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Flying Field Etiquette

Flying Field Etiquette

It’s the height of summer, and the flightline (and everyone’s nerves!) are starting to really heat up. What are the top flying-field etiquette tips you’d like to share with your fellow RC pilots? Here’s a start …

If more than two planes are airborne, please follow the pattern.

Always return the tools you borrow (or bring your own!).

Clean up after yourself (your mom/wife does not work here!).

Please announce when you’re taking off, landing, etc.!



Updated: July 14, 2016 — 12:37 PM


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  1. Notify airborne pilots of persons or airplanes on field!

  2. Have a spotter!!

    If you need to communicate with a pilot who is flying, tell their spotter then let the spotter tell the pilot. That’s the voice they are used to paying attention to, and presumably the spotter knows what that pilot wants to be told and how to tell them.

    Call take-offs and landings and low passes.

    Have fun!

  3. Whoever wrote this must be inexperienced or only flies sport planes in circles. We all have the people at the club field who rarely practice, gather up on benches, tell war stories all day and tell everyone else to do. These are usually the type that “tell” others to fly a “pattern.” A pattern, as the term is being used here, is generally considered a maneuver strictly for landing. We fly RC to have the freedom to fly in all dimensions. My scale, aerobatic and 3D aircraft don’t spend a lot of time landing, so I’m highly irritated when a circle flyer approaches me asking me to join “the pattern.” If I wanted to fly in circles, I would still fly control line. I find this article irresponsible and it will feed this field policing behavior I witness all over the Country. I suggest that flyers who aren’t competent enough to see and avoid other aircraft in the flight box get more training, or use a good spotter with a buddy box. Shame on MAN for putting their name on this and being part of the etiquette problem.

    1. Jason, you sound like you want to just go out and fly and do whatever you feel like doing without any consideration for your fellow club members. A club is made up of all kinds of pilots, some who like to perfect their landings, many who don’t mind following the rules and etiquette described above, many of them are great 3D and pattern pilots and some are just learning. And many of us are the type who sit in the shade and tell war stories, but not all of us are the bad guys you describe as telling ‘others’ how to fly. So, drop your attitude and try to work out a flying time with the other pilots whereby you can do your free style flying without causing chaos with those pilots who are using the local etiquette established for that field.

    2. Jason;

      Welcome to the world of 3D’ers. I love the “Pattern is a landing maneuver ” comment.

    3. When flying more than two planes, it is COMMON SENSE to organize the flight paths to avoid collision (i.e. establish a flight pattern). To not do so lacks common sense. I have had a 3D joker take down one of my expensive PA planes and nearly hit me in doing so. When the jet guys get together, the pattern is always established before the second guy even takes off. Also, when you are flying around a $5K-$10K plane, it is just plain rude to be flippin’ a plane around out in front of the pilot trying to concentrate on a high speed plane. Yes, there are clubs that do not establish a pattern. It does not take long to recognize that these folks have no respect for anyone but themselves and that lack of respect often is not limited to just establishing a flight pattern. I seldom fly at clubs that show a lack of respect. The two clubs here that I have had to deal with also are struggling with keeping membership!

      Air Space management is the responsibility of the CD at events and the club at the non-events. Not managing your air space is just plain disrespectful to your club’s fliers (i.e. the enjoyment of the group is jettisoned for the enjoyment of one or two thoughtless pilots who lack the common sense and a common courtesy for others.) Fly at an organized club, and it won’t take long for one to abandon the others.

    4. What grain of sand have you been under? Maybe you should join in with a group of bumblebees so you could fly backwards if you wanted to.I hope you don’t drive an automobile. I’ve been at a couple of fields that let you fly around like a bunch of bats & was able to witness a beautiful mid-air. Model aircraft don’t have radar, maybe you could join the bats……….at night no less.

  4. At our field, Tri-County r/c Club in Dunnellon, FL. We fly up to 4 planes at a time. If a pilot feels the need to 3D he needs to stay at the far side of the field or time his close to flight line run when other planes aren’t there. That pilot can always ask to have a sterile field if he needs to practice closer to the flight line. It’s only common courtesy.

  5. Respect official hours of operation; don’t wake the nearby neighbors with a too-early “Dawn Patrol”.

    Keep the facility secure: lock the gate and shed, etc. when you’re the last or only person there and you are departing.

    Respect field flight boundaries and do not overfly adjacent property, or fly behind the established field “crowd line”.

    Don’t try to fly while a contest director is setting up the event, without their okay.

    Respect FAA altitude limits.

    Keep pets leashed at all times.

    Children must have a parent, supervisor or “minder” with them at the field.

    If you land or crash “off-field”, other planes should land while you search. Try to not disturb growing plants in the farm field, by walking between the rows. On private property, avoid trespassing and announce yourself at the door before going on someone’s property to retrieve your aircraft. Send a “thank-you” note after any incursions.

    Try not to start a takeoff just as your fellow member is shooting a landing approach.

    Don’t make mock fighter passes on another plane unless previously agreed to.

    Practice 3-d aerobatics and hovering in a designated area apart from the regular flight pattern. If there is no designated area for VTOL’s and 3-D, fly in a way that accommodates the fixed-wing traffic pattern as much as practical.

    Always have a spotter assistant with you when flying VR-equipped.

    Gliders and dead-stick powered craft have priority for landing approaches.

    Do be encouraging to newcomers and student pilots; keep the corrective comments and suggestions positive and friendly, instead of harsh and disdainful. If someone brings a “toy” rc aircraft, don’t mock them: be an ambassador for the hobby. Be helpful if their toy’s not flying right and needs an obvious adjustment. Offer some free trainer-box time on a “real” RC model if you can. Promote club and AMA membership.

    Volunteer to mow or do field maintenance at least once a season.

    If still using old FM frequency systems, stick closely to the field’s channel sharing procedures.

    Bring water, a phone, and a simple first aid kit with you. Smart additions would be a long-sleeve shirt, some long poles with flags or rags, and maybe binocs and FSM walkie-talkies for SAR in case a plane goes into the cornfields.

    Have the actual GPS coordinates of the field written and posted on the field where you can see them if you ever need to call EMS. It’s easier than trying to give directions over 911. Post directions to nearest hospital. too.

    Let someone at home know when you’re going out to the field, and when you expect to return.

    1. The best post i have read. I like your paragraph starting with “Do be encouraging …. If someone brings a “toy” rc aircraft, don’t mock them”. I hate to be Captain Obvious, but unless you can climb into the craft, they are all “toys”. I fly small inexpensive RTF craft all the time, I do not have the money and time to spend thousands of dollars to purchase the crafts and controllers, but enjoy my aircrafts none the less. It can be disparaging when the craft snobs disrespect my aircrafts, but i assume they must have eaten a bad piece of meat.

  6. Yikes!!! Relax Pal!!! Try and have fun like your “Circle Pattern” buddies. Perhaps they are flying the circle pattern in the interest of safety vs. your dangerous 3D stunts directly over the runway close to spectators. You’re the type club member that others cringe when they see you arrive at the flying field, only to screw up their day. Perhaps you should take a day off from flying, see your physician, and have him write you an RX for Xanax or something similar. Of the top 10 main things with this world, your concern ranks 3,227 !!!

  7. Jason,
    I understand the frustration you may have. However I think the key word should be considerate. If a pilot is flying 3-D then someone flying more to scale as I do with my warbirds should wait to fly as I do and many others do. The same should happen if I’m flying my warbirds first. A plane hanging on its prop in the middle of the runway and twisting and turning can be a distraction to someone flying the so called scale pattern of a particular plane. As I stated in the beginning. The key word is considerate.

  8. OMG! The never ending argument or “tips” from other pilots! First and foremost, you MUST BE A “FLYING PILOT” and not the “I have an AMA Card, so I am pilot too?!!!”

    After flying for 16 years from a wheelchair…yes, he said wheelchair… I have seen guys come and go (mostly new people) because of the old fart, peanut gallery members of the club. You know the ones who know everything about stick built planes and hate you because of your ARF plane. Yep, they want too tell me who, what, when, where, why, and how I should fly, but they haven’t touched a radio since AM frequencies were being used.

    Oh wait, did I say I have nearly 70 planes of all types (even 3D and heaven help me, a drone), and a 28 foot cargo trailer sitting at the field with planes ready too fly 24/7. Then again, maybe I should be quiet and be (as I was told by the old geishers) “you should be grateful the club lets you keep your trailer at the field” (forget I pay membership fees just like they do). Albeit, I am the only member flying this much, and who got 10 new YOUNGER members too join the club this past year because of me being there using my planes and trailer.

    Darn, I haven’t gave any tips yet…okay, here are mine:

    1. If you don’t fly at least once a week (alright I will be nice) once a month, just stay home and find another hobby.
    2. If you make excuses as too why you don’t fly, just stop making them and see #1 above.
    3. There are 3 types of people at every field; want to be’s, has beens and pilots. If you don’t fly, you’re just one of the other two types, please just go home and stop bothering the real pilots.
    4. It’s called a RC Club and not the Lawn Mowing Club for a reason! Take your turn mowing, but also fly; otherwise, you’re just the gardener for the real pliots.
    5. If this is you, the guy who doesn’t want to have fun flys, or change anything whatsoever, you’re just being the “there is one in every group or club” guy(s) or just another A-hole team member!

    Lastly, try to understand old guys, it’s called transition. The RC hobby is transitioning too younger people who rather fly then listen too you go on about everything else in your life… And, for those folks who say I am being to harsh; well, think about this. All these things go on in clubs because you believe old Joe(s) should be respected and we “should” do what he/they says, but truthfully you likely think it a lot, “I cannot wait until this old fart dies!” What should be done is you and other flying pilots, just tell him/them that it’s all about punching holes in the sky, so if they’re not doing that, give them a plaque or trophy for being a member, then tell them too stay home from now on!

    Happy Flying (notice the word FLYING)!

    1. I am 74 and just beginning RC planes ( flew control line planes in my way back younger years)

    2. And that’s why I don’t belong to a flipping club….

  9. I call em million dollar guys. Guys who have a million bucks in their planes and that gives then the right to boss everyone around. It makes sense to communicate, “Hey, I’m maneuvering to the north.” But to all fly in circles?! I’m going to play with my plane and have fun. You can land and grumble in the pits until I go home. Plus when you want to take turns with one guy in the air at a time? Real people don’t have all day to watch each other! Not communicating is rude, but trying to keep other guys on the ground in rude too!

    1. Hey Ryan, my suggestion to you is never place your plane on the ground where someone may trip on top of it or step on it by mistake.
      I have almost crashed my airplane because I was flying the ‘pattern’ (better known as the ‘circuit’) and another pilot quite unexpected by me, decided that when his airplane reached in front of him he was going to start flying 3D and there were at least 2 other airplanes all flying the ‘pattern’ aside from mine. As I approached over the runway out of the corner of my eye I saw his airplane rise up directly into the flight path of mine, with a hasty avoidance by me just missing his airplane. Now we all know our airplanes crash at times for various reasons, however a mid-air leave two missiles that may or may not be controllable in close proximity to spectators who may be injured by one of these missiles. Do you wish to be the one responsible for causing an accident that potentially may take someone’s life, possibly your own?. If you do not wish to fly the ‘circuit’ or ‘pattern’ or what it may be called when flying with others maybe you should find your OWN PRIVATE flying site, and they find your own insurance to boot.

  10. I have to agree on many levels. Air space management or organized flight paths are much better terms for the concept. Not being able to predict to some extent what other flyers will do and generally where they will be flying is a recipe for disaster. It can be down right unnerving for new flyers as well flying a smaller\slower model heading one direction and a faster plane comes out of no where and start doing maneuvers are controlled but seem unpredictable.

    The other code to follow is to consider others when you plan to practice specific types of maneuvers at the same time others are flying and limit their ability to fly in a reasonable airspace.

    I have seen people take off and intently practice hovering a loud 3D gas plane or a similar maneuver in the middle of the runway. creating a distraction within 50 feet of others trying to focus on flying.

    If I do so I usually tell the other pilots I am going to practice rolls or touch and goes for this flight. I tell them to let me know if I get in their way or should do something different.

    Our club is pretty good about knowing who flies what and how they like to fly and respect their time on the field – – its only 8-12 minutes and you can often learn by watching them


  11. Why so much anger from Jason??
    I understand his point, but there was a nicer way to say it without making other people feel stupid.

  12. It’s really unrealistic to assume that every pilot should follow a standardized “pattern” other than the landing pattern. We have all sorts of plane types and sizes, and pilots of varying skill at our field. Rarely, we have a mid-air collision; and my own Funtana was taken out by another plane which was flying the same “pattern” in the same direction that I was. Use your peripheral vision to avoid other planes, and simply fly at a different altitude and heading. If the 3-D guys are working out their big planes, then fly in another section of airspace. If a guy is practicing a competition pattern then cut him a break, and stay clear. If there is a student in the air with a trainer he needs to fly not only racetrack patterns, but needs to fly figure of eights, fly left and right hand patterns, fly high and fast, or low and slow. It’s fairly easy to avoid a student pilot if your remain aware of what his intent might be. Good communication between spotters definitely helps. Any good pilot, RC or full scale, has good situational awareness, and his head is on a swivel. If you don’t feel safe flying with several other planes buzzing around, then go to the field at less busy times until you gain more experience. But, please, don’t suggest that we all fly a “pattern” in the same direction. We are not slot car drivers! Have a good flight.

  13. The number one behavior should be support your fellow Modelers, do not drag them down in the name of having fun at their expense. Your way is not the only way.

    The second most important behavior is looking at what others are doing prior to taxing onto the runway. Do not count on hearing calls with many loud glow and gas engines running. Sort of like look both ways before crossing the street.

  14. This why I don’t fly at a club field. Too many personalities that ruin the fun.

  15. If a pilot has a plane on the runway and cannot taxi to the sidelines Please stay clear of him when he is on the “Runway”. Like wise that pilot needs to retrieve his aircraft should also call “On The Field” letting all other flyers know his intention.
    I have had other “pilots” intentionally take off and attempt to land while I was in that situation.

  16. Common Courtesy is the key to every sitiuation.

  17. I’ve been flying RC for 45 years and “establishing a pattern” is a flight path predictor enabling fellow pilots to anticipate your pending actions when you call “landing”. This “pattern” is not a mandatory R/C merry-go-round or cakewalk in the sky . . . . . unless you are at a pylon race.

    If your comfort level is confined to flying in ovals, enjoy but don’t be so self-centered as to expect all others to be so constrained. Simple good manners and etiquette infers the operation of any aircraft in such a way as to have the least impact upon the flight paths of your fellow pilots. This applies whether you are hovering, performing inverted high speed passes, or making endless slow left hand turns.

    It’s a big chunk of sky at any flying field with lots of room for all.

  18. “Taking off”. “Landing”. “Dead-stick”, are the minimum courtesies.
    The sky is the limit (literally) for pretty much everything else.
    Golden Rule flying can’t be beat.

  19. Oh man! These 3D guys with the expensive planes hogging the airspace right over the runway in front of the pits are NUTS if they think their behavior is OK. It is selfish in the extreme. I always bring an old beater plane, and that’s what I fly when some jerk is clogging the airspace. If he doesn’t care if his thousand dollar beauty is taken down by a ten dollar beater, let him keep flying.

    1. Can’t agree MORE! Tons of space and they do this crap right next to the pits! Drives me NUTS!

  20. Are all your clubs flying from someone’s back yard? I’ve flown at more than a dozen clubs and fields and have yet to fly from one that was too small to accommodate both 3D and Pattern fliers. The “Etiquette” at our field if for the 3Ders and foamboard flyers to do their maneuvers at the end of the runway and the Pattern fliers to use the beginning and middle of the runway when there are multiple planes flying. The 3Ders simply joining the “Pattern” when landing. In the 16 years I’ve been flying at our field we’ve never had a midair collision.

  21. There is one word that sums it all up, and that word is COMMON SENSE!

  22. Cory, isn’t “common sense” actually two words?? Laughing-Out-Loud! Just kidding. You are correct.

  23. “Clean up after yourself (your mom/wife does not work here!).”

    Sexist bullsh!t that is common at too many clubs; no wonder females don’t join. The entire drunken slob attitude makes most RC clubs very unattractive; keep your bs away from the real hobby.

    Does a MAN editor even proofread this junk anymore?

    1. I noticed the same remark and thought to myself bet he wouldn’t say that crap to his wife\mom without getting his mouth smacked. Cleaning up after ones self is a given no matter where your at.

  24. I cannot believe how selfish some of the new flyers are. Apparently, Jason thinks he is all important. I am a senior and really don’t like his attitude toward everyone older than him. HE needs to get his own field and get away from others trying to enjoy the sport. Glad I don’t have to be around him, I doubt anyone else would, either.

  25. common sense is lacking at some fields, we have all types of aircraft at my field, the foamy guys will go up together the 3d guys have a turn, the pattern guys do their thing and the scale guys have a go. its not difficult for everyone to get a good day of flying in when like minded guys fly together, but i sure hate flying a $13,000.00 top gun aircraft and a pattern guy or 3d guy goes up and almost hits me while i am flying

  26. Share the skies! We have worked out a simple strategy. If the 3D gang are up, give them their flight time. When us IMAC dudes are practicing, give us our 10 minutes! Sport flyers have at it! But if a guy launches a small foamy when he has a chance,don’t go starting up and flying big kites…for goodness sakes guys, we all want to enjoy!

  27. DON’T decide to try out your 3D heli skills 10 ft from other pilots.

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