By Steve Manganelli
The Holidays are the season of the outlaws. We know how it goes: somebody gets a flying Christmas present, they have general recollection that right near Seaworld is “the place” to fly such things. They timidly set up near one end of the field so as not to disturb anyone else (if there’s anyone else). It’s usually toward the afternoon and most folks have left and the wind is usually blowing. Perfect time for a newbie pilot to maiden a new airplane : how hard could it be? Usually it’s a quick crash, another broken toy, no harm to the rest of us SEFSD members.
This is the fixed wing scenario. As members, and/or officers, our control mechanism is to invite them on a walk to the rules sign while we point out the features of the field, our relationship with the various Government activities that gave us our flying privilege, how to select and instructor pilot, etc. We strongly suggest they join the AMA, like now, before they try to fly and eventually our club and register with the FAA to become completely legal. Failing that, if one of us volunteers to be the pilot in command that makes it legal for that day and a successful maiden voyage that will encourage them to come back for more, join our club, be part of our activities, just what we want.
Then there’s the drone scenario. An out of the box commercial drone should be able to fly without pilot skill. Once again, they may perceive our field is the right place to fly. Hey, maybe even a good place to fly; get some birds eye view pictures of Seaworld, maybe a close up of some Jet ski action just off Fiesta Island, who knows. Never mind that these vantage points are outside our defined safe flight boundaries. These people have probably read our sign, maybe decided following all the rules is too much trouble, and there’s too many of them anyway.
“Hey, I don’t want any hassles, I just want to fly my drone!” A couple of Sundays ago, we “counseled” (2) drone pilots who pitted out of a corner of the boat launch parking lot. One of the two of them had previously tried to launch at our field but was dissuaded by Brad due lack of AMA, club Membership, etc. I guarantee Brad did not suggest the boat launch parking lot was the alternate flying field for outlaw drones! The second drone was observed from our field; his flight path suggested origination from that same parking lot and he clearly wasn’t respecting our flight boundaries nor our altitude limit.
Remember, we are the only R/C Model institution associated with Mission Bay park. Anything bad or good that happens in the vicinity either indirectly or directly comes back on us. These outlaws have nothing to lose, but we do! I’m suggesting that we should all be vigilant. Each scenario is a chance to bring a new member into our R/C community or make a disenfranchised outlaw. Politely challenge what doesn’t look right. Help the newbies that want to be helped and seem willing to understand and abide by our rules and strongly suggest to the outlaws to find another place far from here. If nothing else, point out the altitude limit, field boundaries and the obvious proximity to Lindberg field to which many of our rules originate.