AMA Finding A Solution for Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) in the D.C. Area

Recently, the FAA more than doubled the airspace around Washington, D.C., that it considers a ‘no drone zone.’ In 2009, the FAA expressly prohibited model aircraft operations in the D.C. Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), shutting down three AMA-chartered clubs and eliminating all model aircraft activity in the nation’s capital. The FAA has now extended this restriction to the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) outside the FRZ where model aircraft have been flying without incident for years. Not only is D.C. restricted, but the FAA now contends that model aviation enthusiasts cannot fly in several Virginia and Maryland counties as well.

The FAA’s current action has caused an additional 14 AMA-chartered clubs in the D.C. metro area to shut down operations, despite our organization’s 80-year history of responsible flying. Our members consistently abide by federal and local policies and for decades have followed AMA’s comprehensive set of safety and privacy guidelines, which are constantly evolving to accommodate new technologies and new modeling disciplines.

The FAA justifies its most recent action by stating that model aircraft are by definition aircraft and therefore subject to existing FAA rules. That assertion is currently the subject of pending litigation and Congress has made clear that the FAA should have a hands off approach to model aircraft that are operating within the safety guidelines of a community-based organization such as AMA as provided in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

AMA understands that these restrictions are part of the security measures put in place to protect the U.S. Capitol and the Academy supports the government’s efforts to protect our national interests. However, model airplanes and model aircraft enthusiasts do not pose a threat to national security but rather assist in the counterterrorism effort by serving as a community of eyes and ears familiar with the operation of unmanned aircraft and watchful of aberrant behavior. In at least one case, a documented threat to the nation’s capital was thwarted as a result of suspicious UAS activity being reported by the aeromodeling community.

AMA and the AMA District IV Government Relations Committee is currently in talks with the FAA to find a solution that will allow our members to resume the enjoyment of their long-standing hobby in the impacted Virginia and Maryland counties. More broadly, AMA has been working closely with the FAA and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) on the Know Before You Fly campaign to educate newcomers to model aviation and drone technology. Education, not more regulation, is the key to enhancing safety.


  1. I sure hope the AMA and FAA get together on this. I am new to this hobby and have joined the AMA an one of the clubs that is now closed because of this ruling. I do not understand how or why the FAA would just close all the flying fields like this. Something must be done about this and the AMA must make this a priority.

  2. Thanks for the update. Keep them coming. We need these updates to be informed AMA members and guests to your site need clear, factual information as well.


    1. Interesting. In the past years, it is becoming apparent that drones will get very mainstream unless the government tries to shoot them down. And now exactly that is happening. I understand FAA for ensuring national safety with drones. The terrorists can indeed use them for terroristic actions. But on the other hand, in this way FAA indeed has no incentive to block commercial drones. I also do not think that they will try to block them the same way as they are trying to do with individual ones. So, I guess they are indeed trying to clear up the space for commercial drones. They trust them more. That’s a pitty because quadcopters are the force of the new advancements in drone industry and they are mostly used in indvidual purchases. The future of the drone regulation is unclear, but at the moment it does not look the best. I also do not think FAA should pursue individuals so much.

  3. It was funny to me the guy who crashed a quadcoptor on the White House lawn was a drunken goverment “intelligents” officer. We did not hear much on how the FAA roasted the one guy they caught.

    1. You do not roast someone who has done your bidding. Had it been you or me, existing laws would have been enough to put us in plenty of hot water. The incident was clearly staged to shape public opinion. The guy probably got a promotion.

  4. Another battle with the FAA and drain on AMA resources. Aircraft safety does not appear to be the driving force here, since facts establish that model aircraft are not a safety hazard. The cynical side of me suspects the FAA is helping clear the skys under 400 feet for the commercial delivery drones. We need a court victory on the Special Rule to reign in the FAA. Fight On, AMA members.

    1. What an interesting comment about FAA motives. Please keep up your fine suggestions. Best wishes, Nickolaus Leggett AMA Member

  5. Thanks for the update and continued efforts. I also fly at one of the affected flying sites/clubs and know many of the members of the other clubs that have been shut down.

    My concern, other than the obvious, is that the FAA is taking a myopic view of the situation- that shutting down clubs will help make DC more secure/safe from “those that would do us harm”. I can’t find any reason to believe shuttering the fields or restricting how we fly will accomplish that. In fact- in a manner that seems to be all too typical with government- this action will more likely accomplish exactly the opposite of the desired outcome. Isn’t it better to have places for RC flyers to congregate- and operate under an organization with an established safety code with a documented history of success and to educate and influence new users to do the same- a better solution than just leaving it up to the average person on the street who goes to Best Buy in the morning and is flying his “drone” where he shouldn’t that afternoon?

  6. man, this is just getting out of hand. Can you guys fill us (members) in. In these talks the AMA is having with the FAA? Please and thank you.

  7. man, this is just getting out of hand. Can you guys fill us (members) in. In these talks the AMA is having with the FAA? Please and thank you

  8. It is as if the government suddenly had someone tell them that technology has the potential to be dangerous… Why persecute the people who are already following the rules.??

  9. There is no announcement on the FAA website, so, to me at least, it is not clear what the specifications of this restriction are. There is supposed to be a letter from Ray Stinchcomb, our District IV Government Relations Coordinator, with an explanation of the action by the FAA. But I have not seen it. This whole situation seems inexplicably chaotic.

    1. According to the recently released AC No. 91-57A (Jan 11, 2016) model aviation operations within the SFRA will be permitted if specific authorization is obtained. Will the AMA assist clubs to regain operation permission within specified SFRAs?

  10. The FAA is exploiting their deranged interpretation that model aircraft are the same as a manned aircraft – then arbitrarily enforcing existing rules meant for manned aircraft onto model aircraft.
    The 30nm radius for the DC- SFRA requires an aircraft to have two way radio communication equipment and an altitude reporting transponder.

    I will not be surprised when the FAA starts enforcing the 30nm veil around all class B airports around the country requiring altitude reporting transponder.

  11. While it is great to have the AMA fighting to fix this mess, I’m worried that the focus is only to restore access for dedicated flying fields.

    Please don’t forget about members with small RC aircraft that follow the rules but don’t always want to use a dedicated flying field. It doesn’t usually make sense to drive to a dedicated flying field to practice with my small RC helicopter when flying in my yard is just as safe and so much more convenient.

    I hope the AMA Government Relations Committee is representing the interests of all affected members in these negotiations and not just the flying fields.

    1. Dis you know that a control line flying club within the DC SFRA was also shutdown? By that logic, you should anticipate an enforcement action against any hapless soul who unknowingly flies just about anything within the DC SFRA.

  12. As a member of two clubs in the DC area, and follower of the others that are shut down, I can say that the lack of detailed and fact based information on the reasons for the shut downs, what precisely is being done now, and when it will be resolved is a real problem for everyone in the DC area. The status above is a good start on the first one (reason for the shut down), but we all need to know precisely what is being done, by whom, when, the progress (or lack thereof ) being made, and an estimated resolution date. We are not getting any of that now. I hope AMA will start to share that directly with the DC area members as frequently and as soon as possible.

  13. The FAA has overstepped their authority according to rules laid down by congress as I understand the rules. Model aviation has been excluded from the no fly rules. I’ve been flying since 1972 after serving my country for 2 years as an officer in the USPHS and have never threatened the US government with my model airplanes. I see this as one more example of government limiting the freedom of it’s citizens. As a very close friend of mine who lived in Poland under the communist said,”we had more freedoms under the communist than we have here in our country” meaning the USA. This to me says it all.

  14. Expanding the 15-mile radius to a 30-mile radius doesn’t double the restricted airspace, it quadruples it!

      1. Since the area of a circle is a function of pi and the square of the radius, doubling the radius does indeed exactly quadruple the area of the banned region.

  15. These “drones” are going to be the end of our hobby. Wake up AMA!!!! We don’t fly “drones” We fly models, we fly line of sight, we fly at sites that are designed for safety, and we always yield full scales. We also don’t fly over people, buildings or assets. We don’t violate controlled airspace. Instead of trying to figure out a way to increase AMA membership with the assistance of the FAA (which will never happen) how about standing up for the rest of us and protecting our sites? We are not the drones they are looking for. Get us out of their dragnet by telling them who we are and what we do… If you don’t, how long do you think the AMA will need to be around?

    1. Could not agree with you more Dan. I’m honestly at the point where I think if all these legal channels and talks the AMA is supposedly engaged in fail, then I think the only approach is going to be a “new” AMA or some other aptly named organization to be direct advocates for what we fly.

      1. At that point there won’t be an AMA… other than a social organization. We will be working with the FAA. And if you know anything about what the FAA has done to general aviation. There aren’t a lot of people getting into general aviation anymore. It’s been regulated to the 9’s. As a registered “drone” owner you will comply with further regulation that is coming our way.

    2. Hi Dan! I appreciate your concern, but I wanted to let you know there’s plenty of us flying “drones” in the AMA as well. Please blame the bad behavior on the person, not the technology. I fly model aircraft. They may be shaped differently than yours, and they probably have more propellers, but at the end of the day we’re all members of the same organization.

      1. Nope, I blame the technology. Having never flown a drone, I will admit I know nothing. But I have flown models for over 30 years and I am aware of my surroundings in order to maintain flight stability of the model and to avoid other aircraft. A ‘drone’ pilot does not and cannot maintain that level situation awareness.

    3. You are 100% correct – at this point in time the AMA needs to concentrate on protecting the rights of the current membership instead of snuggling up to the DRONE crowd to add new members. In little or no time they will make themselves useless.

  16. Hello,

    Thank you for your news item on the shut-down of model aircraft flying in the DC area.

    I think that we need a standard rule that explicitly allows modelers to fly aircraft over their own property and that allows club members to fly aircraft over the club’s model flying field. This rule should accommodate the safety of manned aircraft flying, but should always allow some basic flying over these properties. Even a flight ceiling of 50 feet is far better than no flying at all.

    I have suggested this type of rule in some of my formal comments in the FAA dockets on model and drone aircraft flying. All responsible pilots accept the need for constructive safety regulations for all types of flight.

    However, prohibition of flight is not a suitable regulation. As the Federal government found out with the prohibition of alcoholic drinks, prohibition does not work. Indeed prohibition generates a disrespect for the law and the organizations issuing the regulations. All American citizens should have the right to participate in technology within a set of constructive and supportive regulations.

    My wife and I are interested in inventing new forms of model aircraft lift systems. We are directly blocked from developing such an invention (or inventions) by this prohibition of flight. In my view, as a credentialed political scientist, this is a direct violation of my basic constitutional rights as an American citizen.

    If I were a rich man, my attorneys would be already investigating this situation with an eye towards litigation on these constitutional issues. However, since I am not a rich man, I will bring up these issues with my Senators and Congressman and by other political action such as approaching the candidates for President who are currently running. I have been successfully involved with other politics-of-technology issues, such as the founding of the Low Power FM (LPFM) radio broadcasting service, and I can be effectively involved with this issue as well.

    The great pride of America is that people of all backgrounds can participate in technology and the economy to develop new options, products, and technology for America. Blocking these people from participating is an action that damages America and its social contract with its citizens.

    Thank you for your attention to my comments.

    Nickolaus E. Leggett

    Analyst and Inventor

    Formal commenter on numerous Federal rulemaking proceedings

    Licensed Pilot of single engine airplanes, gliders, and hot air balloons

    Licensed Commercial Radio Operator – GROL with Ship Radar

    Licensed Amateur Radio Operator Extra Class

    AMA Member

    1432 Northgate Square, #2

    Reston, VA 20190-3748

    (703) 709-0752

  17. I find most of the actions that the FAA has taken seem to be a “knee-jerk” reaction to supposedly observed near collisions or the possibility of a collision between model aircraft and actual manned aircraft. What I haven’t seen is any proof that these incidents happened at all or if they did, exactly who observed the incident, when was it reported, and who, if anyone substantiated it. I wouldn’t say no incidents have ever happened but I highly doubt the real number is anywhere close to that reported by the FAA. I think we, as a group should demand that if we are going to be regulated, the regulators should be required to absolutely have documented proof that the problem is substantial and equal to the regulation. So far I haven’t seen the proof.

  18. Big Brutha is coming and AMA can’t even get to first gear in the fight,this has been years in the making and a lot of good people have warned about it.
    Ama members the AMA is quite helpless, stuck in their coffee klatch attitude with the FAA (son of big Brutha). Just as the present admin is over reaching every single constitutional law on the books so are all of its appointed progeny.

  19. The AMA has a long history of patriotic duty, often interpreted as acting in compliance with guidance and rules issued by Federal Agencies. The AMA also should take into account civil liberties in determining guidance to local clubs and members. Defending the Constitution is a fundamental aspect of patriotic duty. In this case, the AMA should also work with local and state law enforcement to ensure they appropriately defend personal liberties and not “enforce” guidance and rules issued by Federal Agencies that are out of context or inconsistent with Federal and State statutes.

  20. There should be considerations about model aircraft that cannot POSSIBLY fly more than a couple miles from their point of launch (such as motor-less Gliders) as well as electric powered aircraft whose batteries restrict flying distance and time of flight. Perhaps each aircraft should have a Matriculation Identification number issued by the AMA (or the FAA) certifying that they are safe to fly within 15Miles of an airport.

    1. Motorless gliders have flown more than 140 miles. See “Cross Country” soaring rules for AMA event 446 (F3H).

  21. FPV and beyond line of sight drones just need to fly further away and request to allow line of sight model planes and helicopters to continue operating at those fields. This distinction should have been made months or even years ago but our leadership at the AMA failed to do so and this is a direct result of the “we’re all in this together” attitude. I guess I could send to the FAA the AMA’s canned “I’m disappointed” letter which take us nowhere or we can work with the FAA like we should have from the outset and remind them of this very important distinction. I have no issue with drones or FPV, but their capabilities are clearly greater. If these DC area fields want to resume flying(and I hope they do), I see this as the only possible approach.

    1. Greater in some ways, lesser in others. With limited battery life and the glide ratio of a brick, my multirotors honestly can’t go nearly as far as many fixed-wing models. But then photography is my other hobby, and the reason I like multirotors is because of their usefulness as a photography platform. The area around a flying field isn’t always the most photogenic. 🙂 I’m not familiar with the DC area enough to know exactly what’s there, but I know that I like to fly in places with waterfalls & mountains. I can imagine there’s probably some places like that, some of which may be otherwise safe to fly near, but are contained within the very very large area of the DC FRZ. I don’t know what the solution is, but there’s got to be something better than a complete ban on flight in a huge chunk of land.

  22. Today I heard on the TV news an airliner landing at Logan in Boston had a”drone” come near it. With the new rules and restrictions, I hope I hear additional information both AMA and public about the FAA’s response, ie., was it registered, the operator fined or charged with violating national airspace, etc.


  23. Please be aware that if the FAA can restrict us in the D C METRO area this can be a
    stepping stone to restrictions at other clubs and wherever the FAA may deem a
    potentially dangerous site for R C flying exists.

  24. Too bad the AMA does not have the political clout that the NRA has or this would not have happened so quickly and quietly with likely more regulations to come in the future. Perhaps the AMA should look into hiring some NRA folks to help with this battle. There is truth in the slogan “Guns don’t kill people! People kill people!” The same slogan holds true for model aircraft. If an individual is intent on doing harm with a gun or a model aircraft he will find a way and no 30 mile SFRA will stop that from happening. Here again we see the government punishing all it’s citizens for the infractions of the stupid or nutcase few.
    I see no end to it!

  25. Model aircraft & drones are the new thing to be persecuted. FAA is a hidebound kneejerk dinosaur if they have their way we will have to have transponders licenses terrorist vetting inform government anytime we fly & only from government observed flying sites in other words crippling our hobby & where do they think the next generation of pilots & scientists will come from? In that case only the ELITE RICH will be able to fly. The DC nofly zone encompasses 706+ square miles versus previous 176+ square miles hobbiests have been flying there for over 80 years without incidents, AMA is self regulating we POLICE our own! I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to do this around every airport. They already restricted us to 450 feet. That used to be for within 5 miles of an airport now it’s NATIONWIDE!!

    1. It’s worse than 706 square miles. A 30-mile radius encompasses 2,827 square miles. That’s nautical miles. In statute miles it’s 3,745 square miles.

  26. Hello,

    My impression is that the FAA is very resistant to the idea of allowing modelers to fly within the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) in suburban areas around Washington, DC. This intense resistance is probably due to pressure from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other national security organizations.

    Is there some way that we can work around these intense objections?

    One possible way is to issue special permits to model aircraft pilots who want to fly within the SFRA. Each permit would be based on an individual background check that would use the background check system used for gun purchases. This would provide a degree of validation of the pilots who are issued permits. It would not be a perfect match to whatever the DHS wants, but it would cover some of the background aspects of interest.

    Certainly, I do not really like this idea, but it may be an approximate compromise that will allow model aircraft pilots to get back in the air in the outer part of the SFRA.

    I suspect that we will need to think outside of the box to get our access back for flying near Washington, DC.

    Have a good day.

    Nickolaus E. Leggett

    Analyst and Inventor

    1432 Northgate Square, #2

    Reston, VA 20190-3748

    (703) 709-0752

  27. I agree with Dan and Peter. Also, AMA’s anti-government rhetoric may be getting in the way of serious negotiations with FAA. Aggressive marketing by the industry has resulted in a huge spike in the sale of quads and other camera platforms, and the press reports accidents and incidents daily. It’s only a matter of time before a serious aircraft accident occurs, and the AMA needs to recognize that and get constructive. Regarding registration, it appears all the FAA wants to do at this stage is link UAS’s and their owners’ identity. I have no problem with that, if that’s as far as it goes. Sure, it’s inconvenient, but this was brought down on us by reckless flyers and aggressive industry marketing, rather than arbitrary actions by the FAA. For the AMA to be effective and taken seriously regarding safety, it has to be viewed as more than just another industry mouthpiece. For example, it should not accept advertising in its magazine depicting models flying over people and vehicles, in direct violation of its own published safety standards. Also, its advice to members to “delay” the lawful requirement to register is questionable. It’s not clear what this achieves, it smacks of obstruction, and doesn’t send signals that it will be a serious negotiating partner. The AMA should be a little less self-serving in its approach to this problem. It shouldn’t take the position that membership in AMA should be sufficient for registration; this is naive. The FAA is not going to delegate to a third party these kinds of responsibilities. Dedicated modelers have a well-deserved reputation for safety and community mindedness, but there’s nothing in the AMA’s membership form that screens out reckless people. Given the recent advances in technology and marketing moves by the industry, the cat is out of the bag now, and AMA needs to help find a way to work constructively to keep serious modelers flying, and goofballs, criminals, and incompetents out of the air.

  28. Since the AMA has a database of Latitude/Longitude coordinates of chartered club flying fields (It’s on the charter application), it would be a simple matter to request that the locations of chartered flying fields be marked on full-scale Sectional Charts (at the club’s discretion).

    There is already a symbol for “UAS” sites on the legend of Sectional Charts, just as there is a symbol for parachute, ballooning, and sailplane operations. Since the FAA recently PROMULGATED us as “aircraft”, our operations should be brought to the attention of other airspace users, so that they could avoid the area if they are so worried about it. It might cut down on the “sightings” reports by full-scale pilots who may overfly an established model airport.

    And if we’re now “aircraft”…where are our federal airport improvement funds? 😉

  29. I’m a relative newcomer to this hobby, and have learned more about RF, electronics, flight control systems, propulsion, battery technology, etc in the past year than I ever thought possible as a direct result. I can only hope the AMA steps up and does something about this. I had planned to join the AMA next spring, but will now have to reconsider that decision based that decision on whether they can successfully represent my (and many others’) interests by convincing the FAA to repeal this ban. If not, there will be no available flying locations within approximately 1 hour of where I live, so this hobby will effectively be dead for me and my daughter (who I know will be a great flyer someday). I disagree with the argument that FPV presents increased risk compared to traditional RC aircraft, since FPV video systems typically have comparable (perhaps slightly greater) range than LOS. Also, many FPV systems can safely operate in smaller environments than traditional RC aircraft. In any case, virtually no RC aircraft present any risk to the nation’s capitol, the area this SFRA is purported to protect, from farther than perhaps a couple miles out. By introducing this ban, the FAA have effectively stifled a HUGE emerging technology, educational, economic, and recreational field for approximately 6 million people. FIX THIS NOW!!!

  30. Any word from the AMA about the DC SFRA issue? There is already an attorney suing the FAA. Shouldn’t the AMA be doing something about this now?

    1. We are close to finding relief. All legal options are being considered, but for a more immediate solution we believe we will have more success advocating directly to the FAA. Legal options can take months or years.

      1. I brought this up in another comment but apparently it flew under the RADAR. The FAA has replaced AC 91-57 (6/9/1981) with AC 91-57A (9/2/2015) and later AC 91-57A Change 1 (1/11/2016) both versions of 91-57A contain the following statement “Model aircraft must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone, without specific authorization.” Apparently, to my reckoning at least, this statement implies that it should be possible to obtain specific authorization. Have you approached the FAA and asked if this interpretation is correct and if it is, how to obtain specific authorization? By the way, there are several SFRAs in the country and some of these ares may include AMA chartered flying fields. It would be smart to investigate that situation also.

  31. We currently have two FAA issues that are affecting AMA members,one national,and one only in region lV,Washington DC area. By far ,but least known , the SFRA 35 mile No fly Zone is the worst. Yes it may not include you now, but with the stroke of the FAA pen,your flying region could be next. I feel we are the TEST CASE, to see how much muscle the AMA can deliver. New York and Los Angelis both have SFRAs and the FAA chose not to push all of them at once. Too many members complaining at once might defeat the FAAs plan to put SFRAs around ALL major airports.


    1. We are making progress. Marke Gibson, the FAA’s senior adviser for UAS integration, yesterday confirmed that this is being investigated and “we are looking at ways to get some relief.” There is a team from District IV that is actively working to find a resolution. We anticipate a solution soon.

      1. Let’s all face the facts of reality. We now live under the most corrupt US government in our nations history!
        Big money talks and we are being pushed out by big business special interests.
        We have a lawless President and a rogue FAA.
        Our government officials have their hands out accepting funds from special interests!
        The AMA and its members has an outstanding safety record!
        This means nothing to the FAA who will grant airspace privileges to the highest bidder!
        The FAA is a “rogue” government agency! So is the EPA, and several others.
        Until we vote these corrupt politicians out of office in November, nothing will change!
        If any of you is familiar with the pressure the FAA put on the EAA in Oshkosh Wisconsin, then you will understand what is happening!
        Our US government is out of control and until we vote the lawless crooks out of office, nothing will happen!

      2. I see on the official AMA website that there currently is not listed a head of Media and Government Relations. Is there someone qualified / knowledgable from the AMA heading up this whole situation? Is this all going on in a period of transition? Could you all see how this might have some of us concerned in the DC area? Has the organization considered hiring a third party experienced in handling such matters?


        1. If you happen to look close, the AMA has done nothing to stop any of this govt opposition. That is why they constantly use “platitudes” like “RELIEF” and “TAKING ACTION”, to make it seem like they are doing something. But the fact is, they have done very little if nothing.

          At this point they seem to be doing nothing but causing confusion.

          1. We have a team of volunteers, board members, staff, and legal counsel addressing this almost daily with the FAA. The FAA confirmed this is “not permanent” at CES and again indicated this is being reviewed with our help at the AMA Expo.

          2. I want to know the name of the law firm hired to bring suit against the FAA in 2014, and who is the law firm at present?

            O’le Hoot Gibson of the FAA provided little direct info
            However his last answer to the question of DC SFRA overriding
            law 336 shows that FAA will interpret against the intent of
            Congress with impunity. They will impose more restrictions on us
            and there are no plans to address unregulated drones thru manufacturers other than by “education”.
            He was not familiar with much, was evasive with many questions, inviting some more challenging question to speak to off mic.
            They should have walked out on him .
            The FAA does not make laws, Congress does

  33. does the FAA really believe that shutting down clubs and forcing registration of model aircraft is going to stop those with malicious intent from completing what they wish to do how gullible and ridiculous has our government become

    1. This is the same predicament that gun owners face, the vast majority of whom are safety conscious and law-abiding. It’s a slippery-slope of slowly eroded privileges and rights. This is the result of fear-based legislation – where everyone is suspect. Take that to the next level and we are talking about Soviet Russia, China and other regimes that sought to control free thought and action. That is not the USA I know!

  34. this is not going to stop terrorist from using them, they don’t play by the rules. Just because the FFA says this is a FRZ. All it dose is stop the guy from enjoying a week end of flying with friends.

  35. Government Logic ? Someone please help me understand. The FAA’s SFRA no fly edict, posted on FAA website at end of September 2015 seems to encompass ALL model aircraft, including multicopter drones, larger (more than 8.8 oz) conventional RC, FPV RC, free flight, rubber powered, control line, and small (less than 8.8 oz) RC models. There is no distinction made that I can see between CL, various FF or various RC in so far as the SFRA NO FLY edict is concerned.

    Since many of us cut our modeling teeth on Control line and rubber powered FF, if this supposed “interim” SFRA ban were to last awhile, are we allowed to shift and fly control line or rubber powered FF ? Or fly small registration exempt model aircraft ?

    I can not imagine the horrible threat imposed by a control line or rubber powered free flight model.

    Similar for small RC models (multicopter drones and conventional) less than .55 lbs (8.8 oz) which are deemed by FAA as so small as to be harmless that they do not require registration and are exempt. Why would FAA then deem those very same small & tiny harmless exempt model aircraft as such a threat in SFRA that they are not allowed to be flown at all ?

    Once again, government logic escapes me.

    I think the FAA would be at a disadvantage in the court of public opinion on explaining the grounding those control line, rubber FF & small 8.8 oz or less exempt RC models.

    What am I missing ?

    As was mentioned in a previous post, beware modelers in areas with SFRA’s. Technically, the FAA no fly edict could apply to you at the whim of FAA. The new Model aircraft rules on FAA website are not specific to the DC area, and just say no model aircraft flying in SFRA. Other SFRA flyers are essentially in the same situation that most of us in 14 DC SFRA clubs were from end of September when new model aircraft FAA rules were posted that said no fly in SFRA, to end of December when FAA told AMA to tell all DC SFRA clubs & pilots to cease flying operations.

    Hope I am wrong. Call me Darth….

  36. Lots of good comments posted!

    I would like to see the AMA get some clarity on what exactly is restricted in the SFRA. Is it registered UAS? Is it anything that lifts off the ground? While I understand the restrictions near the capital, I cannot for the life of me understand why I can’t fly my aircraft on my own property, including my micro sized helis.

  37. Well its been 16 days since the FAA started to prosecute the model flyers in the Washington DC area with the “expanded SFRA”. We have no better idea of what’s going on now ,then we had 16 days ago. Our only information comes in “They said” rumors. We feel that some feedback from anyone involved in the matter would be helpful. There has been no Press on the issues at all. I did find a Washington Post article from January 1 ,by Faiz Siddiqui, that gave us a little bit of coverage to our plight. The only news coverage for RC aircraft ,for the last few years has been “Another Drone incursion in airliner airspace”. We have a place to fly ,not near full sized airports, but we can’t fly there until the FAA blesses the ground with Holy water.

  38. Chad,

    I’m sure the AMA is doing everything it can to work with the FAA. Can you shed any light on the comment made by the FAA at CES? Simply saying “this is not permanent” leaves many concerned recreational flyers very much in the dark.

    Perhaps when this all blows over (if it does) we could get a better idea of why this all happened in the first place. While explanations don’t have to be immediate we would like to learn from this incident and try to work with the FAA in the future rather than being surprised like this.

    Thank you for your hard work …. we really do appreciate it.


  39. Any news about relaxing the rules around flying in the SFRA? I heard that there was going to be an announcement by the FAA around Jan 16th about this issue. Any updates?

  40. I agree with previous comment. What is the status of the SFRA?? I heard that an entity is seeking the shutdown of all clubs within this area?? If that is the case, I for one will be extremely disappointed in our system. To ban the legitimate places that people fly will only add to the perceived problem. They should worry about those who are not flying at clubs NOT the AMA members and the clubs!!

  41. What worries me is that the new letter comes out today and not a word about this significant issue our hobby is facing…… I hope we are not forgotten here.

  42. The lack of firm information on this is very disappointing. I think we have been very understanding and patient as far as this goes. The “were very close” is just the same song and dance we been handed lately. What’s “very close”, to some it’s a week to others a couple of years. In light of the recent developments to our hobby I don’t feel comfortable with just how this is going. Are we in for another let down just like the whole registration deal?


  43. Is anyone interested in getting a group together and visiting members of congress and complaining about this? I have made a list of members of various aviation related committees in the house and the senate. There is also a UAS group in the house that we can talk to. Text me at 301-219-0661 if you are interested. I live in Arlington, VA. I feel this ridiculous SFRA is gross government overreach and if we get a large group together and visit members of congress about this, the FAA should start getting some heat. We can complain all we want, but unless we take some action ourselves, nothing is going to happen. We live in a democracy after all and should exercise our rights as a citizen.

  44. At the very least, I’d like the director of the FAA explain in a public hearing why is his agency so grossly anti-drone and insisting on treating drones as a menace to be regulated out of existence. Also, how in the world does it make sense to impose a 35 miles No Fly Zone on anything that flies around the DC area. There are 6 million people who live in this area! If even 1% are affected by this ridiculous rule, that is 60000 people, enough to shape many congressional elections in this area. While I’m sure the AMA is doing what it can, let’s do out duty as citizens and appeal to our representatives. If we do so as a group, I’m sure we can have an impact. Text me if anyone is interested in following up on this.

  45. I’d much rather see our efforts directed at Congress, than towards litigation with the FAA – and I’d like to hear more about the AMA’s overall strategy to engage Congress.

    It’s too late to seek an appropriations directive this year, but the DOT budget will be going to the Hill for mark up very soon. I trust that the AMA is working with staffers on drafting numerous budget directives at the same time they are working on revised language for the FAA re authorization bill that will expire shortly. Very little attention was given to the fact that the 2012 statute was set to expire in September 2015, but was quickly reauthorized for six months. This is the AMA’s chance to improve the statutory language enacted in 2012. If the statutory text is good, we won’t have to litigate the resulting regulations.

    Even in the cases where interpreting the 2012 statute isn’t the underlying cause of controversy, litigation is unlikely to give us the results we want. For example, even an adverse ruling against the FAA in an APA suite against the registration process would only result in OMB allowing the FAA to promulgate an effective interim final rule pursuant to the APA’s good cause exemption at 553(b)(3)(B).

    Personally, I’d like to see a budget directive that precludes the use funds for enforcement actions against folks who qualify as model aircraft under Section 336 and who comply with the requirements of AMA’s park flyer program.

  46. AMA moderators, please allow my earlier comment (reposted) to go through. I’m trying to reach out to AMA members in the MD/DC/VA area to get a group together and reach out to members of congress involved in UAS related regulations. I’m sure you guys are trying as well, but it won’t hurt for members of congress to hear directly from us.

    Is anyone interested in getting a group together and visiting members of congress and complaining about this? I have made a list of members of various aviation related committees in the house and the senate. There is also a UAS group in the house that we can talk to. Text me at 301-219-0661 if you are interested. I live in Arlington, VA. I feel this ridiculous SFRA is gross government overreach and if we get a large group together and visit members of congress about this, the FAA should start getting some heat. We can complain all we want, but unless we take some action ourselves, nothing is going to happen. We live in a democracy after all and should exercise our rights as a citizen.

    1. Hi Ankur, I do see your earlier comments were approved. Perhaps you overlooked it?

      We always encourage our members to communicate with their Legislators. Know that we are also headed to Capitol Hill in a few days to meet with key Legislators and to host a press junket. During those meetings will be addressing SFRA.

      1. Hi Chad, that is great to hear. Please let us know if you need a body to show support during the press junket. I live in the area and would be happy to be there. Another suggestion would be to organize a protest near the capitol building or near the FAA building to attract some press/public attention. Every time I tell anyone about the no drone zone in the SFRA, they can’t believe that it’s true. Makes no sense to anyone.

        Also, would be great to get an update on the relaxing the rules around flying in the SFRA if you guys have one.

  47. Hi Chad, another line of reasoning that you should pursue is the impact of the FAA’s SFRA no drone zone on aviation relation entrepreneurship. We all know that the field of sUAS is receiving a lot of attention from entrepreneurs and investors (I have data on this that I can send you if you’d like). The FAA’s regulations basically renders the entire washington area a no-new business-zone related to aviation. No point getting a section 333 exemption because you can’t fly in the whole area, period. They haven’t established any procedures to even seek prior permission if one wants to fly in this area for test purposes. This is the so un-American. The federal government rendering a major metropolitan area inhospitable for a particular category of business activity, for NO GOOD REASON! There is no way the FAA can convince a reasonable person that a smart engineer try out a new flying control system or collision avoidance system on a small UAV in his backyard, 15 miles from DCA is threatening national security. In the unlikely scenario that his UAV goes berserk and makes a beeline to the white house, the battery will run out in a mile or two.

  48. There are just a couple of comments above about ‘working with’ the FAA; and IMHO there needs to be many more! As a 30 year (on and off) member of the AMA, I have been around model aviation for a long time. I for one have NO problem registering with the FAA – and fully believe the AMA should stop wasting time fighting the registration process.

    In fact, I’d support a much more useful approach to registration – extend the pilot licensing to another category below sport which would cover unmanned operations (with appropriate and attainable safety minded qualifications). Just as in manned flight, your license would be at stake(among other penalties of course) for stupidity; identification of the pilot would be aided, and a sense of responsibility and professionalism would be instilled to participants.

    FPV is an incredibly fun extension of model aviation, but the enhanced range of such aircraft can’t logically be ignored when it comes to security and safety. Those operating such aircraft over populated areas, ATC controlled airspace, and the like are NOT part of the model community though .. and enforcement action needs to be taken on those persons. When there is a drone in controlled airspace or any other unsafe area/manner, track the guy down and arrest him already! Hint, he has a radio beacon in his hand. For that matter, enlist the help of another ‘community organization’ .. HAM radio operators have been doing ‘fox hunts’ for recreation and to track down FCC violations for years! Not for nothing, most all ‘drones’ with extended range capabilities are also operating on amateur radio frequencies anyway (if they are FCC legal) … standard model aircraft radios do not have the power needed for much beyond line of sight.

    One additional comment, the altitude restrictions are far too inclusive – its all but impossible for glider pilots to maintain flight on thermals and stay below 400 feet. The 400 foot limit is understandable within certain distances of airports – but an unnecessary restriction in safer areas.

    So, in summary, I do not trust/understand/believe the motives or the logic behind the AMA or the FAA on this matter – they are either knee-jerking because of the press or have motives other than the publicized ones. The current approach to this situation, AMA and FAA alike, simply makes NO sense to this AMA member and ballot casting voter.

  49. Chad,

    Did AMA representatives and counsel discuss the reopening of RC flying (on and off AMA fields) in the DC SFRA during its Jan. 15 and 16 meetings with FAA and on the Hill? If so, can you please provide a progress report on the SFRA shutdown? AMA Gov Blog has posted numerous updates about UAS registration. However, we’ve only received one update about the SFRA shutdown, four weeks ago now. This is an existential problem for thousands of grounded RC pilots, which warrants additional communication.

    On a related note, I recently learned that AMA has a Fund dedicated to its Government Relations work: . While I and several other AMA members have already contributed, this fundraising effort really needs to be publicized more broadly! I would suggest that AMA provide additional details about “the cause,” and include the donation link on its website, blogs, and e-mails to members.

    Last but not least: A photo of recently appeared on Reddit. Is the AMA team aware of this? Do you know if Senator Paul has an interest in RC model aviation, and could be a potential ally for us?

    Thank you for reading this. Please provide more updates!


  50. The 14 AMA fields within the DC SFRA that were shutdown by the FAA were home to 1% of the AMA membership. Suffice it to say that we are not pleased with the shutdown. There are 2 issues that must be understood and addressed in order to get our fields back and protect the fields of other AMA clubs. First, the FAA did not act alone. They took this action at the request of other government agencies charged with protecting DC. Within this task force are those folks who banished RC sailboats from the Reflection Pool and tried to prohibit Kite Day on the Mall and sledding on Capitol Hill. Public backlash forced them to relent and allow kites and sleds. It did not stop them from closing flying fields in the DC SFRA including one used exclusively for control line flying. This brings us to the second point – the public perception of our hobby. Incidents such as the drone alleged to have “accidentally” crashed on the White House lawn and the FBI arrest of an Ashland man plotting to attack the Pentagon and Capitol Hill with explosives laden RC jets have created a very negative view of our hobby. I suspect that the supposedly drunken intelligence officer brought his toy to work and crashed it. The fact that he was not punished makes me wonder if he was asked to undertake this task. As for the RC jets that were to be loaded with explosives, the FBI supplied them to the fellow they arrested in a sting operation. No one has ever shown that those RC jets could even get airborne as heavily loaded weapons. We need to counter the ignorance shown by the people who shut us down using decisions based on impossible Hollywood-style scenarios. We need to introduce them to the reality of flying real model airplanes in a real world.

  51. Hey, we’re into the third month of being shut down from flying here in the DC Metro area. Quite frankly those of us around here think this is a much more serious issue than the registration controversy as there are many more SFRA’s around the country that could be impacted in the future if this thing is allowed to solidify into something permanent. They could all be next and how many more clubs would that impact?

    Roland’s question has been up a couple of business days. What’s the use of having a BLOG if you’re not going to answer the questions and keep it active / relevant? Please keep us inform here please! We’re counting on our organization to solve this!

  52. I would like to second what Roland Escher has written. I am one of the many AMA members who at the present time cannot use the excellent flying field of the club to which I belong. I am deeply troubled by the complete absence of communication about what is (or is going to be) done to rectify this absurd situation. As the weather improves the AMA should realize that the frustration of the members of the 14 clubs suddenly and without reason forbidden from enjoying their hobby/sport is going to grow exponentially.

    Please let us know what is going on and what we can do.


  53. I agree with Peter and Jim. Roland’s posted question merits a BLOG response. They are all correct to be concerned that this shutdown will spread. In addition, the legal guidance that the FAA put out for law enforcement does not mention the 250 gram minimum UAS weight that distinguishes a UAS that must be registered from a toy. Hobbyists in the DC SFRA are not allowed to fly a model aircraft of any size outdoors at this time. What is the AMA doing about the DC SFRA shutdown?

  54. Wonder how the AMA would react if the Muncie site was shut down due to the proximity of Reese Airport?
    Seems like were going nowhere fast on this.

  55. I too, echo Roland’s questions.

    Additionally, when I ponder the AC “… without specific permission.” caveat, I wonder if we need to act to have the clubs within the SFRA declared SUAS Airfields with exemptions along the lines of those placed on Leesburg Airport. I could see designating an “UAS Airfield” allowing operations within the SFRA without flight plan or contact with regional authority… limited to daylight hours, UAS operations, gross takeoff weights under 55 pounds, within visual range of the runway, below 400 feet AGL.

    Similar provisions for a microUAS airfield could be applied to many parks…

    The FAA wants us to abide by the rules. OK. I figure about 800 applications for airport status would be a way to point out the meirits of applying aircraft rules to recreational model aviation.

  56. This blog hasn’t been updated since it was released December 30, 2015.

    I wish the AMA would focus on this issue a little more — for those of us flying in this area we’re not talking about a minor issue of registering our planes, we’re facing not being able to fly at all!

  57. AMA, what is the current status please? The last update is well over a month old. The AMA letter to the 14 affected clubs following the 23 December shutdown is below.  When can we expect the authorizations? What will the clubs need to do to get the authorizations? What limitations if any will impose?dWhat is being done, by whom, with whom? Many thanks, Keith Stalder

    “To all model aircraft clubs with flying sites within 30 nautical miles of Washington, DC.
    The FAA has provided the AMA with clear guidance that all unmanned aircraft operations including model aircraft are prohibited in the Washington, DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA).
    This is based on 14 CFR 93 (aviation regulations) and 49 USC 40103 (Federal law).
    Persons operating aircraft within the SFRA are subject to civil penalties and or criminal charges.
    Now that we have said that, the AMA District 4 Government Relations Committee is now working on the issue.
    Any further operations may compromise our efforts to work with the FAA. The issue is not as simple as it looks since the Washington, DC SFRA has been designated as “National Defense Airspace”, but the FAA has been working on our behalf to obtain the required authorizations.
    We will be meeting with the FAA next week to determine several things:
     When can we expect the authorizations?
     What will the clubs need to do to get the authorizations?
     What limitations if any will be imposed?
    Please do not contact the FAA on your own, the District 4 Government Relations Committee will keep you informed and multiple calls to the FAA may only add confusion. If you have issues or comments, please contact any member of the District 4 Government Relations Committee instead.
    Remember these points:
     
     

    We have every reason to believe that this is a temporary situation
    The FAA has already been working on our behalf with the other federal agencies that have to concur with the authorizations.
    Operating a model aircraft within the SFRA could result in your arrest.
    If you are one of us who holds an FAA issued Airman’s certificate, the FAA could take certificate action.
    We will keep you informed.
    We will be providing an update as soon after the meeting next week as possible.

  58. As many of us are now learning thru the AMA and the FAA, restrictions on model aircraft operations within the DC SFRA but outside the DC FRZ will be lifted as of 12:01 a.m., 10 February. A lot of local people and the AMA worked tirelessly to resolve this issue. If you know anyone who had a hand in it, please thank them. The only humor in the FAA treating model aircraft as equal to real aircraft is the fact that our models would have been subject to annual inspections and we would have had to contact the NTSB if we crashed. Interesting thought, eh?

  59. Way to go AMA! Especially Bob Brown, Gary Finch and Rich Hansen!!!

    We know you have been doing a LOT behind the scenes to get this in place.

    The loud and few naysayers haven’t a clue.

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