Model Flying Sites – Risk Assessment Procedures



The risk assessment process involves: –

  1. Identification of hazards
  2. Evaluation of risks the hazards produce
  3. Implementation of measures to control those hazards, ending in acceptable risk

The process intention is to identify what hazards there are, the seriousness of each hazard, how likely they are to happen (RISK) and to apply the following simple arithmetical calculation to numerically quantify a risk factor.

Risk Factor = Severity of Hazard x Likelihood of Occurrence

There needs to be a common-sense approach to the results but this does not mean that serious risks should be ignored just because the solution is hard or inconvenient.

Having identified the Hazards and ascertaining there level of risk, a simple process needs to be followed to reduce the risk until it is deemed an acceptable risk to the club. There are a number of ways of tackling them. The preferred order for doing this is:

  1. Elimination
  2. Substitution
  3. Enclosure
  4. Guarding / segregation of people
  5. Safe systems of operation that reduce the risk to an acceptable level
  6. Written procedures that are known and understood by all affected
  7. Adequate supervision
  8. Identification of training needs
  9. Information and instruction including necessary signs etc
  10. Personal protective equipment


The evaluation of risk is the process known as “Risk Assessment.”

A “competent person” should perform this assessment. This could be an experienced model flyer within the club, who may or may not be on the committee, and who can demonstrate a thorough knowledge of model flying operations by experience and possibly with MFNZ status as an Instructor or Inspector.

Where clubs, perhaps newly formed, have no access to such a person, in this case the Assessor should be the most experienced club member(s) in conjunction with external assistance from MFNZ.

Because risk assessment has a subjective element and is unlikely to be carried out by a Risk Management professional, it makes sense if two or three people do the assessment on a consensus basis. It is not suggested that more than this number are involved or it becomes a committee and might not reach a workable outcome.

Risk assessment for model-flying clubs must take into account all relevant information, including:

  1. All current legislation (with best practice adopted and no contraventions)
    • Civil Aviation Authority e.g. – regulations, height, airspace, airfield proximity etc.
    • MFNZ e.g. – frequencies, insurance requirements, weight restrictions, code of practice etc.
    • MFNZ SIG Codes of Practice e.g – use of jet turbines, etc.
    • Local By-laws, District Plans and restrictions e.g. – shared use of sites, noise etc.
    • Agreement with the land owner or lessor. e.g. – no conflict with safety requirements.
  2. Identification of all known hazards

A “Risk Assessment Template” has been provided to assist clubs complete a risk assessment for each of their flying sites.

If any hazards that need to be addressed are identified as a result of the risk assessment process, then a second form should be completed after changes have been made and a revised score recorded.

All risk assessment documents should be retained as permanent records of the club and be readily available for inspection by governmental and local body authorities.


Risks associated with flying model aircraft fall into two distinct groups viz: –

Group A – Risks that are common to all model flying locations

These arise from the process of flying model aircraft.

There is a great deal of variation between model sites – size, proximity of parking areas to runways etc etc. and there may be several ways each of these risks can be mitigated.

Accordingly each club will select control measures most suited to their location and the “Risk Factor Score” will quantify the risk before and following implementation of control measures.

Group B – Risks that are specific to each model flying location

These arise from topographical and site characteristics e.g. the proximity of a major road to the flying site, nearby residential area etc.

Risks from both of these groups are derived from three overarching categories – Environmental, Mechanical and Human.

Environmental – Any aspect of the physical environment that may present a risk to the operations being conducted. This may include, but not limited to:

        • Grounds layout
        • Airspace covering the flight envelope
        • Meteorological
        • Positioning of spectators
        • Radio spectrum

Mechanical – Any aspect of the equipment being used for the successful operations being conducted, normally only of a physical nature. This may include, but not limited to:

        • Aircraft construction
        • Aircraft certification
        • Radio equipment
        • Batteries
        • Fuel

Human – Any aspect relating to the person or persons operating the equipment, both physical and mental. This may include, but not limited to:

        • Operator physical – e.g. ability to be positioned effectively, line of sight to aircraft
        • Operator qualifications
        • Physiological considerations
        • Operations within limitations
        • Safety Management


For each identified risk a risk factor is calculated using the assessed severity and likely frequency of occurrence. The following “scores/values” are for use in the Risk Assessment “Before & After” Control Measures evaluation process.

Potential severity (A)


Frequency (B)


Risk Factor

A x B

Trivial 1 Highly unlikely occurrence 1 0–5 Low
Minor injury / cost 2 Possible occurrence 2
Serious injury / moderate cost 3 Quite possible occurrence 3 6-15 medium
Fatality / high cost 4 Likely occurrence 4 16–25 High
Major – multiple deaths 5 High occurrence 5


Once the assessment has identified the risk factors associated with each identified risk then the following gives an indication of how quickly the action plan to eliminate/reduce the risk should be completed. The risk is then reassessed and the Residual risk also added to the template to show the improvement achieved.

Score A x B

1 – 5

No action required
Score A x B

6 – 15

“MODERATE RISK – Planned action required within a reasonable time scale ( say 28 days)
Score A x B

16 – 25

HIGH RISK – IMMEDIATE action required. This must be dealt with urgently – flying must cease until problem(s) rectified.

Remedial Actions should state an actionable outcome to address the risk appropriately. Where required, the actions should be communicated to all applicable parties in a timely manner.

The various avenues for communication include the following:

        • Local Club Rules
        • Local Event documentation (Annexed as Safety Plan)
        • Pilot Briefings
        • Club Newsletters
        • Websites – MFNZ and local club
        • Information Circulars for participants


A “Risk Assessment Template” has been developed to assist clubs undertake and document a risk assessment for each of their flying sites.

This process should be undertaken at least every two years or when a new risk or change to an existing risk occurs.


MFNZ gratefully acknowledges the assistance of: –

  • The Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA), and
  • New Zealand Jet Modellers Association (NZJMA)

in the preparation of this document.