Interpretive Rule public comment period ends – 9/23

On June 23, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration published an Interpretive Rule that establishes the agency’s interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft provided by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This interpretation significantly alters the congressional intent of the Special Rule that was designed to protect model aircraft from onerous regulation, and it dramatically impacts the aeromodeling community by establishing new criteria and operating standards that model airplanes have never been subject to in the past.

AMA believes that the Interpretive Rule is contrary to Congress’ stated prohibition from creating ANY new rule or regulation regarding model aircraft. And, by creating new standards and operating criteria, the Rule is effectively a legislative rule and is not in compliance with the rulemaking procedures mandated by Congress in the Administrative Procedure Act.

To date thousands of AMA members, concerned modelers and members of the aeromodeling community have submitted comments to the Interpretive Rule, and we thank you for making your views known and for participating in this important process.

For those that have not yet commented, the deadline for doing so is rapidly approaching. If you’re still undecided as to whether or not you should make comment, consider asking yourself the following:

•   Are you a modeling enthusiast?
•   Do you enjoy flying First Person View?
•   Are you a sponsored pilot, fly in competitive events, or enjoy watching companies demonstrate product?
•   Do you fly within 5 miles of one of the more than 17,000 airports in the US?
•   Does your club manage its own flying site in a safe and responsible manner?
•   Do you or your club fly in “controlled airspace”?
•   Do you know every rule and regulation pertaining to the National Airspace System?

This is a complex issue and many of our members have asked that we provide a simplified explanation, and suggested comments to the Interpretive Rule. Click the link below to find a simplified explanation as to just what this rule means to the average modeler. Also included are AMA’s viewpoints and an explanation of the commenting process.

What can I do to help?

The administrative rulemaking notice and comment process is the means by which the FAA can address these concerns and make any definitive changes to the rule. Your comments need to be detailed, meaningful and constructive.

We are asking all of our members and everyone who has an interest in the future of model aviation to participate in this process.Go here to read the simplified explanation of the Interpretive Rule and to follow the guide to submitting your comments.

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  1. When you say that the FAA has creating new standards and operating criteria, what specific new standards and operating criteria are you referring to? I have been unable to identify any such new standards and operating criteria in a very careful and thorough painstaking reading of the interpretation.

    1. David, The Interpretive Rule establishes several standards and operating criteria in regards to operating model aircraft that modelers have never been subject to in the past… not the least of which is now having to obtain prior ATC approval before flying a Vapor in your backyard when in Class, B, C or D Airspace. You might want to take another look at section IV of the Interpretive Rule, “Examples of Regulations that Apply to Model Aircraft”. This section list a myriad of regulations that model aircraft operations have never been subject to in the past and that were never mentioned or included in the “Model Aircraft Operating Standards” established by the FAA in 1981 in Advisory Circular 91-57. Section IV goes on to say that, “Other rules in part 91, or other parts of the regulations, may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation”, effectively making modelers accountable for and model aircraft operations subject to all of the Federal Aviation Regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) at FAA discretion.

    2. … I don’t think it is possible to identify what is “new” by just looking at the present without also doing research the past to compare the present to.

      I personally have never read the past regulation, so i can honestly say everything the FAA have said presently is new to me.

  2. Let me see: It’s been twice since I commented on, and I have made my feelings known on the FAA’s Facebook on numerous occasions. I think the FAA is overstepping its bounds here, by doing a deliberate end-around the legislation Congress passed in 2012, and signed by the President, that the FAA could not interfere with model aircraft operated through the guidelines of a community-based organization such as the AMA. The FAA needs to get back to the table with the AMA and work this out once and for all.

  3. It would be good if you could provide example letters associated with each topic (FPV, sport flying, competitive flying) so one would have a starting place when formulating a letter to post at the FAA website. There\’s lot\’s of talk about sending comments to the FAA, but very little on how to go about doing it. Thanks.

  4. The FAA should be concerned with commercial and general aviation and leave the model aircraft alone unless something obvious impedes commercial and general aviation.

    I am trying to develop UAVs for agriculture, business development, construction, safety and film/video productions and only fly where commercial and general aviation has no access. Why should UAVs be excluded from flying where commercial and general aviation craft can not fly? This is ridiculous.

  5. Regulating a hobby by a Federal Agency is very telling. Control of every aspect of our lifestyle is more than obvious. Having been an RC flyer for many decades and flown in many different areas adjacent to full scale operation air space I know of no incident of bringing down an aircraft or causing a serious problem. As a full scale pilot of light aircraft I never had an incident with model aircraft, although there were with other airborne full size. The RC hobby should be left intact as is and be self regulated.

  6. Thank you for your reply, but I am still confused. You argue that we will have to notify airport authorities and The ATC, when applicable, when we fly within five miles of an airport. But an exact same three mile rule has been in effect for years with no difficulties. The only change is the increase to five miles, a rule defied by congress in the FAA Modernization act of 2012.

    You argue that model aviators will be subjected to FAA regulations, based on language in section IV of the FAA interpretation of section 336 of the act. But, the very first sentence of Section IV says that this applies only to those individuals who endanger the NAS. Therefore this does not apply to responsible model aviators who follow the safety guidelines of a CBO like the AMA.

    I simply cannot see why either of the points that you make will cause harm to model variation.

    1. David, The requirement in the AMA Safety Code and the Special Rule for Model Aircraft is to notify the airport, and in doing so we would certainly expect that notification would involve discussing any safety concerns relating to the model aircraft operation. However, the interpretive rule in essence requires you to obtain permission to operate within 5 miles of an airport and in certain classes of airspace. And, in section II FAA states that, “The FAA would consider flying model aircraft over the objections of FAA air traffic or airport operators to be endangering the safety of the NAS”. This would mean that the mere presence of a model aircraft in such airspace would be viewed as an endangerment whether or not an actual hazard exists.

      Perhaps we’re reading two different documents, but the first sentence in section IV reads, “The FAA could apply several regulations in part 91 when determining whether to take enforcement action against a model aircraft operator for endangering the NAS”.

      1. Maybe we are reading the same documents but our interpretations differ quite widely.

        First, if an airport authority considers model aircraft operations a danger to the airport, they can and will stop you from flying, therefore and agreement is essential to successful model aircraft operations.

        Second, the first sentence of section IV clearly exempts safe operations of model aircraft from FAA regulations. Regulations are only imposed on unsafe operations.

        1. All it takes is one jerk at an airport who has an agenda against model aircraft to shut down all model aircraft operations within 5 miles of an airport. The AMA safety code has always said 3 miles. Where do the clubs go then, since there are open areas being crowded by population growth?

          1. We have been flying under the 3 mile limit since 1981 without a problem. So now the limit has been expanded to a safer distance of 5 miles. It seems, at least, paranoid to me to think that we would have problem now.

            Just an example, my club has been flying within 4.5 miles of an airport for many years. Since the new limit was increased to 5 miles, the club executives went to an airport authority board meeting to present their case. They were greeted with smiles and kind words and left the meeting with an agreement to continue flying exactly has we had been flying.

  7. Hello. It appears to me you may be after the wrong people. We in the modelsing community have always considered safety a predominate factor in our hobby, whether it be in competition or just having fun in general. I think there are those who are violating the safety standards with a total disregard for you or those of us in the modeling community. It id extremely likely to me that they could be using illegal radios to get the range to enable them to violate airspace reserved for commercial activities and hiding behind those of us who have no interest in their activity. It does not take much practice to learn to fly a quad-copter of the type seen on TV that is endangering others

    Please try to take into account that there are “outlaws” roaming free in the continental United States who have desires adverse to the public good and whom we cannot police. The Federal Government has the technology to stop those individuals and imposing additional sanctions on the AMA members will NOT resolve the problem. I ask you to be certain you are moving in the right direction before slamming the door on those of us who simply enjoy our hobby.

    Sincerely, William Inman

  8. Inspired by my Dad from the age of six, the model aircraft pastime has always been a source of magic for me;a retreat of sorts,my version of stress management. It is totally unclear to me why the FAA has suddenly decided that this hobby is a potential threat to our society and requires regulation. In over 50 years of flying competition free flight,RC and other aspects of the hobby, I don’t recall even a near miss with another full size aircraft. I hold a private license and an A&P certificate as well. I am fully aware of the potential harm a model might cause if it should wander into the pattern of a local airport.
    The whole concept of federal regulation reeks of some sort of hidden political agenda. What’s next guys? Do we regulate kids kites? How bout those paper airplanes? And then there’s the birds… better find a way to make a law for them too.
    It’s always nice to have the chance to comment on things like this,but in a way it seems like the town hall meeting ,where the Utility Company allows the public to “have there say”, when the decision has already been made to raise the rates beforehand.
    Model Aircraft have co-existed with full scale aircraft operations for over 100 years… lets not go down this road.

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