No Guts, No Glory


Staff member

<strong>Written By:</strong>

<strong>Fred Provost</strong>

<span class="s1">I seem to like to write about eventualities. Eventually this, or that will happen, if you stay in the hobby long enough. One of those things is, you're going to get injured. You might find yourself asking, 'how dangerous could a toy plane be? Plenty, I assure you. Sure, the big ones are obvious. There's the giant scale planes with motors and props that would seem better suited mounted to my lawnmower deck, and I recently saw an image of a man whose back was lacerated with wounds that look like he met with the wrong end of a boat's outboard motor, but the image's caption reported it was the result of a 600 sized nitro RC helicopter. These dangers are obvious enough that most know to look out for them. It's the other subtle threats that sneak up on you that can do the most harm. So, I figured I could share a few tales of my own woe, to serve as warning, denying you some of the story worthy scars like the ones I will review as I write.</span>

<span class="s1">Years ago I tended to spend a lot of money on buying used RC aircraft from the want ads. These planes were destined to die horrible, painful, and embarrassing deaths at my hands. This is the story of one that decided to fight back. This was before electric planes were anything more than a joke to most serious pilots. GWS had started to come out with their line, but they were a little pricey for a guy like me, and so I stuck with what I could afford, old trainer style planes with finicky nitro motors that took some skill in getting to run, and keep that way long enough to complete a flight. So there I was, out in my yard, trying to coax this plane to life. For those who never flew nitro powered motors, you needed to do a few things to get them started. You would fill the fuel tank, and then prime the engine by covering the throttle intake, and spinning the prop around a few times. Next you would attach an electric lead to the glow plug, which would heat the element that ignited the fuel. Then you would spin the prop to start the motor, and then, if you were lucky enough to end up with a running motor, you would have to remove the electric lead before it got caught in the prop. It was at this point it all went wrong. My friend stopped by just in time to hear the engine fire up, and distracted by my pride at having a witness to this great success, I reached across to remove the wire, and put my arm right into the part of the spinning propeller. I think I knew something was wrong first, not by the feeling of the blades slicing through my flesh, but by the horrified look on my friend's face. I looked down to my wrist, and the outside edge had five nice clean puckered up slits in it. It didn't hurt, the blood wasn't really flowing yet, it looked like someone had sliced into a skinned potato, and squeezed it so the cuts separated slightly. My friend took on a somewhat green complexion as I clamped my hand down on it now that the blood started to well up. Needless to say I didn't bother taking that plane flying that afternoon. I had my unintentional revenge of course. No plane survived my attempts at flight back then, but it did manage to buy itself a little longer lease on life.</span>

<span class="s1">I managed to lose another plane. I had it in the air for a while, it seemed to be doing great, then, through not fault of my own, and completely of the plane's own accord, it did some interesting airborne maneuvers and disappeared over the hill at the far side of the flying site. There was nothing left to do but conduct a search and rescue. So, I gathered a couple of friends, and off we went. It turned out the location that the plane decided to hide from us at was an overgrown farming field. Some strange tall weeds had taken over. These plants were thick and often over head high. So, we decided to make an attempt at a grid pattern, and started working back and forth through this nearly impenetrable growth. After a short while an almost relaxing routine formed. Stomp, crunch, swat and curse. It was summer, and each step stirred up new bugs that flew around our faces, in our eyes, and sometimes mouths. For the most part they were fairly harmless, gnats, and flies, and the bothersome whine of a mosquito was the worst of it, until one of my friends broke patter, at a full headlong rush. The sound of him crashing through the brush, screaming and flailing would have been amusing, except as he passed between us, we were enveloped in a cloud of stinging bees. Well, they might have been hornets, wasps or something else. The important thing was they hurt! We soon followed our running friend, smashing our way through the brush until we found a path that led back to the car. We managed to hurl ourselves inside to the relative safety, bringing with us only a few of the angry insects. We managed to make our way home where we were able to nurse our wounds of scrapes, cuts, bruises and stings. That plane never was recovered, not by us at least.</span>

<span class="s1">Technology advanced, but my ability to avoid the spinning blades of death didn't. Years later I bought one of the park flyer foam Trojans that many had come to love. It was later in the evening, and the wife had gone to bed, so I had plenty of time to get the plane ready to fly the next day. I was setting it up on my trusty old Futaba T6X. I was very excited. This would be the largest electric plane in my hangar. I had a slow stick, and a foam board creation or two, but this plane was much more substantial, with ailerons, and a much more powerful motor, and an impressive propeller on it, which was about to be something I would be all too well acquainted. I had already set up the control surfaces and throttle settings in the radio, but I wasn't quite happy with the way I had done it. So I decided to clear the memory stored for that plane, and start fresh. Unfortunately I decided to do this with the plane on the bench facing me, with the battery plugged in. I shut off the radio, and turned it back on with my fingers on the correct buttons to cause it to reset, which it did perfectly. The only problem was, that on that radio, it defaulted to what was full throttle for the speed control in the Trojan. The motor instantly spun to life, and the aircraft leapt at me. I was able to push the throttle stick all the way to the top, and then reached over and removed the battery, before clamping my hand down on my upper forearm. I refused to look. I couldn't remove my hand for a glimpse, knowing that I had likely done so much damage that I would have to make a trip to the hospital this time for sure. So I did what every man in this situation would do, I went and woke up my wife. 'Hon, I need you to help me with something.” 'Mumble, grumble, snore” was the reply. I pressed on, 'No, really dear, I managed to cut myself.” 'Yeah, right, snort, snore” she was back asleep. I was then somewhat regretting all the times I pretended to have injured myself, it seemed funny before, it wasn't so much at this time. 'No, really, truly darling, I need some help with this.” Finally, she decided I wasn't just there to disrupt her sleep. She enacted her revenge by forcibly removing my hand from my wound, and shoving my arm under the showerhead to clean it for better inspection. 'You're being a baby, you can't even see the bone” she consoled. I didn't marry her for compassion, obviously. 'You could use stitches, or we can put some butterfly bandages on, and wrap it, and see how it looks in a day or two.” I went with this option, since I hated getting stitches when it could be avoided. I am sure it would have healed just fine had I stuck to that plan. But I have a morbid fascination with my own wounds, and I removed the bandages, and poked and prodded at it for a while. It eventually healed, with scars that are much more impressive looking than they should be. But they do serve as a nice warning to folks, when I try to explain the importance of safety in the hobby.</span>

<span class="s1">What can be learned from this? Well, for one, I need to keep my body parts away from propellers. There are lots of little dangers out there that can interfere with a fun day at the field. I suppose there are a few things that could be gleaned that could save some skin. </span>

<span class="s1">Some Safety Tips </span>

<span class="s1">1) Set up a routine. For folks flying glow aircraft, establish a system of working with your aircraft that keeps your body parts away from the spinning propeller. Work in this manner repeatedly until it becomes automatic, so that even if you become distracted, you won't do something dumb, like reach through the spinning prop arc.</span>

<span class="s1">2) Never work with the aircraft pointing at your body. If your retaining device was to let go, or your hands slips from the point you're gripping, you don't want to be in the path of the aircraft. </span>

<span class="s1">3) When working with your transmitter, disconnect the power to the motor when making any adjustments that could affect the throttle commands to the plane or helicopter.</span>

<span class="s1">4) Keep a first aid kit handy. Fortunately I was home for both of these situations, and had some supplies. Any of these injuries, and worse could happen at the flying field. It might be a fellow flyer that is hurt, and you're the only one there that could help. Be sure to have at least a basic first aid kit on hand. Band-aids, gauze, elastic bandages, latex gloves, as well as some type of sanitizer and or wound flush are all good items to keep with you. </span>

<span class="s1">5) Learn some basic first aid. Having the supplies won't do much good, if you don't know how to handle a situation that would require them. There are different techniques for handling a burn caused by fire, than a chemical burn. How do you treat someone that has been stung by a bee, and is having a bad reaction to it? Included at the end of the article are some links to more information, including a list of PDFs that you can print out and keep with your first aid kit.</span>

<span class="s1">We're in the hobby for fun, but like with anything, bad things can happen. Lipos have been known to catch on fire, planes can hit people, props will cut flesh, snakes can lay in the path of a downed plane, a leg can be broken while retrieving an aircraft from a tree. A little bit of preparation can go a long way to preventing an unfortunate situation from become a tragic one, and possibly leading to being an amusing tale to be shared by your friends. </span>

<span class="s1">Links</span>

<span class="s1">List of PDFs</span>

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<span class="s1">wikibooks first aid handbook.</span>

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<span class="s1">Red Cross 'Anatomy of a First Aid Kit.</span>

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