Fallen angels

You may have heard about that old wisdom that there are just two kinds of model airplanes: Those that have crashed, and those that will crash!
Model planes crash for all sorts of reasons; sometimes they even crash for no reason at all. It seems that they simply love to crash! Or maybe the pilots love crashing them? Who knows...

Over the years I have collected a considerable amount of photos from the remains of crashed planes. Here are a few of them, for your enlightenment and wicked joy!

This is one of the most typical reasons for a nice, solid, juicy crash! Obstacles of all kinds abound in this world. When a model pilot is keeping his eyes on his plane, it's just too easy to forget about light poles, wires, trees, fences, or even other planes! And all these obstacles are out there, living a silent life and just waiting to catch a model plane!

Crashes against light poles are very damaging. Usually the light pole wins the battle, and the plane dies. But sometimes the plane can asess a Kamikazee-type victory: I can tell you, it's especially nice to fly a metal or carbon fiber plane into some power wires! The resulting fireworks are a sight to behold! Once I saw a carbon fiber plane simply exploding as it shorted out a 23000 Volt line! It did not even cause a power outage, just a small transient!

Here you can see a closeup of what used to be a wing's leading edge. It was flown into a road sign. Such damage can be repaired without too much effort. Some modellers choose to cut away all damaged wood, make new pieces and glue them in. Others use a simpler approach: Put every splinter in its rightful place, and soak it all in glue! I must confess that I have often used the latter approach.

But you don't need a light pole to make a nice crash. You can get good results by diving straight into the ground! We call that an "encounter with the planet earth", and while most model fliers try to blame radio interference, servo malfunction, a broken control linkage, downdrafts, or whatever, the fact is that almost all such accidents are caused simply by the pilot doing some nonsense and being unable to recover!

This plane was flown into the soil by our club member Miguel, when he tried to do some aerobatics without having enough ground clearance. Our flying area slopes, and this can easily make ground distance shorter than the pilot thought it is!

This picture shows the damage. Nothing too bad. The engine is fine, thanks, and so is the radio. Next weekend this plane was back flying.
The guy holding the plane is NOT Miguel! The crash pilot did not want to pose with his wrecked plane for a photo!

Sweet revenge... After his next crash I caught Miguel at his best beloved sunday afternoon activity: Picking up splinters after wrecking a plane. Again, an encounter with the planet. He seems to like them.
Miguel is a fast builder, he makes a plane in a week, using cheap material, and usually crashes his planes quickly too. Other modellers take years to build a plane, but then fly it for decades without an accident. There are styles and other styles...! At least Miguel usually crashes in a way that's soft enough to let the engine and radio survive. Not like other fliers, who like to crash the hard way, and loose everything...

Welcome to pylon racing. This is a competition category within FAI rules. Specially built racing planes fly 10 turns around 3 posts installed in a triangular, L shaped fashion. The planes follow strict rules of size, shape, weight, and the engines are of the same make and model. This makes the planes quite equal, and the race is won by piloting skills, not by making a better plane! Piloting skills involve the ability to go around the posts as thightly as possible. If a plane cuts the turn at flies by the inside, it is disqualified. Thus a good pilot tries to always stay outside the posts, but as close as he can, in order to save some distance. And what you are expecting while you read this, of course does happen! Sometimes a pilot exhibits enough fine aim to fly his plane straight against the pole! In such cases, after the race is finished a crowd gathers at the site, checking if anything at all can be salvaged...

Pole crashes are violent. Considering the high speed of these racing planes, they are very violent indeed! Look at this sample! The lighter structural parts of the plane came down at the mast. The heavier parts flew further. The item in the foreground is the battery/receiver/servo assembly, complete with antenna and one pushrod. The other small lump at the left is the engine, with the broken-off silenceer lying farther back. Minor debris is strewn all around.

This is the part that came down close to the pole. The tail section is perfectly salvageable and was later integrated into a new plane. The wing was a total loss, as there was no way to fix it without making it too weak and too heavy. And the nose section?  Well, nobody found it. It had disintegrated into toothpicks and dust.

Another pylon racer after a pole crash. This pilot had less aim: he hit the pole with the wing, not straight-on! As usual, engine, radio and other heavy parts continued the flight, leaving the plane behind...

These pylon racers are so ugly that it makes me very happy to see them crash, really! It's another and much sadder matter to see a beautiful scale plane destroyed. I refuse to put such images on this page!

Often these pylon racer crashes are violent enough to cause serious damage even to strong parts. This engine had the carburetor broken off by a pole impact. There are wood fibers (from the pole) all over it! Both the carburetor and the motor block were broken. Of course, the propeller was shredded, the motor mount was destroyed, and the silencer screws tore off. This engine was used for parts, to repair others.

And this one is even nicer! Count the pieces! :-)  The motor block is broken, the crankshaft bent, the ball bearings crushed, the carburetor insert broken, the cylinder deformed, the pushrod broken, the cylinder head lost some fins, the glow plug lost the coil, the silencer was crushed... It seems that the piston is still OK! The owner just recovered the propeller, which was completely undamaged! This engine hit the mast straight on, and the propeller didn't even touch the wood!

Crashing is not a prerogative of planes. Helicopters do crash too! This one was flown into a loop, when it didn't have enough ground clearance over our slanted flying field... It encountered the planet at the bottom of the loop. It was a violent experience.
I'm convinced that the ads in the background are misspelled. "Crush"...?  I'm absolutely, positively sure that these guys meant "Crash Crash Crash"!!!  :-)

What fate awaits fallen angels? This photo shows it. A long standing tradition among model fliers all over the world asks that unrepairable planes be ceremonially burned in a bonfire. It's  a kind of mental write-off. If you take a bag of splinters home, you will spend months trying to decide if you should repair it, and how. So, many people opt for the more drastic solution. They remove everything that can be reused - motor, radio system, wheels, tank, hoses, linkages - and burn the rest. Back at home, the tinkering room looks so empty... Soon a new plane is being built!

Back to the homo ludens aeromodellisticus page.