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Old Dec 22, 2003, 09:30 AM
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Merlin_FAC's Avatar
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Model aircraft banned in UK town after girl killed by model

From the 12/22/03 edition of the AvWeb newsletter (www.avweb.com):

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An English town has banned flying model aircraft following the death of a 13-year-old girl struck by one. Tara Lipscombe died of head injuries after being hit last April 15. The Dartford Heath council imposed the ban pending the approval of new bylaws...
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Maybe if they ever have a fatal car accident there, they'll ban automobiles. Or better yet, if someone ever gets electrocuted they'll cut all the power. What morons.
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 10:02 AM
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Hadn't heard about a total ban, some details from about a month ago here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/3277991.stm
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 10:04 AM
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Do you really mean that, if a child is killed in an accident, only morons would bother to do anything to try to prevent it happening again ? Like stopping flying on the specific site where it happened until they had worked out some rules to improve safety ?

I sure wouldn't like to live where you do if that's how most people think (but I don't believe for a minute they do).

Steve
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 10:20 AM
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Ad hominem remark removed by moderator

Edited by Brian Cullen on Dec 22, 2003 at 7:04PM
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 10:46 AM
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I think we are missing the point here. It's not about who's country is more frightened - or careless about giving out freedoms, it is about an innocent girl who was killed in a tragic accident. It seems that everyone probebly needs to take a moment to do a little self assesment on how safely they operate their toy models so that this does not occur again. If the model site has become too close to popular and crowded areas, unfortunately (even though it has been there since the 20's) it may have to be moved to a less congested area -or more fairly - further boundaries will have to be placed to keep stragglers farther away from the flying zone to keep a safe area established. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of that poor girl. And, even the guy who's model killed her. He'll have to live with this for the rest of his life (It doesn't excuse the matter, but it could have been a completely different day if any one element had changed on his flight pattern, throttle useage, wind -- anything).
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 12:00 PM
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Eddie, Hopefully that was the point I was making, albeit in my obtuse little way, that it IS a localised issue, as to what we deem to be safe behaviour.

This poor girl has been killed, so why not ban model planes of all types, worldwide. The FAI could appeal to the necessary International bodies and Governments.

Well obviously, that is nuts, so let's establish just how we determine, locally, what is safe and what is not. That's up to us modellers. This guy was flying a fast aerobatic model in a public park (the local Council had approved model flying there since the twenties, as you so rightly pointed out). So it was permitted, and legal - but was it irresponsible? You bet your sweet petootie.

The only way they have been able to get at the pilot legally is to blame him for "not following the instructions" when gluing his tail on (typical layman's approach to the hobby) - this accident occurred when the tail departed the airframe. If we get into the mainstream law of liability with our models, you will never escape conviction.

The public don't give a hoot about the fine points. If there is enough trouble, they just squak "Ban It". Look at handguns in the UK, after the Police issued a Firearms Certificate to a known 24-karat fruitcake, are the Police in trouble? Nope. Can you hold a handgun in the UK? (Almost nope!! A Walker Colt is OK!!). But that, again, is only by virtue of the incompetence of the legislators.

Let's not go there! Fly safely, somewhere that can sustain a pile-in with no more consequence than another trip to the LHS.

Chas
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 12:34 PM
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Yup. Really it should make everyone take a moment to evaluate their flying. I know I will make a few changes too, as I sometimes fly with a group in a local park that is a "shared" facility.
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 12:57 PM
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If Merlin MAC had taken the time to seek out further details of the story he would have found that the action in stopping model flying at Dartford Heath by the local authority follows the fact that the authority itself came under criticism for failing to take due notice or any remedial action following an earlier near miss. The coroner's enquiry singled out the local authority and indicated that their behaviour had bordered on being negligent. This already has had implications on other sites and will have further effects, particularly with regard to how local authorities deal with flying sites.

The comparisons to automobiles and electricity are ill considered, irrelevant and don't deserve any substantive reply.

The reference to the standard of workmanship involved in the construction were not made by an unaware layman they were apparently made by the British Model Flying Association following an in-depth investigation of the accident, which they presented at the coroner's enquiry.

Brian
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 01:13 PM
Voices through wires? Ha!
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Brian,
I meant, by the "layman's approach", that constructional expertise was even brought in as a legal issue (not the standard of that constructional expertise). That is, the principle in general law that you are in some way responsible for a "safe and operable" flight system, an entirely new take on the hobby as far as I am aware. Are we now required to build to some sort of acceptable CAA standard, or will they fall back as always in English law upon the "reasonable man"? George Bushell to the fore.
Chas

PS I have just noticed that you have removed an entire post of mine, above. What's going on? What did you possibly find to take offence at in that one?
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 01:38 PM
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Chas

The specific details of the tail fixing were discussed and it appears that the tail was painted prior to assembly, resulting in a paint-to-paint joint with an unsuitable adhesive and a 3mm gap between the fin and the tailplane. This is then thought to have contributed to the failure of the airframe in the air. My understanding was that the point which was made was that the builder of the model was inexperienced in the construction of models of this type.

The LMA act on behalf of the CAA and do in fact administer the construction inspection scheme which is in place for lare models weighing over 20kG. These must be inspected throughout their build by an LMA inspector and a permit to fly must be issued before they are allowed to be operated. The model has to perform a minimum number of test flights before it is granted a permit to fly in any public display. The model involved in the Dartford Heath tragedy was not a Large Model and would not have been liable to such inspections.

As flyers we are bound by a duty of care to our fellow modellers and to the general public. The BMFA handbook and the advice contained therein are an advisory of what constitutes best practise, but in incidents like this they do form a de facto standard and if we fail in achieving that standard then there is a chance that we may well find ourselves on the receiving end of some difficult questions.

We are all bound by the Air Navigation Order when we take to the air and must ensure that we shall not recklessly or negligently endanger a person, vessel, vehicle or property in the operation of our models.

Brian
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 02:03 PM
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While it is definitely unfortunate for those who will not have the ability to fly in their area anymore, one must not overlook the fact that a child was killed due to someone's inability to build an aircraft correctly...READ YOUR INSTRUCTIONS, no matter how much of a know-it-all you think you are, you could cost an innocent bystander their life by not doing so. Wish the picture in the second article showed the flying field, not just the path where the girl was struck...doesnt look suitable as a nitro field from the picture. One should have the space to auger their plane in and fly it well away from spectators, without fear of such an accident occurring. My heart goes out to that family...I will make sure I keep that story in mind whenever I fly, wherever I fly, to ensure I dont have to have such an occurrence on my conscience. It is our duty as pilots to build and maintain our aircraft correctly...someone should have told that to the gentleman who ruined that family's life. Going flying now...carefully. Good day to you all.
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 02:39 PM
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I personally think that both the operation and observation of "Flying models" of all sorts should come under the heading of knowingly participating in a risky venture.

It appears that the U.K. has made an admirable but IMHO perhaps an fruitless attempt to regulate the flying of models in the same way that full scale aircraft are operated. Unfortunately, there are very few impediments that keep the amateur from building his little plane (Badly), taking it to the local beat field, and tossing it in the air. Legal restrictions are only effective to those that care to learn about them, or those that are caught violating them.

A better tact might be the standard that is applied to spectators and participants of extreme sports, and water and amusement parks, wherein signage is posted that proclaims the possible risks involved and that states that the very act of remaining in the area (in whatever capacity) constitutes acceptance of such risks.

I personally will not fly in a public park that has non flying spectators or visitors, or at least more then I can easily warn of the risks of moving airplanes.
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 04:42 PM
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Whoa, I'm almost sorry I posted. This has taken a vicious turn it seems, I was merely trying to alert fellow modelers to an item which was completely new news to me. I apologize that my sarcasm came across poorly, it sounded to me that the town had banned all flying in the area. Hopefully this ban only applies to the specific site, though it's a sad precendent to set. This is a tragic and sad event and no hobby is worth having someone get killed over, but it sounds like the ban (like the General Aviation flight restrictions) will probably only ruin things for those that aren't really causing the problem, while failing to prevent a similar thing from happening. Model flying is the most wonderful hobby imaginable and it's ridiculous that modelers should be put under the gun needlessly, though fortunately we do have a hand in preserving model flying as a safe and enjoyable activity. It sounds a bit like there were previous issues with the operations at this field which could have become opportunities to preserve this site as a safe flying location, which may have been missed by its users (sorry if this isn't the case, I am unfamiliar with the site and the folks who fly there. No offense intended to them.)

All accidents have a chain of factors (sometimes just one) leading up to it, and you need to break the chain before the final link in order to avert the accident. In this case, the actions of the person who incorrectly built the plane may in fact not stem from reckless irresponsibility. Every modeler here has made their share of unintentional (yet basically stupid) mistakes that could have had unintended consequences (and anyone who says they haven't screwed up at some point is a liar.) 99.9999999% of the time, nobody is hurt. I do think we all need to bear in mind that this could happen to any of us.

I've been at a (full scale) airshow a few years back when a giant-scale IMAC type plane lost its tail at full throttle during a high-G, tight circle towards the crowd during an R/C demo. Had the tail come off a quarter-second before it did, it would have impacted directly into the crowd at full throttle. As I went out with several other club members to help retrieve the wreckage (in front of about 20,000 people no less) I remember being absolutely furious about the crash. Not at the builder, who made the mistake of using only CA glue to attach the horizontal stabilizer to a very large airplane (fairly understandable if you've never seen an accident like this before, IMHO), but I was mad at the pilot who kept flying towards the crowd - even after being warned about it several times earlier in his performance. But I guess he was just too good of a pilot to listen or something, and it nearly killed somebody. To this day I wonder if he learned his lesson... I still find myself getting nervous when I see him flying (only giant acro planes, so far as I know.) The consequences were that the FAA got upset with us and our club has never flown at that show again. That's not so bad considering what *could* have happened. And we're not a bunch of backwoods hicks either, it's a very large club with a good focus on safety and community relations.

Model flying is the most wonderful hobby in the world. It's not a dangerous activity. Like golf, biking, soccer, or eating twinkies for that matter, it CAN be dangerous or even deadly when people choose not to learn what they're doing first. In my experience, the most dangerous situation there is occurs when experienced modelers fail to enforce safe operation within their ranks. Someone starts doing something stupid because it seems fun, then it becomes acceptable, then someone gets hurt and it's not funny anymore. And usually, the entire community of modelers pays the price.

I don't know enough about the UK incident specifics to comment on what should or shouldn't have happened to prevent this tragedy, but I would hope that it would at least make everyone think about what they can do to make sure that something like this doesn't happen to them, or happen at their own field. Tolerating unsafe flying habits is a sure way to start the long process of finding out what your town commisioners might do if a model hurts someone.
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 05:50 PM
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There are several very real problems in society that make model flying an easy target: 1) We are very few in number compared to such sports as golfing and soccer; 2) The general public has the tendency to scream loudly about banning any activity that isn't of direct interest to themselves; 3) Worst of all, there are enough nitwits holding transmitters that endanger the rest of us who fly responsibly. Case in point: about 17 years ago, I was visiting the publicly-owned field of an AMA-sanctioned club in Oklahoma City, OK, USA. While it didn't seem like the brightest setup to me, the City Parks Commission (or whomever oversaw the park) had set aside a horse crossing about 150 yards from the pit area, perpendicular to the flight line. The signs in the pit area were quite obvious and legible: flying over the horse crossing when horses were present were strictly forbidden, in accordance with city regulations. While I was watching, some twit started flying his .60 glow pattern plane low and fast over the no-fly zone - with horses present. Although I was a visitor, I approached the guy and politely suggested that perhaps that wasn't the best operation. He turned and snapped "I DON"T SEE NO AMA INSPECTOR WITH NO CLIPBOARD WATCHING ME, DO YOU?!!" (The bad grammar is his, not mine.) I just turned around and walked to my car, shaking my head and hoping the moron didn't kill someone. While that was an extreme situation, we modelers are an easy target. I wonder if that club still flies at that park?

Tony Turley
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Old Dec 22, 2003, 06:35 PM
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There are some more details in QEFI this month, IIRC the model was actually being flown outside the designated area too.

BTW there are few flying sites in the UK that don't have public right of way across or near them. An out of control model can easily travel half a mile in any direction, so to avoid any chance of a bystander being hit in a freak accident you'd need a secure perimeter covering a square mile or more. That's a whole lot of land on a small & crowded island like ours!
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