Safety Issues
10 August 2000
How important is this sport to you?

Turbine powered models can crash for all of the same reasons that other R/C model airplanes crash and a few more. We can add to the list, increased power and weight loadings that put more demands on piloting skills. Jet models are new to the hobby and some are being operated by inexperienced people. The rapid growth of this sector of R/C means that the incidence of crashes is going to increase unless each of us becomes more involved in safety awareness and becomes proactive.
It is interesting to note that the high incidence of crashing is not occurring at the organized jet events. The elements of organization and experienced people, combined with on-site water fire extinguishing equipment, contributes to the safe operations at recent events.
A visit to a local R/C club field on a Sunday morning was a reminder for me of what inexperience with radio controlled models produces - a lot of crashes. Low powered, propeller driven models with glow engines and a few ounces of fuel on board were hitting the turf rather frequently. These "modelers to be" are learning about the hobby and as long as they do not hit a human being, the results of their learning curve are relatively inert. It is very rare for these types of models to cause a fire.
The increased possibility of a post crash fire separates our craft from the "relatively inert" category and therefore should raise our awareness.
Jets should not crash for all of the same reasons and frequency that trainer R/C models do. The AMA's "Turbine Waiver" requirement is an attempt to signal the importance of experience and good judgment in the operation of jet models. The Jet Pilot's Organization (JPO) has also posted a number of safety oriented articles in the Contrails newsletter and I know from several conversations with JPO leaders that they are concerned. But the crashes and fires continue at an accelerating rate.
Some years ago when the AMA was formulating the turbine waiver regulations I submitted a written proposal to them suggesting that a minimum requirement to get a modeler turbine qualified would be that he accumulate 100 flights on a medium to high performance ducted fan powered jet. Certain exceptions for highly skilled pilots could be allowed. Those of you who have accomplished this know the valuable experience you gained in doing so. Your turbine powered models are less likely to self-destruct in flight and your piloting skills were sharpened. Above all, this experience allows you to make sound judgments about the readiness of you and your model jet. The AMA chose to significantly reduce the level of experience required to obtain a waiver.
We are seeing the results of that course of action, far too many crashes of turbine powered models in the hands of the inexperienced. It was rumored that some people on the AMA Safety Committee thought that my proposal was motivated to protect BVM sales of Ducted Fan equipment.
If your answer to the opening question is VERY IMPORTANT, may I suggest that the answer to reducing the number of crashes lies with each one of us. We must first see to it that our own models and related equipment are properly prepared and maintained and that they never launch unless absolutely ready, and, that the appropriate fire fighting equipment is on hand - it has been proven to work. (Scroll down this page to view the first post on this issue)
Next, we must extend this level of concern to help the "new guy" and his jet ascend to these same criteria for safe operations. If he is not receptive, we must have the guts to say "don't fly that thing until it and you are properly prepared." Don't let him ruin your sport. The level of concern is surely heightened if you are operating in a fire sensitive area.
The single most important emergency procedure that a jet pilot and helper (caller) must be able to execute is to shut the engine down before impact. Just a few seconds of cool down significantly reduces the fire potential. Rehearse this procedure before take off.
Additionally, have the local fire department's phone number programmed into your cell phone. Dry conditions and wind make time the most critical element in bringing the situation under control.

If I may quote Smokey the Bear - "Only you can prevent forest fires."

Bob Violett

As a manufacturer, BVM was the first to introduce Kevlar fuel tanks and metal tank caps to help reduce the burst-on-impact potential. Our testing of these devices (when properly assembled and installed) confirmed their viability to contain a burst under many conditions.
BVM is continuing to investigate other measures that might enhance our safety of operations and we will keep you informed.
Our field representatives and factory personnel are also available to help each new customer learn to operate safely and be successful.

Mitch Weiss demonstrates the Indian Series Water Pump

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