FLYING SOMEWHERE ELSE! - by Clay Ramskill
Our flying field is certainly not the worst to be found in the area - its not the best, either. We fly there because we like the field, we like the people, its comfortable to us. But sometime, we're probably going to fly at other fields.
Perhaps the easiest, most painless way to do this is by invitation from a member of another club. Whenever possible to accept such an invitation, do so. You will enjoy the experience of meeting other people, seeing how they do things, seeing their aircraft and so on. And you will get the experience of flying from a different locale; this is not as easy as it seems! The different surroundings, the lack of the usual visual cues you're using (whether you know it or not) and unfamiliar people and aircraft types surrounding you puts a heavy load on your nervous and sensory systems. If you're there by invitation with a friend it really helps.
The worst case scenario is when you've moved to a new city - you may have made a phone call or two, but you basically arrive at some club's field as a total unknown, and essentially end up "showing your stuff" to the watchful eyes of numerous club members who are in the process of evaluating you, as you are them. NOT a relaxing situation!
And in between these two extremes are a number of interesting and pleasurable ways to fly from another field. You see the "advertisements", flyers posted at hobby shops, or in Model Aviation, for various events:
Open House- A club just opens their field for others to come watch or fly; you do need to check and see which is the case unless its obvious from their flyer. This is a pretty stressless way to fly from another field and meet some other flyers.
Fly-in- More common than open houses, and usually more structured, these are meant to get other flyers in to fly and socialize, and are also money-makers for the host club. A landing fee is generally charged, there will usually be a frequency impound, aircraft inspection, a rules brief, and so on to ensure safety. There may also be raffles of neat equipment, good food for sale, a vote for best plane in various categories with prizes, perhaps other pilot prize drawings, and maybe some neat flying demos. Generally there is no competitive flying at a fly-in.
Fun Flys: These can range anywhere from guys doing crazy events with their sport planes just for the fun of it or for a ribbon, all the way to dog-eat-dog competition with specialized aircraft. This is another situation where it would be a good idea to make sure of just what you're getting into! Our idea of a fun fly, and the "sorta" competition we do, may be a long way from some other clubs concept, where its an actual competitive event.
Competitive Events- These are highly structured, usually adhering to AMA rules and guidelines for the events. Promotions will indicate the numbered AMA competitive events to be flown; the AMA rules indicate the type of plane and all the particulars of how the competition is run. These AMA class events cover the whole range of modeling - from racing, to combat, pattern to rubber powered free flight. You should be very familiar to the AMA procedures involved before even thinking about entering such contests. Those who do find them stimulating and fun.
Regardless of the type of function you're going to attend, be sure to look very carefully at the literature advertising it. Many functions have limitations, depending on what the Host club is into and what they're capable of handling. For instance, they may require IMAA legal planes - these are large planes, covered by IMAA rules. Restrictions may be for warbirds only, or for WW2 warbirds only. Or 4-strokes only. Or AMA #301 events only. Or whatever!
Nearly all the ads will give a POC - a point of contact. It would be wise to give the contact person a call to make sure you know what you are getting into before you drive all the way to East Somewhere. And make sure you have GOOD directions to the field involved. Don't settle for "just follow the signs from downtown"!
A few pointers for going to ANY other field to fly. HAVE your AMA card (not a copy); you probably won't fly without it. Any AMA sanctioned event requires that your radio be "1991 certified". Expect that your plane and perhaps the radio will receive a thorough safety check. Be sure your plane has your name and number nor within, an AMA requirement. Have the appropriate frequency number and red streamer, as well as your name, on your transmitter.
On arrival, get familiar with the frequency control system in use. Be sure that you receive a briefing on any peculiar field rules - it's amazing how often you find out about these AFTER you've unwittingly broken them! Be sure you're aware of field and/or event requirements; sometimes a "spotter" (someone who stands beside you and tells you when you're about to hit another plane!) is required for each flight. Maybe there is no taxiing allowed at the field or for the event. Sometimes you're only allowed to start engines out at the runway; i.e. no running engines in the pits. Some clubs may have a time limit for how long you can fly, or how long you can hold on to a frequency pin.
Be sure to take necessary items with you - the host club may not provide chairs, your favorite beverage, or shelter for you or your plane. You should certainly have a few bucks with you - for landing fees, to enter a raffle, or to buy something neat that's for sale. And if at all possible, take a friend. That way you have someone to talk to, you can trade "spotting" duties, etc., and perhaps ease each other's apprehensions about flying in front of a bunch of strangers!
But by all means, when you see a good opportunity to fly at a different facility, do so. You will be treating yourself to a taste of the wonderful combination of diversity and cohesiveness that make our hobby such an interesting pastime.