The AMA Government Affairs team has been working persistently with lawmakers this year to ensure our hobby is protected in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation. The Senate’s August recess gave our team a few days to adjust our strategy towards preserving Section 336 and to address some state and local concerns.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., canceled all but a week of the annual August recess to deal with legislative backlog, as they work to pass as many bills as possible ahead of the September 30 fiscal-year deadline. In addition to the FAA reauthorization, which expires October 1, the Senate still needs to address a Supreme Court nomination, water infrastructure legislation, and the farm bill. McConnell said these items will be a priority in August.
Now that senators have returned to Washington, our team will be back on Capitol Hill to meet with legislators and stakeholders to advocate for the model aviation hobby and protect Section 336. If the Senate runs out of time to address FAA legislation, Congress will defer any substantive decision-making on FAA reauthorization until next year by passing a continuing resolution. This would maintain the status quo for a little longer; however, AMA maintains that a longer-term reauthorization of the FAA is needed to strengthen the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and affirm the role of community-based organizations like AMA in educating hobbyists.
As many of you are aware, President Trump frequently travels to Bedminster, NJ resulting in VIP Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) that significantly impact the local model aviation hobby. We have been coordinating with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) and the FAA to find a permanent exemption that allows AMA members to continue flying in the outer ring of VIP TFRs.
Although this has been a lengthy process with lots of red tape, we are happy that we have made some progress. For an event earlier this summer in Lehigh Valley, PA, we secured a temporary waiver from the FAA and USSS. This waiver was an important step toward obtaining a permanent exemption for AMA members.
In addition, we have been successful in getting the local media’s attention on this issue. Several outlets have ran stories about the effect of TFRs on model aircraft, including this opinion piece from Pat Rizzuto, president of the Top O’ New Jersey AMA club, in the New Jersey Star Ledger (“Mr. President, please tell the Secret Service our model planes in Bedminster are safe,” July 20, 2018), detailing how his club has been affected by the president’s travels.
Most recently, U.S. Representative Leonard Lance, who represents the Bedminster area, sent a letter to the USSS on behalf of AMA members requesting the permanent exemption to allow members to fly in the outer ring of VIP TFRs. We are very thankful that Congressman Lance has been so supportive of AMA and our hobby, and we hope to hear back from the USSS soon.
State and Local
At the state and local level, AMA continues to engage with legislators on problematic bills in various states. Recent local communities we have engaged to help resolve legislative issues:
- Ohio: As introduced, House Bill 685 would further the airspace and impose record keeping requirements that would burden unmanned aircraft system (UAS) retailers and operators. Our team has been in contact with the bill’s sponsor since June. This bill is not expected to move through committee, but we will continue to monitor.
- Wisconsin: AMA members alerted us to a committee meeting in Middleton, where a discussion on drone regulations was listed on the agenda. AMA engaged with committee members to offer guidance and resources and do not anticipate additional regulations.
Please reach out to us if you hear about problematic legislation proposals in your area, just as our Wisconsin members did last week. It is more productive to assist local government with guidance in the early stages of legislation.
We thank all of our members for your support of our long-standing hobby. As the Senate works on their FAA reauthorization language, we may ask for your help to engage with your senators on the importance of the hobby. Please continue to monitor your emails and social media. You can find the latest advocacy information on our website at modelaircraft.org and we encourage you to contact us with any questions.
AMA Government Affairs Team