should be removed,his reasoning was that the bloody fence nearly wrecked his model when it went off course during a crappy attempt at a take off and it almost crashed into it.He could not see anything wrong in his statement.
In the UK it is actually an offence to fly any model which is unsafe and i tis also an offence to fly any model in an unsafe manner,this is covered by the CAA in the uk all flying models being regarded as small aircraft in the eye's of the law.
Regarding safety officers in our club we have taken the stance that every member is a safety officer, and should feel free to take to task any one not complying with the safety rules that the club have setup.The members have to sign when joining that they have read,understood and will comply with the rules of the club,any serious contravention of these rules could ultimately end with a membership being terminated.I know some people will sya that is a bit harsh but if you were to work in an envirenment were there were circulating blades with no safety guards and the machines they are attached to were being tossed about with no regard to any one else's safety your local health and safety officials would close the place down in an instant.So what does these machines being attached to the front of a model aeroplane exempt us from taking a stand against the individuals who don't want to comply.
I am going to make a big assumption here is it not better for us to self regulate before we get to the point were beaurocratic officialdom swoops down on us and really curtails our activities.
In case you hadn't guess I love model flying and I love seeing it done safely,the person who commented that the public like to see it too is correct ,the guys who fly with no regard are the people who get us labelled as big kids with their toy planes.
In conclusion yes we need regulation in modelling but self regulation is the best way forward,I believe that clubs have to take a hard stance on the people who wont comply with their rules,is it not better too lose a bad apple than too lose a field and possibly a whole club.
Posted:November 13th, 2005
6.56 PM
Heard this debate many times in my 3 years of trying to participate in the hobby, work and money gets in the way. I am very fortunate to participate in a 'renegade' club that has an approval method for membership. I was a member for a year before I owned an airplane while experienced modelers have been "asked" not to return. Not every club can be run in same manner as our club so that makes me lucky.
Posted:November 4th, 2004
10.35 AM
Dear Paul,

Thanks for bringing up the issues: poor airmanship, poor judgment, rude behavior,
lack of enforcement.

I don't think a national or state RC flying license would solve these problems, though.

Airmanship: If a license were sufficient, there would be no car crashes (state license),
nor airplane crashes (federal license) due to "pilot error." As a full size plane pilot for
the past 13 years, I am bemused, in a sad manner certainly, at the fact that the causes of
air crashes today are virtually identical to the causes 50 years ago: weather, poor
judgment, spins. No one can get a FAA license without being exposed to those topics
(and getting tested on them), yet..... I have seen airline pilots act irresponsibly, and
they have the hardest-to-get federal aviation license of them all.

So, a license does not fix the airmanship problem you wrote about, at least with real
planes. My everyday experience with road traffic suggests that poor driving exists,
in spite of rules and regulations, even ones with real bite to them. Have draconian laws
eliminated drunk driving? A license just does not stop problematic behavior,

Perhaps requiring a new RC pilot to attend a club meeting discussing airmanship is
appropriate. Remember, though, you can lead a horse to water..... Some people, for
their own reasons, will just not accept advice/knowledge. If they want to needlessly
crash their own planes, so be it, sigh. If they want to crash in a way that endangers
others, that's different. What is the problem resolution method of your club?
Judgment: Any flight instructor I have dealt with would agree, I think, that teaching
good judgment is the hardest part of teaching someone to fly safely. Even the FAA
says that "it takes a month to learn to fly and a lifetime to learn to exercise good
judgment." All holders of a FAA license have to undergo periodic reviews of ability
from a certified flight instructor. These FAA reviews are mandatory (every 2 years),
but are not penalty oriented; you can't lose your license, only fail the review. The
purpose is not to yank licenses, but to encourage the pilot to get more training in the
areas he lacks skills. The FAA also has "Wings" programs, safety oriented sessions
that will count as work toward the biennial review.

Perhaps implementing scheduled reviews of a RCer's ability would be helpful. Maybe
every year a club member should have to demonstrate his airmanship, and schedule a
follow-up flight with instructor to work on safety problems. This would be a
requirement to fly at the Club, not a requirement to fly at all, though. The police have
enough to do without trying to tackle enforcement of a recreational license, I think.
Rudeness: Boy, if you figure out how to stop this, call God, *smiles*. Actually, if one
approaches the problem from a "conflict resolution" point of view, I have a very good
method to suggest: Thomas Gordon's active listening. He has a website, and several

His PET, Parent Effectiveness Training, book is available in paperback. His leadership
effectiveness training book (LET) is very good also, though more expensive, in
hardback only.
Enforcement of Club regulations: I don't know anyone who enters a hobby just so that
they can be the Policeman. (In fact, I'd be wary of anyone who joined just to exercise
their Power) So, clubs generally don't have people who want to police the other club
memberís behavior. That's probably why you have never been to a club where the
rules were enforced. If you want to have a cop, then I guess you elected yourself. If I
was making my living from modeling, it would be hard for me to stir up bad feelings by
playing the cop. Playing the teacher might be more acceptable. Do you want to learn
those skills, and take the time to teach better behavior to club members?
The jerk with the big plane who told you to move: Well, the essence of life is that while
you can change your own behavior, you cannot force someone else to change theirs.
So, for a quick resolution to your problem, your moving was actually a good idea. It's
not fun to back down from conflict, at least in our culture, but it is effective in the sense
that it would have moved you from the potential path of destruction. If every time that
guy plopped his junk on a club table everybody around him picked up and moved
away, I think the peer pressure and embarrassment would have an impact on his
Your article raised very real issues with RC flying.

Your friend,
Brooks Martin
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Posted:November 2nd, 2004
6.07 PM
Although I fly control line, the same applies to this modality too. The only possible solution is education, where the would be pilot will progress from ground zero to any further stage through a training programme.

I have found this one (see address below) to be applicable to C/L flying, and Iīve already stumbled at one for R/C from Canada.

Best regards, and good flying!
Posted:October 20th, 2004
5.47 AM
I found your article interesting and provokitive. I the safety officer of a club in Australia and I have often had to have a quiet word with members of my club. Usually it is with newer solo pilots who are occasionally wayward in their circuit due to either a brain fade or not coping or being aware of the effects of a crosswind. I don't usually come down on them hard as I don't really have any authority. I don't have the power to tell anybody to desist or leave if the are ignorant and thick-skinned enough to ignore the obvious. The best I can do is advise the individual that he/she has done something that I regard as unsafe / dangerous/ improper and inform the individual why. They are almost always apologetic as I am polite and represent the club. I have to be as they have paid their fees and insurance and ARE entitled to fly, but only as long as they adhere to our local club safety rules and the RECOMMENDATIONS of our MAS (state) and MAAA (federal) guidelines, which, incidentally are under the umbrella of CASA which is our civil aviation authority. Their are also breaches made by visitors who are unaware of these rules. I suppose that it is ultimately my fault as I don't usually run all the rules past a visitor from the start as I tend to make an assumption (negligently) that they know what is expected from them as the rules of basic safety and conduct are fairly general across the board and travelling modellers really should know better. Also, I would rather observe initially and intervene (especially in the pits - its a good way in for a general presentation) than alienate a fellow modeller who just may have never been aware. And let me tell you their are plenty of modellers who are in that category over the WHOLE range of age groups. I am 32 years old, have been flying for around 7 years and see members with 30 years experience do foolish things simply because they forget, have an ego, have never seen a pattern competition and been truly humbled or simply think its okay to do it occasionally.

We had a display day this year and our esteemed president talked about eleven members (including myself) into flying a massed flight, at short notice. We had members who were barely solo flying. Needless to say their was a lot of chatter between the pilots in regards to what others were doing. DODGY. I won't ever do it again, I won't condone it and I wish we had never done it. The spectators loved it but this was not practiced, there were no protocols in place in case of a mishap or misunderstanding, it was unprofessional and COULD have ended in disaster.

The bottom line is: Let's enjoy ourselves, but not at the expense of lives and airfields. It's an old saw.

My advice - If they get too cocky, get them to fly a CENTRED, basic pattern schedule. It's all about CONTROL.
Atlanta, GA
Posted:October 14th, 2004
12.20 AM
My main objection to your proposal is the "federally licensed" portion.

I'm sorry, but we really don't need to add MORE federal involvement in our daily lives. As a certified High Power rocketry enthusiast, I've had to perform a three-tier process to get to the point that I'm allowed to fly the really large rockets. However, it was done through a mutually-agreed upon, non-governmental procedure that is accepted by just about every rocketry club in the nation. What Federal involvement we have is directly related to the fact that the ATFE considers rocket motors "explosives" and regulates us. (They aren't, but try to convince a bureaucrat of anything that reduces his power over you.)

It would be much better if the AMA or another insuring/certification agency put together a set of guidelines similar to what you're talking about and enforced it through serious sanctions.

Example: There are a set of safety rules I have to follow in order to fly rockets. These safety rules are codified both in the national organizations' by-laws as well as in NFPA 1122 (National Fire Prevention Association rule 1122). Neither the safety code nor the NFPA rule is law. However, our insurance coverage is dependant upon our following the Safety Code to the letter.

A strong AMA, fully supported by its members, using a strong set of Safety Codes that outlines a process similar to what you are outlining is the better solution. While it may not completely solve the problem, it will go a long way towards doing so without creating a new layer of bureaucracy for us to support with our taxes.

Theoretically, if the new Safety Code is properly written, it would become a selling point to an insurance underwrite to give us a better price on our premiums. Rather than costing us more money in the way of taxes, it could actually save us money in insurance fees. It needs to be pointed out to every member of every club that if someone is violating the Safety Code, they are costing us ALL more money. You'd be surprised how fast violators are quickly made unwelcome.

More government is NOT the solution. It very rarely is.
 Mike Phillips
Spring Hill, Florida
Posted:October 8th, 2004
9.18 PM
Paul, I believe you are correct. We may not hear it, but our hobby/sport is screaming "I'm dangerous". Reality matters, so does perception (real or not). Our hobby/sport usually takes place in out of the way places. This, in part, has helped keep the dangerous part of our hobby out of the headlines. As our hobby moves more and more into the mainstream (public airshows, swap meets, mall participation, sponsoring charitable events, news coverage, partnerships with parks and recreation departments etc.) we are moving out of the backwoods and cow pastures into clear focus of the public. If we don't or can't police ourselves then something will be done for us, or us.

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