Last week we asked you to contact your Senators requesting support of an amendment to resolve provisions in the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill that could be detrimental to our hobby. Thanks to your efforts over 30,100 letters were sent to Congress. We thank you for your support of the hobby and making your voices heard.
The Senate version of the FAA reauthorization bill importantly preserved the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and affirmed the importance of a community-based approached to managing the model aviation community. The Senate bill also exempts our members from the 400-foot altitude limitation that was in the draft Senate bill. AMA secured this exemption for our members after engaging the leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee.
Unfortunately, however, today we learned the Senate did not incorporate some of AMA’s suggestions into the final version of the Senate bill. AMA is disappointed with several of the provisions that passed the Senate, which could undermine our community’s model aircraft activity and detract from the creativity, innovation and enjoyment of the hobby.
One of the provisions would require all UAS, including model aircraft, to meet new FAA design and production standards and impose unnecessary regulation on hobbyists who often build their own models at home. This legislation also puts new requirements on model aircraft operations within 5 miles of airports, potentially jeopardizing hundreds of existing flying sites that have operated safely and harmoniously within our communities for decades. And finally, the bill creates an unnecessary and unsubstantiated requirement for AMA members ages 13 and above to take an online FAA safety test and carry proof of passing the test when flying.
While the Senate bill is disappointing, know that we still have opportunities to shape the final legislation and we’ll need your continued help and support to achieve the best possible outcome for our hobby. The more favorable House version of the FAA reauthorization bill still needs to go to a floor vote. This bill provides a clear definition of a community-based organization (CBO) and tasks the FAA with developing a process for recognizing qualifying CBOs, both long-overdue tasks for the agency. In addition, the House bill makes clear that model aircraft can be used as a teaching tool for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as aeronautics. Once the House and the Senate bills are passed, they go to a conference committee for another round of revisions and another Congressional vote. This process could take many more weeks or possibly months before being presented to the President to sign into law.
We will continue to work with our allies in Congress to protect and strengthen our long-standing, safe and educational hobby, and we may need your help again in the near future. Please continue to monitor www.modelaircraft.org/gov and your email for updates and more information.