[Headline: A near-death experience]
I was involved in a whopper of a close call recently, and it shows the trouble we have with overcoming human nature.
There was an all-day industrial safety conference, held at an airport hotel convention center. The event included motivational speakers, workshops, videos, and platters of pastries (my favorite part). Several hundred people attended—serious-minded employees with safety-sensitive jobs.
We discussed safe mindsets, techniques, protective equipment, and everything you can imagine that relates to workplace health and safety. By the end of the day, everyone was indoctrinated and sloganized. We were all “committed to an incident-free lifestyle.”
I was pooped, and headed for home with my minivan full of leftover display materials. As I exited onto the busy airport-access road, there was a problem. A large SUV was pulled over, blocking the lane in a “no stopping any time” zone. I had no idea why it was stopped. Passing the vehicle would mean crossing the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Should I wait? Did the sport utility vehicle break down?
The driver’s arm came out of the window and waved me around. Wow, thanks—an invitation to go against traffic! I was wary, still wondering why the man had stopped there, but I cautiously rolled around him, watching for any maneuvers he might try. That was my mistake. I wanted to get home, so I surrendered control and joined the other driver’s reinterpretation of traffic rules.
As I began to move forward, with my attention focused on the SUV, the bushes to my left rustled and a young man burst out of the foliage at a dead run. He dashed straight into the street, heedless of traffic, and crossed all lanes.
I was devoting my attention to the stopped vehicle, so when the pedestrian ran in front of my van, I barely avoided hitting him. He came within inches of having the word Kia embossed on his hip and nearly made a rendezvous with the grim reaper!
So the mystery was solved. The SUV driver was waiting to pick up one more passenger and decided to meet him in a “no stopping any time” zone without a crosswalk.
Everyone involved in this incident had safety propaganda coming out of his or her ears after a full day of presentations. This proves that it’s not only what you know, it’s how you use that knowledge.
Make the Right Choice
We all know not to put our hands into a spinning propeller or rotor, but people do it often (and send me yucky pictures). Experienced pilots who know how to be safe around models can have a momentary lapse. New modelers can get excited about a flight and forget what they were taught.
People can listen and read all about safety, but unless they decide to use the information, they remain vulnerable to harm. This is an important choice that we make often. I’m going to try harder to make correct choices. How about you?
James Waugh had what he called “a teaching moment.” He purchased new batteries for the upcoming flying season and stored them during the winter. When springtime arrived and he started charging the first pack, it began to emit smoke. James was supervising the charging operation (an excellent habit) and disconnected and moved the unhappy battery pack to a safe spot. He later discovered that it had a manufacturing flaw in a small wire, and one of the three cells was dead.
I think that James had already been taught what to do in such circumstances, and he learned well. His cautious ways allowed him to deal with an emergency and avoid further trouble. James had pliers and a metal box handy, in case things went wrong.
Our batteries hold plenty of energy, and sometimes they fail. We need to be on top of things during such a crisis. Please stick around while your batteries are charging, and always be ready for a worst-case scenario.
Being a model aircraft pilot has its hazards, but plummeting to the ground shouldn’t be one of them. I was asked about retrieving a model stuck in a tree, and whether there were alternatives to climbing up after it. Some people, like I, are not up to the challenge of tree climbing, even if a favorite model has decided to perch on a high branch. Depending on the model type and power system, there can be a fire risk, so fliers have more than a financial motive to get the airplane or helicopter down.
In the old days, modelers sometimes carried saws and axes to rescue their stuck airplanes. Not anymore! Most landowners would not be okay with an amateur lumberjack felling a pine tree to get at some balsa.
Indoor pilots often have stuck models. Some carry a tool called a rescue pole that can be found on fishing or kite websites, (although I have no idea what a fisherman or kite flier needs with a 36-foot-long collapsible fiberglass rod). Mine is black with strange metal fittings on the casing.
This tool is great fun when spectators are present. They gasp when a model gets stuck, wondering what will happen. I grab the big, ominous tube, remove the rubber end cap, and then aim it and say, “Well, I guess we’ll have to blast it down.” It’s a real attention getter!
The rescue is almost as cool to watch. I feed out the sections until the pole is longer than anyone expected, and then I extend the tip to gently free the airplane from a rafter or light fixture. This is always a crowd pleaser because no one expects a James Bond-style gadget to save the day.
These poles are also useful outdoors, but not for heavy models or really tall trees. The best method for such circumstances is patience. Often, the model will fall out of the tree when the wind shifts the branches. Some pilots throw weighted lines up to snag a branch, then pull and shake it to dislodge the model. Keep away from power lines, of course!
Have you rescued a treed aircraft? Do you have a slick way to do it? Please share your tricks with me, or any safety-related information or close-call stories. You can be famous or remain anonymous, as long as the information gets out to people who need it.
Three’s a Crowd, Except for Wings
The guessing game this time is not about the aircraft, but the pilot. Who is famous for flying a red triplane? He found success and fame, but was believed to be a mediocre pilot who compensated by being methodical and persistent. These are also fine qualities for model aviators.
Email me your guess of this pilot’s name (my address is printed at the top of this column) and you’ll receive digital plans for the Faker Triplane, even if you guess incorrectly. This model looks odd in the air, but is easy to build and fly thanks to the flat, box-kite wing style developed by Alberto Santos-Dumont and Bill Hannan.[dingbat]
GeoData Systems Management Inc.