Special Rule for Model Aircraft Remains Intact

We want to share with you a promising development related to FAA reauthorization. The House and Senate came to an agreement last week on language for a short-term FAA funding extension. Importantly for our hobby, this extension preserves the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (the AMA amendment included in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act) through September 2017.

AMA aggressively engaged with both the House and Senate during the drafting process to achieve the best possible result for our members. The bill affirms our right to continue to fly within AMA’s community-based safety program and free from additional government regulations, as Congress continues to recognize the importance and safety commitment of community-based organizations like the AMA. Meanwhile, it does not contain the problematic language that existed in earlier FAA bills.

We expect the House and Senate to vote on the extension, and the President to sign it into law, sometime this week. Once this happens, the status quo will remain in effect for our members through September 2017.

While this legislation will provide some short-term clarity for our members, we know many of you want and expect long-term certainty for our hobby. This extension gives us more than a year to work with Congress on a long-term reauthorization bill that will further strengthen the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and advance other protections of our longstanding hobby.

We will update you next week once the FAA extension passes the House and Senate, and is signed into law.

Thank you for your continued support of AMA.




  1. But still no clarification from the FAA on the operating limits stated during the sUAS Registration process?? I know many modelers and clubs that still view it as an absolute rule and who will continue to do so until the FAA issues a clear statement to the contrary.

    1. Bill,
      The new bill from Congress makes it clear that “A person may operate the small unmanned aircraft as a model aircraft (as defined in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note)…” Meaning, if you are an AMA member that is operating within the guidelines of our Safety Code, you can continue to fly as usual.

      1. Should perhaps mean a boost in membership numbers for the AMA since now, indirectly, this implies that you have more leeway in flying by being an AMA member and obliged to AMA guidelines and safety codes. In this manner it may also weed-out more of the the renegade fliers who were always outside the AMA.

        1. Educator,
          The AMA looks for every opportunity to educate those flying outside of a safety code, and feel this education can ultimately prevent blemishes on the hobby as a whole. Stronger AMA membership can create and even larger voice to speak for the protection of our hobby.

          1. Tyler – Education is one thing, common sense is another. I started in aviation ( both full scale and radio control ) at an early age and back then most people ( young or old ) possessed a valuable trait called ‘ common sense ‘. It seems to be a thing of extinction these days.

          2. Total crock of garbage. Oh if your an AMA member you can do this. AMA is out for one thing money always has always will. The old farts that are the VPs and such are so out of touch its ridiculous. Does anyone every read the crap in the magazine? I wont be renewing my membership and will still fly all I please at my ranch and there is no one that can or do anything about it.

          3. jc – not everyone is fortunate enough as you to own their own ranch property. Think of it that way and then you may quickly realize what the rest are up against. As for me personally, any representation ( such as with the AMA ) for the protection of rights is better than none.

        2. AMA members don’t have any more leeway than non members. As long as a non member is following the same rules from the AMA they can fly the same as an actual member.

          1. MikeF,
            AMA members are satisfying a requirement of section 336 (The Special Rule for Model Aircraft), by operating within the programing of our community-based organization. Those who are not satisfying all the requirement of section 336 should operate under Part 107 of the sUAS Final Rule.

      2. I think you missed my point. During the FAA registration process there is a list of operating guidelines listed, these include a 400-foot altitude limit. While the AMA has said numerous times that this is only a guideline, many members are not satisfied with hearing it from the AMA. The AMA has indicated several times going back more than 5 months that the FAA was going to clarify this point, and so far that has not happened. Hence many people still view it as a required operating limit. I personally do not and never have. But that does not change the fact that there are people, and clubs, that see it that way.

        1. Hi Bill,

          On the registration site and on the registration certificate, the 400′ limit along with other operating procedures are listed as guidelines. You can read what the FAA defines as mandatory verse guidance at https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/plain_language/articles/mandatory/.

          The letter to clarify this position has moved to FAA legal. As soon as we receive a public copy of the letter, we will share with our members. Our hope is that this letter helps clarifies any confusion.

          1. Thanks Chad. And once again please understand that I have zero confusion about this issue. But I know several modelers, especially in the soaring community, who will not fly now since they are convinced that this is not just a “guideline”, but an actual requirement. So if the FAA ever actually gets that letter done it will go a long ways towards helping those folks, and clubs, to come to the same understanding that you and I share.

          2. Please do so ASAP Chad. This 400-feet ( 122-meters ) has been a point of contention and confusion ever since the FAA brought-up the issue. Would like to get above the 400-feet ceiling as I’m sure others would as well. Thanks !

          3. I went to MERRIAM-WEBSTER expecting to find the definition of “guidelines” as something that is not binding as you seem to be inferring. To my surprise, this is what I found:

            Simple Definition of guideline
            : a rule or instruction that shows or tells how something should be done

            Full Definition of guideline
            : a line by which one is guided: as
            a : a cord or rope to aid a passer over a difficult point or to permit retracing a course
            b : an indication or outline of policy or conduct

            So it’s not so far fetched as we thought to think that the guidelines on the registration page are rules set by policy. The link you provided is a perfect example as to why “We The People” don’t understand much of what the government says.

            I suppose I could go look up “rules” but this is giving me a headache, so I won’t.

          4. In our conversations with Congress, the FAA, and the FAA’s legal counsel, I can assure you the Federal Government acknowledges our exemption for flight over 400′ if operated within our safety program. Most members, to maintain visual line of sight, will fly below 400′, but there are use cases for other disciplines to exceed 400′. For understandable safety reasons, the FAA has concerns about making a public endorsement of flight over 400′.

            I understand the concern and confusion and this letter should help clarify the issue.

            For what it’s worth, just a few months ago we buddyboxed sailplanes with FAA’s Senior Advisor on UAS Integration. I also plan on purchasing a sailplane and wouldn’t invest money if I felt that flight would not be permitted.

          5. The purpose of a letter from the FAA is to clarify our operations for AMA members. This clarification is to keep us all safe and also legal in the eyes of the FAA. The FAA needs to recognize AMA as a CBO and approve our operation Safety Code and 540-D (See and Avoid). Without these specific clarifications, we will continue to operate under opinions, not documented requirements.

            The discussion about the difference between a guideline and a regulation is something for a lawyer to argue in court, someplace we do not want to be. If there is an accident, this difference becomes less convincing. Accidents cause more restrictive regulations.

          6. I spoke with the airport manager of our local airport about the 400′ limit not applying to members of the AMA. He stated that if anyone intends to fly above 400′ within 5 miles of the airport he would like them to call the airport and inform them of the fact so that he can make the full scale pilots aware of the modelers’ presence so that they can be on the lookout for them. I think that this is a reasonable request.

            1. Bob,
              You are absolutely correct, good communication between airports and modelers is always a good thing.

      3. Chad said elsewhere in a direct question by me that you do not have to be a member to abide by the safety code and fly under section 336. Has AMA changed it’s position?


        Is it the position of the AMA that to comply with PL112-95 Section 336 paragraph (a)(2) one must be a member of the AMA? (Yes or No)

        For your convenience, here’s what PL112-95 S336 paragraph (a)(2) says:

        “(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based
        set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;”

        1. Hi Frank,

          From 2010-2012 when working with Congress to create the Special Rule, Congress did not want to write a blank check to all recreational hobbyists. Congress agreed to create this hobby exemption if the hobbyist has some education, communication, and accountability through a community-based organization.

          Unfortunately this seems to be a reoccurring issue of confusion between you and me. A quick count indicates you and I have had this same discussion eleven separate times through emails, AMA tickets, and blog comments. As a reminder, the short answer remains that in order to operate within our safety programs you need to be an AMA member which allows us to provide communication, education, and insurance benefits.

          I’d be happy to talk more to clarify this issue, but perhaps it is best handled over the phone at 765-287-1256 x227.

          1. Chad,

            It’s the same issue that others are raising, specifically the use of imprecise language vs. clear and concise answers to direct question to remove ambiguity. So, I ask please, don’t restate the question. Just answer it yes or no. Thank you.

            “Is it the position of the AMA that to comply with PL112-95 Section 336 paragraph (a)(2) one must be a member of the AMA?”

            I don’t have time to dig for it now, but I will later, and if memory serves you said that one had to be a member to have aircraft inspected, but you said something like “AMA will never use the law to drive membership” (paraphrase). Your statement above seems to indicate a policy change. I’m merely asking a direct yes / no question with respect to AMA’s interpretation of specific language in Federal Law.

          2. Just tried again, still no answer and still no ability to leave a message – despite recording to do so. Message box is full.

            1. Sorry, try again. I was away from my desk for about 40 minutes. With the new Congressional action, we have been receiving quite a few phone calls. I just emptied my old voicemails.

          3. I have to agree with Frank, Chad. You DID say on several occasions reassuring others that AMA would NOT require membership in order to be “exempt” from FAA “Rules and Regulations”. Just what is the definition of a CBO anyway? Wouldn’t the FAA itself be a CBO? since theres an airport almost anywhere you look. Doesn’t the FAA promote “Safety GUIDELINES” that one agrees to when they register and pay their $5 for a three year “Membership”? Why can’t one just sign a “Safety Guideline” from the AMA without becoming a member if the AMA is also concerned about folks OUTSIDE of the modeling community that could make us as a whole look bad by unsafe flying habits? Bad, Bad, Bad idea trying to promote and FORCE people to pay a $75 fee to fly. That price alone will scare the heck out of people who might consider joining and I doubt offering a reduced new membership fee would entice someone enough to join when they know they will be eventually sacked with the renewal fee of $75 the next season. I’m not renewing till ALL this is figured out. I’m almost at the point now if I’m FORCED to be a member in order to be “protected” under Section 336, I might not EVER renew again! This is no good Chad. I know you need members and I’m sure there’s alot of people out here that would like to be and/or remain members. But NOT if they are FORCED to be a member. Think about what you all are doing! Is it worth losing more members than gaining only a temporary few?……………..

  2. All of the AMA representatives did a great job on this! Thanks for all of your hard work on behalf of all of the club’s members.

    1. Bob,
      Thank you for you kind words. We at the AMA have an obligation to all of our members, and will continue working with Congress towards the goal of preserving the freedoms of our hobby for years to come. We understand that this recent bill is short term, but this extension will give us over a year to work with Congress towards a long term reauthorization, that will provide further protection for our hobby. Thank you Bob for your support.

  3. Thanks for the hard work and the informative info during this whole fiasco.

    1. Terry,
      You’re very welcome. The AMA appreciates you, and your support of the organization!

  4. Reworking to invent the wheel which was invented long ago. What an amazing accomplishment by the FAA and congress. Your tax dollars at work ????

  5. Thank you for your efforts to date. Please work to include protections for FPV in the long term solution. The FAA precludes the use of FPV for recreational modelers through their Special Interpretation of 336. This means that unless the AMA changes things, FPV must take place under the auspices of Part 107, with all of its restrictions and requirements.

    1. Mark,
      We will continue to fight for the protection of all our members. The FAA does allow for FPV flying if you are a member of a Community Based Organization, you follow the AMA Safety Code, and you have a spotter with you during your flight. Below is a link that will give you more information on FPV.

      1. Tyler, I believe that you are incorrect, and that concerns me because it appears that the people representing us at the AMA do not have a fundamental grasp of the current regulatory climate.

        According to the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, FPV flights do not meet the
        statutory definition and operational requirements for protected operations (under a CBO), offered by 336. (Please see the verbiage from the interpretation below.)

        I would also like to request that if you (the AMA) have references for the FAA granting permission to fly FPV recreationally, within the safety guidelines of a CBO, please post those references in a reply.


        “By definition, a model aircraft must be “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft.” P.L. 112-95, section 336(c)(2).1 Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model.2 Such devices would limit the operator’s field of view thereby reducing his or her ability to see-and-avoid other aircraft in the area. Additionally, some of these devices could dramatically increase the distance at which an operator could see the aircraft, rendering the statutory visual-line-of-sight requirements meaningless. Finally, based on the plain language of the statute, which says that aircraft must be “flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft,” an operator could not rely on another person to satisfy the visual line of sight requirement. See id. (emphasis added). While the statute would not preclude using an observer to augment the safety of the operation, the operator must be able to view the aircraft at all times.



        1. Mark,

          We engage with the FAA on a regular basis to address FPV events throughout the country. The FAA is aware of our FPV safety program and permit FPV flight if the pilot is operating within to our community-based program. In the FAA final rule for sUAS, they clarify the 336 exemption and expand FPV permission via a waiver to those operating outside a community-based program.

            1. The Special Rule for Model Aircraft and Part 107 is in writing. The FAA does not believe it is their role to educate our members about our programs and rules. The FAA is not going to publish documents outlining AMA’s rules on flying sites, ceiling caps, contest director applications, or other AMA specific rules.

          1. I think the OP was talking about FPV under PL112-95 Section 336. You mentioned something different, FPV under 107 – which is not section 336. That might be the source of the confusion.

    2. Chad,

      First I don’t know why, buy there is not always a “reply button” on member posts or yours.

      My comment….
      “The FAA is not going to publish documents outlining AMA’s rules on flying sites, ceiling caps, contest director applications, or other AMA specific rules.”

      This I understand. BUT, the FAA will write rules in the regulations and they will be specific. If what the FAA writes does not set the same limits as current AMA rules, there will be continuing concerns from AMA members.

      1. Hi Ray,

        I will talk to our IT team about addressing the reply button concern. The reply button does exist, but you often have to scroll near the top of an earlier comment inside the same thread.

        We did ask the FAA to create a letter to clarify the distinction between AMA rules and the FAA. That letter is in FAA’s legal department, so we hope it will be released soon. While the FAA won’t, nor do we want, the FAA explaining our rules to our members – we would like to provide written clarification to our members that the FAA recognizes our rules and exemption due to 336. The final sUAS rule announced on June 21 from the FAA is very close to such a positioning statement.

  6. Thank you for you work in this matter. I was wondering if the membership rates are going to remain the same,or if they are going to drop due to the increase in membership? So as it stands now, to me anyway, is I can pay $75 a year or $5 every 3 years, do I have that right? Seems as though it works out good for the AMA.

    1. Michael,
      I cannot speak on behalf of the membership department at AMA, but would be glad to put you in contact with that person if you would like. Feel free to call any time during normal business hours at (800)435-9262, and someone would be happy to discuss that with you. As for FAA requirements for recreational flying, you can operate within the programming of a Community Based Organization under part 336 of the 2012 Modernization and Reform Act , or fly under Part 107 of the 2016 FAA sUAS Final Rule. FAA registration, which includes a $5.00 fee, would still be required.

    2. Michael,

      To add to Tyler’s comments, AMA is very slow to raise rates. For example, this year’s rate increase was the first in 13 years. Previous rate increases were also slow. Since the last rate increase, operating expenses have risen significantly from 2003 to 2016 to cover insurance premiums, government relations, digital services, education efforts, etc… Aside from these added expenses, the rate increase doesn’t even match the rate of inflation. Ultimately, rate increases are the decision of the AMA Executive Council.

      Also to clarify, the other alternative to joining a CBO like AMA is to comply with Part 107 which will cost approximately $150, plus the $5 registration fee.

    3. Michael – seems that anything and everything we want to do or enjoy these days has a monetary cost attached to it. Driving, fishing, flying, etc. Ok; some can live with that but what about the rest ( which is quickly becoming a majority ) who can’t afford the extra costs ? It’s costly as it is just to get what you need for RC flying. At this rate of the growth of divide between haves and have-nots we as a society, here and elsewhere around the world, are definitely not headed in the right direction. Similar situations happened before in history so why can’t the human race learn from its past mistakes and evolve into a higher life form is beyond me.

    4. Michael, you do not need to be a member of AMA to fly under most of the provisions of PL112-95 Section 336 – Chad himself said that elsewhere in these forums. If you fly at a field that requires it, then yes. If you want to fly something over 55lbs, then yes.

      But if you have somewhere to fly that does not require membership, fly something less than 55lbs, and follow the CBO safety code — the law does not require you to be a member.

      1. To clarify, in order to operate within our safety program we require membership. We need to communicate updates and hold our members accountable. In an effort to foster safety in the airspace, we extend an insurance policy and require our members to sign off on our safety code.

        1. As I said, this contradicts what you told me in another venue:

          Mon Jan 04 2016 11:03AM by Chad Budreau
          Sorry. Let me clarify more.

          As for the safety guideline, there are specific bullet points that require an AMA membership to comply such as flying with jets or giant scale. For most basic day-to-day flying, you can abide by most of the safety guideline without being an AMA member.

          The second part of the provision “within the programming of a nationwide CBO” could be interpreted as requiring an AMA membership.

          We at the AMA are not going to use 336 as a tool to grow our membership.”
          I noted that you said “you can abide by most of the safety guideline without being an AMA member.” You also added that the programming language “could be interpreted,” but did not say that it “is” being interpreted. And lastly, your statement on the blog above does not seem to align with your statement to me that “We at the AMA are not going to use 336 as a tool to grow our membership.”

          If you’re now saying that to be within the programming requires membership, aren’t you doing precisely that? Namely using 336 to grow membership in direct conflict with what you told me you wouldn’t do?

          1. Anyone is free to read and comply with parts of our safety program, but to fully satisfy all of 336 and to operate within AMA’s safety program you must be a member. The intent of 336 is to not to boost membership, instead we are trying to separate and protect responsible hobbyists.

  7. I am all but gone from the hobby I’ve loved since I first found it in 1978.

    The AMA stood for much more back then and was surrounded by the hard working manufacturers that the members supported. I’ve watched this diminish and disappear at an incredible pace over the last 10 years and will be quite surprised if the AMA I still around in 10 years.

    The AMA was so late to the party on this entire Drone campaign that they finally just decided to put on the dress that the FAA handed them to wear! The AMA has failed miserably on this and is surviving on the membership believing them. That’s Over for me!

    It was great while it was great, but now it’s on to something new!


    One less AMA Member!

    1. CouYon – I will be gone when I can’t find a place to fly anymore. May sound like a stupid statement but guess what; it’s happening. Recently in my area a field we use to fly at is gone to developers with no apriori notice to any who had been given the go-ahead to use the property. Also some club fields are getting the squeeze too. This year it has felt to me that society is against the flying we enjoy. What’s wrong with these people who seem to be on top of the world ? Just because they can’t enjoy anything but the power of their money doesn’t mean they have to ruin it for the rest of us; but they are.

    2. I’m staying in the hobby, but merely switching to things I can fly outside of section 336. I can legally fly under 107 for example. Since I fly scale type helos and .25 sized electric airplanes at a location that does not require AMA, there’s no need to change. All I need to do is stay inside the 107 operating envelope – and I’m doing that already.

      Will I have to spend $150 and get a license? Feds can’t raise fees quickly, so that’s likely to stay for a while. And it’s good for two years. Right there it’s no worse than AMA ($75 a year). Unlike the feds, AMA can raise their dues with a stroke of the pen. I’m not even sure that every 24 month aeronautical test will be the same full $150, so there’s a possibility the 107 route may be much cheaper in the long run.

      1. Perhaps moving to a deserted island may be the answer. Seriously ! Not only will it mean some freedom but also a respite from INSANITY !

        1. I was career military and moved around the country a lot. I needed AMA to fly at club fields, and until this last move, all of them had paved runways. However, the club nearby is 20 minutes one way, has a rough grass field, and unless you’re flying big stuff, you spend more time bending landing gear. Forget anything smaller than .60. Not to mention, after schlepping all your stuff there, nothing more frustrating than to wait while someone’s hovering their plane dead center of the runway, or worse yet, rocketing head on at the flight line then pulling into a hover.

          So I started transitioning to smaller stuff, electrics and helos (I’m a scale type flyer), and found myself flying much more often at a park in walking distance. I noticed that after paying $100 each year to a club, I went two years and didn’t go. I flew plenty in the park, none at the field. So I dropped the club membership and put the money into flying.

          Now I face another dilemma. To keep giving $75 a year to AMA or spending $150 and just flying part 107 all the time. Just like Dave said in the last issue of MA, it’s a value proposition, and I’m asking what tangible benefits do I get for my $$? (yes, I know insurance, but I own my house & an umbrella, so AMA’s will never pay).

  8. Chad, I can’t comment on your answer above, re: the 400 foot limit, so I’ll quote it here:

    “Chad Budreau July 12, 2016 at 08:57

    In our conversations with Congress, the FAA, and the FAA’s legal counsel, I can assure you the Federal Government acknowledges our exemption for flight over 400′ if operated within our safety program. Most members, to maintain visual line of sight, will fly below 400′, but there are use cases for other disciplines to exceed 400′. For understandable safety reasons, the FAA has concerns about making a public endorsement of flight over 400′.”

    So I’ll ask a very simple yes or no question. Do you have anything in writing from the FAA, DOT, or Congress that says modelers can exceed 400′?

    1. Yes, Congress passed and the FAA recognizes The Special Rule for Model Aircraft. This law permits flying activities within a community-based organization’s safety program. Our safety program allows for flight over 400′.

      The FAA will mandate a 400′ cap for modelers starting August 29 through Part 107, but exempted those who satisfy 336. In earlier Congressional drafts of the FAA Reauth bill, Congress suggested capping flight at 400′ but also exempted those in a community-based program.

      It is not the role of the FAA, DOT, or Congress to educate our members about our safety program.

      1. Thanks…fair enough. I just wanted to understand the logic supporting the derivation of authority.

      2. Chad,
        Is FAA registration and all that that entails still applicable, even if one is a AMA member?

        1. Hi Pete,

          After engaging Congress, many of the problematic proposed laws were removed such as a 400′ ceiling cap, requiring scratch built models to comply with FAA tests and standards, and the possibility of jeopardizing flying sites near airports. We are announcing that we may not be subject to these new laws and Section 336 will remain intact.

          These actions do not nullify the registration requirement. The FAA still requires modelers to register.

          1. Register and reveal more individual information as if they don’t already have enough. And so the INSANITY of these INSANE people continues with no abatement in sight. Welcome to the New World Order ( NWO ) agenda !

          2. Pete Piotroski – It can’t stop because as my late father, who was an MD specializing in psychiatry, would always say – the hardest train-wreak to stop is INSANITY and GREED.

  9. If we distill it down, what I see is:

    – We didn’t lose anything
    – We didn’t get registration reversed
    – We didn’t get any new privileges or protections

    Am I wrong?

    1. Frank,
      You are not wrong. What you are not mentioning is that if the AMA would have not engaged with Congress we would have lost many of the exemptions we now enjoy under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. The original bill had issues that would have created problems for scratch builders, made hobbyists seek permission from airports when flying within five miles of that airport, and capped flying at 400′ even if you are a member of a CBO. We feel as though if the AMA would not have fought for removal of this language, these issues would have been a big loss.

      1. Fair enough. It’s interesting that per Chad’s posts above, the AMA is saying that you need to be a member to fly under section 336.

        I don’t know how I feel about using law to mandate membership. So the 20 year old inner city kid that can barely afford a plane, radio, and other support equipment now has to spend $75 a year just to fly in the public airspace? Even if NOT flying from an AMA club field?

        1. One thing I don’t understand is why everyone keep saying you have to be a member? As I understand, the AMA is not a government agency being on the Federal or State level. FAA cannot enforce a flyer/modeler to have to be a member of the AMA. This is like saying you have to be a member of the AAA in order to satisfy your driving privilige. Non AAA members can only drive on city roads but not on highways. AAA members have full privilege. This is non-sense.

          1. You do not have to be a member of the AMA to fly a model aircraft, you can operate under the rules in Part 107. In order to fully satisfy all of the criteria of section 336, you must operate “within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” To operate within AMA’s programming, you need to be a member which requires you to read and sign off on our Safety Code, receive continuing education and regulatory updates through email/magazine/clubs, and foster responsible flying using the AMA benefits extended to you such as insurance to name a few.

            The AAA analogy is not a fair comparison. For example, some AMA members train and participate in national and international competitions. While not perfect, maybe a better automotive analogy in this scenario would be comparing IndyCar/Formula 1 drivers to civilian drivers.

          2. Chad, I could not respond to your post since the reply button is not there. But anyway…. Yes, I know to operate a model aircraft I don’t have to be a member. However, you say that in order to satisfy section 336 one must operate within the programming of a CBO. There no writing from Congress/FAA that one have to be a member of a CBO. You also say that education is received through email/magazine/clubs and responsible flying through benefits like insurance. I don’t see any of this as educating me further in model aviation specifically insurance.

            Once thing I found from a fellow in a forum who contacted the FAA and got a response regarding membership requirement in a CBO.

            Per the FAA: “The FAA does not interpret PL 112-95 Section 336 (a) (2) as requiring membership in a CBO, nor does the FAA list any CBOs. You must only follow the guidelines of a CBO.”

            They state you must follow the guidelines of a CBO in order to satisfy 336. I have seen AMA listed on the FAA site but they only use the AMA as an example and does not mention anything that one must be a member.

            1. Smartflyer,
              Congress writes in Section 336 of PL 112-95 that in addition to following the guidelines of a CBO, modelers must also operate “within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” As the FAA writes throughout Part 107, modelers must “satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95,” not just sections of the law. To operate within AMA’s nationwide community-based programming, a pilot needs to be a member.

              The Congressional Conference Committee clearly defines that community-based organizations are “membership based” in their report pertaining to section 336 of the 2012 Modernization and Reform Act as follows:
              “…In this section the term “nationwide community-based organization” is intended to mean a membership based association that represents the aeromodeling community within the United States; provides its members a comprehensive set of safety guidelines that underscores safe aeromodeling operations within the National Airspace System and the protection and safety of the general public on the ground; develops and maintains mutually supportive programming with educational institutions, government entities and other aviation associations; and acts as a liaison with government agencies as an advocate for its members…”

              The FAA recognizes the Congressional Conference Committees definition of a community-based organization in their “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft” which can be read at the link below:

          3. So you are saying in order to fully satisfy section 336 I have to be a paying member of the AMA (I see mo mention of this under section 336 that you have to be a member)? How is this enforceable outside of the AMA? Does the AMA have the authority to stop anyone from using the safety code from your site?
            As I understand, the AMA is a private company and not a federal or a state agency. One can belong to any CBO and follow its guidelines. Per the FAA, it does not require a modeler to be a member of a CBO in order to satisfy 336. One however must follow the guidelines of a CBO. Again, how is this enforceable?

            Also, as Chad wrote: “you need to be a member which requires you to read and sign off on our Safety Code, receive continuing education and regulatory updates through email/magazine/clubs, and foster responsible flying using the AMA benefits extended to you such as insurance to name a few.”

            How is it that through email/magazines/clubs you get continuing education? And how is that going to make one a responsible flyer? As for insurance, my understanding is that this is secondary to insurance you already have. If I am to consider membership at $75.00/yr, I would like an explanation.

      2. Tyler – that is a bit of a misrepresentation. AMA did originally engage with Congress and was responsible for getting Section 336 written in the FMRA 2102. All that happened is Congress put off action on the new bill for 14 months. So now AMA has the opportunity to strengthen the final bill in our favor and ensure that the positive movements such as softening the altitude caps, etc. in fact does not remain in the bill. As I recall many of the amendments in our favor were stripped at the last minute from the Senate version. So ate least we have some breathing room now.

        You seem to be implying that the extension was the result of efforts by the AMA.

        1. Bill,
          The extension was a result of time running out on FAA Authorization. That fact does not negate that AMA is constantly engaged with Congress to have the problematic language removed from bills, which is what AMA did this year with the Senate and House bills. If not for constant negotiations with Congress, the FAA extension could have resulted in a very different outcome. We Absolutely agree that AMA needs to continue working with Congress to ensure the preservation of our hobby, and this extension will allow for that.

          1. Good enough. The point is that the clock ran out, not that AMA did something to cause that to happen. The extension contains relatively few new items so I am not sure how you can imply that were not for the AMA then all the bad things pending for our hobby would have survived intact. But I guess at this point I can let that go. The upside is that now the AMA has more time to try to get the Senate to write a final bill that does not impair our hobby to the point of taking all the fun out of it.

    2. You hit it about right. I’ve written a few times directly to AMA Executive Management that if FAA registration remains intact for hobby fliers then the AMA didn’t do very much for us. The FAA will have gotten everything it wanted before Christmas. AMA leadership doesn’t seem to understand how important it is to kill the FAA registration. Many members will never register, including me, and I predict the AMA will lose thousands of members over the issue. Dave Mathewson disagreed with me and stated he didn’t think the AMA would lose members over this. My opinion is different, and I will leave the AMA, and I am a Life Member. That’s how strongly I feel about it. The FAA has no business involving itself in hobby model flying. This is America, the land of the Free. This kind of stuff is supposed to happen only in authoritarian governments, not in the USA. The AMA should have gone for the FAA’s throat. You might guess I’m not a fan of the FAA, as I’ve dealt with them for many years in my professional pilot career.

      1. Herb,

        “This is America, the land of the Free. This kind of stuff is supposed to happen only in authoritarian governments, not in the USA.”

        So apparently you are not in favor of people being “forced” to be licensed to drive a car, be licensed to wire a house, be licensed to design buildings, be licensed to fly a plane, etc. This whole uproar about registration is ridiculous! The FAA probably over-reacted to the proliferation of multi-rotors when they required all models to be registered but that’s the way things are, at least for the present. The AMA is continuing to work with the FAA to allow us to use our AMA numbers as our registration number, and I’m pretty sure that they will ultimately be successful.

        I don’t think that this issue is worth throwing away your Life Membership in the organization. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. You’ll regret it in the long run.

        1. Bob,
          When I hear from people with your views I assume they are much younger than me (flying models since the 1950’s), and are generally okay with the government telling them how to live (the newer generation). The examples you gave all deal with the true safety of peoples lives, not flying a hobby airplane. Never forget we are talking about just flying a model airplane. The idea of having to register to do so goes beyond the pale and is totally unbelievable and ridiculous in America. You cannot get around that fact. I truly hope the FAA goes along with AMA membership to replace registration. The FAA is not a loved organization anyway, and it will only increase disdain for the FAA if they don’t go alone with the AMA, but the FAA doesn’t care what anyone thinks about them. Don’t forget you don’t need either the AMA nor the FAA to fly a model airplane. Thousands of model fliers do it every day. I did it for many, many, years, and will do it again if I need to. I’ve been involved many years with the FAA (over 40 years), and had I been in the AMA leadership when the registration scheme was announced I would have attacked with all barrels blasting with a Federal lawsuit to stop it. There’s a saying in the professional flying world “The FAA is not your friend”, and AMA leadership suffered the consequences of not understanding that fact.

          1. Herb,

            Well, I’m not sure how old you are, but I’m 70 years old and I started building and flying model planes, of one type or another over 60 years ago. So, no, I’m not used to having the government tell me what to do. Like I said above, the FAA probably did overreact to all of the drones being sold to people who didn’t have a clue how to fly one responsibly. Still, what was the great hardship that they put on us? Paying $5.00 (refundable) and telling us to put a little number on our planes? The AMA has done a great job of getting things straightened out and minimizing the impact to its members. I’m confident that with more negotiations they will be able to convince the FAA to allow us to use our AMA numbers as our registration numbers. And then the net impact to us will be ZERO.

            If you don’t think that the FAA had a valid reason to require registration for “drone” flyers, take a look on You Tube and see some of the stupid things that people do with them (and other R/C craft) and see if it might be a good idea to be able to identify the pilot.

            I said it before and I’ll say it again, is this issue really worth throwing away your Lifetime Membership?

  10. One goal the AMA must have over the coming year of working with the Congress is to be sure there is wording that creates a “Firewall” between commercial sUAS activities and hobby activities. The “firewall” must remain intact in whatever FAA regulations that are written.

    As a full scale pilot, I know how complicated the FAR’s are. Too many times what seems to be unrelated sections get linked together for a totally different meaning.

    Thank you to the AMA for all the good work in looking out for the members best interests. Thanks to YOU for hosting these blogs, not always an easy job.

    1. Ray,
      You are absolutely correct, separation between recreational and commercial activities must remain in place. The AMA will continue to engage Congress to ensure our hobby receives protection from further restrictions. We thank you for your support of the AMA, and encourage members to use our blogs for the purpose of staying well informed.

      1. Ray Phillips is -> spot on <- ! SEPARATION between recreational and commercial ( $$$$ ) is a MUST ! This is what the FAA, congress, and AMA MUST concentrate on. Money ( $$$$ ) interests are one thing and recreational is another. This DISTINCTION MUST BE MADE if we hope to have what we on the recreational side have always done and that is to simply fly leaving the money side of matters on the way-side. The commercial interests must NOT infringe or dictate upon the recreational interests. The AMA CLEARLY knows what this distinction is and now it's time ( and long overdue ) for the FAA and congress to wake-up to this distinction and NOT me mandated by the rich and famous ! If the FAA and congress have any fortitude they will stand-up and PROTECT the recreational interests without being swayed by the commercial interests and their lust for monetary gains.

        1. The focus needs to be with congress. The FAA works for congress. Let the commercial side be what it will be. Increasing the cost for commercial operators will weed out the amateurs. We just need a wall to keep the commercial regs from moving to the hobby side.

          But, us hobby people need to watch out for those who are operating in a careless manner. Most of these people only have money invested, no time dedicated to an aviation hobby. Call the police and the FAA on them, get them grounded. One accident with a full scale airplane, this will all come down like a house of cards.

          Just remember how quickly the FAA instituted registration. No law, no direction from Congress, they made us do it. One dead person in a full scale airplane will bring the wrath of the FAA and that will be supported by the general public who do not want to be next.

          So, until all of this settles out, we all need to be extra careful and vigilant.

  11. Chad. Thanks..won’t be able to call for a couple days. Just got asked to do a “pre-accident investigation” on a longstanding set of operating procedures – looking for assumptions that are no longer valid and how they could combine into an accident chain.


    I was just visiting the Summit Racing web site and found that the EPA has decided that it is now illegal to modify a street vehicle into a “race only” vehicle. I was asked to sign a petition asking Congress to support the RPM Bill which would prevent the EPA from enacting this new rule. SEMA (Special Equipment Manufacturers Association) is fighting this but I wonder if they will be as successful as AMA has been. We should all be really glad that our AMA representatives fought hard for us and won a victory for our right to fly.

    1. Bob – I totally agree and I am somewhat amazed at what the AMA has accomplished thus far. They ( AMA ) have thus far, far-exceeded my expectations. In the process I feel that they have now also gained the professional respect and exposure they may have been missing. Let’s hope it continues. Also, with what you just mentioned about the EPA ( Environmental Protection Agency ), let’s hope that they don’t also join the crazies band-wagon and throw the shoe at us recreational flyers too by saying that nitro / gas powered aircraft are having an environmental impact. With the insanity of these people ‘ these days ‘ any insanity they throw out at the public seems to be fair game with them.

      1. Actually, SEMA got the EPA to TOTALLY back down on that requirement, from what I read.

  13. What assurances can the AMA give (regarding FAA registration), about keeping model/drone registration separate from full-scale certificates?

    I currently hold an ATP, three type ratings and fly for an airline. I do not want any actions generated by my hobby to affect my career. I’ve not been able to get an adequate answer to this question from anyone.

    1. R Strowe,

      There is evidence that the FAA may hold full scale pilots at a higher standard. There are a couple incidents of full-scale pilots who had their full-scale license revoked by the FAA for violating FAA sUAS policies.

      With that being said, a large number of AMA members are also full-scale pilots. You can enjoy both full scale and aeromodeling without recourse if you continue to fly your models responsibly, comply with federal regulations such as registration, and operate within our safety programming.

      1. Chad,
        That is part of the issue. I register with the FAA, place my number on my aircraft in a visible place (I don’t have easy to remove battery hatches), and somebody copies my number and then places it on their craft, does something stupid, and I (along with my livelihood) are now under threat.

        Sorry, but I’m simply not that much of a risk taker. Incidentally, I remember there was an AC (Advisory Circular) out years ago that stated that model aircraft were exempt from FAA regulation, but cannot find it now on the FAA website. Does AMA have a copy of this, or has AMA looked into that angle to fight this registration requirement?

  14. So, to answer my own question,I’ve looked up AC 91-57, which is the original Advisory Circular that defines (from the FAA) how we should operate model aircraft. I’m not going to copy the whole thing here, but the key word in the entire AC is VOLUNTARY. As in voluntary compliance ie: guidelines only. This AC was issued on 06-09-1981.

    Now, Section 336 (Special Rule for Model Aircraft) was passed in 2012, and as we all know states that ‘The FAA will not promulgate any new rule for model aircraft’.

    And we now have AC 91-57A, issued on 09-02-2015, which among other things, lays out a new rule requiring registration.

    The original AC states that we are to follow some basic rules, but as guidelines only. Then we have legislation stating now new rules for model aviation.

    And now we have new rules, in direct contradiction of both the FAA’s own documents as well as Federal law, as passed by Congress and signed by the President.

    And the AMA is promoting registration why?

    1. R Strowe,
      The AMA has filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals regarding FAA registration, and resume talks with the FAA in September to discuss the registration issue. We will keep AMA members updated on any developments regarding FAA registration.

      1. Tyler,

        I appreciate that the AMA has filed a petition with the court, and that it will hopefully be heard soon.

        What I cannot fathom is the continued ‘promotion’ from the AMA of registration with the FAA. Whatever happened to civil disobedience?

        1. The AMA petition was filed a year before Part 48 registration existed. It does not directly address registration. The court has allowed the FAA to stall this case so it’s hard to tell when it will be heard. The John A. Taylor case directly addresses registration and has a current briefing schedule with oral arguments possible this year.

  15. Please translate what the extension means in real terms for the membership. It means we can fly anywhere? It means we do not have to register with FAA? What does it mean…please do not assume everyone has all the pieces lined up in a clear picture.

    1. W. Stewart Tittle,
      The FAA Extension kept in place Section 336 of the 2012 Modernization and Reform Act. Meaning an AMA member following Part 336 and the AMA Safety Code can continue flying as they have since 2012. I have posted a list below which is part of section 336 requirements.

      (1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
      (2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
      (3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
      (4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
      (5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

      FAA registration is still required, but the AMA is trying to resolve this issue.
      The AMA Safety Code can be found at: https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.PDF

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