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To look away or not to look away? That is the 'A' question!

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The Wright Stuff12/05/2016 17:07:03
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Although I have been flying solo for several years, it has been at a small club with rarely more than one or two people there at a time. After a bit of a winter break, I've just joined a bigger club (my old one closed down - landowner sold up). I now need to do my A test to be able to fly unaccompanied.

That's fine - I'm perfectly willing to improve my flying where I can, so I very much view this an an opportunity rather than a chore. However, I am a bit concerned about 'practice makes permanent' syndrome...

As an example, one issue that came up was spatial awareness. As a largely self-taught lone flier, I have very much learned to keep my eyes on the model at all times. Indeed this is emphasised repeatedly in the BMFA training documents. e.g.

"Now, here is your first cardinal rule: NEVER, BUT NEVER, TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE AIRCRAFT WHEN YOU ARE FLYING. If you do, you will certainly become disorientated and may even lose sight of your aircraft, or be unable to locate it quickly."

At my first orientation session, I was encouraged to look away regularly: to check the patch was clear, for other aircraft, for approaching cars, etc. and more worryingly told "keeping your eyes on the model at all times could be a failure point because it indicates a lack of confidence". Suitably concerned, I looked up the TEST STANDARDS for CHIEF EXAMINERS and CLUB EXAMINERS / GUIDANCE for TEST CANDIDATES and sure enough, it says: "...but watch carefully that they have visually checked the landing area before calling (look for head movements). They should be capable of taking their eyes off the model for a second or so in safety."

I'm not overly concerned by this from the A test perspective, but it seemed to be as good a topic for some afternoon banter as any. Since the club is pretty busy, I'm actually quite nervous about the prospect of flying with 5 or 6 other aircraft in the air at once, but don't really see much alternative to just getting on with it and practicing...

Bob Cotsford12/05/2016 17:25:26
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I always found that the only bad time to look away was when flying thermal soarers at altitude - once you lose focus on a tiny dot in the sky it can be hard to find it again. At circuit height it shouldn't be a problem and you definitely need to make sure the landing area is clear before starting an approach. If there are several models flying then it can help to have a spotter on hand to let you know where other models are.

With several models in it's not a problem if everyone flies circuits, in which case it's up to the deviants flying aerobatics to check where everyone else is before a starting manouvre.

Edited By Bob Cotsford on 12/05/2016 17:28:34

ken anderson.12/05/2016 18:37:41
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i'm a club examiner.....if you can take off and land with a circuit in each direction,answer some straight forward question's ...the A will be a formallity for you......... mind you the way that they(bmfa) intend changing it-will i think put off a lot of people...i have heard a few rumours on the jungle t/graph of some club's up in arm's about the change's...but thats a whole new topic..........

ken anderson...ne...1 A test dept.

Erfolg12/05/2016 18:55:16
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Perhaps i am not getting the picture properly, so am a little confused.

Are not all people flying a model required to stand in close proximity? Any one going onto the landing area, are they not required to say loudly "going on the field"? When landing are you not required to state loudly, "landing"?

Being an average (at best) flyer, I have no trouble in also undertaking a quick scan of the area, whilst starting the landing circuit/process.

Dependant on the response will determine what you do, or reply made.

All the clubs I am a member of, three at present, when a group is present, invariably have one of the group, scanning the general area, as part of just being there. The communications will be as varied as helicopter approaching at a low height, a walker is a potential problem and finally some advice on the best general action needed by the flyers.

Dave Hopkin12/05/2016 19:04:05
3672 forum posts
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Posted by Erfolg on 12/05/2016 18:55:16:

Perhaps i am not getting the picture properly, so am a little confused.

Are not all people flying a model required to stand in close proximity? Any one going onto the landing area, are they not required to say loudly "going on the field"? When landing are you not required to state loudly, "landing"?

Being an average (at best) flyer, I have no trouble in also undertaking a quick scan of the area, whilst starting the landing circuit/process.

Dependant on the response will determine what you do, or reply made.

All the clubs I am a member of, three at present, when a group is present, invariably have one of the group, scanning the general area, as part of just being there. The communications will be as varied as helicopter approaching at a low height, a walker is a potential problem and finally some advice on the best general action needed by the flyers.

Spotters are great to shout a warning BUT it still remains the pilots responsibility to ensure the approach and strip is clear.... so at the least a glance is required

Geoff S12/05/2016 19:33:15
3689 forum posts
29 photos

With thermal soarers it's definitely not a good idea to look away. I did that when my Sonata 'E' was tooling along at altitude perfectly safely without any input from me and I looked away to speak to someone and it was a frightening 10 or 20 seconds (seemed like minutes!) before I found it again in the clear blue sky.

I'm fortunate that I'm able to fly when there are few others at the field and we often take turns so we have the sky to ourselves or, at least, with only one or at the most two others in the air at the same time. However, I don't have too much trouble looking away briefly to check the strip is clear before landing when my model is fairly close but I don't like looking down at my transmitter. I appreciate the verbal timings I get from my Taranis.

I also do the mental 'all clear above and below' I learned when full size gliding before signalling the winch to start taking up slack as well as the verbal 'Taking off' warning if there are others flying or in the vicinity.

Geoff

Erfolg12/05/2016 21:30:14
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11781 forum posts
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From the responses, we can see that the different disciplines of aeromodelling do handle the issues slightly differently. In my opinion very sensible, as the management criteria do varies.

To be honest, when i thermaled, and when I thermal, I do not have my eyes riveted to the model, unless very high. The great thing about most thermal flying, you are higher and slower. Although i have known that modellers have looked away, then started flying another model. Even laughing at the stupid modeller whose model has just gone in.

In the case of the fixed wing "A" test you are never very high, most "A" test models are not very fast. Bags of time to manage watching the model and assessing the general environment and potential hazards.

Its not the flying that will be your downfall, it is do you know what ANO 393 Cap 225.1.a says? and then .....

Shane Sunday12/05/2016 22:54:41
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The club I am part of generally sees 3 models in the air at a time. I find it comforting to be able to look and see where other models are in relation to my own. I'd hate to attempt something that may cause the demise of a friends pride and joy. So perhaps get use to a quick glance left or right just to be sure to be sure. It'll make you a better flyer as well.

onetenor13/05/2016 02:17:35
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1901 forum posts

I learned to look away when flying control line To check if noone was wandering into the danger zone . not quite the same thing but it does act as basis for R/C awareness.

Denis Watkins13/05/2016 08:22:32
4527 forum posts
122 photos

While learning to fly, the concentration is intense from the pilot, and only the model is seen, as the ground and trees appear in view are quite a surprise, as if they jump out at you. But as experience is gained, and the pilot becomes less tense, they do start to notice the surroundings more often, and peripheral vision becomes part of the schedule. It is not so much looking away as broadening your awareness, and it does come with practice.

john stones 113/05/2016 08:36:45
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Yep as you improve and get more confidence you relax and take more in, same with flying with a crowd, some folk you can relax and enjoy it, others it's best to have a chat n a cuppa till they've done wink

John

Jon - Laser Engines13/05/2016 08:43:50
5555 forum posts
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I agree with Denis. I think i spend 30-50% of my air time looking away from my model depending on where i am flying/who i am with. you need to know where all of the other models you are flying with are so you can be somewhere else. When flying at public shows with pilots i dont know i have to spend even more time looking around as their flying styles and habits are unknown to me and i cannot predict what they are likely to do like i can with the guys i fly with every week. In my experience this is the most difficult part of display flying. I specifically teach my students to look for other aircraft when teaching them to fly in preparation for their A.

We had an incident at our field recently where a very experienced pilot who was landing did not check the landing area and almost hit the chap strimming the weeds at the end of the runway. While the chap strimming should have said he was going to be there the pilot should also have looked where he was going.

Another way to think about it would be either what full size pilots do, or how do you drive your car? If you drove your car only looking forward without checking your mirrors or to the side how long would it be before you hit something? Not long i wouldnt think.

Bob Burton13/05/2016 08:51:42
184 forum posts
Posted by Jon Harper - Laser Engines on 13/05/2016 08:43:50:

We had an incident at our field recently where a very experienced pilot who was landing did not check the landing area and almost hit the chap strimming the weeds at the end of the runway. While the chap strimming should have said he was going to be there the pilot should also have looked where he was going.

What on Earth was he doing stimming weeds at the end of the runway whist it was being used ?

Engine Doctor13/05/2016 09:55:32
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2530 forum posts
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Posted by Bob Burton on 13/05/2016 08:51:42:
Posted by Jon Harper - Laser Engines on 13/05/2016 08:43:50:

We had an incident at our field recently where a very experienced pilot who was landing did not check the landing area and almost hit the chap strimming the weeds at the end of the runway. While the chap strimming should have said he was going to be there the pilot should also have looked where he was going.

What on Earth was he doing stimming weeds at the end of the runway whist it was being used ?

I have to agree with that . Any work on the field ,grass cutting etc then flying stops until it's finished. You should be able to quickly scan your landing area with no problem as you never know what your club mates are up to.

Bob Cotsford13/05/2016 10:09:18
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It's not just clubmates that can get in the way as many sites are open to the public, not necessarily officially but that won't count for much if you hit someone! At least two sites I've used in the past were public parks so it wasn't unusual to find a dog wandering around the runway. Other farm sites it might be a sheep, cow or even a horse.

Josip Vrandecic -Mes13/05/2016 10:20:00
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Dear TWS, you have an amazing sense of responsibility which is commendable, but I think you should not be too hard on yourself.
At the end of the post you gave the answer to all of the upcoming problems .....exercise...face 1

Rgds and all the best

Jo

Edited By Josip Vrandecic -Mes on 13/05/2016 10:21:16

Jack Banner13/05/2016 10:26:19
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332 forum posts
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Hah, that reminds me of an incident when I used to fly at Chingford plain. It's a public area with horses and families and there was a footpath right across one end of the flying field. I was fling a smallish electric fun fighter and was preparing to land. On my approach leg of the circuit I scanned my approach and there is a family with two young children standing right at the end of the runway watching me fly

They mistook my urgent gesticulations for a friendly greeting, waved back and continued to stand on the runway looking at the plane! They seemed very disappointed in me when I landed in a big bush at the other end of the strip...

Better than hitting them though.

Jon - Laser Engines13/05/2016 10:40:25
5555 forum posts
270 photos

What on Earth was he doing stimming weeds at the end of the runway whist it was being used ?

he was teaching them weeds a lesson!

And there is some debate as to who was there first, the strimmer or the model so its possible the model took off after strimming had started. As yet no word on which way round it went.

In any event, i have flown with the guys cutting the field before. its not a big issue as i leave plenty of clearance around them and dispatch someone to shoo them away when it is time to land. Clearly that did not happen this time.

Martin Harris13/05/2016 11:03:15
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The key is to do any scanning while your model is reasonably positioned and stable - i.e. you will know where to look back to find it. I haven't given this much thought before but I believe that in most cases the model you're flying will still be in your peripheral vision while you make a quick scan.

Human vision is optimised to detect moving objects in peripheral vision (the reason that fighter - and other - pilots are taught to keep their heads moving - because the head is moving, stationary or slow moving hazards are effectively moving as far as the eye is concerned) so a fixed stare at the runway threshold is not very effective in detecting a hazard - a moving glance while keeping an awareness of your model should reveal any hazards better than a deliberate action of looking at an area and maintain awareness of where your model is - likely to still be in peripheral vision - while you're doing your check.

It's also useful to position your model appropriately before doing any checks - I frequently find that I do so when flying if a less confident pilot is encountering a high workload and I can keep an eye on their efforts in order to add the odd word of advice/encouragement.

The information above is actually the explanation behind many mid-air collisions/near misses in full size aviation. When you're on a collision course with another aircraft, there is no relative movement. There's little difference between a spot of dirt on the canopy and a distant aircraft as far as your inbuilt threat detection is concerned. That speck will not move if it's going to hit you and the moment you first see it may be as the apparent size starts to expand rapidly moments before it reaches you.

bert baker13/05/2016 11:19:21
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Its a hobby not an Olimpic event,

If it ain't fun something is wrong.

I would say that, most learn to fly books are aimed at the total novice,and some of the guide notes,will later on contradict each other.

The novice flyer normally has his hands full just keeping the plane in the air, it would be unfair to expect them to look away from the plane,, but as they get more relaxed with flying and the task becomes easiyer, they will have the skills to take a glance away from the plane. thus rule 1 now contradicted.

Ultimatley the Pilot is responsable,having a helper/ spotter, where practable would be advisable.

As would stay grounded if it is unsafe to fly.

I help and Spot for my mate at Shows, some model some at full size shows with a model slot, as a spotter I am aware where his plane is, but generally acting as a second set of eyes for him,so rarely look directley at his plane,...

My mate was spooling his turbine up, we had both looked each way and he was cleared for take off. just as he has started to roll, a airport service van drove onto our take off area, luckyily I was keeping a good eye out and told my mate to stop, he was burnning fuel and concentrating on his plane, he did stop, but questioned why, I said look right see the van now don't you.,,

As a lone flyer I would say you defo need to be aware of what is going on around you,

On the internet there is a guide to help with the BMFA questions, it is a multi choice style training aid.

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