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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Model Airplanes Receive Attention After Fatal Crash

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The New York Times recently covered the case of a teenage model plane enthusiast who died in a Brooklyn park earlier this month after the remote-controlled plane he was piloting crashed and hit him in the head. The attention the man’s death generated resulted in calls by some to ban the use of remote-controlled planes in the city, with some labeling the hobby a dangerous one.

One prominent voice against the remote-controlled planes is a city councilman who asked that the city suspend all such flights until the incident is investigated more fully. The parks department also announced that it would launch its own investigation into the accident to determine if any changes to park rules should be made to ensure the safety of visitors and hobbyists. Currently, such remote-controlled planes are only allowed to fly in a handful of locations across the city, something devotees are trying to protect.

Experts say that the accident earlier this month has raised a lot of questions about the general safety of piloting model aircraft and worried some about the dangers the small devices pose to operators and innocent passersby. In the past decade several reports of deaths caused by remote-controlled planes were reported across Europe, but closer to home the fatality rate is surprisingly low. According to experts, the recent death is only the second such fatality involving a remote-controlled helicopter in the U.S. in years. The last known death occurred in 2003 when an instructor was killed in Texas after the blades from a student’s model plane struck him in the throat.

The 19-year-old pilot who died was known as an experienced model plane pilot who had developed a following with his YouTube videos. Witnesses say that he was skilled and generally safe, but that he may have been engaged in some aggressive maneuvers at the park prior to the fatal crash.

Model flying enthusiasts say that the accident should serve as a reminder of how dangerous small planes can be. Though many believe they are toys, the fact is remote-controlled aircraft can cause serious harm and are not meant for children to use unsupervised. Several enthusiasts interviewed in the New York Times article noted the cuts and bruises they had received after collisions with their model planes while others discussed how batteries have been known to explode, causing fires and other related injuries. Though the remote-controlled planes can be fun, the recent death highlights how they should also be taken seriously.

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