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Feb 02, 2013, 11:42 AM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

Club Safety Thread

No matter how thorough a club's written safety plan is, a truly safe flying field only happens when pilots think about safety and actively participate in keeping conditions safe.

The challenge in actively participating in field safety is to feel safe that you can talk to fellow pilots and discuss safety improvements. This is where the club's appointed safety representative(s) can have an impact by cultivating an environment of openness when receiving personal safety feedback.

This thread was created to provide a place for club members to:

1. Suggest and discuss safety ideas

2. Relate safety situations and concerns (without naming specific people)

3. Acknowledge those who have helped the club's safety cause

With all due respect to the club's long standing rules saying, it might be appropriate to fly on our field with this change in mind:
SVSS Club Rules: #1 Be safe, #2 Have Fun
Chris B.
Last edited by SoaringDude; Feb 07, 2013 at 10:45 AM.
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Feb 04, 2013, 11:42 AM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

Never catch a "falling knife"

Last week in the mid afternoon while I was flying with David Phippen there was one other electric pilot flying. He was a very nice guy with obviously good flying skills and said he was new to our field. On one of his landings I watched as he caught his electric with his bare hands, literally grabbing the folded propeller area of the fuselage.

So I walked over and in a friendly way suggested that while he may have enough skills to not flick the motor on during a hand catch like that, there are several electrical failures that could happen and cause the motor to switch on.

He smiled and responded back that he agreed it wasn't a good thing to do. In fact, it turns out he was very electronics and technically knowledgeable and understood how random failures could happen at just the wrong time. What followed was a nice discussion about the NEXRAD radar ball, where he worked, etc.

While it's true not every safety suggestion will end in a friendly conversation, at least this one did.
Feb 04, 2013, 01:38 PM
Registered User
TrekBiker's Avatar
Good thread Chris

Safety, especially in this new golden age of electric flight is very important.

I'll leave the electric aircraft safety issues for others to chime in about, but I would like to add my 2 cents with regards to the winches. All of us who have been in the club awhile have witnessed and even been involved in winch problems that created unsafe conditions. While a winch incident is unlikely to kill anyone there have been a few accidents resulting lacerations and stitches.

1. at some point, all of us who fly TD learn how to operate the retriever. Winch launching and winch retriever operation can be intimidating to new members, something many of us who literally have thousands of launches and retrieves under our belts sometimes forget. If you are new to winches and at all uncomfortable in operating the retriever, GET HELP. We all screw up on the retriever in the beginning so getting help and advice is important. After a few years it is also very easy to get "too comfortable" with the winch which can result in an accident. We've all heard of the woodworker with 20 years experience cutting off his fingers on his T-saw. Keeping focused and tuned in while operating any machinery is critical to safety.

2. Wear a glove on your left hand. This really should be a club rule as I have often witnessed very experienced club members operate the retriever with a bare left hand (too comfortable?). I suppose it is their choice to take this risk but it is not safe and sets a BAD EXAMPLE to newer members. Some people will tell you the reason they dont wear a left glove is that it makes it more difficult to grab the line and feed it back onto the bike hub pulley. This is simply not true. I can grab and set a retrieve line accurately on the pulley as fast as anyone with a glove on my left hand and have never experienced a problem with the glove impeding this action. Choosing to wear a glove on your right hand is a personal choice as the right hand does only one thing and that is operate the on-off button. Never use your right hand for anything but pushing that power button. I personally dont use a right hand glove as I like having a better feel of the button. Others do wear a right hand glove.

3. When a pilot steps up to the winch and hooks up the winchline strap ring to the towhook on his sailplane the retrieve operator needs to double check that the retrieve line is off the bicycle hub pulley and that it is not wrapped around the retrieve line ring out in front of the winch cart. Also check that the retrieve line metal link is not stuck on the knot right next to the strap connected to the model as this can increase the possibility of the plane tangling with the retrieve line on launch. Next ask the pilot to prove he has radio on and full control ie., "got wiggle?" (move the control surfaces). Then check the airspace for other planes in the launch lane and other winch lines in operation and especially people that are possibly in the path of any launching plane that goes out of control (this is mostly a problem at contests with people near the landing zone). Only then is it safe to tell the pilot "retrieve is ready".

4. When the pilot launches watch the plane on launch and when he comes off the zoom grab the retrieve line with your gloved left hand and wrap it on the bike hub pulley and with your right hand hit the on button to retrieve the line. Do not pulse the retriever, hold the button down until the retrieve is complete. Keep your eyes on the black retrieve line connecting strap and stop the retrieve well short of the retriever ring mounted in the concrete block in front of the cart. It is not uncommon for that last step to go wrong and wrack the retriever strap into the ring and even through it into the cart/retriever. This can HURT. With practice you will get better at knowing when to stop the retrieve. You will likely notice many experienced retrieve operators stopping the retriever drum with their gloved left hand in order to stop the line at just the right place (AFTER letting off the power button). I do this myself but would not advise it until you are very comfortable with winch operation and NEVER with a bare hand.

5. Sometimes on launch or the retrieve the line will break or get snagged in the turnaround at the end of the field. The safest thing to do in this case is let go of everything and tell the pilot to get his foot off the winch pedal. Doing this will keep you safe but likely result in a big backlash ratsnest. With experience you can grab the retriever spool with your gloved left hand (AFTER letting off the power button with your right hand) and prevent a backlash. Dont do this unless you are very comfortable with winch operation. If there is a winch line break make sure the pilot gets off the pedal and let the line fall where it may. Trying to reel in a broken line can be dangerous and result in some serious line burns if it falls behind the cart into populated parts of the field.

I'm sure I am missing a few pointers so feel free to add your input.

There is no way to learn this by reading about it. Club members new to winching must get personal instruction and there are many experienced members more than willing to help out.

Steve Henke
Last edited by TrekBiker; Feb 04, 2013 at 02:04 PM.
Feb 04, 2013, 01:50 PM
Good for what ALES you
awilmunder's Avatar

You brought up two very import points here. First, while flying at an ALES event at another club, an experienced pilot who was in the habit of catching his TD plane, made the mistake of reaching out for his powered ALES plane. I believe his instinct to flare the plane at the last moment may have caused him to move the throttle stick and he found himself reaching out for 14 inches of spinning propeller.

Just as important is an early lesson I was taught at the field by a club instructor. As I was being shown how to launch using the winch, the instructor told me that with all of his years flying, if he spots something that doesn't look right, he immediately calls it out without hesitation. It is far, far better to have a pilot double check an item than to find out that something was overlooked or that there was a serious safety issue.

Here’s my tip for today. You should use all of your senses when checking your plane. It is easy to think that visually inspecting your plane is your best approach. I have had circumstances where that wasn’t enough.

I like to give my plane a gentle shake when I pick it up. One time I heard what sounded like a small rock sliding inside my wing so I tilted it back and forth to track it down. I have transparent covers over my servos and was shocked to find a servo arm retaining screw sliding loose inside the wing.

With another plane, I had been flying in tall grass and set my plane down while going to recover the hi-start. I hadn’t thought that the pressure of the grass was straining my servos and just before launching, I listened for the wiggles and remember thinking to myself that some farmer must be burning his crops. After launch, I was alarmed to find that my plane was not rolling properly so I landed immediately and found that one of my aileron servos had fried. A number of lessons here: don’t just listen for your wiggles, use your eyes as well. Your ears can tell you when your servos are under stress and your nose can also alert you to a possible failure.
Feb 04, 2013, 02:45 PM
Good for what ALES you
awilmunder's Avatar
Great comments Steve,

I treat the winches like other pieces of fast moving machinery and so I don't operate them when wearing loose clothing and I always remove my stopwatch from around my neck when I am retrieving.
Feb 04, 2013, 03:48 PM
Registered User
jtlsf5's Avatar
I'll add an observation regarding launching. As much as we'd like to think that we are all capable of running the pedal, throwing the plane and driving the TX its not instinctual, its learned.

Having been the flight line director at the Nats for a number of years I have seen some pretty weird stuff. One time an experienced pilot (now a LSF 5) threw his plane which immediately went hard right, came off the line and clipped someone just below the knee. The poor guy was cut some and had a nasty bruise. The pilot just wasn't stable at the instant he threw his plane, and the screaming pop off was the result.

Now as part of my portion of the Nats pilot's meeting I instruct any pilot that has ANY doubts about the ability to completely control their plane on launch to let either their timer or the flight line director (me or whoever is running the line if I am flying) throw for them. This lets the person have both hands on the transmitter, and effect complete and immediate control on the plane.

If you have any doubts about the time lapse, watch a few launches and you'll see a 1-3 second gap between the release of the plane and the pilot having both hands on the TX. Thats enough time for bad things to happen.

Feb 05, 2013, 04:58 PM
Registered User

Electrical and motor safety

While 6V or 12V and even 24V is not a shock hazard, we must not overlook the very large amount of energy stored in our charged Pb-acid batteries (and even flight batteries of all types.)

I caution folks to be very sure that the 6V winch batteries are correctly put in series when you change them out. Don't just grab a black and red connector from the jumble of three of each under the motor and push them together. turn the switch off and make sure you are connecting DIFFERENT batteries or the motor circuit and not shorting out a single battery or a series pair! If you accidentally choose a pair or leads from the same battery (or two already in series) an enormous current will flow, potentially dumping a lot of energy into the wires, connectors and the battery itself. Very bad for all three but also potentially very bad for the person or persons close by. Molten metal could fly as well as molten burning plastic.

I also want to remind folks that electric motors generally develop maximum, torque at zero rpm. That means if the motor is accidentally turned on with your hand or head or whatever near the rotating elements, (drums, line, propellers etc.) maximum damage will certainly occur to flesh and bones. By the way, this is unlike an internal combustion engine, which develops zero torque at zero rpm.
:-) .

I suggest the electric folks consider developing a recommended set of best practices regarding working on ALES planes with power on ( i.e. for trimming, and diagnostics, etc) to prevent accidental motor turn on and the inevitable chopping of flesh.
Feb 06, 2013, 11:03 AM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

What other RC flying clubs are doing

For clubs who are in the "formative stages" of formalizing their safety strategies it's a good exercise to look around at what other clubs are doing. As a part of my independent RC Flying Club Safety Plan outline project I spent several days looking at how other clubs are addressing safety. On the References & Links page there is a section of links to rules and safety plans from other clubs. It's clear from this search that some clubs have spent quite a bit of quality time considering safety issues and developing their own solutions.

I'm curious what others think are most important in plans like this.

Chris B.
Feb 07, 2013, 12:59 AM
David Olson's Avatar

Preflight Regimen

I thought this would be good for anyone new to flying to read:

Everyone has a little different preflight regimen.

We all know to "wiggle" our flight surfaces and listen to the servos before every flight. This item is toward the top of most of our preflight lists.

I have observed on several occasions after someone having worked on their airplane or on a maiden flight, go out flying, then crash their plane immediately upon launch.

After helping them pick up the pieces and trying to analyze the damage all too often we discover they either hooked up their ailerons backwards or their elevator servo(s) backwards or had an unnoticed failed servo. Their control surfaces moved when they "wiggled" them.
We all know to check "which" direction the control surfaces are moving. We all were taught this early on. This is really an easy one to become very complacent with time and just check for movement, not checking correct direction.

I have also seen after a harder than normal landing then the next flight ends in a crash due to a clevis or ball link pop off the stab horn. Again, this could have been caught on preflight.

Experience can erode your diligence. Complacency can creep in with time. It is easy to skim over your preflight regimen or just skip it if you are late and rushed to launch for any reason. I know I have been guilty of this at times.

Many of us have been physically close to crashes, very scary to be around.

Every time I go to fly I try to think about that I am responsible for the safe operation of my sailplane and equipment around my flying friends. I take responsibility for my sailplane and its operation. There is an underlying secondary reason as well, a monetary one. We want our investment back every time we "throw" it away.

The idea of personal safety and the safety of others around you largely goes unspoken, is assumed, and something we all are responsible for and take on as a part of flying.

Sticking to my Preflight List is the most basic way I try to keep things safe.

To me this is THE first and most basic club safety item. Safety starts with each of us. We each are the biggest safety link in the chain.

Feb 07, 2013, 01:03 AM
David Olson's Avatar

Loading Testing Receiver Batteries

Another item to pay attention to if you are new to flying -

I still fly mostly NiMH Receiver batteries in my planes. I "load" test my Rx. battery before every flight with a .5 amp load and read the voltage. This is up toward the top of my preflight check.

I have seen too many times someone crash their sailplane due to an exhausted Rx. battery. I always try to be the "student" and never the "teacher" when it comes to making mistakes while flying. I try to learn from other's mishaps but at times admit to being the "teacher".

I have seen how helpless someone feels when they no longer have control of their sailplane because their battery is dead and vowed to never let that happen to me or at least take some precaution to try to prevent it.

Load testing your Rx. battery does not take long to do. I try to do it before every flight but admit to not being 100%, but try to. Some think it is excessive but I figure it is easy to do, doesn't take much time and gives me confidence in my equipment when I fly.

Feb 07, 2013, 07:11 PM
Registered User
Please forgive my self centered reply about the gloved hand grabing the retriever line and wrapping it around the bicycle hub. If safety is truely important, then don't grab that line at anytime it is moving. I have seen several home made retrievers in which no one grabs the moving line. Please investigate them. Again, Sorry for the self centered comment. Rick HFR.
Feb 07, 2013, 07:58 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Originally Posted by rbothell
Please forgive my self centered reply about the gloved hand grabing the retriever line and wrapping it around the bicycle hub. If safety is truely important, then don't grab that line at anytime it is moving. I have seen several home made retrievers in which no one grabs the moving line. Please investigate them. Again, Sorry for the self centered comment. Rick HFR.
Hi Rick, welcome to our club forum and thanks for chiming in. I wouldn't call your post "self centered," rather I'd call it sharing an opinion.

I can't speak for others but I do retrieve quite a bit and most of the time my gloved hand is still holding/guiding the line for ~1/2 second as the retriever is spinning up. Never had a problem but there is a risk: namely, if there is a big tangle in the retrieve line that goes through your gloved hand. That's why I'm laser-locked on the line until my hand releases, then I look up for the tow hook strap in the sky.

I'm sure others comments will follow on this.

By the way, I noticed you're on the pilot's list for CASL's TD contest in a few weeks. I'm going too and I'd like to meet up & say hi. I'll be the guy with the red Xplorer .

Chris B.
Feb 07, 2013, 09:38 PM
Registered User
Sure, I would like to meet you. I'll have my usual table up with my shade canopy showing off a couple winches and a couple retrievers. I too have used my hands to retrieve using the old big wheel retrievers and later some smaller wheel retrievers. I'm good at it but it only takes one mistake to cut a finger. Hope to see you at the SWC. Rick HFR
Feb 07, 2013, 11:47 PM
Good for what ALES you
awilmunder's Avatar

I am using a Hyperion EOS Sentry Battery Checker for my Lithium and NiMH/NiCd packs. For LiPos, it connects to the battery monitor port and displays overall voltage, voltage from each cell, and the differential between the max and min cell voltage. for NiMHs, it has a standard servo connector port and can check packs with different cell counts.

I haven't found any mention of it placing a load on the pack so I emailed their customer support and haven't heard back yet. I may want to look for a simple way to add a load to the test.

Here is a link to the device on Amazon.
Feb 08, 2013, 12:14 AM
David Olson's Avatar
Originally Posted by awilmunder

I am using a Hyperion EOS Sentry Battery Checker for my Lithium and NiMH/NiCd packs. For LiPos, it connects to the battery monitor port and displays overall voltage, voltage from each cell, and the differential between the max and min cell voltage. for NiMHs, it has a standard servo connector port and can check packs with different cell counts.

I haven't found any mention of it placing a load on the pack so I emailed their customer support and haven't heard back yet. I may want to look for a simple way to add a load to the test.

Here is a link to the device on Amazon.

Yeah, I use the same unit for my LiPo's as well. Unfortunately it does not have any way of putting a load on the batteries.

There are many battery load testers out there. I use Hangar 9's. It has a slider switch so you have 3 choices of load, .5 amp, 1 amp and 2 amps. Very simple to use, plug it in and read the standing voltage and then press the load microswitch and see how much the voltage goes down.

I typically use .5 amp or 1 amp for a sailplane.

Most are around $40.

There might be an all in one unit out there I don't know about. Anyone?

Link to what I use:


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