Many clubs stipulate that to fly with them, you must also be a member of the British Model Flying Association (BMFA). This is usually for reasons of insurance coupled with the fact that affiliation offers extensions which protect the club’s committee in their position. However, membership of the BMFA also brings many other things to a modeller’s hobby, should they wish to utilise it. Perhaps the main one of these, after insurance, is the BMFA’s extensive list of flying related personal achievement schemes. You may know of these as simply the ‘A’ and ‘B’ certificates and at club level these are administrated by registered club examiners. So, here, then, are ten things that every BMFA club examiner really ought to know:
1. The position of club examiner is reliant on your club ratifying you every year on the relevant paperwork within the club’s annual BMFA affiliation pack. In essence, as a club examiner you must be assigned to a club; you must be a current BMFA member and you must be over 18 years old. Your principal purpose is to administer the BMFA achievement schemes within that club and undertake tests for the classifications of model which you are qualified as an examiner for. These can be Fixed-wing, Silent Flight or Helicopter. It’s worth noting that club examiner status is an appointment, not a qualification.
2. Be aware of the tests you are cleared to undertake. This is not always obvious since examiners in one discipline can perform B certificate tests as the ‘second’ examiner in a different discipline. For example, in the fixed-wing B certificate two registered examiners are required to perform the test. The lead examiner must be fixed-wing classified but if no second fixed-wing examiner is available the supporting role may be carried out by a helicopter or silent flight registered examiner. ‘A’ certificate tests may be performed by any willing examiner regardless of discipline.
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3. The scheme is open to everyone, BMFA member or not. It is also free. This may lead to you test candidates from outside your club, however this can only occur by prior arrangement. For the purpose of B certificate testing, should such a situation arise, i.e., where the host club has no registered examiners, you should inform the Area Achievement Scheme Coordinator who may wish to appoint an Area Chief Examiner to administer the tests instead.
4. The example you set is everything. As an examiner it follows that you will be expected to practice what you preach and lead by example at all times and in every aspect of your modelling within your registered club. This not only relates to the way in which you fly and conduct yourself at the field, it should also be evident in the turnout of your models, the level of preparation you show before your own flights and the enforcement of your local club rules and BMFA safety codes as you undertake them.
5. Preparation is vital. You may know the candidate very well and in a club environment it is likely that you’ll not be testing them until you know their flying is up to the standard of the test. However, you must ignore this under test conditions and test what you see, rather than how you saw that manoeuvre done in practice last week. Also, do not ignore any useful behavioural information which might help your general assessment as you watch the candidate flying or operating his model outside of the test environment.
6. Ensure you hold a proper pre-flight briefing. There is no place for misunderstanding during a test, particularly in the middle of an examination when the model is in the air. Be clear about your instructions and what you expect to see from the candidate before the test commences. If necessary, be prepared to demonstrate what is required before the test by flying a model yourself while the candidate observes. Only two attempts at the flying test are permitted in any one day and you don’t want to waste one of those on a misunderstanding that’s a result of your briefing being inadequate.
7. Ensure your test procedure is current. From time to time the BMFA Council will approve modifications to the flying tests which are recommended by the BMFA Achievement Scheme Review Committee and the examiner must ensure he has the most up-to-date information available. This is communicated through media like the BMFA Club Bulletin, BMFA website and BMFA News but it is not foolproof. Recent changes, for example, include the requirement to pass the relevant A certificate before the corresponding B certificate examination may be taken, or the modifications to the fixed-wing B test which eliminate the old options for a split S or a spiral dive instead of a spin.
8. Know the BMFA Safety Codes. A good idea as this will help you quickly and easily formulate questions for the second part of the tests. Avoid pre-printed question sheets or asking the same questions every time, especially if you’re performing a few tests on any given day. Your test candidates are certain to share answers when they think you’re not watching. Certain parts of the BMFA Members Handbook jump out at you and beg to be asked as a question. Do not paraphrase or ask questions parrot fashion from the book. Instead, try to encourage understanding of the safety rules and the reasoning behind them. Also keep the questions relevant to the test being flown. For example, it’s not fair to ask a slope flyer who’s taking an ‘A’ test on the hillside, questions relating to helicopters etc.
9. Paperwork is key. There is no escaping it, the Achievement Scheme is run by paperwork. You must hold a small stock of forms for the tests you are allowed to perform. Write legibly and use the candidates full name. This information will be entered onto the full presentation certificate by the staff at the BMFA office. Also, do not hang on to your completed test forms until you have a bundle to send back. They should go to Leicester within a week of the test.
10. Be aware of your support network. There is a large amount of information for both examiners and test candidates alike, indeed you’ll find it all on the BMFA website at http://www.bmfa.org/achievement/index.html. Use it to your advantage and make the test booklets available to your candidates as their test approaches. If you cannot find what you need you can always refer the issue to your local Area Chief Examiner, Area Achievement Scheme Coordinator, National Achievement Scheme Controller or even the Achievement Scheme Review Committee. Details of all these contacts can, of course, be obtained from the BMFA head office on 01162 440028.