Performance vs. Experience
by Bob Violett
2002 has been a great year for jet modeling and as the
flying season comes to an end for most, it might be a good time to reflect on
what we have learned.
It is my observation that most pilots who regularly attend the
fly-ins have improved their flying skills - a simple matter of practice.
Crashes are rare for these seasoned veterans because they have made the
investment in flight training and model preparation. Years of jet modeling
experience justify their safe operation of complex and high performance
At a few events this past
year, however, it was obvious that some "newbies" (and a few oldies) must come
to grips with their limited experience and the performance capabilities of the
jet models they are trying to operate. The inability to make this correlation
not only caused them economic loss, but also potentially threatened the future
of our hobby. The pilots observed were in possession of an AMA waiver and had
signed all of the required papers.
If the model or pilot is experiencing control problems and the pilot
neglects to shut the engine down prior to crash, this is evidence of his/her
lack of training and required proficiency level to safely operate a turbojet
If the engine is running
during a high-energy impact, the chance of a fire is significant. It is simply
a matter-of-chance as to how the debris (and fuel) is scattered. When the
control problem occurs close to the ground there may not be time to activate
the engine shut down switch. However, by virtue of visibility limitations, this
close-to-the-ground scenario happens while the model is within close proximity,
on the flying field property and accessible with fire extinguishing equipment.
If the pilot has more than a few seconds notice of a control problem and fails
to shut down the engine, the threat of severe property damage escalates with
each passing second of time. A crash and burn away from the immediate flying
site should be our biggest concern because it represents the biggest threat to
the hobby and our neighbors. While a fire-upon-crash can happen with propeller
driven models, it is a rare occurrence.
This "difference," in my opinion, is the only reason that the AMA
should give any special attention to radio controlled jet modeling. Efforts to
certify turbojet engines, regulate ground operations and complete the paperwork
are well intentioned and may have contributed, but so far, the most important
issue has not been sufficiently addressed.
There simply must be some correlation between pilot
experience and proficiency and the performance capability of the model he/she
intends to operate.
Commercial and military aviation have found this necessary and it
makes sense that we should show responsibility in this regard as well. It is
also interesting that their efforts to prevent a fire-upon-crash have produced
little results. Pilot/maintenance training and proficiency checks are the
answers to minimizing operational losses in the real aviation world.
Model flying proficiency must also be coupled
with radio controlled model building experience to safely operate a high
performance jet. When this combination is limited, so to should be the
performance potential of the vehicle. This concept makes sense to most of us
but, unfortunately, to some unaware "newbies," the connection is not made and
the results can be threatening.
This hobby is very important to those of us who have made the
"investment," so hopefully, we can work through our Jet Pilot's Organization to
guide the AMA toward addressing the real issue and come up with a realistic
solution. A simple "walk before you run" and a training syllabus program would
accomplish the goal of minimizing the crashes.
Manufacturers and distributors of turbojet equipment
should also be involved in disseminating the safety message.
Flight Simulation Training
Some of us are fortunate to be able to fly
year round, even so, I have found it very helpful to train and maintain flying
skills by spending some time on a computer flight simulator to learn a new
maneuver or refresh my skills after an extended period of non-flying.