Flying with model aircraft
Some notes from last night's meeting with Allen Elliott from the East Sussex Soaring Association.
The modellers are keen to break down any barriers between "us" glider pilots and "them" model pilots. We all recognise that we share the same airspace and the same land owners. Any incidents, be they in-air or ground-based confrontations, need to be resolved swiftly and amicably in the interests of safety and good land owner relations.
It is important to talk to the modellers. We can better understand each other's needs and flight plans. It seems that many of the model flyers have very limited knowledge of thermal flying and gliding practices and can benefit from the experience of SHGC pilots. By better understanding, we can better predict each other's actions and fly more safely together. For example, if the best thermal of the day is coming up the modellers bowl, what might be obvious to a glider pilot might not be to a model pilot focused on ridge soaring.
The biggest problem faced by the model flyers is that they are unable to keep a good lookout because they most keep focused on their model at all times. This produces a tunnel vision effect, so the first they might know of a glider's presence is when it arrives dangerously close to their model. WE CAN ATTRACT THEIR ATTENTION EARLY BY SHOUTING AS WE APPROACH AND PASS THROUGH THEIR AREA.
Allen agreed that all flyers must be full, insured members of their associations and operate in a sensible and responsible manner. He cited examples of young flyers with e-bay models and members of "the irresponsible idiots aerobatics club" as known problems. We can all look out for these types and explain the error of their ways. If a polite approach doesn't work, please refer to SHGC coaches, committee members or our counterparts in the East Sussex Soaring Association. Getting the land owner or police involved is a last resort and should never be necessary.
We discussed the different types of models flown on our sites and Allen proudly showed us his F3 racing model, a 3-5 kg, 2m wide solid carbon sailplane capable of 200 mph. While slow, light models are useful wind dummies and relatively safe to fly with if expertly piloted, some of these heavy, fast and aerobatic types do not mix well with gliders. It was a moot point whether a responsible model flyer should consider flying such things in mixed company.