Safe Modeling Resumes in DC SFRA

We are pleased to announce that AMA members in the Washington, D.C. metro area can resume model aircraft activities inside the D.C. Special Flights Rule Area (SFRA). After weeks of working closely with the FAA to find a resolution, the 14 AMA-charted clubs in the DC metro area can now return to safe operations starting on February 10.

On December 25, the FAA more than doubled the airspace around the D.C. metro area that it considers a ‘no fly zone.’ This meant that, in addition to the longstanding UAS prohibition restrictions in the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) and around Washington, D.C., model aviation enthusiasts could not fly in several Virginia and Maryland counties as well. For our members who have been flying safely in the area for decades, this was unacceptable and AMA was committed to a finding a solution.

Thanks to the efforts of the AMA’s Government Affairs team and your District IV Government Relations Committee, we successfully worked with the FAA to roll back these unnecessary flying restrictions in the SFRA. Today, the FAA updated the conditions for flying in the SFRA, issuing a permanent Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). It is important to note there is no change to the 15nm Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) in D.C. The FRZ will continue to be a no-fly zone.

The FAA acknowledges that our members abide by federal and local policies and for decades have followed AMA’s comprehensive set of safety guidelines. AMA members’ unparalleled safety record shows that this time-tested community-based approach to model aircraft activity works, and helps ensure that hobbyists fly safely and responsibly.

We appreciate your support for AMA and look forward to our continued efforts to protect our hobby and all AMA members.


    1. Too bad it didn’t get all of us in the air. There still is a restriction within 15 miles and we have no idea if our field will ever reopen.

  1. This is great news. It is not only wonderful for our Dist IV members and pilots but sets a positive precedent to be used throughout the country. With local and state governments continuing to try to overstep FAA regulations and AMA recognized safety and privacy guidelines this offers another substantial “tool” in the box to build better relationships encouraging education rather than confrontation.
    Additionally to the members and modelers obsessed with lambasting AMA for what “theyshould do” and what “they should have done” this serves as another reminder of what “IS” being done and that “WE” are all AMA not just staff, volunteers and officers, all members make up AMA and all members have a responsibility to advocate and support modeling however they can.
    Special thanks to government affairs for staying on the job and getting this major compromise from the FAA.
    Daren Hudson
    District 1

  2. 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.

    1. There was much good in this compromise. Let’s applaud the accomplishments while moving forward to continue to reach reasonable agreements with the FAA. Our guidelines in conjunction with Pub Law 112, 336 provide for the needs of certain model activities. This is in the dialogue. Patience as this step took an enormous amount of energy and time. There were many items needlessly “blanket” legislated and the message is getting sent and heard. This is a huge step toward getting the regs and rules in order with model aviation’s exemplary safety record. Again, well done Govt. Affairs.

      1. I live in the affected area- my club and surrounding clubs have been reopened- it is good that the fields are re-opened- but don’t kid yourself, the 400 foot altitude is a big deal and is a huge disappointment for anyone flying anything but a small plane. Giant scale aerobatics, turbines, sailing- are all severely hindered. Not happy….

        1. And, if near misses with manned aircraft don’t stop happening, I wonder if this will be the template around class B airports?

  3. The result speaks for itself. Kudos and thanks to the AMA government relations team at the national and District IV level for their tireless work in getting RC model aircraft flying again in the DC SFRA! I hope we can continue to work proactively going forward, and preempt any further unilateral action from the FAA and other government entities.

  4. Great news, just one question.

    “Stay in the operator’s line of sight”

    Does that mean no FPV even with a spotter? We need to be clear so we don’t break any rules that jeopardize this change in position. It could impact future decisions.

    1. This is a good question. I haven’t heard the “official” interpretation. However, as a conservative alternative have your spotter on a buddy box. That way the spotter is capable of flying line of sight.
      Gov’t Affairs?

      1. Our club will soon be looking at what changes need to be made to the existing field rules since we are located within the SFRA. Although FPV has been permitted in the past with a spotter, the general feeling is that this should no longer be the case. The AMA differed with the FAA’s interpretation of the Public Law in terms of FPV and produced Document 550. Will the AMA’s guidance change for those fields operating within the SFRA? The spirit of the “new rules” for the SFRA are supposedly related to security concerns. If the idea is to keep model aircraft within a certain distance, how is an observer’s visual line of sight any different? The same can be said if safety and separation from manned aircraft or non participating bystanders is the goal.

  5. Thank you, AMA and FAA! You have a bunch of happy RC flyers in my neighborhood.

  6. “Under the new procedures, hobbyists and recreational unmanned aircraft operators can fly aircraft that weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera) in the area between 15 and 30 miles of Washington, D.C. if the aircraft are registered and marked, and they follow specific operating conditions. The operating conditions require them to fly 400 feet or lower above the ground, stay in the operator’s line of sight, only fly in clear conditions, and avoid other aircraft.”

    New restrictions though.
    What are “specific operating conditions”
    Thought the 400 ft rule was addressed. “require them to fly 400 feet or lower above the ground”
    Who determines. “only fly in clear conditions”
    Great these guys can fly but it;s pretty limited with the new restrictions.


  7. I wonder how many more near misses it will take before we see similar restrictions around class B airports? Or even class C airports? With AMA celebrating the success of this development, doesn’t it make it difficult for us to contend that a 400′ limit is unreasonable?

    I contend we should be careful how much we cheer this – especially with these pretty restrictive operational limits.

    1. Agree with you Frank. It’s easy to sit somewhere unaffected by the 400ft restriction and cheer the re-opening of fields. Let me ask this of those of you hailing this development- would you be so happy if there was a 400 ft restriction placed across the entire country? Based on all of the hand wringing from the FAA registration specific to agreeing to fly under 400 feet- I think everyone would be outraged. Don’t be too happy about this deal- you might have to reconsider when these restrictions come to your field- and the other clubs near you- someday….

      1. David and others focusing on the 400′ limit. Yes. It is unreasonable and very restrictive. I fly giant and jets and compete in IMAC. I get it. AMA gets it. This is not a celebration of an “all out victory” this is a successful battle over one of many “hills”. It is progress from a huge disadvantage. It is field position that we didn’t have a week ago. Now we huddle up and address the next 10 yards and so on. Don’t drag this back into the mud. Pick up and move forward. Ask your reps what you or your clubs can do to help make it clear to legislators and regulators that we need relief on the 400′ rule. If we were to gain AMA wording of 400′ as a “guideline with the exception of certain activities requiring a higher safe altitude” this would solve the issue. We are much closer to that goal than we were a week ago. Actually we are 400′ closer! So am I very pleased? Of course I am. Am I feeling completely satisfied? Of course not. Am I energized by this to push ahead for more progress? Why shouldn’t I be? This hobby doesn’t need anymore negative and defeatist attitudes (we get enough of that crap from the press). Let’s start working together and get this hobby back on track and more about fun than fighting legislators. It will take us all to get focused. I personally don’t want one responsible modeler (member or not) to be restricted one bit from enjoying a safe hobby that has a proven track record like the one AMA has proven for decades and for millions of operations. It’s going to take work. Roll up your sleeves.

        1. Fair enough, Jose, and I appreciate the positive attitude. We will work to make it a better situation.

    2. Frank, any guess as to why nobody (until now) has acknowledged your comments?? The near miss issue was overblown from the FAA (from research data from the AMA.) The “Near miss” issue will NEVER go away as there are humans controlling these devices and many do NOT think of the ramifications of their actions. I used to fly rockets that would reach an altitude of over 35,000 feet, was there “Near misses?” can’t tell you but would bet there were but concerned clubs and individuals worked to EDUCATE people regarding the rockets and true we had to pass certifications to be able to just purchase the motors. I can guarantee you that THOSE rockets were capable of brining down and aircraft (the FBI will attest to that worry).
      I still stand by the thought that this fad will pass just like the “CB” radio fad during the 70’s and that is when another government agency (FCC) failed horribly in their attempt to license and control it. All this “NEW” ruling from the FAA (notice ruling, NOT law!)has made a lot of money for those selling the units in question before the holidays and will make people gravitate AWAY from sanctioned clubs that have safety in mind and away from the AMA who was supposed to be on guard and to stop these knee jerk reactions from happening. The last 7 people I have talked to flying drones near my house in parks have NO intention of registering their aircraft! This upset me as these “Holiday” flyers won’t be around by the summer. The other thing I have started seeing is parking lot pilots as I call them, they buy on line, at Harbor Freight? (really?? didn’t know they sold planes) and do not intend to join the AMA or a club. THAT should be your concern NOT incorrect data.

      1. I don’t know that it was overblown, and independent evaluation, the Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone found that a significant number of these sightings were indeed near misses. The AMA report was largely ignored by the media (as was lamented to me by AMA staff) because, in my view, it was not deemed credible – especially when Bard came to such a different conclusion.

        As for people gravitating away from clubs, I submit that many are doing it for the same reason I have. It’s a 20 minute drive one way, a rough grass field that has ripped out more than one set of landing gear, and has an annual cost more than my AMA membership. On the other hand, if I just fly smaller electric stuff, I can fly in a park 100 feet from my home or at a school 200 yards away. I don’t have a Freudian need to fly large airplanes, so I’m perfectly happy flying helis and decent sized electrics within walking distance – and I fly more often!

  8. As somebody who lives in the DC 30-mile radius, who got a new drone for Christmas and then was grounded a few days later, this is very welcome news.

    Can somebody post a link to an official FAA posting about this? I’d like to see it in writing from the FAA, just to cover my butt.


  9. Is the 400′ limit THAT big of a deal?- the mill that i work at has a stack thats a little over 400′- in comparison i dont think i have flown over 400′ in 30+ yrs of this. Granted i dont fly gliders, nor giant scale so im a bit insulated from that problem. Although i dont think there should ANY restrictions past what we have adhered to with the AMA. Thats why our AMA team has to be vigilant on this new proposal.

    1. To put it in perspective- at 68mph- a reasonable speed for a giant scale plane- if you go vertical you are at 400 ft in 3 or 4 seconds. A turbine- half that time- literally a couple of seconds and you are there. Gliders- well they spend almost all of their time well above 400 feet. Unless you fly small planes, yes, the 400 ft limit is a big deal.

  10. David, yes i see where 400′ could be limiting in that respect. As a “run of the mill” ( no pun intended) sport flyer, sometimes i forget the capabilities of the more specialized models/ flyers out there. Thank you for the reply, and safe flying!

  11. We’ll this decision will probably be the end of a 30 year old Sailplane CLUB, CASA The 400 foot limits any sailplane activity. We dont have any other field other then Gude Drive. We’ve been holding the occasional ALES contest and a Handlanch contest for over 14 years there.

    1. Charles see reply above. My goodness fellas this isn’t over. Wow! Pull up your bootstraps here. This is a great step toward making more improvements. Quit the quitter attitudes, please!

  12. Another “step” gentlemen. This is my point. One step at a time.
    Please note that this email (as others have) says “we may need your help in reaching out to members of Congress to urge them to support the Special Rules for Model Aircraft, which provides critical protections for the model aviation community. Remain vigilant and continue to monitor emails, social media, and for more information and updates.”

    Before tearing it apart bit by bit why not draft a letter to your state representatives first then work with AMA to further refine it? Just a friendly suggestion.
    Thanks again gov’t affairs.

  13. I submit that it would be wise to start collecting actual flying hours / sorties / mishap data so we can prove that our hobby is as safe as we’ve been saying it is. FAA is collecting quantitative data showing that “drones” are a problem, and yet we don’t have any quantitative operational data of our own to counter it. A commonly quoted aviation safety metric is mishap free flight hours, or mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours. Maybe its time we start collecting operational data? After all, if we wait until we “need” it, it may be too late.

  14. Nobody is going to put an altimeter detection device near any field and measure the height of operations on a regular basis. Unless you attract attention to your flying by in some other attention getting mode like NOISE, over a CROWD, in the flight path of a FULL SIZE AIRCRAFT, no one will notice if you are above 400′ for a few seconds. Gliders don’t noticed as they could be a bird anyway when viewed from the ground. If you listened to the FAA rep at the AMA Expo he indicated that the 400′ “limit” was a suggestion and not a hard line.

    We all need to take a breath and realize that this is not over. Look to support the AIRR bill now in committee in congress. It further limits the FAA in putting restrictions on model aircraft. All due to the efforts on Rich Hanson and the AMA


    1. I don’t mean to sound ‘negative’, but there already is a SPECIAL RULE FOR RC MODEL AIRCRAFT under SECTION 336. IF the FAA doesn’t want to recognize and comply with that LAW, why would one want to believe they would even recognize the AIRR Act? The FAA would just ‘Interpret’ that LAW as well! We don’t need ANY more LAWS protecting the hobby. What we do need is ACCOUNTABILTY and ENFORCEMENT of the LAW and SUE the FAA and ANYONE else involved for violating what is in fact, the LAW!!!

      1. You are preaching to the choir here! Wonder how many sent money to the group suing the FAA and NOT the AMA? I can name 16, I am still on the fence on this subject.

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