High Start Safety - Must Read
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[Courtesy of Jim Thorne, August 1998]

Dear RC Soaring Community,

It's rare when an accident happens while RC soaring, but today it happened to me. The reason I'm posting this is to hopefully prevent anyone else from being hurt in this way.

We had a handlaunch contest at the SULA field in Los Angeles today, and there was a gentleman using a high-start for fun flying at the same time. He asked for and received permission to do this, and it should have been harmless. However, he apparently decided to stake in the high-start in the stretched position and leave it that way on the ground between flights.

At one point during a thermal duration round of the hand-launch contest, I was flying my plane and walking across the field at the same time along with about 10 other pilots and timers. I was preparing to land and relaunch when I felt a strange burning sensation on my legs. I landed as quickly as safety would allow, and looked down to see line running between my legs, pulling small red parachute heading at high speed towards my body. It was too late to disentangle, so I watched with fascinated horror as the 'chute struck me behind the knee. I fell to the ground in a sitting position, and tried to figure out what happened. Then, the pain came. I wasn't bleeding, but now there are a variety of bright red, ugly line burns on the front of my left knee and especially the back of the right. I'll heal, but right now it hurts to walk. To say it stings to take a shower is a *dramatic* understatement.

So, what went wrong? Well, I certainly wasn't watching my step, but I was busy flying. I knew about the man with the high-start, but this wasn't foremost on my mind while participating in the contest. He apologized later, but stated that he didn't think anyone would be "on that side" of the field. Hmmm.

Please, please don't stake down a high-start unless you are RIGHT THERE to use it RIGHT THEN. Otherwise, it's a loaded weapon, a booby trap, an accident waiting to happen.

I wish all of you good and safe flying,

Jim Thorne, San Pedro, CA SULA Secretary

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