13 January 2009

good relations

After having a bit of a chat with the hanglider chaps on Sunday, Paul has been contacted by the club....

'Hi Paul, Colin has passed your details on to me as someone who flies within the local model flying community, and we are looking to build contacts in the model flying community to help with avoiding any problems where we fly.'

How do you all feel about one (or some) of us liaising with Dover and Folkestone club? Relations have been pretty good of late, and perhaps now would be a good time to build on this. There's been a suggestion that we could attend one of their club evenings for some kind of informal discussion which strikes me as a great idea.

Please take the time to post comments (both modelers and para/hanglider pilots) and suggestions by clicking on the blue 'comments' footer below, or email Paul directly... p_westrup at hotmail dot com (with the appropriate alterations to avoid spammers).


  1. Hello Paul, I think this is a really good idea and I think it is very positive that the Dover and Folkestone Club have contacted you. At the end of the day I am sure we all want to enjoy the airspace and minimise safety risks. I would be happy to take part and will email you my contact details - Steve (Stargazer Man)

  2. it's come to my mind that a model launched out in the path of a paraglider launching/inflating his canopy could have nasty results, quite often the first we know there are paragliders there is when we see a canopy go up, could they not wave a flag or something as they are about to takeoff?

    It's a shame none of the paragliders have posted yet, they're often very good at vocalising their feelings up on the hill

  3. Hi , there are 3 concerns that have arisen over the last few years . One is collisons , there has been at least 6 collisons with models and paragliders over the last 3 years that I know about and a few near misses when models have crashed near where paraglider pilots are sitting or standing . A collison can lead to serious injury and there has been deaths on other hills when this has occurred.
    The other issue is parking at Thurnham , we have had complaints from residents about blocking of the road and parking in the spots which are actually meant as passing spots.To stop us loosing the site we now park at The White Horse car park at the top of Thurnham off of the A249.
    The third concern that I know about is people climbing over the fence to retrieve downed models or even paraglider pilots climbing over the fence to their preferred takeoff .The farm owners dont want to keep repairing their fence.
    Heres to a good debate , Pikey .

  4. Hi Pikey

    Thanks for airing your thoughts, I think they seem to be the salient matters and I hope we can all work towards easing the issues.

    I'll respond with my own initial feelings and hope others can chip in too with any other comments and issues.

    Collisions- I'm sure we all feel collisions are the most serious issue, none of us want to collide with you and none of you want to be collided with. Last summer the modellers did have several 'down times' when the conditions were good for you guys and the sky was getting crowded. This is probably the most difficult issue to resolve whilst keeping both parties happy, launch signalling has already been mentioned...anyone got any other suggestions?

    Parking- as far as I was aware this was an issue around the farm gate. I'm not sure it's been an issue where the modellers tend to park where the road is wider...perhaps someone could add more info on this? It has been posted on this site that we all need to keep our cars parked tight in, but quite often it's members of the general public parked up there too.

    Fence- all the regular modellers are aware that fence climbing is unacceptable. Maybe it's worth having a few small signs made up that can be fixed to the fence stating 'do not climb the fence' or similar

    Looking forward to further thoughts from you all....

  5. Hi Goodwind , when we launch we are facing up the hill and can keep a look out for models when we launch . I personally like to see some models in the air as this can show me where the lift is and give me a good indication of size of thermals and their drift patterns. I have found most modellers have great control and can stay at a distance , it only seems a few that "play" to close or take risks .In paragliding if a guy is new to the sport and just passed his exams he will have a red ribbon attached to his harness .If you see a red ribbon pilot you could give this person a wider birth as he will be nervous and wont have the same control or experience as other pilots. I dont know if a flag would work or even horn as people see a sign of lift and are straight in their harnesses and looking to take straight off . Marshalling could be a good idea but it's getting someone to give up time when everyone is skying out. I believe the problem with the parking happened in the wide bit of the road where i thought was a layby but apparently is a passing spot .

  6. Hello Pikey! - Thank you for joining in the debate. I think it is very worthwhile understanding the issues from the other side of the fence, so to speak. I think your 'red ribbon' is one of many insights we could have, that could help us think about the other guy and fly safer. I would appreciate knowing when a novice is about to take to the air and I would happily sit out for the duration to give them one less thing to worry about and a safer flight. I suspect most modellers would rather loose a model than risk injuring or worse, a paraglider pilot. Ditto, knowing that a modeller is training a novice in the same airspace would be a useful consideration. They would appreciate some clear air too but not for long, novices get tired quickly!. - The problem of models landing among waiting paraglider pilots could be avoided if modellers who realise their aircraft is dropping below the horizon, make haste to the fence to get a view below and land the errant glider safely. This issue is as relavent to the safety of the walking public as to resting pilots. - I think between us there is much we can do to foster better understanding and encourage safer practice but we cannot police a public site. There are a few modellers who cause us grief too! I look forward to an opportunity to meet up with the D&FHGC and talk through some ideas. - Steve

  7. As a Paraglider pilot who has flown models as well for 30 years I'm throwing my quid's worth in..
    I'm nervous whenever I see a model in the air with me because:
    Models often go wrong !(mine do anyway!)
    When flying a model the pilot has "tunnel vision" and isn't allways aware of perifial stuff.
    Also distance from pilot to model is difficult to determine accuratly.
    I hope this dosn't sound to negative !
    The more we understand each other the better!
    Roll on Spring

  8. thanks for joining in Hooky

    'Also distance from pilot to model is difficult to determine accurately'

    I feel this is a very good point, when flying a model in a bright sky, facing the sun depth perception is very difficult and the only safe way to fly is to operate a 'blue sky' policy or not fly at all.

    'The more we understand each other the better!'

    amen to that!

  9. 'when we launch we are facing up the hill and can keep a look out for models when we launch'

    that's good to know Pikey

    bear in mind if you're choosing to fly in the air with models, there's a real range of gliders out there.

    A big, heavy model won't be able to get out of your way quickly, nor will a smaller heavily ballasted model. If I was flying either of the above and a paraglider launched into the same air as me (without any prior warning) I'd be very worried indeed

  10. Launching - It seems to be emerging that the biggest risk is at launch. So we need to find a way of knowing when either party is about to launch so we can stagger our launches and perhaps launch in a bit of sky (easier for the models) clear of the paragliders. A system could work well when the usual crowd of regular modellers are on the hill but not for lone pilots.

    Distance Perception - A difficult one for modellers to overcome but vital for paraglider pilots to understand i.e. "If the model is directly in line with the modellers on the ground and your paraglider, be aware the modeller cannot easily tell how close they are to you."

    Paul - I think ultimately this debate could result in some useful downloadable guidance for everyone, put together in partnership with the paraglider folk. It would be useful for people who care about safety and maintaining goodwill on the hill and would be ignored by others but it would be a start. I am happy to take part. - I have taken the liberty of posting on the Dover & Folkestone Paraglider site to invite their folk to take part in this debate and I have received an email back from the Secretary kindly offering to circulate my email to thier membership. I think their input would be very useful and I am sure we will all benefit. Pikey and Hookys' inputs are very helpful.- Steve

    Now what about the fine footage you must have of the weekends thrills and spills?!

  11. Hi Steve

    ultimately we can all only agree on guide lines as they'll always be 'outsiders' who turn up with questionable conduct. I'm thinking we'll end up with a few bullets points on a board for all to see.

    I think Steve U from the paraglidng side has sent a round robin to get the club members to chip in with their thoughts.

    Up on the hill today was an example of how well it can work, paragliders and models shared the air and a good time was had by all. When the air got crowded the modellers stayed grounded but it was only a twenty minute slot here and there- no problem.

    I'll get some updated posts up soon Steve, been a bit busy with work, I'll post the footage from the weekend (mostly Sheppy guys and Zagis I'm afraid) now though.

  12. Thank you to the pilots who initiated this forum. I am very pleased to see that this positive move toward increased communication between our disciplines has started out so well. Many of us (pg & hg pilots) are obsessive about flying in all its forms. I rarely hear comments about model fliers that are negative in a general way - just anxieties about the danger that can be present if we do not respect each other. Many of us enjoy watching models fly when we cannot. We have discussed the issues of sharing airspace at many of our meetings and there is always a danger that it becomes an 'us and them' if there is a lack of contact such as this.
    Would it be possible for you to encourage modellers to also park in the car park - as we ask our members to do? I'm sure that there will be rogue pilots from both disciplines who will ignore such requests - but there is a real risk of this becoming an issue that could threaten the site for us all! We would be working together to our common benefit if we could reduce this problem.
    I will read with interest any additional ideas and contribute again if I can - I have to rush out now!
    Gary (pg)
    Chairman DFHGC

  13. Hello everyone,

    I have made up some trial signs for the fence climbing problem and have placed them on 3 strategic fence posts. Let me know via flying at steveu dot org if you think they are good, bad or indifferent.

    I have also obtained the code of practice for mixed flying from the BHPA/BMFA. I've put a copy of the BHPA version (it doesn't cover the model side of things) on our side of the fence. If you want a copy please mail me at the above address. It's been included in our new site guide. I have both the newer BHPA and older BMFA versions.

    If you are going to use the White Horse Wood car park regularly it makes sense to get a yearly pass. £25 from the number on the machine in the car park.

    SteveU (DFHGC Club Chief Coach)

  14. 'I have made up some trial signs'

    Thanks Steve, I think that's a great thing and the most direct way of dealing with the fence issue.

    It's good to know that an annual pass can be had for the carpark. I think the parking issue will be the most difficult to deal with as at present there's no incentive for people not to park in the passing bays. I'll chat to the other guys about this.

    I'll start working on some bullet points for a sign aimed at visiting modellers aswell.

    Again, thanks to everyone for contibuting.

  15. just another thought...

    is there scope for putting a stile in around about where the windsock is? or perhaps there are issues of public liabilty for the land owners?
    anyone out there clued up on this kind of thing?

    I recall there used to be a gate in the fence (where it bears round into the bowl) about 9 or so years ago.

  16. it was only about 5 years ago the farmer sold the land to the Council , before that it was farm land and had a crop in it .Once the land became Council the gate was taken away .It maybe an idea if the clubs got together and suggested paying for a style and having put in.
    Just a thought .

  17. I'd be happy to supply the materials and labour
    but I don't know if there legal implications with erecting an un-authorised crossing point, anyone else know?

  18. Is there a problem with those "Sheppey Guy's" ?

  19. I have flown radio controlled slope soaring gliders for many years on and off and have enjoyed many trials and tribulations in learning to fly them well. Recently increased activity has been seen on many slopes with more and more fliers travelling up the hills as the 'indestructible' model or 'Foamie' becomes more prevalent. Many of these new slope fliers come from the power fields and the discipline is enjoying this upsurge in popularity. Expanded Poly Propylene (EPP) is the truly remarkable material that has brought about this change, but with it a new problem and animosity has arisen that the hobby could easily manage without. Let me explain:-

    "You can't fly that here!" the man said, gesturing toward the beaten, V shaped, lump of EPP that I'd casually skimmed onto the floor as I unloaded the car.

    "Why not?" I queried. I'd been in this slope soaring club for some time, but this guy was new to me.

    "We don't allow combat here." he continued.

    "Quite right too!" I agreed. "Not with all this public access."

    This seemed to throw him somewhat, and he reeled even more when the next model from the car was a 1/4 scale PIK 20, as if he couldn't correlate the two travelling together somehow. Puzzled, I continued.

    "So why can't I fly it here then? It's a glider is it not, and this is a Gliding club?"

    "Yeah, but it's a combat model, and we don't allow combat here!"

    Good grief I thought. Have things really degenerated so far towards these simply constructed flying wings that modellers are becoming prejudiced towards them now? Good job it wasn't a helicopter eh! The guy simply could not disassociate the presence of an EPP flying wing on the slope with the activity of combat flying.

    Surprisingly, this was not the first time I had come across this. What our poor friend was getting at of course, was not his displeasure with a type of model, moreover the way in which he wrongly anticipated that I would be flying it.
    In his eyes I was going to blast it around the sky with complete and utter disregard for all the other models on the hill because it's a foamie and that's what foamie fliers do, apparently.

    In some respects he is correct. Flying a virtually indestructible model does give you a different mind set. You are at the very least no longer concerned about losing the model in a mid air, or fluffing the perfect landing approach. There is no getting away from this variant mind-set. It is unavoidable. However with some particular individuals it is also inescapable too. Some pilots will indeed fly their chunk'o'foam to the detriment of the other slope users at all times. It is chiefly this that has labelled the owner of a foamie as a 'Slope Hooligan' in our fun policeman's eyes.

    So bad had been his past experiences (as it turned out at another club, which was eventually the reason for him joining this one) that he assumed that even though mine was the only foamie there at the time, that he would not be able to concentrate on, and enjoy to any real extent, his flying.
    He thought I'd be too busy hogging the slope edge and not concerning myself with where his 'Gentle Lady' was. That's why the scale job had taken the wind out of his sails a little as in his eyes it gave me at least some credibility, detracting from what he thought was a hooligan with a foamie.
    Doubtless too (damn, I should've asked him) he thought that 20 of my power flying mates would soon be up the hill to spend the day with me slugging it out 'old school' with combat, limbo, beer can skittles etc. to really blight his day.

    Now, for my two pence worth, nobody has the right to 'ban' a particular style of flying. I spent too long on the BMFA Council defending this hypothesis to the hilt. This does of course assume that the activity in no way infringes any safety codes, bylaws or similar legislation.
    Nobody has the right to tell anyone else that they can't fly a certain type of model in a certain type of way if it is free from excessive danger and the competency of the pilot is beyond doubt. As for the political correctness of Combat itself, well there's a whole book on its own!

    Although many a traditionalist slope flyer would love to see a world EPP shortage there can be no denying that it does have a place on our slopes. One could even describe the decision of the USA's Pat Bowman (for it's all his fault) to build the first model from this military grade packaging material as 'revolutionary'.

    When I learned to fly slope soaring gliders back in the dark ages, one tiny mistake could have you tracking back down the hill for a weeks worth of repairs. Now at least, with EPP you can slam your trainer into the floor in the hardest of cock-ups, pick it up and skim it off again continuing to log stick time.
    Another often unsung 'pro' of EPP is the number of alternative slope sites that it has opened up. Many sites previously considered to be unflyable now hold no fears if you fly them with a foamie. Rocky quarries, beach cliffs even dry stone walls that would shred a 'crunchy' model are all now in our catalogue of accessible places to fly.
    Kids love them too. No longer do they fear the wrath of Dad should they bust his latest toy because with EPP it is very unlikely to happen. In my mind the BMFA and similar associations should embrace the possibilities that EPP has opened up. It could be the Holy Grail that they have been seeking all these years to prevent the decline in number of aeromodelling youngsters. It is an eminently affordable way into the hobby too with a typical base set up cost of around £150.
    One thing however is certain. EPP is here to stay. At least until something better comes along.

    Expanded Poly Propylene models have come a long way since their introduction in 1996. The 'Bullet' was the first commercially available UK EPP model and you can still get them today. This model is as basic as you can get. Combat quickly became popular and the lads at Avicraft began to distribute American flying wing designs which offered better recovery from a 'kill'. The ubiquitous Zagi in its many guises can be seen on most slopes today.
    In 2000 the UK BMFA Slope Pylon Racing league went to all EPP to reduce attrition and revive the ailing class. 39 competitors flew EPP pylon in the 2002 league. UK manufacturers such as SAS Sailplanes, Phoenix Model Products, SuperRonik Models and Vortex Plastics, now almost exclusively manufacture EPP soarers of all types.
    At the last count I personally owned nine foamies which I use for Combat, general sport flying Pylon Racing and Dynamic Soaring. I fly them all alongside my many and varied hard models.
    These latter two disciplines have seen EPP model design evolve to be as 'state of the art' and as thoroughbred as many a moulded F3F racer. The Sblitz, JW, Bluto, Gulp, Ricoshe and Cyclone for example all being leaders in their field.

    Nowadays in America it is even becoming common to see quite large 1/4 scale models of warbirds and sailplanes made from EPP. PSS especially is a very popular use of the material, but 4 metre span full scale gliders are also beginning to hit the UK scene. I wonder if the guy at the start of our tale would have objected the same if the PIK 20 had been made from foam?

    Despite this expanding usage of the material, the perception of the 'slope hooligan' does still remain and I have been on the other side of that fence.

    I once had occasion to test fly a 2.8m moulded model at an open site near Salisbury whilst away from home. To say that the hill was busy this day would be quite an understatement. As I launched there was a guy with a 1/4 scale DG600 stooging around out from the hill and another with a moulded Ellipse 1T trying to speck it out above us. This left the compression layer and slope front for me. Perfect. Within minutes though eight guys, obviously mates, had arrived with combat wings for some slope edge fun. They all pretty much launched simultaneously and started to slug it out close to the hill. You could tell by the laughter that they were having a good time. Their presence and the cost of my own model tended to push me out from the hill somewhat as you can imagine. It wasn't long before another two large scale jobs were in the air and flying out to join me and then a full sized glider arrived above our heads pushing the Ellipse down into the foray. At one point the local police helicopter came in for a look and two hang gliders flew in from their part of the hill to get a share of our better lift. With another two foamies launched to dynamic soar the hilltop ditches the sky was now very crowded with 15 models in the air. I was forced to fly further and further out from the hill to avoid the foam but now I was mixing it with the other expensive stuff in the weak lift outside the band.

    One of the scale fliers was harping on about it always being like this on a Sunday and asked the foamie lads to clear the landing area which to be fair they duly did. I decided to take the opportunity to follow him in and sit it out. Unfortunately this was the pattern for the rest of the day. The edge of the hill constantly crowded out by EPP models, and as I didn't have mine with me, I never got the space to fly again. As a visitor, I (unusually for me) didn't see it as my place to interfere, but was surprised to see that there was obviously two clear camps on the hill with little or no communication between them.

    Perhaps I have been spoiled on my home slopes. If I want to fly a crunchy on one of my clubs (www.tmfc.org.uk) combat outings, a simple request to the other dozen or so lads that I'm with will see them sit it out and have a brew whilst I go whistling around with a racer for a while. A very considerate bunch and a very amicable arrangement. One or two of the dedicated 'foamie only' lads are even now taking an interests in this 'other' branch of the class.

    However with letters of complaint in the national modelling press and an occasional domination of various internet forums berating foamie fliers as 'Slope Hooligans' the problem persists and the fire is continuously stoked. The most extreme and notable example of this that I have seen is the complete and outright ban on foamies at one of the countries biggest slope meets following the inability of organisers to resolve by negotiation the previous years problems associated with the ever crowded sky. Everyone likes to see a nice big scale glider flown well, but who would want to pick their way through a sea of EPP with £2500 worth of 6m scale ship? Not me!

    The messages from this are really simple. To those of you who detest EPP and everything you believe it stands for, who have never owned, nor would ever want to own, a deformable model made from it, try not to fear what you don't understand. Fly one before you knock them and gain an appreciation from the other side. Recognise the benefits that they can bring for the future of the hobby, and appreciate that some slopes are well suited to combat and such like and indeed the practice may be very well established, attracting fliers from neighbouring slopes where it is outlawed. To travel there as an "anti" and expect to be deferred to by the foamies is perhaps a little ambitious.

    To those of you who have found slope soaring from power flying or sought a way into aeromodelling through the appeal of EPP then be aware that that it is not for everyone. Recognise that EPP does promote a mindset that can be detrimental to the enjoyment of other more traditional slope users and use it wisely, acknowledging the right of others to enjoy their chosen hobby in their own way and that this can be impeded if you do not occasionally make way. Be aware at all times that you and your practices must additionally be seen to be safe in the eye's of the general public and pay attention to their presence as spectators.

    Remember that there are enough people from outside Aeromodelling knocking the model flying fraternity and trying to curtail our activities without us doing it internally to each other. I'm sure you will agree when I claim that there is enough room up those hills for us all.

    Thermals to you.

  20. Thanks for a comprehensive post Mr (or Mrs) Anonymous, I think safety has been the overiding concern voiced when it comes to combat, we don't tend to suffer from EPP prejudice here

    I wondered if you had any views on sharing sites with para and hanggliders?

  21. 'Is there a problem with those "Sheppey Guys" ?'

    the issue of fence climbing has been raised,
    as has concern of people being hit by models

  22. Hi All - It was good to see the Sheppey guys the last two weekends and I recall a few familiar faces from earlier trips to the Island! EPP flying  was a great starter to the hobby for me and continues to offer fun flying when my more delicate planes need to stay on the ground. I learn't on the Bullet, then Zagi and if you can fly a Zagi you can definitely fly a built up glider. Combat flying is great fun and quite demanding, my only plea to the guys at the hill flying combat is: there is much more fun in combat over the other side of the fence in the LIFT and not back just in front of the other guys in the TURBULENCE. The flat slope of the hill between the rock pile and the fence line is quite turbulent and this can have quite an effect on highly manouverable foam aircraft. A move to the fence line will give you a lot more fun and for longer. This also  saves unintended crashes in the vicinity of other modellers and their planes. I had two such planes crash within feet of me last Sunday which could have been avoided. Of course we all crash once in a while but a last second shout, "Look out!" would be much appreciated. Thanks.And for those of our fraternity who haven't tried EPP combat yet, give it a go! It is great fun but just be aware of where the aircraft might crash. No one wants to injure anyone or wreck another guy's model. See you at the slope soon! Obviously combat by its very nature is not suitable when paragliders are in the air but no reason a combat session cannot be fitted in while the paragliders take a rest, provided we rest out for them in return and everyone gets a good time - Cheers Steve

  23. The signs haven't seemed to of worked as on Saturday 21st Feb , quite a few models went down due to it being quite westerly.All the modelers climbed over the fence , some climbed back where the signs were .I saw the fence climbed at least 10 times and i was only there for a couple of hours , i cann't see the fence taken much more punishment before it breaks and the landowner complains to the Council or maybe plants trees along to top of his field .

  24. once again it was non regulars that were climbing over. However I did use the old gate post but put no weight on any of the wire, it was an emergency as it looked as if £1200 worth of model was about to get trashed by dogs.

  25. as I suspected it's not quite so simple

    1. Stiles and gates on public rights of way are allowed for two purposes: to prevent stock straying; and to allow access for permitted path users, whilst excluding others. Stiles and gates must have lawful authority; otherwise they may be considered a common law nuisance and an obstruction (both of which are crimes), and the person who put them there may be liable to prosecution.

    with that in mind, I'll see if I can sort out some more prominant signs