During 1996 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued Civil Aviation Publication 658 (CAP 658), Small (Model) Aircraft: A Guide to Safe Flying. This document provided advice for all model flyers, much of which was based on the existing BMFA Safety Codes.
However, CAP 658 has now been withdrawn as the CAA have agreed that the BMFA is best placed to advise members on the details of safe operation within the terms of our Article 16 Authorisation.
For those operating unmanned aircraft outside of our Article 16 Authorisation, the terms of CAP 722 apply. A specific Annex (F) to CAP 722 for model flying is in preparation, but the purpose is very different to CAP 658 and is limited to:
- Describing how the new regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft applies to the operation of model aircraft;
- Setting out CAA policy for model aircraft operations;
- Describing the boundaries between operations which require an authorisation and those that do not;
- Providing guidance to model aircraft associations when applying for an authorisation on behalf of their members.
Accident statistics and the low insurance rates that BMFA Member’s enjoy show that model flying is not a dangerous sport but, as with other sporting activities, hazards can arise if common sense rules are not applied. It is important that we all follow safe model flying practice and the BMFA Safety Codes are designed to help everyone achieve this.
The BMFA Safety Codes presented here are available to all model flyers and show you ways to fly your models safely, based on over half a century of experience.
Sections are available covering all model flying activities, including displays and competitions and there are many additional booklets on specific subjects giving detailed information. These can all be downloaded from the BMFA web site or obtained directly from the Leicester Office..
At some flying sites, circumstances may dictate that additional safety measures beyond those indicated in this handbook might have to be taken. Examples could be limiting the number of spectators or the number of models being flown at any one time.
With the advent of small electric models that can be flown from small sites, such as football pitches, you may also have to think carefully about the size and type of aircraft that you can safely fly from such sites.
As the pilot it is ultimately your decision as to what and where you fly but the range of types and sizes of model currently and easily available to you means that you may have to give the subject of suiting your model to your flying site much more thought than it needed in the past.
The Association wishes to encourage any safety initiatives wherever they may be thought necessary by the users of any site and, indeed, any suggestions about the contents of the Safety Codes and the Handbook in general will be welcomed.
Finally – remember that your attitude to safety can affect the whole image of model flying.
Model flying must not only BE safe – it must be SEEN to be safe.
Much model flying takes place in countryside locations and many clubs and individuals fly in places of natural beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Wherever you fly you should take steps to minimise the impact on your surroundings.
Our aim as model flyers should be to leave any flying site in the same condition that we found it. Clearly, leaving litter or damaging property are not acceptable.
Model flyers should be familiar with the basic provisions of the Countryside Code which is compiled by Natural England and applies to all of the countryside in England and Wales. Most of it is just good commonsense as it is designed to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.
Model flying does (and can continue to) take place safely on sites where other airspace users are operating at the same time close by.
Because, in all such cases, the other users always involve ‘people carrying’ aviation e.g. gliding, hang-gliding, paragliding, parachuting, light aviation etc. the model flyer must accept that his needs are going to be secondary to the safety of the other user. Indeed, this point is specifically covered by the Air Navigation Order.
On any shared site, it is extremely important that the model flying group have a robust and reasonable set of rules that are agreed by all users of the site and are rigidly applied. Anything less than this could lead to compromised safety.
These rules should always include the provision to set up a permanent lookout whenever model flying is taking place, either by individuals or by everyone present. Any airfield may be used by aircraft in emergencies or as waypoints for overflights, even when it is officially inactive.
Remember also that on such a site, there will always be a person on the full size side who will be in ultimate charge of airfield safety. This may be Air Traffic Control, the Chief Flying Instructor or even a Senior Instructor. Their instructions must be followed at all times.
In the particular case of hang-gliding and paragliding on slope sites, shared airspace is sometimes involved and the Association has a separate Code, agreed jointly with the British Hang and Paragliding Association (BHPA), which covers such situations and which is available on request from the Leicester office or for download from the web site (BHPA-BMFA Code).
Military aircraft may conduct low flying exercises over much of the UK on any weekday and the sudden appearance of a low flying military aircraft is difficult to anticipate. However, it is vital to be aware of the problem and to remember that one aircraft may be the first in a stream of three or four.
In areas known to be used for low flying a dedicated lookout is considered essential.
On WEEKDAYS only, on flying sites where low level flying by military aircraft is KNOWN to take place and where a club is planning a model aircraft displays or any other intense model aircraft activity (such as operating FIVE or MORE models at any one time), the CANP (Civil Aircraft Reporting Procedure) should be used. If possible, notification should be made the day before the planned activity, but an absolute minimum of four hours notice is required to allow full circulation of the information.
Notification should be emailed to SWK-MAMC-Lowflying@mod.gov.uk providing the following information;
Civil low flying – recreational activity
Model aircraft flying
Location (ordnance survey grid reference or position in relation to the nearest town).
Operating area (e.g. 500 metres radius).
Date and start/finish in local time.
Operating heights (lower and upper limits above ground level).
Number and type of models (e.g. 3 gliders and 3 aeroplanes)(sic).
Contact telephone number (ideally a mobile that will work on site).
Operator or club name and telephone number if different to above.
For more details of this service, clubs are advised to contact the BMFA’s Leicester office.
Under the ‘Remote Pilot Responsibilities’ of our Article 16 Authorisation, it states that you must “Not perform duties under the influence of psychoactive substances or alcohol or when you are unfit to perform your tasks due to injury, fatigue, medication, sickness or other causes”; This is a requirement backed by law (Article 265 of the ANO).
Many factors can affect your day-to-day ability not only to operate a model aircraft, but also to participate in other flying related activities such as the retrieving of free flight models or taking part as an organiser in competitions, club events or model displays and airshows.
Before operating a model aircraft of any type careful consideration should be given to ensure that you are not compromising your own safety and welfare or that of those around you. Be aware that you might occasionally be ‘unfit to fly’.
When at the flying field take good care of yourself and make sure that you are equipped with any medication that you are taking. If you use an inhaler, make sure that you have a charged one with you at all times. In hot weather consider taking sun-block, a hat and fluids – the effects of de-hydration can be serious. In cold weather make sure that you are equipped with suitable clothing.
If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses ensure that these are used along with appropriate eye protection for the prevailing conditions. Good quality sunglasses will help protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation at any time of the year.
Some medications may render you unfit to fly and the effects of alcohol should not be ignored. As a guide, if you are fit to drive a motor vehicle then you are probably fit to fly an R/C aircraft. If you are in any doubt then do not fly solo. As always, however, the responsibility for the final decision on whether to fly rests with you, the pilot.
There is a mass of scientific evidence about the bad effects of alcohol in matters of judgement and on the type of motor skills we rely on when taking part in model flying.
Even small amounts can have serious effects on your performance, with the added problem that you are nearly always unaware of the situation.
Whether you are operating models of any type or are responsible for organising the flying of models (as a competition CD or flight line organiser at a club event for instance) the best advice is not to drink alcohol at all.
As stated in 9.6, operating under the influence of alcohol now represents a clear breach of the ANO.