Under controlled laboratory conditions, it has been determined that all the damage to model airplanes occurs within one inch of the ground. But why did it go down in the first place?
- Pilot Error. Let me get the big one out of the way first. This is almost always the direct cause or at least a major indirect cause. In full-size airplanes, pilot error is believed to be the root cause in 75% of accidents. Even if something broke while in-flight, it probably could have been avoided by proper maintenance and pre-flight inspections.
- Maiden Flight. Huge cause of crashes. I have seen first flights of models that lasted five seconds and the model never flew again. It was game over. “Try it and see what happens” are famous last words spoken by spectators looking for cheap thrills
–at your expense! We can do much better with this one, folks.
- Wind. One of my ModiFly prototypes almost flew away once, never to be seen again. Like most people, I go to the field to fly, not to wait around hoping for the wind to die down. A steady wind is almost never a problem. It’s the gusts that get you every time, though.
- Stall-Spins. I haven’t seen too many of these, but they always end badly. Gusty winds always seem to be contributing factors. Inexperience with the model, such as a maiden flight, also plays a role.
- Connectors. Electrical and control rod connectors coming loose in flight happens all the time. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I don’t recall ever crashing because of a loose connection.
- Landing. This is damage to the airplane when you intended to land. I see folks doing dumb things when they come in to land all the time. Luckily, most of the damage is usually to the pilot’s ego. Maybe it’s because we don’t practice our landings enough?
- Overloaded Linear BEC. Model helicopters are more prone to this. It’s usually hard to prove that this was the cause.
So what didn’t make the cut? Well, here’s my list of reasons why your airplane probably didn’t crash:
- Off-Field Landings. Don’t misunderstand me. These cause plenty of damage. But the real culprit is what caused you to land off-field in the first place.
- Out of Power. Some models are real handfuls to land dead stick. Jets using ducted fans or real jet engines are usually in this category. But most pilots appear to be careful and land with plenty of “gas” in the tank.
- Radio Interference. The old scapegoat. Blamed far too often, when in reality it’s rarely the root cause. If you are trying to figure out why you crashed, I’d look in the other list first.
There you have it. My top ten reasons for why you did and didn’t crash your model. What do you think? What did I leave out? Let me know in the comments!