I was just a lad when the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) began its reign. It was the subject of jokes about crazy new workplace safety rules and pointless regulations. “They will put us all out of business,” people said. My father, Ralph, brought home a silly cartoon showing an “OSHA cowboy” so padded and protected that he and his horse could not move. Ha, ha.
Dad is now retired. He still produces beautiful model aircraft, but his career took a physical toll—not unusual for a man of his generation. He has had serious hearing loss, mobility reduction, and two carpal tunnel syndrome operations on each wrist. During his years in industrial/technical work, hearing protection was rare and screwdrivers were turned by hand. Serious workplace accidents were fairly common. Loud machines, dangerous equipment, and chemical exposure were the norm.
Fast-forward to 2015. I’m 54 and at the peak of a career in industrial work for a public utility company. My hearing tests show no change over 20 years, my wrists work fine, and I can still slink around pretty well.
How much of this is because of my (mandatory) use of hearing protection, electric screwdrivers, and improved workplace safety standards? I once mocked OSHA, but now it looks as though some of the credit for my comparatively good physical condition should go to those “silly” rules.
My hobby is a big part of my enjoyment of life. I would miss it terribly if a disability left me unable to play with my toy airplanes.
The habits I learned at work translate to my home workshop. I use protective equipment that the previous generation of modelers might have considered optional. The power tools on my bench are smaller, but they deserve the same respect and vigilance as commercial equipment. Getting hurt is never good, and staying safe is worth the extra effort.
If you are new to the sport of aeromodeling, I welcome you and urge you to use caution with your fun new equipment. Learn good habits and be methodical when using your model aircraft tools and powerplants. Make sure that they only bring you pleasure.
AMA Expo 2015
I got a great deal of pleasure from attending AMA Expo 2015, the annual model show in Ontario, California. There are always fun new items to see and buy, and I am amazed by the demonstration pilots’ impossible skills.
This year, I walked away with some newly released laser-cut models and an antique kit that was produced before I was born. Fun!
A stroll through the aisles brought me to the Nanoplanes booth, where David Shin showed me his Shark line of high-performance RC racing airplanes. What I liked most about them was their balsa construction.
I would label them as old-fashioned, but the engineering of these aircraft is anything but. They are laser-cut for precision, and a well-designed balsa model can be strong, easy to repair, and capable of extreme performance. Too many pilots are missing out on the fun of building their models, and David’s products can fill that void in our sport.
Next I visited the Encore RC display, where Art Hughes showed me some beautifully made carbon-fiber helicopter blades. I asked him for a safety angle so I could plug his products. “Forget it,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a safe helicopter blade if you get hit with it.”
Art told me that carbon-fiber blades carry less energy than some other types, so they might cause less damage, but he made it clear that being careful was the most important. Rotors and propellers are no place to scrimp, and using only the highest-quality products is the way to go.
Justin Aven was working in the CEW Direct booth and had some great tail rotor upgrade sets. They were molded in bright colors for maximum visibility and pizzazz. A snappy-looking heli is great, but it’s even better if the rotor disk catches the eye and keeps everyone aware. I’m “skill challenged” when it comes to RC helicopters, so I need all the help and visibility I can get.
A few readers have told me about disputes with hobby companies and suggested that some manufacturers are evil corporate types that exploit modelers. After being in the hobby for a few years and knowing many manufacturers and suppliers, I disagree. Most dealers have a passion for modeling, and they only want customers to be happy and safe with their products.
The culprit is often a case of the user failing to read the instructions. Many hobby companies invest a great deal of time and effort in resolving problems. Few other businesses can match what I’ve seen in our field. The companies know that repeat buyers are vital, and making single sales of unsatisfactory items is not the path to success.
I look forward to seeing my industry friends at trade shows such as AMA Expo. They all give me the same warm greeting: “Move along fella, you’re blocking my booth.”
Fred Church responded to my column about models stuck in trees. He wrote:
“While flying a friend’s plane, I managed to park it in some high trees, well beyond the reach of any pole or ladder. I called a professional tree service and they climbed the 50-foot tree and retrieved the plane in one piece for $80. It cost me considerably less than paying my friend the value of his plane, and he got his plane back. This might be worth considering the next time one of your readers ‘lands’ a plane beyond reach.”
Fred’s decision was a good one. I’ve had a few models stuck in trees, and it is frustrating to drive away and leave them there. The old stories about kind-hearted fire crews rescuing stranded cats probably don’t carry over to aerobatic RC biplanes lodged in a tree’s upper branches.
Stuck on You
Foam construction is commonplace now. I don’t use this material often, but when I do, the sanding and cutting residue is still a big pain. The foam particles cling to everything and get where I don’t want them to go.
Sometimes I end up covered in the sanding deposits and have to go outside and shake like a wet dog. I also find it inside the motors of the saws and fans in my workshop. The dust can’t be good for human lungs.
How do you deal with this problem? I’m sure that experienced builders have solved these issues and I can’t be the only one who needs the information. If you are a master of foam construction, please share your knowledge with me and fellow modelers.
And while you’re at it, consider sending me a good close-call story, topic suggestion, or a bit of modeling-safety wisdom. There is always something new to learn in our sport, and your tale of woe might help someone else make a better decision. You can enjoy the fame of seeing your name in print, or remain anonymous, if you prefer.