"discipline" refers to one of the following categories :
- Radio Controlled Power, Fixed Wing;
- Radio Controlled Glider (thermal or slope soaring or electric launched thermal);
- Radio Controlled Helicopter;
- Control Line.
Fixed Wing Power is the discipline that mainly concerns us.
The Scottish Aeromodellers Association publish two booklets for the guidance of their members : the "Safety Code and Achievement Scheme" (latest edition Issue 5, April 2002) and the "Flight Training Manual" (a handbook for both beginner and instructor). Both are available for download from the SAA website.
Here is what the SAA recommends for beginner model aircraft pilots :
Novices are those pilots who have not yet passed the SAA Bronze Safety Certificate in the
- Novices should not fly solo, but only under the supervision of an experienced pilot (Silver Safety Standard) until they attain Bronze Safety Standard.
- Clubs must ensure that on joining, a new member is made fully aware of the Safety Guidelines and the restrictions on their flying behaviour until Bronze Standard is reached.
- Clubs are required to set up suitable arrangements for supervising novice fliers and to make provision for proper instruction, using the Flight Training Manual, giving all possible encouragement to take the Achievement tests.
- Clubs must consider arranging training sessions for novice pilots outwith normal club flying periods to avoid distractions from other fliers.
Passing the Bronze test is an excellent and achievable target for most novice modellers. You will receive every encouragement from the other club members who have already passed the test. Passing the test is a good indicator that you are not going to do something stupid or dangerous at the airfield, by intention or through ignorance, putting other club members or the public in danger.
The SAA Bronze Safety Certificate Test Schedule
This certificate is conducted at club level and comprises the following :
- Carry out pre-startup checks.
- Start engine.
- Carry out pre-take-off checks.
- Take off, and complete a right (or left) hand circuit and overfly the take-off area at a height of around 50 feet and fly a procedure turn.
- Fly a left (or right) hand circle beginning and ending over the take-off area and fly a procedure turn. Circle to be performed on the safe side of the strip with the pilot on the outside of the circle.
- Fly a right (or left) hand circle beginning and ending over the take-off area. Circle to be performed on the safe side of the strip with the pilot on the outside of the circle.
- Fly a rectangular circuit and landing approach.
- Land, (wheels to touch within a pre-set area as designated by the examiner), preferably with engine running.
- Provided that the previous items have been completed satisfactorily, the candidate will be asked to carry out a further take-off and circuit, during which the examiner will ask for the throttle to be closed and the model landed safely on the runway without re-opening the throttle.
- Remove model and equipment from take-off / landing area.
- The applicant must answer satisfactorily two questions on the SAA Safety Code and Recommended Procedures.
- The above schedule must be completed within one flight at which two attempts will be permitted at the same session.
Advice for Bronze Certificate Test Candidates
The examiner will be observing all your actions whilst you are handling your aircraft, on the ground and in the air, looking for good, safe practice. He will also be observing and assessing your general attitude towards safety. Any advice offered or comment made by the examiner should be accepted with good grace; remember he has probably been playing this game for many more years than you!
The examiner will assess the whole test flight for anticipation, shown by a lack of unnecessary flying around between manoeuvres. Do not fly at an excessive height as this demonstrates a lack of confidence in ones own ability. The examiner will be looking for both competence and confidence, as both of these qualities are part of safe flying. At the same time remember that OVER-confidence is usually allied to UNDER-competence and can be much more dangerous.
Pre-startup checks (Section 5 of the SAA Safety Code - Club or Group Flying Conduct, p.11)
Most of these you should have completed or have knowledge of before leaving home. Specifically, before starting your engine in preparation for a flight, you should check the structural integrity of your aircraft (points 3 and 5) and the condition of the propeller (point 7). The engine throttle control must be set up such that you can stop the engine by means of the transmitter (point 8).
Start engine (Section 14 of the SAA Safety Code - Power Unit Handling, p.26)
At the club flying site, I strongly recommend the use of a strong model tether during engine starting, IN PREFERENCE TO A HELPER.
If you use a bare finger for starting your engine, or you adjust the fuel mixture with the engine running, eventually YOU WILL GET BITTEN. Do everything close to a running engine SLOWLY and DELIBERATELY, NEVER IN HASTE.
Point 13 is a bit contentious. The "nose up" test is invaluable to avoid a weak mixture. On our site it is possible to hold the model up at a steep angle with nobody ahead or in the plane of the propeller disc.
Use of the MAC check is recommended :
- Meter reading normal
- Aerial extended fully
- Control operation normal
Controls should be checked at idle, then full power, but not close to the other pilots busy flying their models. One cannot hear warnings, e.g. "DEAD STICK" when standing beside an aircraft with the engine running flat out.
General Advice on the Flying Test
Take-off and circuit The take-off run should be smooth and straight. If the aircraft swings badly, the throttle should be closed and the aircraft brought back to start again. Rotation should be smooth and the climb-out at a gentle angle. The circuit may be rectangular or race-track.
Procedure turn This consists of a 90° turn away from the flightline followed by a 270° turn in the opposite direction to bring the aircraft back downwind on the manoeuvring line. All parts should have the same radius and the aircraft should be continuously banked, rolling through to the opposite bank without hesitation and with no straight sections once the turn has started until lined up for the next manoeuvre.
Circles Should be round, level, at the same height and the same size as each other.
Rectangular circuit The aircraft should perform matching corners and straight legs at circuit height until lined up for final approach. Downwind legs should be well clear of objects and persons. When the letdown for final approach is commenced, loss of height should be progressive and without bumps.
Final approach and landing Should be carried out in the full-size manner with the aircraft level or nose up. Wing drag must be used to reduce speed. A shallow dive which happens to coincide with the strip is not acceptable. If any uncertainty arises about the landing it should be aborted. A controlled go-around is preferable to an untidy arrival. The landing should be on the same part of the strip as the take-off.
And for your next trick. . . . the Bronze Plus, then the Silver and then the elevated heights of Gold ?