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In your experience what's the most common cause of a crash?

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Q: In your experience, what's the most common cause of a crash?

Pilot err  






Eng fail  


CG probs  


Batt fail  






(754 votes)

Bob Cotsford09/05/2013 21:18:12
8243 forum posts
454 photos

Pilot error - whether it's ambition exceeding ability, neglecting maintenance or just inexperience I'd say 99% of models go in because the pilot fouled up one way or another. Sometimes it's as simple as recognising you are not on your game and flying appropriately, sometimes it's the accepted risk of trying something new. Even engine and battery failures can usually be put down to poor setup or maintenance when it comes right down to it.

Richard Harris09/05/2013 21:21:30
2116 forum posts
1965 photos

Pilot error....but I would use any of the others for a cover up excuse!wink 2

Tom Sharp09/05/2013 21:27:17
387 forum posts

Quote from Bob Cotsford

Sometimes it's as simple as recognising you are not on your game and flying appropriately.

This is where I come in.

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator09/05/2013 21:32:55
15748 forum posts
1460 photos

I'd say overwhelmingly its pilot error which can manifest itself in many different forms - and we're all guilty of it on occassions. Its healthy to face up to the fact and not blame some other cause.


buster prop09/05/2013 21:48:23
488 forum posts
13 photos

Most of my crashes have been due to disorientation caused by flying too far away, into the sun or just taking my eyes off the model. One was caused by using high rates for a fast twitchy plane and not reacting quickly enough. Another was by poor depth perception and misjudging a landing which went 'into the rough' and tore the u/c off. I can't think of any which weren't avoidable with a bit more skill, preparation or concentration. So my vote goes to pilot error.

Dwain Dibley.09/05/2013 21:59:38
1268 forum posts
1267 photos

It is very convenient to blame something other than ourselves, but it is all pilot error at the end of the day. I lost a model cos I ran out of battery, but had i checked that battery after 4 flights I may not have taken the fatal one. It was my fault.

Then there are those who would not crash if they didn't fly....devil


Mike Etheridge 109/05/2013 22:15:46
1537 forum posts
429 photos

Apart from Pilot Error the following seem relevant to me:

  • Radio failure / interference, the past CB radio.
  • Lack of frequency control
  • Engine failure/ dead stick landings.
  • Visual problems caused by the sun.
  • Water / ditches (at the end of our flying field !.)
  • Model failure / inadequate maintenance and or lack of inspection.
  • Battery failure
  • Too many models up at once / 'mid- airs'
  • Wind change specifically with slope soaring.

I think that's covered it?


Frank Skilbeck09/05/2013 22:29:21
4602 forum posts
101 photos

I put down pilot error because thats most times, but a couple of years ago I lost 2 models in succession in mid-airs so I guess that would be other, and a 3rd when the Rx battery parted with the plane under spirited aerobatics would that class as battery?

Turbycat09/05/2013 22:34:21
594 forum posts
55 photos

Well I put pilot error but I'm pretty sure the gound has a vendetta against my modelswink!! I had one go in due to an elevator servo failure and crash landed a few due to engine failure, glow plugs mainly! I've only seen a couple of incidents I could put down to radio issues leading to loss of control, I'm not talking about flat batteries, but an interferance issue of some kind.


John Privett09/05/2013 22:41:45
6034 forum posts
239 photos
Posted by John Privett on 09/05/2013 20:49:45:
I voted pilot error! I can't recall a single crash I've had that I could honestly attribute to anything else...embarrassed

OK, there was one. About 20 years ago I was "shot down" by somebody switching on on my frequency. That could of course still be considered to be pilot error - just it was the other pilot's error!

A.T.09/05/2013 22:42:54
83 forum posts

Pilot Error - covers many factors beside the 85% dumb thumbs.

This as pilot is also most often the builder and /or installer of the RC equipment. With servo being a 1/10 of the price of some 20 years ago and generally more reliable, models are being loaded up with additional servo but the battery or BEC are not being ugraded to cope. With GP models, the old 4cell must be replaced by a 5 cell or Life and EP models should no longer rely on ESC/BEC 2A units and use separate 5A or 10A switchmode regulators.

Why BEC and LVC cause most EP RX problems, posts #2 & #3.

EPA, ATV, Dual & Triple Rates, Expo Differences & Caution [/url] includes ESC / BEC Set Up.

Much more information available under sub sections
"Battery Care, Performance & DIY Battery Packs."
"ESC & BEC - Setup to prevent majority of all RF Problems, Brownouts & Crashes"
"Glitches & Jitter in Receiver, Servo & ESC - Causes and Cures"
"Servo - Alterations, Calculators, Databases, Leads, Repairs, Convert to an ESC or winch & FAQ."
"Radio Systems, Accessories, Alterations and FAQ" at Alan's Hobby, Model & RC FAQ Web Links

Alan T.

Edited By Pete B - Moderator on 10/05/2013 09:01:28

Tim Cheal09/05/2013 22:52:46
221 forum posts
54 photos


What an interesting question.

It would be very simple to put down pilot error as a catch all, and for all the reasons already raised in this forum. But should we break that down a little more? One way to look at this is through 3 basic attributes we need to conduct a flying task: Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.

Taking each in turn.

Knowledge. Do we have the knowledge to conduct the flight which we are about to undertake? An example here would be one crash I had with a Zen 50. It was all set up and ready to fly, but I had set the control throws at far too large a throw. Hence, when I recovered from a dive the aircraft departed (twice actually) and the model impacted the ground. Knowledge was gained, and I haven’t made that particular mistake since.

Skill. Do we have the skill to conduct the flight. We have all seen the novice pitch up with his 65” Spitfire far too early in their model flying career, which often ends in tears. So, we should ask if we have the necessary skills to perform the flight with the model we are planning to fly. This could even relate to attempting to fly when the wind strength was outside our particular skill level, or even landing short after an engine failure (when reaching the field may have been possible).

Attitude. Attitude has a huge effect on how we fly. We have great days when we are on top of the world, and seemingly can fly no wrong. Other days we might try that slightly more adventurous aerobatic “wifferdill” at too low a height, or try the inverted pass that puts the tail (followed quickly by the rest of the model) into the ground. Sometimes we need to back off, or even put the model back in the car and go home.

There are other ways of breaking this down, but Knowledge/Skills/Attitude provides a good start. Hence, while I see the most likely cause of all model accidents to be pilot error, I would like to break that down a little more and determine whether insufficient knowledge, skills, or pilot attitude was the cause.


Edited for spolling (why do they always appear after I have posted!!).

Edited By Tim Cheal on 09/05/2013 22:53:39

Glyn R09/05/2013 23:03:50
443 forum posts
179 photos

Pilot error usually caused by the triumph of ambition over ability.

John Olsen 109/05/2013 23:09:56
446 forum posts
23 photos

My most spectacular crash was actually a solder joint failing inside the heatshrink, it was where the small wire to the SBEC was soldered onto the large wire, so I guess that was assembly/wiring, but most of my "incidents" have been due to being relatively new to radio control.

"Good judgement comes through experience and experience comes through bad judgement".


Martin Harris09/05/2013 23:20:10
9159 forum posts
229 photos

The usual cause of accidents seems to be running out of of airspeed, altitude and ideas at the same time.

That may be an old chestnut but most accidents follow this pattern either during take off or landing. Typically a model is climbed away too steeply, tip stalls and cartwheels - cause, not enough airspeed or altitude and no idea that the model is getting into a dangerous situation.

Landing accidents tend to start with poor positioning leading to too high a workload on the approach, insufficient airspeed to maintain positive control and failing to recognise the situation in time to go around for another try.

I'd say that accidents that can't be blamed on the pilot/operator are exceptionally rare. Even those outside the apparent control of the pilot can usually be traced back to a decision, ommission or action of the modeller - from another old saw with more than a dash of truth is the old saying, "take offs are optional...landings compulsory".

Pat (rActive) Harbord09/05/2013 23:21:04
634 forum posts
49 photos

I had a crash the other day. Upon checking battery capacity on landing, I decided to relaunch and do a couple more circuits and grease another landing. I lined up from a little further away than normal and at lower altitude so was on power to extend the approach, nicely balancing throttle and elevator. Next thing she drops a wing and flicks in.

i was no slower than usual and had a 6-8mph head wind, so was a little puzzled until I went to collect the bits. I had completely missed accounting for a cross wind passing between two barns we have at the edge of the field, I could feel the breeze once I got to the crash site.

So even though i fly here pretty much twice every week, i had never encountered those conditions before so got caught out. Apart from pulling the wing mounting out, very little damage. So I guess pilot error but can't see how I could have avoided it. I know now of course.
avtur10/05/2013 00:39:11
883 forum posts
20 photos

I will add to the growing support for pilot error, some of the oher headings listed could be considered pilot error, plus an alomst endless list of others, some of which have been mentioned. I think there is sufficient scope within pilot error to conduct a further survey asking 'what is' pilot error?

I would certainly think that orientation would be high on the list, I would also add "tunnel vision" (so focused on the model as to loose perspcetive of surroundings) and distraction, the effect of people or situations, particulalry around the pilot.

Edited By avtur on 10/05/2013 00:40:30

bouncebounce crunch10/05/2013 02:10:37
1739 forum posts
212 photos

Fly long enough and you will experience most of the above. I have hit trees, fence posts and rocks, i have had CoG issues, crashed in conditions that i now know are not for certain types of models, stung by a bee on the cheek when swatting it creating a two part fuselage. been shot down only to find a sloper that arrived after me at the same site was on exactly the same channel as me, lost two models that day before finding out.

crispin church10/05/2013 08:15:13
442 forum posts
102 photos

i put pilot error as i can not blame my AR500 rx now that HH changed them all

i cant say engine cut out as i should be able to dead stick them

have had old switch wire gone bad but have to admit most me teeth

cymaz10/05/2013 08:53:34
9010 forum posts
1187 photos

Who once said," Take off's are optional - landings are mandatory".

You could argue that it's all pilot error- I've never seen a plane crash that stayed in the carwink 2

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