Guidance for conducting modeling events at full scale airshows

Every other year the Dayton Ohio Giant Scalers club hosts the World War I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The event is held in conjunction with a full-scale gathering including period reenactors, vintage automobiles, and other war-era memorabilia and presentations. AMA members from across the country participate in this weekend-long event.

On the opening day of the air show, I received an urgent telephone call from Doug Cox, the contest director (CD). There was some confusion between the FAA and the full-scale event staff about the modeling activities. Until those issues were resolved, every model aircraft was grounded.

Most of the issues were simply because of confusion and miscommunication between the full-scale staff and the FAA. I have attended the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous in the past, and it is always extremely well organized. Doug did an excellent job complying with AMA’s air show policies. The document can be viewed at

After it was confirmed the AMA event was in full compliance with AMA’s safety programming and FAA guidance, the action was permitted to resume. Much credit is owed to Doug and his team of volunteers who feverishly worked to get the modelers back in the air. The entire situation was handled well by all parties.

Days after the event, I had a follow-up conversation with Doug to recap the incident and discuss how we can avoid something similar from happening. A few lessons were learned.

    1) Read, reread, and read again AMA’s Full Scale Air Show Requirements document at Doug was able to clearly articulate AMA’s safety programming and demonstrate to the FAA officials that the event was in full compliance with AMA’s safety programming.

    2) Months before the event, the full-scale event staff needs to document to the FAA that modeling activities will be occurring. Although this is the full-scale staff’s responsibility, the CD should offer to help and provide any documentation that may be needed to fulfill this requirement. Any unanswered concerns about aeromodeling activities should be resolved months before the event, not the day of the gathering.

    3) The FAA requires modeling events that take place during full-scale air shows to be sanctioned by the AMA. Although the World War I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous was sanctioned, it’s always good to keep extra copies of the sanction on hand before and during the air show. Also be sure all of the event staff, including the full-scale air boss and promoter, have copies in case the FAA needs to verify AMA’s sanctioning during the air show.

    4) Event insurance is not required, but is a good idea. The FAA official asked Doug for proof of insurance. Although Doug could clarified that event or site insurance is not required because every AMA member is already covered, it’s far easier to simply hand over proof of insurance. The $25 investment is not only good for the property owner, but it might save you some headaches.

    5) If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact AMA Headquarters. You can call (765) 287-1256, extensions 230 or 227.

Fortunately, it rained for the eight hours the modelers were grounded. Just as Doug was given the green light to resume flying, Mother Nature cooperated and stopped the rain for the rest of the weekend. The remainder of the event was great. We’re looking forward to the WW I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous in 2018.

Look for event coverage of the WW I Dawn Patrol Rendezvous in the January 2017 issue of Model Aviation.


One comment

  1. Chads comments were spot on and accurate. Anyone working with a full scale air show should read and print out as a guide the afor mentioned link in Chads’ post. The guidelines will serve you well. I would also like to thank Chad for helping us through this misunderstanding and bringing it to a happy ending.

    Doug Cox, AMA Contest Director, 2016 Dayton Dawn Patrol

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