Posted by Paul Naton on January 20, 2016
A quick update on the US RC citizens vs. the FAA here in the U.S. As of today you are required to register with the FAA if you fly R/C aircraft of any type weighing over 10oz. (My Snipe is under that!) The AMA now advises members to register even though this process is in direct violation of Section 336 which exempts model aircraft from FAA oversight. The AMA has filed some legal motions, the details of which I won't go into here. Of more importance, the 400' foot altitude limit which you had to agree too when registering is going to be revised as a suggestion, and this important clarification may have been fixed already. If you are a member of a Community Organization (AMA) you can fly using those safety guidelines, just as we always have. So NO 400 flight limit if you are a AMA member. Heck, there is no 400' limit period. There is no enforcement possible.
You are registering you as a pilot, and not each model you own!! Have I registered? Nope. And I won't unless it's required to fly a contest. Registration is just plain stupid and impotent. It is illegal as far as I can see. Registration will be over-turned, no doubt. If they guarantee their site and data base is secure, and show me the effectiveness and legality of the program, then I'll sign right up. I don't do everything my Mommy tells me to.
Here is the latest news from the AMA side of things: http://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amagov/2016/01/18/faa-advocacy-meeting-january-15-and-16/
Below is a terrific write-up from Josh Glaab who attended a flight demo with top FAA officials who I think discovered that a 400 foot limit IS ridiculous.
From Josh Glaab who attended a fly in with FAA officials this last weekend:
Good evening all, I went to the Pax River R/C field today in Hollywood, MD, to provide a sailplane demo to Hoot Gibson of the FAA. First of all, this is not the same NASA Astronaut Hoot Gibson but another Hoot. I asked, and no relation and they have never met. Also on hand today was none other than Bob Brown (AMA President) and Rich Hansen (AMA gov’t relations). The FAA's Hoot Gibson is a former F-16/A-10pilot who was doing some work for an FAA contractor (I think that was what he said) until 4 months ago when he was offered a job with the FAA to help them with this UAS issue. Hoot has no background with R/C outside of having are lative who was into some type of FPV R/C.The Pax River guys were fantastic and were hosing this event at their field and we had a lot of different types of R/C including: EDF jets, pattern, large 3-D, very large scale cub, smattering of 40-size electric Arfs, a multi-rotor, and a couple of foam electric sailplane-like aircraft.
Evidently,the Pax River guys are planning to host a RES event in the summer, so stay tuned for that. We had tried to get Hoot to come to Horse Feathers for a dedicated sailplane session, but that didn’t work, but will try again. Initially, Bob Brown said that I was not needed up there today and they “had all the equipment they needed”. Rich Hansen then amended that note and said it would be good to have me there. I suppose that since I was coming they left their competition sailplanes at home today wink emoticon. There were no other sailplanes on the field today outside of an FPV Bixler and Cularis, which are obviously not sailplanes.We had a pilots’ meeting at about noon and talked about the DC issue for a while as well as the general developments as they pertain to R/C. Hoot said that there may be some relief from the DC SIF(?) and that some clubs may get back in action soon.
Not very specific. Several pilots in attendance today were displaced pilots from the DC SIF. Rich Hansen said that there is going to be an “official letter” from the FAA stating that it will be Ok to operate above 400 ft if you are following the safety guidelines of a Community-Based Organization, or CBO (new acronym). There was some discussion about the FAA providing more recognition of the AMA as a CBO, but there was some resistance that if they recognized the AMA (or something official sounding like that) then there would be “many” others to follow. I kind of wonder about that. How many AMAs could there possibly be? Also,how different would a safety code for another CBO be? Hoot did mention something about his relative being a “little loose with the ops rules” and I responded that I felt that the large majority of AMA members were very focused on safety and follow the AMA Safety Code. One more thing to consider is that in the “good old days” we had to follow the AMA Safety Code to get AMA insurance. Now, it is a law that we have to follow theSafety Code, or we will be lawless lawbreakers. I had not connected those dots before today.As soon as the pilots’ meeting adjourned, I was the first one to get in the air (you know me;-)).
I asked Hoot to time me for a10-minute competition flight with my X-2. When I launched they were like “holy cow”. It was just a nominal launch. I even forgot to stake the winch down and itdidn’t move, so I wasn’t hitting it hard at all. It was blowing 10 to 20 and I didn’t really hookup. I managed to get to about 800 ft in some lift downwind, but fell out and only got about 6:30. So back to the pit area as others flew.After about 4 power flights and 30-minutes, there was a short break in the action and I seized the opportunity to get back in the air again with Hoot timing. He was really interested and helpful and met me at the winch. This time a much harder launch and right into a thermal. It was not strong lift, but I managed to get up to about 1,500 ft at about 2,500 ft downwind. I was verbalizing the flight so Hoot knew what I was doing and I showed him how to spot lift and re-center and work the speed for optimum performance. At several points we talked about the altitude of the X-2 and I help him calibrated. Lots of sink coming home and it was obvious why we need to fly high. The X-2 looked fantastic at 1,500 ft and was of course very visible.
Late in the flight a GA plane crossed the field in my vicinity but at about 4k. I was able to spot him easily and determine it was not a factor and point that out to Hoot which was good I think. I finished the flight with some speed and acro and nailed a good landing at the mark. We also talked about the capability of sailplanes get out of the way ofGA aircraft, either in high-speed mode or pure vertical with flaps. Overall a good demo. On the way back to the pits Bob Brown was mad. Evidently I violated the safety line at about ½ mile out and was reprimanded for flying out of turn. Really?Hoot flew Andy Kaine’s(sp?) massive ARF Clipped Wing Cub on the buddy box well over 400 ft, which also was good.
Funny note here but the wing bags for the Cub were actually Coleman sleeping bags. The Pax River field has some ~150 ft trees close to the runway so it was also obvious why even the powered aircraft had to get up to 700 ft to 1,000 ft. There was a fairly hot EDF jet doing large acro and several pattern aircraft operating up to 800 to 1,000 ft. Hoot left before I could demo the DHLG. As far as what is going to happen next, I think we will see relief from the 400 ft altitude limit in writing. I don’t know what is going to happen with the DC-SIF(?), but Horsefeathers is just outside of that (yay!). There was going to be a meeting at the MDRC(?) club meeting this week with the FAA to discuss. That could be an angry mob. I was also shocked at the apparent lack of support from the AMA President for soaring. If I didn’t drive up there today (about 3.5 hours each way) there would have been no sailplanes at all. But I was very impressed with Rich Hansen. Thanks, Josh G.
All prices are in USD.