Turbine Safety Observation
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 equipment.
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 model.
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.

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