So, just who IS the enemy?

A few years ago the SMAE (now BMFA) was facing an insurance crisis. The society's insurance company wanted to increase the premium by a factor of three. In conversations between the Society Secretary and the insurance companies representative it became clear that the problem was the number of claims made by R/C sport flyers. Their suggestion was to load the premium according to the type of model being flown:

Times five for R/C sport flyers.
Times three for other R/C flyers.
Times two for F/F.
No change, or even a REDUCTION for C/L flyers.

At roughly the same time the society was faced with sweeping new changes by the CAA which would make it almost impossible to fly anything more than 2 Kg. in weight. Except that is for C/L, where the only thing they wanted was a maximum line length - like 100 METRES!

Before we go any further, I'd better point out that both problems were resolved by the SMAE Secretary, Roy Nudds, who made a lot of enemies among Council and Elected Officers in the process. I was Hon Secretary at the time and remember the Chairpersons displeasure at discovering that the insurance problem had been solved by a 3,000 backhander.

So, neither the CAA, nor the insurance companies have a problem with C/L - so who does?

I have been flying C/L for just about 60 years. In that time I have only twice seen someone let go of the handle - both more than 40 years ago. One landed safely on the airfield and the other wrapped itself round a church spire.

In the same period I have only once seen a model break both lines and fly away. Actually this was fairly recently and the pilot concerned was infamous for leaving his lines lying around for people to trip over...

Now you would assume that C/L flyers would be left alone to do what they had been doing for the last 60 years or so. Well no. The last few years have seen the compulsory introduction of wrist straps and line pull tests. We are talking mainly about BMFA events, but SAM 35 also require wrist straps.

Wrist straps are, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, downright dangerous. I have seen a team race pilot being steadily wrapped up in steel wire with the situation being saved by another pilot taking the handle from him. OK, the idea is to save spectators not the pilot, but I think the pilot is at much greater risk. When I flew combat I regularly changed hands to get out of line tangles. With a big stunter it can be a great relief to change hands to fly out the tank.

I'm not saying that pull tests are unnecessary, though we managed without them for 50 plus years and modern lines are much better than the stuff we used to use. As an engineer I would say test a new set of lines once and issue a certificate of use for, say 12 months.

Things started with a pull test at every meeting, or one a day at the Nats. Now the normal situation is a pull test before every flight. If the lines disconnected before the flight, they have to be re-pulled. Just what are we testing here? The pilots ability to connect his lines correctly?

What we are doing is to introduce a greater possibility of error and a lot more work for everybody. It also introduces the need for somewhere to leave lines lying around (with the consequent possibility of damage) and the need to transport the complete assembly of lines and model from place to place. I have yet to see someone garrotted by this dangerous practice, but it can't be far away. If safety regulations are required, this is the place they are needed.

Of course, this couldn't possibility be a plot to take all the fun out of C/L flying and make it less popular. Who would want to do such a thing? Who would want to go to all that trouble?

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