An Important Propeller Safety Reminder from Steve Ramonczuk!

Spirits own Steve Ramonczuk was gracious enough to allow us to post the following safety incident report and important propeller safety message. As most of you are aware, Steve has been an aircraft mechanic for decades and understands how important the communication of safety accident details can be in preventing future aviation incidents. Steve didn’t hesitate to allow me to take pictures and share his story when I asked. Thanks Steve!

The membership wishes you a speedy recovery and we are all thankful that the extent of the damage was merely a flesh wound and no tendons or critical circulatory system components were damaged! All indications are that his flying will not be impacted by the incident although I suspect he will focus on his trains until he gets the courage back to climb onto the horse again soon.

The Incident Details:

This past Sunday, July 26th, Steve and Friends were enjoying a wonderful day at the field with blue skies and calm winds. Unfortunately his day was going to take a more memorable turn than he had hoped. He dropped a battery in his airplane and walked out to the flight line like he has done hundreds of times before.

For those unfamiliar with the new 1.2m E-Flite Opterra, like so many airplanes, it requires a hand-launch and has its power system in a pusher configuration. The Opterra has a skid on the bottom that also is intended to provide a grip to toss it gently into the air with one hand while you wrangle your radio with the other. The Opterra is also equipped with a folding propeller, giving the flyer an additional sense of safety. When Steve throttled up and attempted to toss the plane like he had so many times before, it slipped out of his grasp and proceeded to essentially fly across the top of his wrist allowing the propeller to lacerate the top of his hand 5 times in almost equidistant spacing!

Thankfully, Help was Available:

Luckily for Steve, there were several people at the field to provide him with a helping hand (Pun intended). Spirits Vice President Dave Harrington rendered first aid to the wound while Dave Brown and several others collected Steve’s belongings and stowed them in his car. Steve wrapped his hand in a towel he happened to have handy in his car and Dave Harrington was nice enough to take Steve to the Emergency Room where he received treatment for his injuries and returned to the field several hours later. By the look of the pictures, it appears that at least 30 sutures were required to close the wounds. As you can see below, a substantial amount of blood was lost as a result of the injury.

Lessons Learned / Reminders:

As unfortunate as these things are, it is important that members other than Steve have the opportunity to learn something from the accident. In addition, it is also important for the club to review the situation and improve as well. The following important lessons were learned:

  1. These airplanes we fly are NOT toys and can cause serious damage to property and your flesh.
  2. Accidents happen quickly and when you least expect it.
  3. Luckily for Steve, he had a lot of support from other members to help him with first aid, collect his property and stow it securely in his car as well as drive him to the ER.
  4. Steve and Dave Harrington were very aware of the location of the First Aid kit but we need to remind everyone that it is located in the pavilion near the bulletin board.
  5. The contents of the First Aid kit will be reviewed for materials that are adequate for more serious lacerations. Although we have some minor bandages and rubbing alcohol for cleaning wounds, we really need to make sure we stock it with more substantial wound care for hemorrhages including potentially a tourniquet and quick clotting treatment for serious lacerations.
  6. We will be conducting training on how to handle severe lacerations as a safety topic at a future meeting.

Key Takeaway:

This is the 3rd such incident that I have witnessed in the last 3 years here at the club.

  1. A reminder to all members how dangerous it can be to be flying alone. Particularly when hand starting and/or tuning an engine and hand launching aircraft.
  2. We should all consider wearing a heavy glove or using a chicken stick when interacting with the airplane propeller.
  3. Consider having a helper hand launch your aircraft or use a different technique particularly with pusher prop aircraft such as using a catapult or throwing it from the wingtip instead of from below the fuselage.

Thanks again Steve for being willing to share your story so that others might learn something from your experience!

Ralph Grant, Spirits of St. Louis Flying Club President

Remember to be safe out there and happy flying!

2 thoughts on “An Important Propeller Safety Reminder from Steve Ramonczuk!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.