October is here, the clouds are rolling in, and the temperature is racing the leaves to see which can fall the fastest. But fret not, for
there is yet time to get some more flying in before winding up your lines for the winter. There is still one more F2D contest in New England
before the end of the season -- the triple elimination Wingbuster Fall Shootout in Middleboro, MA on October 24th. This contest will be one
last big chance to get a lot of flying in before winter, and to try to solidify many of the things that have been learned over the past season
with the hope that they will be retained for next season.
Last month at the contest in Wrentham, MA, we added one more twist to the rules used in our one-airplane F2D event. Previously, the only
penalizable offence was for unintentionally stepping out of the pilot's circle
(-40 pts). In the interest of safety and to start encouraging
good pitting habits, we have now started to enforce a 40 point penalty for pitting within the 20 meter radius flying circle. This is one of
the standard rules of F2D, so for that reason alone it's a good idea to try to practice following it (in addition to the safety benefits).
Let me back up a bit and explain what led up to my decision to implement this additional rule. These are some observations that I've made
while watching both Formula GX and F2D combat being flown in this area over the course of the past year.
Due to the relatively relaxed nature of Formula GX combat, it seems that certain aspects of the sport of combat have not developed and become
implanted in the common practices of this area as compared with other places where the primary event is F2D or some AMA rulebook event. This
is not necessarily a good thing nor a bad thing; one area where I do sense some trouble, however, is pitting. Little emphasis is placed on
pitting in Formula GX, and aside from the fact that pitting is an aspect of combat that I really enjoy, this worries me because of the possible
safety hazards that can be associated with careless behavior in and around the circle.
Typically at a GX meet, only the 6 ft diameter AMA-sized pilot's circle is marked on the field, and contestants are left to their own devices
to decide where to set up their pits and what path to take when retrieving a downed model. It's not usually a problem, but on a few occasions
I have seen a pilot and his mechanic, in a rush to get back in the air, run to a downed model and service it underneath the opponent's still
flying aircraft (i.e. inside the flying circle). If the still-flying model is damaged or has some sudden unexpected failure, this could lead
to unfortunate consequences.
At all of our F2D meets, we have marked both the 2 meter radius pilot's circle and the 20 meter radius flight circle. For simplicity’s sake,
we initially disregarded the F2D pitting penalties, simply asking everyone to try to follow the rules as best as possible. Although I tried
to offer frequent reminders that all body and model parts should be outside the flight circle at all times while servicing the model, I could
see that old pitting habits die hard. Eventually I realized that penalizing these mistakes would be the only way to bring these issues to the
front of the minds of all.
At the last contest, several pitting warnings and fouls were handed out, but none of them influenced the outcome of the match. I think it has
already started to make people more aware of the proper procedures, but there is still work to be done in this regard. It's sad to see a match
lost due to a trivial error on the ground, but after it happens a few times I think these safe practices will make their way into the collective
subconscious and become second nature for everyone. I hope that it doesn’t seem that I’m going overboard on this matter. Safety is something
that I take very seriously, so I want to do whatever I can to run a safe, fair, and fun event. I hope to see everybody out at the last few
events of the season!