| A few weeks ago
I received a call that pertains to all of us: safety at the flying site. In
2006, the Academy began requiring clubs to have a designated safety officer
listed as a part of the club chartering process.
This position is one of those thankless jobs that can make a huge difference
in someone's life. The trouble is that some will never know it. The club
safety officer who stops or prevents an unsafe practice and nothing
happens—that's the good part. Nothing happens and people didn't get hurt.
The next time your club's safety officer points out a safer way to fly both
in the air and on the ground, thank him or her; he or she is only looking
out for you.
If you're wondering why I'm on a safety kick this month, it's because Joe
Hass made the call I mentioned that pertains to all of us. I asked Joe to
write about the items we discussed when he called because we can all learn
from his concerns. I have included his letter and a photo.
"I am writing as a concerned modeler. With 54 years of modeling
experience, I am a current club president, a past AMA vice president, an
instructor, and a Leader Member. I fly most everything. My youngest son
flies too. I have the scars and the bills from an overnight hospital
stay to prove that I have made my share of mistakes. "My concern is one
of safety with those rotational things that give us thrust: propellers.
We have been to a lot of flying events. I have seen:
• Engines being started while the pilot is holding on
to the transmitter
• Engines being started with neck straps hanging loose
• Engines being started with the transmitter attached to the neck strap and
the strap around the pilot's neck
• A pilot attaching the neck strap to the transmitter (with the engine
running) without holding the throttle stick in the idle position
• A pilot putting his leg between the leading edge of the wing and the
propeller while the engine was running
"Now I'm sure that those involved would say that "someone was holding on to
the airplane." In all the situations I described there was a helper. Let's
look at the first three.
"It can take a lot of force to start an engine. Even more to start a big
one. Balance is critical. Most anything can cause a loss of balance or
position. I can't imagine the damage to a body if the neck strap got caught
up in the prop, any prop, even a .40 size. A helper can do nothing to stop
the potential carnage.
"Observation 4 may require a bit of explanation. I have included a picture.
I make it a habit to always hold the throttle stick down with my left thumb
whenever the engine is running. This prohibits the throttle stick from
accidentally being bumped while walking to the flight line or any other
"It is such a habit for me that I just usually hold the transmitter this way
regardless of whether the engine is running or not. This habit is a direct
result of a personal incident a few years ago. I bumped the throttle stick
on my leg while carrying a running 60-size helicopter. The engine was now
running at full throttle. The clutch was burning up. The exhaust smoke was
thick. It took everything I had to hold on to the rotor head, put the heli
down and get to the throttle stick. A very dangerous situation.
"Observation 5 is the one that haunts me the most. What would have happened
if a bee had stung the helper? Or the pilot? The natural reaction is to
jump. All I could see is "filet of calve" as the carbon fiber prop angrily
sliced through human flesh.
"There is no way to legislate all of this. I would be opposed to it anyway.
But I do ask that all modelers and Contest Directors make it a point to
courteously point out these types of behaviors to their fellow modelers and
suggest alternatives. In most cases the individual may not even realize what
they were doing.
"In full-scale aviation there is a term called 'Chain of Events.' Accidents
rarely happen because of a single event. Rather a series of things happened
(a chain). Break the chain and the accident never happens.
"Another aviation term is 'Situational Awareness.' Take a moment to
analyze the activity, the "situation," and take proactive, thoughtful steps
to create the safest situation possible.