Your questions answered-
Many non-AMA members fly at sites other than established model aviation fields (ie: AMA clubs). How will this impact the new regulations and how will the new role for AMA address this?
Rich Hanson, leader of the AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs:
We won’t know for sure how the FAA will address the non-AMA modeler until the proposed sUAS rule is published in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) slated for release later this spring.
However, it’s clear that the provisions provided in the recent FAA reauthorization bill do not apply to model aircraft operations conducted outside the safety programming of a nationwide community-based organization. Therefore, it’s easily assumed that the proposed rule will establish minimum safety criteria for what I call the non participating modeler. And, I suspect this criteria will be relatively restrictive as to what, where and how these individuals can operate model aircraft.
Most of us are familiar with club flying sites that are controlled and managed by an AMA chartered club, and where AMA membership is required to fly at the site. However, there are many locations where both AMA members and non members fly. Most of these are established public flying sites; however, there are a few locations where MA operations occur in a more casual or unstructured fashion. Exactly how the rules will be established for these locations is yet to be determined.
Assuming the FAA does establish minimum MA safety criteria in the sUAS regulation, this will then become the operating requirements for the non participating modelers and for all model aircraft operations conducted outside of AMA’s safety program. It would follow that this criteria will become the default rules for locations where non participating modelers are allowed to operate. At public flying sites where both AMA members and non members are allowed to fly it will be left to the public authority to establish the rules for their facility. Nevertheless, AMA intends to work proactively with the public entities to encourage them to adopt AMA’s safety programming in order to afford the greatest latitude in the MA operations.
At other locations where both AMA members and non members fly, the criteria established in the sUAS rule will still apply. However, it will be left to the landowner or the local authorities to determine whether MA operations will be conducted under the sUAS rule or to adopt the safety programming of a community-based organization.
In any case AMA and its standards development workgroup are working hard to protect both public and private flying sites as well as the AMA member’s ability to fly from ad hoc locations.
AMA is not and will not be responsible for model aircraft operations conducted outside of AMA’s safety program and will not be responsible for the actions of the non participating modelers. Enforcement of the safety criteria established in the sUAS rule will be left to the FAA.
Rich Hanson AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Please see page 118 of the March issue of Model Aviation magazine. this details an Altitude Limited Electric s event. Their altitude is limited to 200 meters under power. How is this going to continue to be held with the 400 ft altitude limit being constantly refered to in the FAA regulations and proposed regulations?
Carl, If you read through the MA section in the FAA reauthorization bill you will notice that the 400′ limitation is not mentioned. AMA is doing everything it can to ensure events like the “Altitude Limited Electric” event you mentioned will be able to continue in the future.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Somebody at AMA gets credit for getting this into the bill – nice job! This is the best way to ensure that the followup regulations don’t get out of control – get limits built into the funding authorization.
I don’t necessarily agree with your read on the bill as it pertains to non-AMA modelers, and I would recommend that you
consider a different tack. As I read this, I don’t see that you have to be an AMA member like us, or even know about the AMA. Sec 336 (a) 2 just requires operation ‘within the programming of a nationwide…..organization’. “Within the programming” is a deliberately vague term that some bureaucrats will try to make more definitive. I’d make that effort extremely difficult, if I were you. This is something I’ve done a lot of in my work supporting an airport inside the National Capitol Region controls.
Here’s how I’d approach it – just like the manufacturers do today, ask them to print these requirements (which are pretty much the same as what we have now) on the box, and show the FAA that the requirements are printed on each box, and you’ve complied. Push them to keep it that simple. Don’t let them go down the road of saying “Well, you’ve got to meet the requirements of Item # 1 AND Item #2 AND….etc, etc…. ” Push to meet just one – “One & Done” is a watchword we’ve used here near the Beltway.
Keep up the good work !
Dennis B. Boykin IV
Chairman, Leesburg Executive Airport Commission
SEC. 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into
Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if—
(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming
of a nationwide community-based organization;
(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction,
inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport
air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft
operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating
procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).
(b) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue
enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.
(c) MODEL AIRCRAFT DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—
(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and
(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.
Thanks Dennis, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind…
The intent of the language in the Bill and FAA’s intent for that matter has been pretty clear from the onset. The intent is to create relatively restrictive criteria for modelers who choose not to participate in a structured safety program while providing greater latitude in the MA operations for those who do.
The FAA approach for those participating in a structured safety program has been the establishment of acceptable MA “standards” adopted through a Notice of Applicability.
The approach in the FAA reauthorization bill is to recognize the effectiveness of a ‘community-based’ safety program such as AMA’s and exempt from regulation those participating in such a program.
AMA has gone on record as opposing the two path approach altogether; however, between the two approaches, we favor the congressional approach.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
I’m grtaeful you made the post. It’s cleared the air for me.
I am an AMA member in California. I often fly my electric RC planes at a public county park which allows electric RC aircraft but is not connected to the sanctions of the AMA or any club. Some very brief basic safety rules are posted on a sign (keep clear of people, trails, parking lots and structures). AMA and non-AMA members are allowed to fly there. Does my AMA insurance cover me for liability when I fly at at that site?
Also, if I fly my electric RC plane at a public school ground or any non-regulated private property, does my AMA insurance cover me for liability in that case as well?
Wayne, The simple answer is your AMA liability insurance covers you wherever you fly.
As an AMA member you have agreed to comply with and must follow AMA’s Safety Code and related safety guidelines wherever you fly. It’s unlikely the basic safety rules posted on the sign conflict with the AMA Safety Code; however, keep in mind… You must always comply with the AMA Safety Code, and the safety code requires that you comply with all locally established rules and restrictions.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Great answer! Thanks so much for that clarification and fast response too!
Everyone seems to understand this section and that section of the “bill”. I don’t.
I need to know: Is it alright to fly my electric glider from a nearby schoolyard. The school doesn’t object – but has the federa government now become involved? And what is it that they want?
Richard, Currently there are no federal regulations in effect in regards to operating model aircraft.
If you are an AMA member… You have agreed to comply with and must follow AMA’s Safety Code and related safety guidelines in terms of where, what and how you fly your model aircraft.
If you’re not an AMA member you are expected to comply with FAA’s “Model Aircraft Operating Standards” established in AC 91-57.
The FAA is currently in the process of developing new regulations for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) to include model aircraft and is expected to release its proposed rule in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) later this spring. Once the NPRM is published, this will be your opportunity to weigh in and comment on the FAA’s proposed rules for model aviation.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Thank you for taking the time to address all of these questions. As a former airline pilot, licensed ATP, CFI-I/MEI, I know how confusing FAA regs can be. I just looked at AC 91-57, which — to be honest — I didn’t even know existed. It’s so open-ended that, frankly, it makes me wonder why someone who doesn’t fly at an AMA field, or otherwise use the AMA’s benefits, wouldn’t just give up their AMA membership and fly under 91-57. Would the impending new rules do away with 91-57?
David, Yes, once the model aircraft provisions within the FAA reauthorization bill are enacted and the sUAS rule is finalized and implemented, AC 91-57 will be rescinded. Barring any dramatic changes in FAA’s approach to the sUAS rule, once it’s all said and done the modeler will have the choice of either joining AMA and operating under AMA’s safety program or complying with the MA criteria established in the sUAS regulation.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Rich Hanson wrote, quote,
“AMA is not and will not be responsible for model aircraft operations conducted outside of AMA’s safety program and will not be responsible for the actions of the non participating modelers. Enforcement of the safety criteria established in the sUAS rule will be left to the FAA.”
Does this mean that as an AMA member, who flies out of a neighbors field, I will not be flying under the so called “AMA safety program”, and would be subject to the more onerous sUAS rule? The AMA, earlier quote,
“will not be responsible for the actions of the non participating modelers”.
This sounds like, even as an AMA member, flying at a non AMA field, I will not have legal, or liability coverage from my AMA membership.
Please clarify this.
Ray, By in large, as an AMA member you will be allowed to operate under AMA’s programming wherever you fly. If you are flying by yourself you must comply with the AMA Safety Code and follow AMA’s safety program; however, you still must be cognizant of any rules established by the landowner. The landowner will always have the prerogative of determining whether to use the default rules established in regulation or adopt AMA’s safety program. If non AMA members are allowed to operate at the neighbors field then the default rules would apply.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
I really feel that this is unfair. Due to the fact that people who are not apart of the ama we have to suffer with stricter rules. This is depressing because i would have joined the ama but the closest field to my house is pretty much two hours away. I basically have to drive 4 hours to be able to fly. I have a huge park behind my house which I always fly at, and now its being threatened. Why do I have to suffer? Its not my fault theirs no ama field near my house. I fly on an everyday basis and don’t have the time for a 2 hour trip to an ama field and a 2 hour trip back home. I dont believe it’s right to have to join a club to be able to fly model airplanes.
It’s like saying you need to join a running club and run in club santioned locations in order to be able to run without strict regulations being imposed; such as not running to fast or only being able to run certain distances.
Can I at least fly in the park behind my house if i join the ama, even if the park isn’t an ama field? At least that would be somewhat fair..
I believe that the people who arn’t in the ama didn’t represent themselves and becuase of that we got the short end of the stick. I’m pretty sure the FAA rules say you can fly without to many regulations if you are in ‘Community-Based’ program becuase the AMA wanted this.
I have nothing against the ama and am happy that they fought for aero modeling but feel as though they stuctured things to their benefit. Flying should by a right to anyone who enjoys it, and poeple should not have to be forced to join a club in order to fly without strict regulations.
Roma, I really don’t disagree with you in that there is a fairness issue surrounding FAA’s two-path approach to establishing safety criteria for aeromodeling operations. AMA went on record early on and continues to be in opposition to the two-path approach.
However, for clarification, you do not have to fly from an AMA club field to participate in AMA’s safety program and enjoy the privileges of AMA membership. AMA’s liability insurance covers you wherever you fly and AMA’s safety program is designed to provide appropriate safety guidance for model aircraft operations at AMA chartered club fields as well as other ad hoc locations.
Please keep in mind, the landowner will always have the prerogative of determining what safety rules apply at any given location. As an AMA member you agree to comply with the AMA Safety Code and the safety code requires that you comply with any locally established rules and restrictions.
And yes, you can fly in the park behind your house under AMA’s safety program provided your community doesn’t prohibit you from doing so.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
I think through the years the AMA has demonstrated more than any other entity that certain groups can successfully govern themselves. I urge anyone that flies ANYWHERE to join the AMA. It just makes sense. The liability insurance alone and the low (VERY LOW) cost in itself should encourage non-members to join. When the Federal Government makes a decision in our favor I’m sure it has reflected on our past safety record and personal injury/property damage insurance and our pledge to fly safely under self-imposed rules/regulations and guidelines. I am equally sure that if some barely English speaking person with no general interest in Model Aviation seeks out a club (mine, for instance)to learn how to fly his first plane that is obviously not a beginner’s aircraft, but a large payload capable delivery system, an AMA Club being aware of WHY our hobby has been threatened would see the Red Flags and report it through the proper channels! Which is something a flying school failed to do when Middle-Easterners took a pilot’s course and had no interest in learning how to land an aircraft safely, which is exactly what happened just before 9-11.
I urge anyone who chooses not to join the AMA to familiarize yourself with our mission statement and go ahead and follow us through channels such as this, visit our website and generally respect our hobby and equipment as we do.
Bill Langreder AMA# 897084
I agree with Bill 1000%!
This is all about keeping our freedom to fly and enjoy our hobby in today’s highly legalative society where one person’s careless action can result in it’s loss for all.
Thankfully the AMA has stopped, for the present, the proposal of highly restrictive laws aimed at our R/C flying…. or we can always go back to U/C flying!
Dear fellow aviators:
Without a doubt, praise is due the AMA for their attentive involvement with the FAA’s Proposed Rulemaking process. We, the membership, as an organization, are due some credit for maintaining our participation in the AMA, as there is strength in numbers. We should also take pride in the great tradition that is the spine of the AMA as well as our parent international organization. That is the recognition that the operation of unmanned aircraft in a safe manner, and the establishment of operating regulations, was our own responsibility for the protection of the aircraft operators, as well as persons and property surrounding them. The attributes of size, the attitude that safety is first, and a long and truly impressive record of cooperative operation in a safe and courteous manner enables the FAA to recognize us as a competent authority on the subject. This is one of so many things that makes AMA membership more than “just insurance”. To all current members, thank you for joining up, and joining me. [Insert plug here: any non-members out there, come on in! You members: Always Be Recruiting!]
There seems to be a slight degree of defensive panic that the FAA will regulate RC aircraft, an edge to the difference between a “club flyer”, a “park flyer” or “field flyer”, and confusion over some vagueness in language. Gee, a bill assembled by the government with some confusing language. That’s odd. (!)
At the root of our tension is liberty. We don’t like people messing with our liberty, and how many things represent liberty better than fleeing “the surly bonds of Earth”, defying gravity, taking flight? Our liberty, my liberty, is defended in the big, real, scary (non-scale, non-replica, non-model) world by the brave people of our armed forces. It was quite a thrill when, as seen in a documentary, an American soldier in uniform picked up the brand name and model of transmitter that I own and use, and demonstrated a military application of RC, which would soon come to be known as “unmanned aircraft”. We need to be brave enough to talk about the potential for threats against liberty, life and property if the technology we innocently enjoy can be as easily obtained by those with evil intent.
This subject closely parallels another fiercely defended liberty granted to us called “The right to keep and bear arms”. We must understand that there was a time when firearms were entirely unregulated, and we must admit that we’re thankful that they now are. Government regulations (that’s our government) don’t interfere with our use of firearms, they keep safe those of us that own and operate them responsibly. Sure there are regulations that ensure you get a certificate of safety training from a “community-based organization” before you can get a hunting license (at least in my state). You need a permit under special circumstances, such as to own a handgun or a working antique cannon. That doesn’t mean all gun activities are regulated, but they must follow some laws. I can own a rifle or shotgun and take it out back and shoot targets or clays without any permission or license required. No regulation, as long as it’s a legal firearm. There is a law (“rule”) that says a firearm can’t be discharged within the village limits, and one that says they can’t be used within 500 feet of a dwelling. Those are established rules. They are there only to be enforced if someone defies these common-sense, responsible rules of use. Oh yeah, and I can’t have grenades or a machine gun. Seems sensible.
The words “flown for hobby or recreational purposes” and “within line of sight” are the written definitions used here. Using the legalese decoder ring, that indicates the FAA has absolutely no interest in regulating an 18” electric park flyer, or someone making lazy circles over a corn field, any more than ATF wants to regulate your paintball gun. The FAA (and probably Homeland Security) would take an interest if you have a 12-foot wingspan with cameras on board and you’re flying it over the state capitol from inside a black van a half-mile away (like the soldier in the aforementioned documentary). A little common sense goes a long way here.
The language in this draft that discusses AMA and clubs is in fact more of a protection of existing liberties, as the real meaning of its words is to state that operations by the membership of organizations like the AMA, a self-regulated group with a serious focus on safety which sanctions sites and activities, will not be the subject of further regulation.
Are we forgetting that we already operate under government regulations? The Federal Communications Commission regulates the frequencies and power output of our radios. Local noise ordinances apply to RC models as well as any other excessive noise. Hazardous chemical regulations apply to shipping certain quantities of glow fuel. Installations at our fields must comply with zoning ordinances, building permits, electrical codes, and other environmental health and safety rules.
I’m an “off-airport” flyer, as the bush pilots of Alaska call it. I call it barnstorming. “…operated in accordance with a…set of safety guidelines” defines my adventures afield. No overflying unprotected people or property. No incendiary devices. 400-foot ceiling within three miles of an airport, giving right-of-way to full scale aircraft. Regardless of the new rules, I don’t imagine anyone viewing these activities as suspicious, or a threat to people or property. However, if you’re in a park, it doesn’t matter if you don’t even own an RC plane, you still can’t do unsafe things! If you blast your model rocket off from the wooden play place and set it on fire, you may be charged with some offense for your recklessness. If you throw your boomerang at people walking by, or continually pelt picnickers with your football, you may be expelled! Bottom line is, if you’re an AMA member or not, it is our behavior, not our pursuits, which define the difference between safe recreation and recklessness or threats.
This applies to newly proposed rules, existing rules and insurance concerns. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’d wager that your AMA insurance will not cover you if you’re participating in reckless, unsafe or illegal behavior even if your AMA card is taped to your forehead and you’re on the line at AMA headquarters in Muncie. Did someone mention that some common sense is in order?
One last thought. One of my best barnstorming adventures happened well after the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. I had the honor of flying my RC aircraft out over the Hudson River, from a spot where George Washington stood while fighting for the very liberties we now enjoy. As a contractor, I expected the soldier at the gate of this U.S. Army post (wielding a firearm I can’t own legally) to ask me why I would be bringing an RC airplane in. After explaining my love for RC and penchant for barnstorming, and my anxiety that the plane would be disallowed, the soldier replied “No, that’s cool. They fly on post all the time!”, and he proceeded to direct me to the heliport of the distinguished United States Military Academy at West Point!
Let’s remember that there are RC enthusiasts, and AMA members in our own armed forces, among NASA astronauts, among the pilots of commercial airlines. Licensed full-scale pilots fly RC, join our clubs and sometimes visit them with their full scale aircraft! Safety professionals and aircraft engineers, and probably every government agency we deal with: the FCC, congress, local government and law enforcement, and, yes, even the FAA, make up the membership of the AMA.
Let’s put our hands together and our best foot forward as an organization. Not as a concern in a fight against our government’s regulations, but as fellow citizens of this democracy, leaders and authorities on the subject at hand, in our continuing pursuit to insure the safety, longevity and liberties of our hobby in a responsible manner.
Scott R. O’Connor
Sharon Springs, New York
To your knowledge, is there anything in this bill that limits the community based safety standard to being only the AMA’s, or would it be possible to create another community based organization with its own safety code and fly within its “programming” (whatever the heck that means)? The reason I ask is because I fly FPV, which has been met with very little acceptance by the AMA. Most FPV flyers are not AMA members and do not fly at AMA clubs, for the simple reason that AMA clubs are almost universally hostile toward FPV flying and the AMA imposes such restrictive safety rules (particularly the buddy box rule–which no FPV flyer in the country follows and most believe makes FPV less safe, not more) that it’s not worth it. Complying with the AMA safety code has never been an option for us, and never will be until the AMA relaxes its rules on FPV.
One idea that has been bandied about in various forums is for American FPVers to create our own “community based organization,” similar to what FPVers in Britain have had to do with the organization FPV UK. We would have our own safety code which would be as broad as the law would possibly allow. I expect at least initially the organization would be little more than a website with the safety code and maybe nominal dues for members, though it would of course be incorporated as an official non-profit organization.
I have two questions for you:
1. Do you see any reason why a group of RC flyers could not create their own community based organization with its own safety code and meet the criteria in the bill?
2. What does the bill mean by “programming” and what would the organization need to have in order to have programming which people follow? If it has a safety code which people follow when they fly, and those people are members of the organization, is that sufficient to be within the “programming” of the organization?
Patrick, the reference to a community-based organization in the FAA reauthorization bill is certainly not intended to be limited to AMA. However, the confidence and recognition given to community-based safety programming is certainly a reflection of the work done by the AMA over the past 75 years and the excellent safety record achieved by the aeromodeling community.
The Conference Committee report within the Bill defines a nationwide community-based organization as, “a membership based association that represents the aeromodeling community within the United States; provides its members a comprehensive set of safety guidelines that underscores safe aeromodeling operations within the National Airspace System and the protection and safety of the general public on the ground; develops and maintains mutually supportive programming with educational institutions, government entities and other aviation associations; and acts as a liaison with government agencies as an advocate for its members”.
Please keep in mind that the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft” in Section 336 applies to model aircraft as defined in the Bill. Specifically, an unmanned aircraft that is — flown for hobby or recreational purposes, and flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft. It also requires that the model aircraft be operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft. It certainly begs the question as to whether the aircraft is in visual line of sight of the operator once the FPV operator dawns the goggles and whether the FPV operator can effectively see, avoid and give way to any manned aircraft.
AMA’s guidance for the operation of FPV in Document 550 requires the primary pilot to maintain unaided visual line of sight of the model aircraft while the FPV pilot is allowed to manipulate the controls through the use of a buddy box. Doing so allows the primary pilot to maintain override control of the model aircraft, maintain visual line of sight of the aircraft and observe the surrounding airspace, and to effectively see and avoid any manned aircraft should there be an airspace conflict.
Community-based safety programming certainly goes well beyond a simple set of safety rules. It involves a process by which the activity is examined and analyzed; where data is collected and trend analysis conducted; where the risks are assessed and mitigation measures are conceived, reviewed and validated; and where the wellbeing of the general public is safeguarded and liability coverage for the operator provided. It is where leadership and oversight is established and participant feedback is sought and earnestly considered. It is also an ongoing process of informing and educating the community, of pledged compliance combined with an infrastructure that reinforces compliance through pear to pear interaction. Meaningful and effective safety programming requires commitment from the leadership; involvement, acceptance and compliance by the community and a process of continual review and improvement. AMA has been developing its safety program for years and it is still a work in progress.
AMA is very much supportive of FPV operations and will continue to provide safety guidance for FPV enthusiasts in its safety program. The fact that the FPV community feels that AMA’s guidelines are excessively restrictive and that “no FPV flyer in the country follows” them is unfortunate.
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
Let me put in my 2¢ as an ex-member.
One: The dues are a hardship if your on unemployment or social security. The half hour trip to the nearest flying site is ,most of the time, beyond my budget.
Two: That flying site is public, under the stewardship of an AMA charted club. The safety rules are enforced by members and non-members alike, including me the few times that I am there.
Three: The way I read the ruling is the FAA is holding up the AMA safety program as a “gold standard” as it should be.
Fly safe…or don’t fly.
First I appreciate the hard work AMA is doing but what gets my blood going is “community based” that term alone is an infringement on our freedoms, a friendly term by the Government to impose it’s will on the people.
AMA shouldn’t have to constantly stand up against the FAA over this issue and the FAA needs to listen to the people.
We the people need to fear a Government that doesn’t fear us.
If you are a modeler and you are not telling your Congress person or Senator that for a FACT if FAA passes this bill with any attachment that will change model flying the way you know it, you and anyone you can get on board with you will work to vote them out of office. They will hear you, believe me.
Hi im Joel i just got my AMA LICENSE NUMBER by email. My Q is do i have to have my Mailed in license on me on or can just print the email and have that on me until it gets in?
Joel, it is recommended that you put your AMA number of your aircraft, but that is not a requirement. The FAA does requires that your FAA registration number be placed on or in the aircraft, so as long at your FAA registration number is on the plane you are FAA approved to fly. I have seen small labels that allow for both AMA number and FAA registration numbers, so that is another option.
Thank’s you guys are the best.
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