To fly safely, you need at least two out of these three: altitude, airspeed, or brains. If you like to do high speed passes close to the ground, you only have one out of the three.
Controlled flight into terrain is the dry technical term used by aircraft accident investigators to describe those accidents when the pilot’s manhood was questioned, when they were trying to prove how much fun flying really is, or when they were just plain bored. In other words, these are completely avoidable accidents. If there’s one type of aircraft accident where pilot error is to blame, this is it.
If you are flying unnecessarily close to the ground or to obstacles, not only are you risking breaking your airplane, you are also risking your friend’s airplane and maybe even your friends themselves.
One Mistake High
What is a safe altitude to perform aerobatics? It’s the height above the ground where you can safely and consistently avoid damage to your airplane and others. A good rule of thumb for most model airplanes is 100 feet (30 meters). If you are flying an indoor or a 3D airplane, I’m not sure there’s a minimum height. I’ve flown my ModiFly design, a very small outdoor model, at eye-level height over grass without mishap many times. The airplane is so light that even if I hit the ground with it, it won’t be damaged. As the saying goes, you mileage may vary.
Far Reaching Implications
Think about what conclusions a spectator will reach if you do something stupid with your model airplane and crash. The first thought will likely be that these guys are just a bunch of careless attention-seeking daredevils. The second thought might be that flying model airplanes is just too hard to do safely. The final thought would then be that they just cannot afford to fly, as they get in their car and drive off never to return again.
What is saddest about these types of accidents is that the pilots who buzz do it on a regular basis. I’m not saying necessarily every time they fly, but “thrill seeker” and “flying on the edge” are common terms used to describe them. What I’m getting at is that there are usually many warning signs beforehand that were ignored by the pilot and others. To describe someone as “an accident waiting to happen” is the saddest comment one can make about a pilot.
It is possible to have lots of fun flying model airplanes and to do so safely. There’s also no better marketing for the hobby.
Go fly. Be safe.