AMA Working with Senate on FAA Reauthorization Act 2016

We want to provide you with an update on recent congressional action on the new FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (SB 2658). Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the FAA, sent SB 2658 to the Senate floor for consideration. While the proposed bill affirms the importance of a community-based approach to managing the recreational aeromodeling community, there are some provisions that could be further improved and some new provisions that could be problematic for the aeromodeling community.

AMA is working closely with members of Congress and their staffs to achieve the best possible result for our hobby. AMA is making progress and members of Congress have been receptive to our views.

For instance, we have made positive strides with the 400-foot altitude limitation in the draft proposed Senate bill. Although this onerous provision initially applied to everyone, we have made good progress in working to secure an exemption for AMA members after engaging the leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee. There is still room for improvement and we are using all of our available means to ensure improvements are made. As more develops, we will provide you with greater details.

In the near future, we may also ask you to engage with Congress and advocate for the hobby. Please stay tuned to find out how you can help during this process.

As always, thank you for your continued support.


  1. The FAA should have a liaison office to handle contact requests for people finding a drone on their property rather than have the finding person be able to look up someone’s info directly.
    Also The ability of anyone to substitute registration info to their vehicle after looking it up is a major issue of safety and security for the actual registrant. How would the FAA validate who was actually operating it without a digital signature?

  2. The AMA so far as I can tell is not commenting on part of the bill is that imposes on manufacturers onerous reporting, registration, and testing requirements (see S.2658, Section 2124, Subsection 44803).

    What is the AMA’s opinion on the effect this section if passed as-is will have on the industry that is supplying our hobby products? I am no lawyer but I have been an engineer in the airline industry for 25 years and, to me, this is THE biggest problem with the bill as it now stands.

    Pilot testing and altitude restrictions are irrelevant if this bill drives manufacturers out of business. One year after the Bill’s effective date, as I read it, every kit, ARF, foamy, and heli, either scratch-built or factory made, will need to receive FAA approval before being able to be operated legally.

    There is a fundamental difference between these antonymous/semi-autonymous camera platforms and the model airplanes and helicopters we fly. Please provide the membership with more, and better, communication of where this is going and what you are doing to mitigate this issue.

  3. This was just published by the AOPA. The Senate bill includes wording on “Drone Certification”, maybe “Model Aircraft Certification” and “Knowledge Testing for UAV operators”. How is the AMA addressing these items, this bill seems to be moving quickly through the Senate.

    As Published by the AOPA….
    The Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 has finally made it out of committee, and it contains 65 pages of requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Some of these provisions go to the heart of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) philosophy for dealing with unmanned aircraft. If enacted, the legislation could have a profound impact on the development of this industry.

    First and foremost, the bill will require all small UAS to meet design and production standards within one year from enactment. Manufacturers will not be allowed to sell any UAS in the United States unless they certify to the FAA that their design and manufacturing processes meet these new standards, and that random production samples are tested to the standard. A manufacturer will also have to provide a sample of the UAS to the FAA for review.

    While the Senate is clear that it does not want the FAA to use the existing certification processes, lawmakers are essentially creating a “light” version of type certification. The FAA would retain some flexibility under the bill, as the agency can determine the applicability of the standard. However, it would be within the FAA’s discretion to apply the standard to all aircraft.

    In addition, it is not clear if the Senate intends the FAA to apply these standards to model aircraft as well as aircraft operated commercially. What is clear is that, if enacted, the bill would reverse the course the FAA has taken with the small UAS rule, where airworthiness certification will only be required for vehicles that operate over people or beyond visual line of sight.

    Another major philosophical change in the bill is the requirement that all operators (even model aircraft pilots) pass an “aeronautical knowledge and safety test.” The FAA does, however, have the authority to conduct a rulemaking to find that a particular type of user does not need to take the test. The bill also exempts aircraft under .55 pounds, and pilots under 13 years of age who fly under the supervision of an adult who has passed the test. The FAA would have 180 days to put the testing process in place after the bill becomes law. Interestingly, the FAA is specifically prohibited from issuing a civil penalty for a first-time violation of the requirement.

    The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation also made three significant, last-minute additions to the bill. The first establishes a two-year deadline for the FAA to create a new operating certificate for unmanned aircraft package delivery operators. The second gives the FAA nine months to establish a rule for micro UAS (under two kilograms, or 4.4 pounds) that would not require a pilot’s certificate and would be operated similarly to model aircraft. The third gives the FAA nine months to develop standards for UAS operations by institutions of “higher education.” If the FAA does not complete the standards on time, the institutions can essentially operate on the same basis as model aircraft.

    Given the significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the FAA Reauthorization, it is unclear what legislation will ultimately emerge when the House and Senate finish negotiating. The time for the industry to make its voice heard is short, and the time to act is now. We will keep you informed as the legislative process moves forward.

  4. It was voted out of committee last week, so we’re actually further along in the process.

    Seems the arrow should be pointing to “Senate Bill with any proposed changes to the special rule goes to the Senate Floor for a vote.”

    1. The bill may not go to vote yet as it may still go back to the committee for revisions as it did with the House.

        1. While I do care what happens..and I’d prefer not to become a criminal..I will continue doing what I love doing. If the FAA and our overreaching Government wants to arrest me and throw me in the Gulag…then please, bring it on. It’s time we stop lolly gagging around and playing nice and we start fighting back..

  5. What is the status on the prohibition of sale of non-certified sUAS? That is probably the most worrisome out of the bill for the scratchbuilt community (and actually the entire RC community). I also agree with the 400 foot rule and others, but that worries me the most.

    1. And what I meant by I agree with the 400 ft rule is that I think many of the other rules should also be changed for common sense. Around major airports perhaps, but even then, just be smart.

    2. We are addressing this as are other manufactures and industry leaders. We will share updates as soon as we can.

      1. One part of this that I am most concerned about is the requirement to ASK PERMISSION from an airport manager if I want to fly within 5 miles of an airport. In my case, the local municipal airport manager does not like model airplane flyers. There is no reason for this since in over 60 years of R/C operations in this area, there has never been an incident involving full scale aircraft and model aircraft. If I have to ask permission to fly about 3 miles from the airport, I’ll most likely be told NO, and that will be the end of it. I hope AMA is going to address this issue in the regulations, since I’m sure I’m not the only person for whom this is a potential problem.

  6. Thanks, AMA, for everything that you are doing to protect and strengthen our hobby.

    1. which seems to be nothing.. giving in to the bureaucrats left and right, selling drone advertizing.. on and on.

      1. I said it before and I’ll say it again…if it weren’t for the AMA, there would now be NO model airplane flying in the USA. The FAA would have killed that long ago!

  7. There is a provision in the bill that states that it is unlawful to create a model aircraft and introduce it into the airspace (commerce airspace which is inclusive to all airspaces). The language is so broad that if I build a model aircraft of any type and fly it, AMA racer, helium balloon, golf ball, soccer ball, paper airplane, bullet, etc -according to the definition of UAS, it is unlawful.

    There needs to be a better definition of UAS and the language taken out for builders of model aircraft so they won’t become outlaws. Aviation was born from model aircraft. It’s unacceptable that there is language in the bill for innovators and builders to become outlaws if they create, build and fly.

    What is the reason that the lawmakers want to restrict building model aircraft and flying them? Commerce monopoly? Must we only buy FAA approved model aircraft now. I reject many offerings currently for sale now as being too expensive, dangerous and unappealing. I have gained knowledge from my private pilot glider license and applied to to my model aircraft to improve flight. It’s common knowledge that it works the other way-models to full size flight improvements. CAD doesn’t always have to be the answer to flight improvements and breakthroughs.

    Lee Coleman

    1. This language affects plans builders, scratch builders, educators, and many others in our hobby. We cannot share details at this time, but we are addressing this text.

      1. I have been successfully building Control Line and Radio control model aircraft since 1961. It has been a wonderful experience and has provided hundreds of hours of workshop time and flying time. Without exception, every one of these build has been succesful and with models lasting as long as 20 plus years! Just checked the AMA decal on my Scratch built. Its the 1991 decal!!!
        For the Committees to try and make Scratch building and kit building illegal is about as crazy as it gets! ( I am assuming that they will allow individual builders to apply for an FAA examination of the model and a Certificate of Airworthiness issued.
        This tells me the level of mentality we are dealing with. If it stands, and makes it through to the final bill, I will continue to build and fly as I have always done. If they want to try and enforce it, I will willingly go into a court room and let a judge decide the matter. What am I? a terrorist?
        How about naming the committees so that we can have our own senators and representatives contact these idiots and get it stopped at the source

      2. Is there any additional information to share on this topic yet? This is by far the most frightening aspect of the legislation yet.

    2. there is no reasoning. Its because they want POWER and they want to FLEX THEY”RE POWER to intimidate the american public.

      1. They are weak…and can do nothing but intimidate. We have the power..but only in unity..

  8. “…with the 400-foot altitude limitation…we have made good progress in working to secure an exemption for AMA members…”

    The entire model aviation community, not just AMA members, has much to gain if this effort is successful. To require RC pilots to be AMA members in order to fly above 400′ is nothing short of extortion. Why not propose that _any_ RC pilot be allowed to fly above 400′ if they sign a brief statement that they agree to abide by the AMA Safety Code? This should be every bit as “binding” as the act of paying for an AMA membership.

    The AMA _should_ be working on behalf of the entire model aviation community. The way it looks now they are more focused on growing their membership revenues by taking advantage of a seriously misguided congressional act.

    1. At this time the Senate is only willing to grant an exception to those pilots who abide by the safety program of a national community-based-organization. There are hobbyist pilots who do not abide by proper safety protocols and therefore the Senate is not comfortable granting a blanket exemption.

      1. Did you actually read my post? I suggested that one should not have to be a paying AMA member to agree (in writing) to following the AMA safety program. Nowhere did I suggest a blanket exemption…

      2. This seems like a redundant step. Since the Senate bill requires operation under the safety program of a CBO to be considered a hobby operation and they plan to possibly exempt CBO operations from a 400 foot limit as part of what defines a hobby operation then there is no need to even mention 400 feet in the bill.

      3. And the AMA’s official position is that you do not have to be a member of the AMA to abide by its safety code – T/F?

        1. To fly safely under the AMA safety program, we believe membership is necessary. Belonging to a membership community allows us to communicate safety updates, rule changes, programs, education, etc… through email, membership channels (clubs / inspectors / leader members), and printed publications. In addition, we believe flying responsibly includes being insured which is received with membership.

          1. By what divine right does the AMA get to decide that they are the “community based organization” to represent rc community? So the choice will be pay your AMA dues or else?
            This drone issue should have been separated from traditional RC aircraft flyers.If the AMA wants to promote RC drone use then start a new organization for that purpose. Why should I forced pay for something I do not support?

          2. Gary, go ahead and start your own CBO and get it approved. You’ll find out right away the AMA membership is a real good deal.

      4. Chad,
        Regarding an exemption for 400′ restriction to “those pilots who abide by the safety program of a national CBO…”
        As an AMA member (also a Commercial licensed pilot) will this be subject to a requirement that AMA pilots must fly at an AMA field?
        My nearest AMA field is 1 hour 20 minutes driving time away. My local flying field for my sailplanes is 4 minutes away

        SO I hope that any exemption won’t require flying at an AMA field.

        1. We do not want to limit model flying to AMA fields. We believe members should be able to fly at any safe location including a member’s backyard. Currently no exemptions are restricted to AMA flying sites.

          1. Chad,

            Has the FAA formally recognized the AMA as a CBO and approved our guidelines?

            1. Hi Ray,

              In the House version of the bill we were able to include language to task the FAA to formally recognize CBOs.

          2. While it is probably too late to implement this, it occurred to me that the FAA needs 4 sets of rules:

            1) Rules for the operation of full-scale aircraft. (They already have these in place.)

            2) Rules for those who want to operate “drones” for commercial purposes. The drones in this case could be fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, or multi-rotors.

            3) Rules for those who want to operate “drones” for non-commercial, hobby-related purposes and are NOT members of a Community Based Organization. (This is the group that is causing the vast majority of the problems that we hear about.)

            4) Rules for people who belong to a Community Based Organization (i.e., AMA or a similar group). We already have these rules in place and they have been shown to be effective. Therefore, the AMA safety code should be more than sufficient without adding any extra legislation.

            I’m not sure that the FAA would buy this structure but it makes more sense than lumping all non-commercial vehicles together.

  9. As I have noted elsewhere, even if the 400 foot altitude requirement survives into the final bill it is NOT an actual regulation that you can be cited for. It is part of an operating definition of what a hobby operation is. Exceeding 400 feet would remove you from being classified as a hobby operation and place you under the authority of the FAA and whatever regulations they may have in lace at the time. There would not be a provision for a direct violation of 400 feet, rather you would be cited for something else like reckless/careless operation, etc. if you caused an accident/incident. Seems like semantics, but it is an important distinction to understand.

  10. Chad,

    Again thanks for your efforts.

    This may have already been brought up, but has the AMA considered partnering with a stronger Washington lobbyist? The AMA is relatively small in membership & capital hill influence compared to the AARP. However the AARP shares some of the same members with the AMA. Perhaps the AARP can be persuaded by the AMA & it’s shared members to protect flying rights & privileges it’s RC pilots? It’s worth consideration.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.
    Kindest Regards,

  11. Chad,

    The AMA should use the Toledo Show to get the word out on this legislation to members of the industry. Although some in the industry are participating in the lobbying effort, I know from personal experience that many are unaware of the measures in this bill that threaten their business. If you provide them with this information, you will gather more support for your efforts.

    1. There is a District III and VII meeting Saturday, April 2 at 1pm in room 314. The meeting will include district specific news, but also updates and question and answers about AMA’s efforts with the FAA and Congress. Many from the AMA will be present at Toledo including myself. We encourage anyone to talk to us, we’d be happy to answer any questions and discuss the path ahead.

      1. Chad,

        I am glad that you and other AMA representatives will be at Toledo. I recommend that you go beyond the District meetings and waiting to be approached with questions, and also actively contact each of the vendors and inform them of the content of the bill that is dangerous to our hobby. In particular, they should be made aware of the provision in the bill that makes it unlawful to create a model aircraft and introduce it into the airspace without FAA approval. This could be done by distributing a handout that includes the relevant language in the bill, AMAs talking points, an invitation to the District meetings, and how the industry can support AMA efforts to address this problem. In my contacts with the model industry, I have learned that many are not aware of this bill and the hazard it presents to their business. The Toledo Show provides a timely opportunity to bring this bill to the attention of the modeling industry by making a brief visit to each vendor during the show.

      2. Chad,you’re a busy guy. Will there be any feedback on the Districts meeting at Toledo regarding your comments? Also any comments about the FAA presence at Toledo. Didn’t make it this year.

        1. We talked to quite a few members on the showroom floor. During the District III and VII meeting we opened the floor to member question and answer as we discussed registration, Large Model Aircraft, insurance, and other hot topics.

          The FAA did have a staffed booth in Toledo. I understand the FAA primarily addressed registration questions and showcased the Know Before You Fly Campaign.

  12. Any status to report on the 3 big concerns in the Senate bill?

    1. 400 foot altitude limit.

    2. Knowledge Testing

    3. Aircraft / Manufacturer certification.

    1. Hi Ray,

      We have successfully inserted an exemption for the 400′ rule. We are in talks with Senators to champion our ask to resolve concerns with the knowledge test. And we have a lot of support and are part of a coalition of other manufacturers, lobbyists, and industry leaders to remove the aircraft/manufacture certification requirement.

  13. Chad,

    Here’s a question completely out of the blue – what types of models do you enjoy flying when you’re not handling government relations for the AMA?

    1. I have about a dozen or so models. I enjoy woodworking, so I decided to try my hand at building a small free flight stick and tissue scale model. I enjoy float flying as I have the Icon A5, the Apprentice S with floats, and a smaller foamy Beaver. I have tried sailplanes and enjoy the appeal. I almost came home with an entry-level sailplane while in Toledo – unfortunately my schedule lately hasn’t allowed for much flying so I passed. I also own a few (more toy grade) helicopters and multirotors, but I am more of a fixed wing flyer.

  14. Reading all these comments there is some information that has not been given to the public or RC pilots because the AMA is like a lot of organizations that lobby they are going to give in and support the government. Sorry but AMA is a business and revolves around money. The people who represent RC modelers are in their jobs lively hood so they are not going to do anything that jeopardizes their job. If you don’t think that they will side with the government you are fooling yourself. I have to agree with some who made the statement why should they have to be a AMA member to fly above 400 ft although I don’t but again it all revolves around money. I used to be an AMA member not anymore. I have my certificate of registration that is what I am required to have so why pay more money for an AMA membership. If you look through the years the FAA has pretty much left model aircraft alone it wasn’t until recent events and technology advances that they started to take a notice so the AMA has not done a whole lot don’t kid your self.

  15. I just(4/19/2016 4PM EDST) read that the FAA Reauthorization Act has passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority and without some two dozen amendments. Will the AMA(Chad) add to this and move the arrow on the diagram?

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