This site seeks to inform the public of the dangers and abuses related to the use of drones, model aircraft and RPAS for recreation. It contains research gathered from multiple sources and asks important questions as well as exploring possible solutions to a challenging public safety issue.
Drinking and Flying
Why is alcohol allowed to be consumed at an RC flying club site where unlicensed pilots can fly large aerial machines with remotes? When an RC flying club is located in close proximity to residents, allowing club members to consume alcohol increases the level of danger to the neighbors especially when a club flying zone is only 64 meters from the road and less than 150 meters from a neighboring house. If there is a history of an RC flying club not enforcing the club rules and MAAC rules, it is hard to imagine someone stopping a member from drinking then flying. In fact, which law enforcement body is monitoring the behavior to prevent members from drinking and flying?
There is a troubling amount of evidence posted on public sites that make reference to drinking and flying model aircraft. Even on the MAAC website and in MAC Magazine there is reference to alcohol consumption. Normally, it would be very difficult to show that drinking and flying is taking place at club sites but when club members post evidence of the behavior one must consider how this action could be commonplace.
The Phelan RC Flying Club allows alcohol to be consumed at the club site but has rules prohibiting drinking and flying. The Phelan RC Flying club rules (http://www.phelanflyers.com/2019%20Club%20Rules.pdf) state the following.
REMINDER: UNDER THE MAAC SAFETY CODE, “NO MEMBER SHALL OPERATE A MODEL AIRCRAFT WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR JUDGMENT-IMPAIRING DRUGS.
Alcohol may only be consumed in the club house, on the porch or at picnic tables, not in the pit area
The “MAAC Safety Document (MSD) 03 - All Model Aircraft” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=35) also prohibits drinking and flying and the rules state the following.
5.4 No member shall operate a model aircraft while under the influence of alcohol / cannabis or judgement impairing drugs.
Jean-Claude (J-C) Terrettaz, Ken Park and Mike Anderson have been long time members of the Phelan RC Flying Club. Jean-Claude Terrettaz is an active member and Mike Anderson is the current club president.
Now consider the following posts on the RC Canada website. The first post (https://www.rccanada.ca/rccforum/showthread.php?t=114544&highlight=the+second+electric+jets+event+in+Canada&page=5) shows the following statements.
Ken Park: “This event is all weekend long and I am sure there will be some after diner evening flying will be going on - would be a good time for trying out group activities among yourself's eh!"
J-C Terrettaz: "Yes after the green bottle” (Showing Beer Emojies)
Mike Anderson: “Hmmmmmm...might be a good time to put up any jet against one of my prop-racers. Let the best technology win!"
According to these posts, it appears that J-C Terrettaz is going to drink beer before flying his model aircraft. When a club member openly suggests that he is going to drink and fly, Mike Anderson seems to propose that it is a good time to have a race with a jet.
Note that J-C Terrettaz flies model jets at the Phelan RC Flying Club see the page on (Danger, Threats & Trespassing). Giant scale, combustion engine, jets and turbine aircraft are flown at the Phelan RC Flying Club so based on these posts should one assume that the operators may have been drinking when they fly these dangerous aircraft?
Other posts on RC Canada show more reference to alcohol consumption and the RC aircraft recreation.
Next, one would think that MAAC, an organization given authority by Transport Canada to oversee RC aircraft clubs would not have material on their website that promotes drinking. On the MAAC website a poster can be found stating “I don't always crash model airplanes but when I do, I drive that thing into the ground like a fencepost,” while the man sits with a beer. The poster can be found listed in the MAAC Control line committee documents (https://www.maac.ca/en/committees_details.php?committee_id=14) with the direct link (https://secure.maac.ca/wcm-docs/committee-docs/I%20don't%20always%20crash.jpg).
When this is posted on the MAAC website, is the intention to promote the dangerous association between flying RC aircraft, crashing and drinking? When members of the hobby see this on the MAAC website would they think it is acceptable since it is on the MAAC website along with rules they are supposed to follow? Or is it macho and juvenile posturing by a group of middle age or older gentlemen, well past their physical prime who are clinging on to some nostalgic notion of masculinity from a bygone era?
Drinking alcohol in the RC aircraft culture is referenced in MAC Magazine by a MAAC zone director (https://secure.maac.ca/get_magazine_public.php?magazine_id=76) who lists words that “bring him back to the hobby.” This list includes: “Baileys”, “Wine? Wine not,” “Especially Red Wine” and “Beer.”
Another reference to drinking and flying was found on a coffee mug for sale online. The quote on the mug is, “I just wanna drink beer and fly my RC Plane.” Does this mean that drinking and flying is common? If people want to buy items with messages like this are they proud of this behavior? When products like this are available does it mean it is something participants want associated with the hobby? This also offers a sharp contrast with other risk prone activities. For instance in gun culture, you don’t see jokes being made about consuming alcohol and going to the range or while hunting. Even in relatively safe hobbies such as golf the boozing is commonly relegated to post-activity celebrations. The words of Premier Ford at a press conference with respect to not easing current Covid restrictions reflect the fact the concern was that participants would play golf and then have ‘pops’ (after the conclusion of the game).
At the Phelan RC flying Club, the club house and picnic tables are located close to the pit and near the pilot stations. The following images show the consumption of alcohol at the Phelan RC Flying Club.
In the event pictures posted it looks like the trophy is a beer mug. Even the award for a flying event is associated with alcohol?
An important question is, why is alcohol permitted at a location where people are operating dangerous aerial machines? Does this promote the reckless behaviour of drinking and flying? Where is the safety in this activity?
When someone drinks and drives a motor vehicle they could go to jail because it is dangerous but if someone drinks while operating an RC aircraft are there any repercussions? What if someone gets hurt or killed by the impaired operator; is the operator dealt with in a manner consistent with the operation of a motor vehicle? Impaired operation of a motor vehicle is an offence defined in section 253 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Note that the law in this matter has been updated and expanded.
Criminal Code R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/section-253-20180621.htmlOperation while impaired
253 (1) Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle or vessel or operates or assists in the operation of an aircraft or of railway equipment or has the care or control of a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment, whether it is in motion or not,
(a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or(b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.
This is a very serious concern and one could assume that members also drive home after consuming alcohol at the club site. Will the insurance companies cover members actions if they have an accident with their aircraft causing injury after consuming alcohol? If drinking and flying is occuring at RC club sites then it is another level of risk and danger to residents. Why is this recreation allowed close to residents?