As you’ll no doubt have seen, previous restrictions which prevented us from flying at our sites have now been eased sufficiently that we can consider going flying again. Please bear in mind that the following is not to encourage you to fly, this is to advise how to behave to stand a chance of staying within the rules should you decide to go flying. It’s very important to understand that things are very far from being back to normal and we need to tread a fine line to avoid being in contravention of the new rules. The message which keeps coming up in the government advice is that we are most definitely not permitted to ‘meet up’ other than on a one to one basis. However at the same time we are permitted to individually go flying. This could sound contradictory and may confuse, however we need to abide by the spirit of this.
For starters, we need to avoid arranging to ‘meet up’, so please refrain from any #goingflying emails. In practical terms the rules mean that we are able to go to our sites, once we have permission from landowners and car parks are open, we can each lay our models etc. down and sit / stand (/sleep) with them. We need to ensure that the flight line and the pit area where we sit / stand are well over 2m from any paths to allow others free access. The next person then does the same, however they must do so at least 2m apart from all others already there. This is fairly normal for us as we tend to put our models down in a line and the size of the models means we are each at least 2m apart. However, on Butser west, the path is too close to the pits and the flight line is also too close to the pits, we therefore need to make some adjustments. While the current guidelines are in place, Butser west should now be used as follows. Obviously do not cross between pits and pilots box if there are any members of the public nearby. Please be aware that you are now standing in long grass, remember there may be ticks present which could themselves present a health hazard with Lyme disease, so please wear long trousers / gators etc..
Where things now differ and what is going to feel really weird and where we could get into trouble is that we are effectively not permitted to ‘meet up’. Trying to understand what is the difference between flying solo and ‘meeting up’ is key here. Given we are limited on space, we could struggle to stay truly apart from each other. To others, it may look like we have met up if we engage with each other. I suspect that under the rules which permit us to meet up with one other person not from our household, it could be reasonable to talk to one person, but that’s it! Similarly when flying, we must stand at least 2m from each other and not really engage with each other. Of course, this isn’t going to stop us shouting the normal ‘launching / landing or similar warnings as they are to all’. Landing I’m assuming there won’t be a problem as we tend to land one at a time, or if we are landing en-masse then we tend to end up all over the slope! There must however be no group chats, no wandering along the pits talking to others, no chatting on the flight line all of which could look like meeting up. We must bear in mind that anyone walking past us is going to look at us with suspicion and could even be an off duty policeman. I appreciate that this is potentially going further than the BMFA guidance, however the BMFA guidance is most likely primarily aimed at private club flying sites and are unlikely to have people who may decide they want to police us. The chances are if the police get called they are just going to tell us to move on.
The restrictions also mean that we must not assist each other, e.g. launching, unless the other is from the same household. Obviously this prohibits novice pilots from flying or any tests or assessments from taking place. We should walk to / from the pits alone. We should not be talking to others while assembling models in the car park or be helping others in the car park.
While not a requirement, it would also seem appropriate if we wore face masks / covering. Not only do these help (to a small degree) protect each other, but it also looks good to others that we are taking things seriously by going above and beyond what is required. It will also help remind us all not to really talk to each other.
As per the BMFA guidance, you should also use gloves / sanitiser after going through gates etc..
This may seem onerous, but please remember what this is about. The gov have decided that if you should get closer to anyone than 2m, this represents a potential for risk to all our health. If anyone is in doubt, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do and in particular we cannot ‘gather in a group of more than two’ which is where we need to be very careful. Also see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-safe-outside-your-home/staying-safe-outside-your-home which I note says you can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing someone which I believe is where we can work within the new rules and stick to a straight pilot box and flight line.The new rules enable us to go flying, they do NOT permit us to meet up. I trust the distinction is clear.
As always, it is up to all of us individually to take responsibilities for our actions and to accept the consequences of our actions too! If you choose to go flying, stay safe and stay alert.