R/C Models and Corn: A Search & Rescue Nightmare

  • Oct 7, 2013 12:22pm GMT

Whether its R/C models or full scale airplanes, autumn is my favorite season to fly. The cool air and sunny skies make for a very plesant flying experience. And you can't beat fresh corn from the field roasting on the grill. But as delicious as that corn is to eat, it does represent one major hazard to aviation that most of us try to avoid.

I was at the local radio-control flying field last weekend to enjoy a quick flight before heading in to work. I brought my trusty Great Planes Yak-55M with my custom GoPro mount to record some flight videos just for fun. A few other members were already there setting up and chatting so I walked over to see what's up. Over my shoulder I saw someone with a rather large 30% scale aerobat taking off. A few moment later I heard a loud "Woah!" and turned my head just in time to see the airplane descend down rather abruptly into the corn field just south of the runway. Then silence.

He's in the corn. S#*$! When I was training for my big plane license I was taught to avoid cornfields if you need to make an off-field landing because you run a higher risk of damaging the airplane or causing injury. With R/C models you want to avoid landing in corn fields because it's ANNOYING AS HELL!!! This Super Corn stands about 9 feet tall and is so thick that you can barely see two rows over. Your chance of finding your airplane in that agricultural labyrinth is quite slim.

The irony in this case is that the pilot launched this flight with a GoPro camera mounted to the bottom hoping to find some of the dozens of airplanes that have previously met their fate of corn field purgatory. Since my plane also had a camera mounted on it I thought maybe I can follow his lead and try to spot his most recently crashed plane with my camera.

I launched my Yak and headed over the area where I saw his plane go down. With the camera mounted in the pilot's seat looking forward there was only one way to get the camera pointed at the crash site. After climbing the plane a couple hundred feet in the air I chopped the power and pointed it straight at the ground. After diving a few seconds I pulled up shortly above the corn (no need to add another airplane to the party) and climed up for another spotting run. After a few more dives I landed and plugged the camera's card in to my computer to review the footage.

The photo above is a frame grab from one of my rescue dives. See anything? Ya, us neither. It was a good idea in theory but getting usable results proved to be very difficult. As it turns out spotting an R/C plane in a corn field from 100ft with a wide-angle camera is harder than finding Waldo in a shopping mall. I did three different flights with about 5 dives each and didn't see anything resembling a lost and lonely airplane.

Eventually the four guys that went searching in the field emerged successfully with the airplane. Unfortunately, however, each person was carrying a different piece. Teamwork, logic, and a bit of luck played a role in their search success. But there has to be an easier way. We're in the future--the world of iPhones, GPS, and gluten-free pizza. Surely there must be some gadget that can make finding a lost airplane in easier. (cont'd next page)