Friday, April 29, 2005

A comment on Safety

This note by Andy Ellison appeared in the DS Yahoo Group.
I have his permission to republish it here.

Thats quite a topic Fred. First I'd better qualify myself to discuss what I'm about to write.
A few years ago in the UK we had a very nasty death. It's the one that led to all the arguments about factory set PCM failsafes etc.
I was tasked at short notice to form and chair a small 'safety' committee on behalf of the BMFA, CAA, Coroner and Police, in order to 'investigate' the circumstances leading up to the accident and delever our reccommendations to the parties concerned. We did so and changes were made. However the story rumbled on as I think you'll agree. Getting killed by a model aircraft (especially in such a graphic way) is a damn unusual way to die. The press stories rumbled on and on and I got dragged deeper and deeper in until my committee was responsible for changes made right up at FAI level.
However as a result of all the above public perception and safety is still an issue that interests me greatly.

You yourself are not long in the UK so are probably not so aware of the amount of press coverage something like this accident can bring about. It is a fact that we kill a kid about once every ten years in the UK. Compared to other pastimes this in not a significant amount, but it could be less. Whilst aeromodelling was still reeling fromthe tragic loss the worst thing possible happened. There was another fatality. This time the death was of a young girl on a public access site. Not associated with any club as most of the other deaths had been, this time it was a member of the public. You thought the turds had hit the ventilation before!
The results of this death have cascaded down through society and legislation is chucked at clubs flying from within or near public access land. The story is not that old and only recently the girls mother had sold her story to a ladies magazine. It seems this one is constantly in the public eye. We are not as litigation minded as other parts of the world :-) but there is a lot flying around relating to this case and some bodies won't let it drop. It could be argued that they shouldn't.
We are a much more cramped country than the US. Many of the pubic have been exposed to model aircraft but there perception of it is that of a noisy two stroke motor blitzing around disrupting thier quiet sunday afternoon. You'll have touched on this whenever you've been out sloping and been asked by a walker "how does it fly if it's got no engine?" I'm sure many have been there.

The fact is that Ades probably right. If you're doing something different people will complain. I think its the lack of understanding. I've had other fliers diss me about DS but the reality of that argument is that they can't do it!

A tag of our own BMFA (your AMA) is "seen to be safe" and whilst we know that in reality there are other areas of model flight far more dangerous than DS it is difficult to perceive the safety of a model feet from the ground doing 150mph+ in small circles!

Andy Ellison

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