On August 14, 2010, at approximately 6 p.m., a Shpakow SA 750 bi-plane was substantially damaged when it collided with a large scale radio controlled airplane that was hovering over the airport runway. While the bi-plane’s pilot and his passenger were not injured, this latest incident does not bode well for the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

According to video of the accident and multiple witnesses, the radio controlled airplane was maneuvering over runway 12 when the bi-plane (seen flying from the left to right in the video) collided; substantially damaging the Shpakow SA 750 bi-plane and completely destroying the model aircraft. The bi-plane was able to land without further incident and upon examination the bi-plane revealed that the left lower wing spar had been crushed

In an article published by the Brighton Standard Blade in Colorado, Dick Knapinski, communications director for the Experimental Aircraft Association, said if the air show was at a public airport, there would have been rules in place. But because it was at the Van Aire air strip and was a radio-controlled event, then no rules governed the event.

“While the FAA does have authority over radio control aircraft, there is seldom a need to exercise such authority,” he said. “I can’t speak to exactly what the particular circumstances were at this event as to how it was controlled or whether the R/C (radio-controlled) model or the pilot of the aircraft was supposed to be in the airspace. It is a situation I don’t recall ever happening before.”

The AMA organization responded by saying, “…clearly [this is] a situation where the use of a spotter was appropriate [and that] the single largest contributing factor in this mishap was the decision to allow concurrent full-scale and RC operations.”

Additionally, in a communication sent to its members the AMA stated, “There has been a fair amount of finger-pointing as a result of this incident; however, there’s little to be gained by assigning blame. It’s extremely fortunate that the outcome of this incident was not more severe, and it’s important that we learn from this experience and apply the lessons toward ensuring the safety of future aeromodeling operations.”

For more information regarding this incident and ongoing investigation visit the FAA’s Aviation Accident Database and search for the NTSB Identification# CEN10LA487A.