Help! Model Aircraft are Bombing Us!

I often wonder whether the ST Forum publishes particularly bad letters from readers as a satirical gesture. Today there is one complaining about model aircraft enthusiasts at one of my favourite roads to bike on, the Old Holland Rd. The writer is concerned that the fuel used to fly the aircraft might pose an explosive risk to passer-bys. He also complains that many of the enthusiasts park illegally along the road, which “is often used by heavy vehicles serving the construction sites nearby. Illegal parking escalates the danger of using this stretch of road.”

The point about the fuel is dealt with nicely by the commenter BlackGrouper on the ST’s website:

On the issue of “flamable fuels”, Mr. Goh is understandably unfamiliar with the fuels actually in use. As a prelimnary point, there are in fact no “petrol-powered” planes in regular operation at the field, nor do these in and of themselves pose any greater hazard compared to other types of aeromodels, including electric powered airplanes.

The most common fuel used in aeromodels powered by internal combustion engines these days is a blend of methanol and oil. Yes, this is indeed flamable, but I know of no incident in Singapore or anywhere in the world where there has been an explosion caused by the typical use of this fuel, whether through crashing or otherwise. In fact, I would venture to say that the chemical composition is such that the precise conditions required for an explosion with these fuels are highly unlikely to occur in normal use. By analogy, certain types of cooking oil are also highly flamable, but making them explode under typical conditions would be highly improbable. In any event, a very significant number of the aeromodellers at the field operate electrically powered airplanes.

As for the illegal parking thing, let me first say that I’ve cycled along that road at peak hour before, and the traffic volume is not high enough or fast enough that I would regard the illegal parkers as posing a danger to passing vehicles. However, whether or not they are parking illegally is irrelevant to whether model aircraft flying should be allowed in the field beside the road. If they are parking illegally, then they should be ticketed. Full stop. Parking illegally doesn’t warrant them being banned from flying their aircraft.

Even more ludicrous than the letter itself: a commenter who is worried that low flying light aircraft would collide with the model airplanes:

I am aware that the mentioned Holland area has frequent low flying light aircraft as well as helicopters. Would the unregulated model aircraft in any way interfere with the flying of other aircraft? I am worried about my built up neighbourhood when we are sitting at home or at school, should any accidents of falling aircraft landed on our surrounding buildings. I think public safety is paramount over individual hobbies.

How big does this guy think model aircraft get? If model aircraft ever got to an altitude where they can collide with real aircraft, they’d be invisible to their flyers. I don’t think I’d be able to see my model aircraft if it rose to, say, 15 storeys above ground level. Does this commenter think low flying aircraft fly as low as 15 storeys above ground level at somewhere that is clearly not a landing strip or helicopter pad?

I think people who don’t believe in hobbies don’t deserve any safety.

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