Dangerous Drone

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.

Executive VS Rules

What if the very people who are supposed to ensure safety are participating in the same dangerous behavior that they are in charge of overseeing?  What if rules are violated in plain sight and there are no repercussions?  What if the people who write the rules also get to decide if the rules apply to them?  What if so much privilege is granted to a group to self enforce rules that there is no clear direct manner in which to stop the behavior?  What if the MAAC rules and the club rules set by executives were applied to executive behavior?

First, notice that the behavior examined relates to a club executive at the Phelan RC Flying club.


Rules Broken:  Operating a Turbine Helicopter too Close to the Pilot?

Powerful aircraft like a turbine helicopter presents a safety risk to people and property but also to the pilot.  Looking at the picture below, one can see how close the executive helicopter operator gets to the helicopter blades.  To an observer, watching the operator walk around the spinning blades might appear like the operator is about to chop his own legs off.  According to the MAAC document, “MAP 8 – Flying R/C Helicopters,” “5.1.6 No helicopter should be flown closer than 10 meters in front of the pilot.  Also according to the “Turbine” section of the MAAC document “Jet Committee Safety Guidelines (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=324) “10 I shall ensure all non-essential personnel remain 10 meters from the turbine engine model aircraft during the starting process. No person must be allowed to stand close to an operating engine in the rotational plane of the compressor or turbine.

Walking close to moving turbine propeller

Rules Broken:  Operating a Turbine Helicopter Alone?

Each morning, one can see the club executive operating a turbine helicopter alone but the MAAC documentation states that he should not be alone.  According to the “Turbine” section of the MAAC document “Jet Committee Safety Guidelines” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=324), “13 I shall have a spotter/assistant when operating a turbine model aircraft.”  Also, according to the MAAC document, “MAP 8 – Flying R/C Helicopters” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=71 )5.1.5 It is recommended that no one should ever fly an R/C helicopter alone.  Always have someone close in case of an accident.”  Even for electric helicopters the similar rule applies, “Section B:  Electric Powered Helicopters 5.2.3 No one should ever fly alone even with a small 250 or 450 size helicopter.”   This executive of the Phelan RC Flying Club arrives early and starts flying his turbine helicopters alone without a spotter or assistant.  Watching the way the helicopter is operated; someone really should be there in case of an accident. 

Helicopter OverheadJune 16 8h50June 17 8h24June 18 8h24June 19 8h15

Rule Broken:  Engine Testing Performed in the Wrong Area?

Daily observation of the executive’s behavior shows that he drives into the pit area and unloads his helicopters from his van.  He places his tools on the picnic table.  All his engine tests appear to be done in the pit area not in the designated engine test area.  According to “Part 2: Flying Safety Rules” section of the club rules (http://www.phelanflyers.com/2019%20Club%20Rules.pdf), “6) When starting or running an engine, the aircraft should be positioned so that hazards are minimized and the exhaust or jet blast or slipstream does not affect others. Prolonged running of engines (e.g., for break-in) may only be conducted in a designated area.”

Turbine Helicopter

Rules Broken:  Not Flying in the Flying Zone and Flying Over the Pit?

The picture below shows the aircraft flying outside of the flying zone.  According to the “Flying” section of the club's rules “2) Except during takeoff and landing, flying is restricted to the area north of the paved runway. Specifically, flying over the Pits, Spectator Area, Parking Area or Phelan Road is prohibited.” According to the “MSD 6 - General Category R/C Model Aircraft” section of the MAAC rules (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=38) “5.9 No  member  shall  fly  a  model  directly over  pit  or  spectator  areas;  vessels;  vehicles;  and structures; no-fly zones  as  designated on the  club field  layout  or any other  areas  where there are people or emergency response personnel performing their duties

Flying Over the Pit

Recommendation Not Followed:  Operating a Helicopter Overhead?

Flying a large helicopter above ones head might not sound safe.  According to the MAAC document, “MAP 8 – Flying R/C Helicopters” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=71 ), “5.1.7 It is recommended that R/C helicopters never be flown directly overhead or behind the pilot as this may cause loss of orientation.”  This is a MAAC recommendation rather than a rule but aren’t clubs are supposed to use MAACs minimum guidelines?  One would think this would be a rule to ensure that the aircraft being operated is under control and does not suddenly fall on the operator.

Helicopter Overhead

June 20 8h22

Rule Broken:  Not Flying at an Appropriate Altitude?

The executive demonstrates low level flight at around 3:06 minutes in the Facebook video called “Don Dow puts his Turbine Heli through its paces” (https://www.facebook.com/fzufelt/videos/10159017563875433/).  This is shown in the screenshot at the top of the page as well as in the image below.  The MAAC document “MSD 6 - General Category R/C Model Aircraft (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=38) states that an appropriate altitude is necessary to prevent danger, “5.16 All R/C flying shall be conducted in an area of the sky and at an appropriate altitude where the consequences of any mishap will minimize the danger to persons or property”

Low Level Flight

Rule Broken:  Taxiing Aircraft in the Pit Area & Not Keeping  Physical Contact with the Aircraft?

According to the club rules, the aircraft is not to be taxied on the runway but observing the executive as he taxies the aircraft, it seems to be how he gets the helicopter from the pit to the runway then back to the pit (starting on or beside the picnic table).  The helicopter is just so large and heavy one would think that carrying it alone could be difficult.  According to section “Part 2: Flying Safety Rules” of the club (http://www.phelanflyers.com/2019%20Club%20Rules.pdf) “4) Aircraft shall not be taxied in the pits area. Pilots or their assistants must keep in physical contact with the aircraft when moving to or from the safety barrier.”

Taxing the Helicopter from the Pit

Rules Broken:  Pilot Not Flying an Aircraft From the Designated Pilot Area?

When flying his turbine helicopter, the executive often walks close behind the aircraft while hovering it a few feet in the air.  He continues to walk across the runway to the grass at which point he flies the aircraft in all directions while standing in the grass.  According to club rules he is supposed to stay behind the designated safety barrier. “5) Pilots and their assistants (spotters) shall stand behind the designated Safety Barrier and shall only be allowed on the flying field to launch or retrieve aircraft. Anyone venturing on to the field must clearly announce their intentions and get acknowledgement from the other pilots.”  Again the club rules state that he is supposed to stay behind the designated safety barrier, “7) After their model is airborne, pilots and assistants shall move as soon as possible to a designated Pilot Station behind the Safety Barrier.  According to “MPPD 5 – Responsibilities of a MAAC Club” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=60), “5.8 All  pilots  shall  fly  from  a  designated  pilot  area  and/or  designated  pilot-station  where provided.  If the executive is not standing in the grass in the flying zone, one can see him standing on the runway while operating the turbine helicopters.

Standing in the Flight Zone

Rule Broken:  Members Should Wear Nametags When At The Field?

When operating an aircraft, members need to identify themselves with a name tag.  According to the “Club Etiquette” section of the club rules (http://www.phelanflyers.com/2019%20Club%20Rules.pdf), “3) Members should wear nametags when at the field, particularly during club events.”  It is important to know who is operating the aircraft, yet in the thousands of photographs taken by the neighbouring residents, none of the pictures seem to show club members wearing name tags.  Not having name tags gives club members a degree anonymity meaning that they could break rules without being easily identified.  If flying club members break the rules by not wearing name tags to identify themselves then is it not similar to driving a car without license plate?

No Nametag

Helicopter Operators Must Follow The Rules That Apply To Other Aircraft

It is important to note that when a helicopter uses the same MAAC site as other aircraft, the operator of the helicopter must follow the rules that apply to the other aircraft.

5.1 All members flying R/C Helicopters outdoors shall abide by the Safety Code rules for General Category R/C Aircraft in so far as they may be applicable.
5.2 Operational differences of Helicopters may require some amendment of these rules by club officials and/or event organizers and where both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are being operated concurrently helicopter pilots are expected to conform to the same rules as the fixed wing pilots plus any amendments, For example when a separate landing and/or hovering area for helicopters is provided.

A Legal Requirement For Members To Know The Rules

It is a legal requirement for members to know the rules according to the “Final NOTES” section of the MAAC document, “Exemption Guidance Material” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=498), “Clubs and members need to review and understand your responsibilities under the MAAC safety code and guidelines on a regular basis.  It is your legal responsibility to know them… Ignorance of the rules will not be a valid reason for not following them.”  When a club executive is not following the rules despite complaints, does it show an intentional disregard for the rules?  When this is the behavior from an executive, imagine what the other members are doing.

Establishment and Enforcement of the Rules

If the club Treasurer, an executive does not follow the rules, who enforces the club rules?  According to section “Part 1: General Club Arrangements” of the club rules (http://www.phelanflyers.com/2019%20Club%20Rules.pdf), “The executive of the Phelan RC Flying Club establishes and enforces Club rules to ensure safe and enjoyable use of the facilities… members of the Phelan RC Flying Club who refuse to abide by these rules, or who disregard instructions by the club executive, may have their club privileges revoked.”  What purpose do the rules serve if they are not enforced?

Known Danger and Risk to the Neighbouring Residents

These turbine helicopters are large powerful machines.  Often, after unloading the aircraft in the pit, the blades need to be attached.  Since there is usually no one else present, who else verifies the safety of this installation?  According to the “5.5 Startup Location” section of the MAAC document “MAP 01 - T-6 - General Flying Field Setup and Best Practices” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=595), “A broken propeller at full throttle flies like a knife – sideways more than forward. Try to ensure people are not in the immediate “prop-arc” area, and if they are, they are made aware of the risks, or equipped with PPE (eye/face protection).

Isn’t it strange that club rules are in place yet do not appear to be followed by a club executive?  Are these rules just for show; to convince government bodies or insurance companies while club members do whatever they want?  Who’s stopping them?