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What Is a RC Flying Field?
A designated, prepared site is crucial to safety and fun
Text photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 6-4-2013
There are small radio controlled aircraft that are intended to be flown in a yard or park but most radio-controlled aircraft can be operated easier and safer at a designated RC flying field. We have to remember that we are often guiding several pounds of mass at sufficiently high speeds to make them dangerous to people and property. Having a safe, designated area in which to operate these aircraft just makes sense and makes our hobby more enjoyable not to mention sustainable.
One of the things that make getting a landowner to agree to a flying field is sanctioning by the AMA. (Aero Modelers Association, http://www.modelaircraft.org) This organization provides sensible rules, design criteria and regulations for operating such a facility safely. Just as important is that members of the AMA are insured as part of their membership. The AMA also sanctions qualifying flying facilities that meet their criteria for safety. All of these factors give landowners reasons to agree to this kind of use.
The AMA also offers help with finding and securing flying sites. While the local club does have to do the majority of the legwork, having he support of an organization like the AMA can be a big help in closing the deal for getting and keeping a flying field.
For an area to be suitable for an RC flying field it needs to be relatively flat and free of vertical obstructions such as trees and overhead wires. RC aircraft can cover quite a bit of ground quickly so having a relatively large obstruction-free zone is a major plus.
We also need a runway for takeoff and landing these models. Most RC fields have grass runways which more landowners like but some do have paved runways. Just how big the runway needs to be depends on the requirements of the aircraft being flown there and the amount of land available. Model aircraft do not need the mile-long runways required by full scale aircraft but having a little more runway than you need is always a good thing for models their full-scale relatives.
I belong to the RC Wingers flying club in Mooresville NC (AMA sanctioning #1462) and we have a runway that is approximately 600-feet-long by 50-feet-wide. We have a good mix of aircraft sizes from small to giant scale and helicopters of all descriptions and this field size works well for us. While I can land many of my planes on a ¼ of the available runway, larger planes can need much more. Having more runway than you absolutely need gives you more time to set up and make landings safer.
The runway also needs to be relatively flat and as smooth as possible because of the relatively small wheel diameters that can be used on aircraft of this size. The RC Wingers runway has a bit of a crown to it but that is gentle enough and spread over the length of the runway so setting a plane down on any portion of it is easy. The grass on the runway itself also needs to be kept fairly short and mowed usually once per week.
A flying field has designated positions for the pilots to stand while flying and behind them the pit area where we work on the planes and get them ready to fly. The pits usually have tables on which to work and some like the RC Wingers field have starting stations for the larger planes. These starting stations have uprights that prevent the plane from moving forward when started.
The field also needs a parking area further behind the pit area as well as an area for spectators. Most clubs hold Fly-Ins that attracts pilots from other clubs as well as interested spectators. Allowing spectators to watch the flying can be a great asset for maintaining good relations with the neighbors of the facility.
The most crucial part of keeping a flying site is members that act responsibly when using it. No landowner is going to want people who do dangerous things with aircraft or use the facility for other purposes. It is also important to have times when the field can be used. Some of the larger planes can generate noticeable levels of noise even though they use mufflers. Our field allows electric-powered aircraft to begin flying at 9 am while the combustion engines have to wait until 10 am. Not big restrictions but they are neighbor friendly and that is important.
RC flying can be a relatively expensive hobby so it makes sense to operate the aircraft in a safe, responsible way at a purpose-designed facility. That protects our investment in aircraft and the facility at which we can fly them.
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