Questions Linger

There are still many questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks with the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Here is a question and answer that will be added to the FAQ section of this blog. 

Q. Now that Congress has enacted a provision to protect model aviation from regulation in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, what does this mean in terms of the proposed sUAS rule and FAA's intent to regulate model aircraft?

A. To be honest... At this point we really don't know.This is truly uncharted waters; however, it is clear that this Act expresses Congress' view that aeromodeling is a relatively harmless activity and recognition of the level of safety the community has achieved over the past 75 years through voluntary compliance with a community-based set of safety guidelines. In the weeks to come AMA will be working with the congressional leadership and the FAA administration in an effort to clarify the congressional intent and develop a viable means of enacting this legislative provision. AMA will continue to update its members as additional information becomes available.

Check back frequently for additional answers.

FAQ's

   
Congress Passes Four-Year FAA Funding Bill

The U.S. Senate followed the House of Representatives in passing the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, H.R. 658. Passage of the Bill puts in place a provision aimed at protecting model aviation from burdensome regulation.

This would never have been possible if it wasn’t for the efforts and support of Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla) in introducing an amendment protecting model aviation into the Senate version of the Bill. And, it would never have been possible without you, the AMA member, in your response to AMA’s call to action during last spring’s Congressional Awareness campaign.

Through a vote agreeing to the joint Conference Committee's report on H.R. 658 the Senate finalized this Congressional act which will now be sent to Pesident Obama for signature. Once signed by the President the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 will become law.

Read the full article in Aviation Week 
Read the Model Aircraft Section of H.R. 658 
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Lawmakers Agree on Four-Year FAA Bill

Lawmakers have come to an agreement on the long awaited FAA RE-Authorization Bill. The Bill now moves out of Conference Committee and onto the House and Senate floor for a final vote. Passage of the Bill could come as early as the first of next week.

Read the full article in The Washington Post
Additional reading in USA Today
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FAA Cracking Down on UAS Use

LAPD advises California realtors that UAS operators may be violating federal guidelines, warns of possible enforcement action.

Read the full article in AV web
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Money Matters Unresolved

Yesterday the House passed H.R. 3800 extending FAA’s funding until 2/17/2012. Lawmakers will now begin work on the broader issues of the Re-Authorization Bill, H.R. 658. The remaining issues included overall spending authority (House, $14.8 billion – Senate, $17.4 billion) and such things as how shipments of lithium batteries can be carried on cargo aircraft.

Representative John Mica, chairman of the House transportation committee, said this will be the last extension before Congress approves a long-term bill. In a speech in the House he said, “We can get this done… This should be a bipartisan and must be a bicameral jobs bill.”

Read the full article in Business Week
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Difference engine: Unblinking eye in the sky

One of the better articles I've read regarding the technological and socialogical issues facing integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace. The reader posts at the end of the article are especially interesting.

Read the full article in The Economist
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Lawmakers settle FAA dispute

Congressional leaders on Friday resolved a bitter labor dispute that has held up long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, leading to almost 4,000 federal workers being furloughed last summer and jeopardizing the timeline for a $40 billion overhaul of the nation’s aviation system.

Read the full article in the Washington Post
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Wait and See Mode

We now know that the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rule has officially slipped to ‘Spring 2012’. However, there’s still a chance we may see the NPRM sooner rather than later and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the proposed rule as early as February or March.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • FAA has determine the need to regulate model aircraft (MA) activity and are including operating criteria for MA in the upcoming small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) rule.
  • Though the exact content of the rule is not yet known due to the ex parte requirement of the rulemaking process, we have been told the MA criteria will be very restrictive.
  • The proposed rule will specify when, where and how model aircraft fly and will most likely include significant restrictions on altitude, speed, and operations near airports.
  • The rule will also have a provision allowing AMA to develop its own set of ‘standards’ that if accepted and adopted by the FAA can be used as an alternative means of complying with the sUAS regulation, if and when it’s implemented.
  • AMA currently has a workgroup in place that is working with FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO) in developing a set of standards that, with greater attention to safety, will hopefully allow modelers to continue to operate and enjoy the hobby in much the same way as they do today. Unfortunately, we are still a long ways away from finalizing the content and being able to speak to the specifics of the MA standards.
  • AMA is timing its standards development process so as to have a set of MA standards accepted and adopted by the FAA by the time the sUAS rule becomes regulation in mid to late 2013.


We know that the release of the sUAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is imminent, but until the proposed rule is published and the actual content is known we’re unable to isolate and speak to the specific issues. We’re in an unfortunate wait and see mode. Nevertheless, this is still a very dynamic situation and we need to remain vigilant and attentive to the issues as things evolve. Once the NPRM is released, it’s extremely important that each and every modeler and anyone with an interest in model aviation participate in the public comment process. The most current information on the NPRM and the proposed rule can be found on this webpage, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AMAGov and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AMAGov.

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sUAS NPRM Slips to 'Spring 2012'

In a recent meeting with representatives of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office, it was learned that publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) rule has again been delayed by several months. Going into the 2011/2012 holiday season we believed that the proposed rule would be released sometime in January or February. However, citing “unanticipated issues requiring further analysis,” the rule failed to clear the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) before year’s end.

Current projections show the rule clearing OST by the end of January. It will then be sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where OMB will evaluate the regulation for potential adverse impact on small businesses and small government entities. OMB’s review could take as much as ninety days which would put publication of the NPRM in May 2012. Nevertheless, there is some optimism that OMB’s review will not take the full ninety days and the current best guess on the release date for the NPRM places it in 'Spring 2012.'

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FAA Administrator Resigns after DUI

Deputy administrator Michael Huerta is now at the helm of the FAA following Randy Babbitt's resignation. It's likely a new administrator will not be appointed until after the 2012 election which means Mr. Huerta will be in charge throughout the sUAS NPRM review and Final Rule process.

Read more at the Washington Post
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We Are Weeks Away from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Most everyone should be aware by now that the FAA is working on developing new regulation aimed at enabling the operation of commercial and public use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the national airspace system (NAS). FAA intends to include criteria for recreational UAS (model aircraft) in the new regulation and indications are that this criteria will be significantly more restrictive than the guidelines established in the current advisory circular, AC 91-57. However, the regulation is also expected to include a provision that will allow community based organizations such as the AMA to submit their own set of standards for model aircraft (MA) operations, and if accepted and adopted by the FAA can be used as an alternative means of complying with the UAS regulation. AMA has a workgroup in place that has been developing just such a set of standards, and we are optimistic that these standards will allow aeromodeling operations to continue in the future in much the same way as they have in the past.

Last spring AMA launched a Congressional Awareness campaign aimed at alerting our Senate and Congressional representatives as to our concern over the proposed regulation and its potential impact on the modeling community. This campaign was very well received and was successful in gaining the support of many of the congressional leaders.

We are now just weeks away from the release of the FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) which may come as early as mid January. The NPRM will provide a 90-120 day public comment period to allow interested parties to comment on the proposed rule and to make constructive suggestions toward improving the regulation. Once the rule is published AMA will be providing suggestions and guidance for responding to the NPRM. This will be your opportunity to weigh in on the issue. It is also very likely the AMA will organize a parallel congressional campaign to once again draw attention to our concerns.

It’s extremely important that we start gearing up for the NPRM and are prepared to respond to the public notice once the proposed rule is published. In preparing for our response this would be a great time to start garnering the support of your families, friends, your community, schools, charitable/fraternal organizations and anyone else who has an interest in model aviation. Once the NPRM is published we will need to respond in substantial numbers to make sure our voice is heard and we’ll need all the help we can get. 

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Lawmaker Predicts Congress Will Reach Accord on Aviation Runding

Breathing life into the stalled FAA Reauthorization Bill... After meeting with his counterpart in the Senate on Tuesday, House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica remains optimistic that Congress will break a stalemate over critical aviation funding before the current spending plan expires at year’s end.
 
The Washington Post Article
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It Depends Upon Who You Talk To

It appears political posturing is ramping up as the stalled FAA Reauthorization Bill is once again headed toward a shutdown of the FAA. In a recent meeting of the Aero Club of Washington, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate's transportation committee, accused the GOP of stubbornly holding up the bill in favor of one airline’s fight to stave off the unionization of its work force, and deemed it unlikely that Congress would resolve the bitter deadlock over long-term federal funding for aviation this year.

On the other hand…
At a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, held in conjunction with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Embry-Riddle’s newly renovated NextGen Test Bed at Daytona Beach International Airport, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.),chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, predicted a four-year reauthorization bill could be on the President’s desk by Christmas. Rep. Mica has declared there will not be another extension of the bill and has said that Republicans would be willing to compromise on the labor issue if the Senate would agree to allow union decertification by a simple majority vote.

Where this will ultimately end up is anybody’s guess. And, although we remain hopefully optimistic that the reauthorization bill will pass before the January 31st deadline, Capitol Hill insiders appear doubtful that the divisive issues impeding the bill will be resolved anytime soon. Click on the links below to read both sides of the issue.
 
Washington Post Article
The Hill Article
Daytona Beach News Journal Article
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Noise Ordinance Repealed For One Community

Score One for Model Aviation - The Mat-Su Borough Assembly in Wasilla, AK recently voted unanimously to repeal a section of its code that restricted the sound limit for model aircraft. The limit set in 2008 was unrealisticly low and effectively eliminated MA from all residential and noise-sensitive areas. Click the following link and read the article in the "Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman."
 
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Article
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FAA Works To Get Rule Out Soon

In a recent article on ModelAirplaneNews.com David Vaught reported on FAA's announced delay in the projected release of the sUAS NPRM. Though the FAA has officially pushed the release date back to February 2012, there is an ongoing effort within the agency to get the rule out as soon as possible. At a recent seminar in San Diego an FAA spokesperson advised there is still a slight chance of getting the rule out in December; however, it is more likely we'll see the proposed rule shortly after the first of the year.
 
ModelAirplaneNews.com Blog Post
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NPRM Delayed

Information just received from the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO) indicates the release of the sUAS NPRM has been delayed once again. Due to delays in the internal review process, it's unlikely the NPRM will meet the previous target date of mid December. The UAPO is now projecting February 2012 as the new release date for the proposed rule.
 
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AMA Speaks Out in Response to the Plan to Use MA as a Terrorist Weapon

ABC affiliate KSAT in San Antonio Texas discusses the recent threat with Mark Smith, Interim President of the Academy of Model Aeronomics.
 
KSAT online feature
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Two Calls To Action From The Industry

Our partners in aviation (AOPA/EAA) need your support... Please sign the White House petition to dump the GA user-fee plan. We're looking for 10,000 sigs by the end of the week!

Your help is also needed to protect model rocketry. Visit Tower Hobbies' call for action. Please respond by October 10th.
 
AOPA/EAA Petition
Tower Hobbies' Take Action Site
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Member Feedback

In regards to your October column, Drones vs. Model Airplanes, I can’t agree with you more. The advances in electronics and miniaturization in the modeling industry represent a paradigm shift on how we will be operating remote controlled vehicles from now on.

While some people view the FAA evaluation of remote controlled airplanes or sUAS operations as a threat to the hobby, I have argued that we should take this opportunity to expand our scope of operations into larger, fastest and farther flying aircrafts. We are all witnesses to the birth of a new class of remote controlled vehicles. We can’t ignore this and we can’t miss the opportunity. I hope AMA jump in with both feet into this emerging arena and develop guidance to allow operation of sUAS in harmony with FAA regulations.

I can visualize two classes of remote controlled airplanes. The standard hand (radio) operated model flying at low altitude within line of sight of the pilot for a few minutes at a time, and an advanced class incorporating more automation, on board cameras, sensors and telemetry. This advanced class will comply with FAA requirements under the experimental certificate and operating limitations but still covered by AMA.

Just like in the experimental aviation community, I hope the FAA and industry reach a consensus that can be beneficial to both parties.

Small UAS operations are here to stay. I hope the Academy is visionary enough to realize the huge economic and technological potential this emerging industry will have on years to come.

Jose Borges
North Ridgeville , OH

    
  

"I've been concerned with the tone of the discussion about the forthcoming rules from the FAA. We tend to paint the government agency as the bad guy at best to an out and out evil genius villain at worst. As Rich Hanson pointed out in his update in the October 2011 Issue the government is working to try to deal with a new and growing area of aviation that hasn't existed before. Without government regulation anyone that has any R/C interest would be putting their safety and the safety of everyone around them on the line; because without FCC regulation who knows when you'd get shot down and by what. I'm very grateful that the AMA has capable and knowledgeable people working with the government to help preserve the sport/hobby as close to what we are doing today as possible."

Aaron Loertscher
Midvale, UT


 

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Man Accused of Plotting Attack with Model Aircraft

A Massachusetts man was arrested yesterday and was charged with plotting to convert model aircraft into explosive laden military drones to launch an attack on Washington, DC. He also converted and supplied undercover agents with at least 7 cell phones to be used as remotely operated detonators for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This scheme did not emanate from within the modeling community. This was not an aeromodeling enthusiasts. This was a terrorist bent on improvising a weapon of war from legitimate technology for his own horrific purposes.
 
Read the story for MSNBC.com
Read a statement from AMA

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Member Feedback

In a recent Letter to the AMA Model Aviation Editor, AMA member Frank Phelps from Spring Hill, FL presented some thought provoking insight to the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) rulemaking issue…

Frank writes…

“I’ve read a lot of stuff on the online forums about government interference in our hobby and the FAA destroying model aviation as we know it. While we need to remain vigilant of the upcoming FAA small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) regulations we also need to remain calm and not get hysterical about it. The FAA is not out to get us hobbyist. They are tasked with regulating a rapidly growing sUAS industry that is closely related to what we do and can have an inadvertent negative impact on us. The inclusion of sUAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) is of concern to the FAA for safety of flight in the NAS and nothing more. We as modelers flying from our designated (chartered club) fields are not a threat to the NAS. Unrestricted sUAS flying in the NAS is a threat to the flying public and needs to be closely regulated. Being able to distinguish between what we do and the uses the new sUAS can and will be allowed to do in the NAS will be difficult but does not spell the end of aviation modeling.”


Frank, I couldn’t have said it better myself… The one area where we need to pay particular attention is the “inadvertent negative impact” the sUAS regulation may have on model aviation. Though I agree the regulators are not intent on burdening the aeromodeling community, some criteria that they may view as insignificant may well be onerous for the modelers and if implemented result in a detrimental impact on model aviation. This is why it’s so important the modelers remain vigilant and informed as the sUAS rulemaking process unfolds, and why it’s essential that each and every one of us makes our views and opinions known by participating in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) call for public comment once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

Assuming the sUAS rulemaking process remains on track, the FAA has targeted mid December 2011, for the release of the sUAS NPRM.

Timely updates on the rulemaking process can be found on this AMA webpage, on Facebook by Liking AMAGov, and on Twitter/AMAGov

Rich Hanson

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FAA expects to land $5.4B in stopgap funds

Members of Congress appear poised to bring to the floor a bill that will temporarily extend FAA funding through January 2012. The ease with which this tempoary measure is moving forward could pave the way for a resolution this Fall for the long-term FAA Re-Authorization Bill

Read the full article on Politico.com 

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AMA Attends the 2011 AUVSI North America Conference

Information received at the recent AUVSI conference indicates the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for FAA’s proposed regulation for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) is on track for release in mid December 2011. It’s anticipated the new rule will address model aircraft operations and will provide a provision for community based organizations such as the AMA to submit their own set of standards. If adopted, these standards will provide the modeling community an alternative means of complying with the sUAS rule. At this point AMA is hard at work in developing a set of standards aimed at allowing the aeromodeling enthusiasts to continue enjoying the hobby in much the same way as they do today.

AMA is also preparing for the release of the NPRM. Once released there will be a 90-120 day public comment period allowing AMA members and other stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule. AMA is working toward providing its members a simple and effective means for responding to the NPRM. It will also provide analysis and commentary on the impact of the proposed rule and suggestions for improving the rule before the Final sUAS Rule is published in late 2012.

It is more important than ever that the AMA membership become well-informed and vigilant in keeping abreast of the sUAS issue as the rulemaking process unfolds. Timely updates can be found on this AMA webpage, on Facebook by Liking ‘AMAGov’, and on Twitter at, http://twitter.com/AMAGov.

Rich Hanson
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs
 
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Senate Democrats urge FAA bill settlement

The US Senate is urging renewed talks on the FAA re-authorization bill; however, progress continues to be is stymied over labor issues and federal subsidies for rural commuter air service.
 
Read an article from Reuters

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LightSquared will not be allowed to harm GPS: FCC

FCC looking for alternative solutions for LightSquared's proposed satelite based broadband Internet service.
 
Read an article from The Chicago Tribune

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Turning Our Back on Technology is Not The Answer

The advent of unmanned aircraft in the US civil environment brings with it a whole host of societal and cultural issues that go far beyond the concern and perceived need to regulate model airplanes. A recent article on the use of sUAS to do aerial “hacking” and other nefarious activities should make us all pause to consider what’s happening in our National Air Space: http://www.darkreading.com/security/vulnerabilities/231300240/index.html

Like any other new technology, in the wrong hands and for the wrong reasons, its use to cause harm can potentially overshadow any intended use for good. This is a quandary that beleaguered Albert Einstein until his death in 1955, and for centuries societies have had to balance the potential for good against the potential for harm with everything from motorcars, to aerial flight, to the Internet.

However, turning our back on UAS technology is not the answer. In doing so we may well find that we've boxed ourselves in, missed out on significant opportunities and been left behind by what is sure to be a huge emerging industry. AMA must proceed carefully to ensure the legitimate aeromodeling community is distanced from the potential negative aspects of UAS while maintaining its posture as a leader in scientific development and aeronautical technology.
 
Read a similar article from a UK publication called, The Register

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FAA Workers Return to Work

In a bipartisan move, a deal was struck today to end the FAA shutdown… However, the long-term FAA re-authorization bill is still stalemated over labor issues and federal subsidies for rural commuter air service.
 
Washington Post - Senate Majority Leader Reid announces a deal to end the FAA shutdown

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FAA's James Sizemore addresses aeromodeling questions

Should I buy a Turbine? Will model manufacturing be curtailed as a result of the proposed sUAS regulation? These questions are best answered in a video clip from the AMA open membership meeting at Joe Nall Week, 5/12/2011. In response to a member’s question, James Sizemore from the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO) addressed these issues in his remarks.
 
Watch the Video posted on Facebook

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FAA shutdown likely to continue into September

Read reports from USA Today and MSNBC about FAA funding and re-authorization stalled over labor issues and funding for rural commuter air service.
 
Read the MSNBC article.
Read the USA Today article.

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Proposed Broadband Cited As Harmful Interference to GPS

A report to the FCC by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Systems Engineering Forum finds LightSquared's proposed broadband system “poses a significant potential for harmful interference” to Global Positioning System (GPS) services.
 
Read the entire article from Broadcast Engineering.

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Happy 75th anniversary Academy of Model Aeronautics

East Central Indiana gears up for AMA's 75th Anniversary Event. For the past 20 years the AMA has called Muncie, Indiana home and area media outlets are paying tribute.
 
Read an article here from the Muncie Star Press.

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GPS, Safety Board, and No Fly Zone Issues

General aviation (GA) safety has made the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) top 10 most-wanted list for 2011. AOPA takes exception with the board’s findings.
Read the full article here from Aviation Week.

The isssue over LightSquared's wireless-by-satellite network heats up over its potential interference with GPS receivers. Why is this important to MA? Because GPS is the cornerstone technology for sUAS, and good, bad or otherwise the UAS industry will soon have a significant impact on MA.
Read the full article here from the Washington Post.

AOPA Online provides an endepth overview of the wireless-by-satellite network Vs GPS issue
Read the full article here from AOPA Online.

Feds serious about TFRs
Read the full article here from Reuters.

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AOPA Taking on the FCC

AOPA Taking on the FCC... AOPA President Craig Fuller testifies before Congress
 
Click to read an update from AOPA Online.

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Boeing Warns Airlines Time's Running Out for Training

Pilot shortages facing the industry. Keep the seed grounds open. Now is not the time to stifle the germination of the wonders of flight through unnecessary and overreaching MA regulation.

Click to read the article from Flightglobal.com.

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LightSquared Agrees To Change to Spare GPS

Yesterday, 6/20, Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and CEO of LightSquared announced that the company will move to a different location on the spectrum to avoid interference with GPS by its wireless-broadband network. “This is a solution which ensures that tens of millions of GPS users won’t be affected by LightSquared’s launch."

Click to read an article from the National Journal.

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Risk Management vs Safety

Great article in Flying magazine by John King on… Risk Management Vs Safety. The article is written for manned aviation; however, the principles equally apply to MA.

Click to read the article.

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Possible Threats to GPS Flight

FCC grants LightSquared an extension on its report on the threat its new wireless broadband network might pose to GPS operations....What does this mean for UAS?

Click to read about the FCC extension on GPS tests
Click to read about the LightSquared vs. GPS Fight

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Details of WWII Bomber Force Landing

On June 13th the media reported a "WWII bomber (the Liberty Belle) crashes, bursts into flames" in Oswego, IL. The photo to the left is the photo released by the media that millions saw. The photo on the right is the photo taken by the crew and passengers after a safe forced landing and egress from the A/C.


Click to read the account from the Liberty Belle Foundation.

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Where do they go from here... ?

This is where MA and AMA shine bright. AMA is working directly with EAA in a partnership program that will tie EAA Young Eagles to AMA's educational programs and our local clubs. Interested? Contact AMA Education Director, Bill Pritchett, at: for more details... 

Click To Read about a Young Eagles flight.

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AMA’s host city newspaper weighs in

The Muncie StarPress, AMA’s host city newspaper weighs in... Click the link below to read an article, editorial and related comments on the AMA, model aviation and government regulations.

Click To Read the Muncie Star Press Article
Click to Read the Muncie Star Press Editorials and Opinions

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National spotlight getting bright on Model Aviation and FAA's proposed sUAS regulation

Aeromodeling, AMA, and the FAA were subjects of a couple high profile international publications including today's front-page Wall Street Journal, and a more troubling article on FPV in the latest issue of the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine.

Click To Read the Wall Street Journal Article
Click To Read the Smithsonian Air & Space Article
Click To Read AMA’s Response to the Smithsonian’s Troubling Feature

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sUAS Rulemaking Updates

On May 12th representatives of FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO) attended the Joe Nall fly-in at the Triple Tree Aerodrome and met with the attendees at the AMA annual meeting. For the most part they appeared very impressed with the professional manner in which the event was conducted and the level of safety achieved at the various venues and concurrent MA operations.

Thursday evening the FAA representatives provided a briefing on the status of the sUAS rulemaking process similar to the briefing presented during the AMA Expo in January. The information was very much the same and the sUAS rulemaking continues to be a work in progress. In an update on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) timeline it was announced that the NPRM release date has slipped to late Fall 2011. The previously projected date of September 1st has now moved to late November or early December. Optimistically the NPRM release could come before Thanksgiving, but if not, it would not be surprising to see the date slip into the New Year.

-Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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Congress Reconvenes to Complete the FAA Re-Authorization Act

After a two week spring break, Congress reconvenes this week and will take up the work of completing the FAA Re-Authorization Act. Both the Senate Bill (S. 223) and the House Bill (H.R. 658) have passed their respective houses and have been sent to Conference Committee for reconciliation. The Senate has officially called for a conference on the legislation and has named its conferees. The House is expected to respond to the request this week. The AMA remains hopeful that the model aviation exemption provided in the Senate version of the bill will be accepted and moved into the final bill.

The AMA Standards Workgroup will hold a special face-to-face meeting with representatives from FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office next week during the Joe Nall Fly-In in Woodruff SC. The workgroup will meet for two days and will continue its work on developing a set of model aviation standards to be used as an alternative means of complying with the proposed sUAS regulation. The workgroup will attend AMA membership meeting to be held Thursday evening, May 12, at the Triple Tree Aerodrome, and as part of the meeting, the FAA representatives will provide an update on the sUAS rulemaking process and the model aviation standards development. If you plan to attend Joe Nall or if you’re in the area, please come and join us.

-Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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Conference Committee to Consider Language to Protect Model Aircraft

The political process of creating legislation is more of an art than a science, and the fact that H.R. 658 does not include an exemption for model aviation (MA) does not necessarily mean there wasn’t support for such an amendment. Quite honestly there is a significant amount of backing in the House for our issues, and numerous Representatives have come forward with pledges of support and offers to assist in protecting MA from onerous regulation.

In the days leading to the passage of the House FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act there was a considerable amount of discussion regarding language for an amendment to the bill. An agreement on the proposed language was a little more difficult to achieve in the House than in the Senate, and we were unable to settle on the exact verbiage before the Bill was sent to the floor for a vote. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the legislative process it’s not unusual for there to be significant differences between the House and Senate versions of any particular bill. In such cases the two versions of the Bill are referred to a joint Conference Committee to iron out the differences. Though we would have preferred to have an amendment in the House that mirrored the language in the Senate, the good news is we still have an amendment in the process and there doesn’t appear to be any major issues challenging consideration for an exemption.

Of course in the political process there’s never any guarantees. Nevertheless, we are hopeful the Conference Committee will include language in the final bill that will allow us to continue to enjoy modeling as we do today.

-Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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  House approves (H.R. 658)

No April Fools...

Yesterday, 4/1, the House voted 223-196 to approve the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act (H.R. 658). The bill would reauthorize the FAA’s operations and programs for four years, at an overall funding level of $59.7 billion. The House bill essentially rolls back FAA spending authorization to 2008 levels. The House bill does not include an amendment mirroring the one included in S. 223 which exempts modeling activity conducted in accordance with a community-based set of guidelines from regulation.

At this point both the House and Senate versions of the FAA Re-Authorization legislation will move to Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills. In conference committee the Senate amendment could be adopted into the final bill in its current form, it could be modified in a compromise between the House and Senate, or it could be deleted from the bill altogether. We are cautiously optimistic the Senate amendment will survive the debate and will be included in the bill when it's sent to the Executive Branch for signature. 

-Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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  Where Do We Go From Here

As AMA’s Congressional Awareness Campaign draws to a close, it’s reassuring to know that the AMA membership and the modeling community responded quickly and decisively to AMA’s call for action. Tens of thousands of modeling enthusiasts, supporters and aeromodeling stakeholders responded and made their concerns known to their elected officials. Members of Congress responded with dozens of letters of support and pledges to advocate for the hobby. Local and national media were alerted to our issues and hard-hitting articles were presented that questioned the need for such overreaching regulation.

I am extremely grateful to those who have joined our cause and I believe we have gained a crucial foothold, but we are a long ways from being out of the woods. Now is not the time to let down our guard. We need to continue to be vigilant; we must maintain awareness and we need to continue to engage the hundreds of thousands of Americans that value this hobby and cherish our Freedom of Flight.

-Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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  Why...?

This is probably the single most prevalent question posed by the aeromodeling enthusiast when discussing the inclusion of model airplanes in the proposed small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) regulation. Why is it necessary to regulate model aviation?

Some would question FAA’s authority to do this; however, there are several acts of law that give the FAA authority over the National Airspace System (NAS). In terms of their intent to regulate model airplanes, the FAA references the definition of an “aircraft,” which comprises “any contrivance that is capable of sustained flight in the airspace.” And model airplanes, specifically radio controlled model airplanes, are viewed as capable of sustained flight and able to navigate the airspace. As such, radio controlled model aircraft as with all unmanned aircraft are deemed to fall within the FAA’s jurisdiction.

Though the FAA may have the authority to regulate model aircraft (MA), in our opinion they have not yet made a clear and compelling case for doing so. By in large the FAA’s rationale for regulating MA is:

  • 1) The FAA is mandated to maintain the safety of the NAS and believe that AC 91-57 is no longer adequate to ensure safe MA operations.
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  • 2) Advancements in the capability of MA and the technological enhancements in the hobby present new and as yet unaddressed safety concerns.
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  • 3) There is a need to safely integrate ALL unmanned aircraft into the NAS.   

    AMA contends that:
  • 1) AC 91-57 has NEVER served as nor has it proven to be an effective or practical safety tenet. The mere existence of the advisory circular is virtually unknown to the vast majority of aeromodeling enthusiasts and has only recently gained identity due to the sUAS rulemaking process.
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  • 2) MA operate under a community-based set of safety guidelines (AMA Safety Code) that encompasses the “spirit” of AC 91-57* (see description below), has evolved to effectively address the advancements in the hobby, and to date has achieved a superb safety record.
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  • 3) MA are distinctly different from commercial and public use unmanned aircraft and do not pose the safety concerns and operational issues presented by these platforms. As such, it is unwarranted and unreasonable to lump MA into the regulatory arena with these devices.   

    Through self governance, common sense and a responsible approach to the hobby, model aviation has existed safely, effectively and harmoniously in the NAS for more than 75 years, and has the safety record to prove it. There is no data, no single incident nor catastrophic accident to warrant regulating this purely recreational activity enjoyed by thousands of Americans, young and old.

    *AC 91-57 – FAA Advisory Circular entitled, “Model Aircraft Operating Standards”, dated June 9, 1981. This advisory circular outlines and encourages voluntary compliance with safety standards for model aircraft operators.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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       Our Message is Being Heard

    Over the past two weeks tens of thousands of AMA members and model aviation supporters have written over 80,000 individual letters to members of Congress expressing their concern regarding FAA’s intent to regulate model aircraft, and there are clear signs that our message is being heard. Scores of Congressmen have responded to their constituents with letters of understanding and support.  Below are excerpts from a few of the letters sent from Capitol Hill. Though an amendment protecting model aviation has not yet been introduced into H.R. 658, we now have several supporters in the House and at this point the legislative process is taking its course. Last Thursday the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act was sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary and is expected to return to the floor next week. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees, but at this point we are seeing positive movement in the House of Representatives and we are optimistic that Congress will act to protect model aviation from unnecessary and potentially debilitating federal regulation.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative


     
     

    "...As an avid outdoorsman, I understand the importance of recreational activities that simultaneously allow people to enjoy the outdoors and participate in an educational activity like model aviation. ...Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should similar legislation come before me in the Senate."

    -John Boozman (R), Senator from Arkansas

     
     
      

    "...Like you, I appreciate the cultural impact of model aviation as well as its contribution to our economy. I also believe that too many government mandates, regulations and controls are slowly suppressing our economy and our personal liberty."

    -Ed Whitfield (R), Representative from Kentucky


      
     

    "...Rest assured I will closely monitor this issue as Congress works to finalize this legislation."

    -David Vitter (R), Senator from Louisiana

     
      
     

    "...Model aeronautics is a long tenured interest of many Americans and is a cherished recreational activity. Not only is model aviation a safe operation but is it also educational. Model aeronautics aides in teaching people of all ages the valuable skills of technology, physics, engineering, aeronautics and math. Model aviation provides an opportunity for individuals and families to learn about aeronautics while enjoying the outdoors. I believe that we need to foster American recreational activities, not over-regulate them."

    -Scott Garrett (R), Representative from New Jersey

      
     
     

    "...Constructing and flying motorized aircraft can help stir scientific curiosity in our youth."

    -Richard J. Durbin (D), Representative from Illinois

     
     
      

    "...accommodations can be made for those who wish to participate in a safe recreational activity."

    -Bill Nelson (D), Senator from Florida

     
     
      

    "...I share your concerns over unnecessary regulations on model airplanes."

    -Sherrod Brown (D), Senator from Ohio


      
     

    "...Like you, I support removing over burdensome regulations and eliminating unnecessary federal programs...While the House continues to consider its own version of legislation to reauthorize the FAA in H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, please be assured I will continue to work against undue federal regulations..."

    -Bill Owens (D), Representative from New York

     
     
      

    "...I understand your concerns regarding the exemption of model airplanes from federal regulations. I supported Senator Jim Inhofe's amendment to the Senate-passed version of this bill which would exempt model and recreational use airplanes...

    -Lamar Alexander (R), Senator from Tennessee

     
     
      

    ...The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization and Reform Act has been referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the House Committee on the Judiciary. I am currently a Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. I will keep your views in mind regarding the FAA regulation of model aviation should this legislation be brought before the full Committee."

    -Mike Pence (R), Representative from Indiana

     
     
      

    "...You raised some interesting and insightful points regarding the exemption of model airplanes from federal regulations...Should the bill be considered in the House of Representatives, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind."

    -Paul Ryan (R), Representative from Wisconsin

     
     
      

    "...America did not become prosperous through firm government control over our daily lives. Our strength has always stemmed from the ability of individuals to make choices free from government interference."

    -Tom Price (R), Representative from Georgia

     
     
      

    "...S. 223 also addressed many concerns of model aviation enthusiasts, like you, by exempting the operation of model airplanes from burdensome federal regulations. For years, model hobbyists and recreationalists alike have maintained impeccable safety records with minimal federal interference. I’m supportive of your efforts to ensure that model aviation supporters are free of overly burdensome, ineffective or obsolete regulations."

    -Richard Blumenthal (D), Senator from Connecticut

     
     
      

    "...As the Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, it is not our intent that model airplanes be caught up in bureaucracy and FAA regulation. It is my understanding that the FAA has issued guidance in the past on this and, as the bill moves through the legislative process, I will work to clarify that model airplanes not be subject to regulation."

    -Tom Petri (R), Representative from Wisconsin

     
     
      

    "...I share your concern about the regulation of model aircraft. For thousands of people in Ohio and across America, model aviation is an educational hobby that enables adults and children to experience and enjoy the wonders of flight."

    -Rob Portman (R), Senator from Ohio

     
     
      

    "...I support common-sense policies that relieve citizens of excessive and unnecessary regulation."

    -John Cornyn (R), Senator from Texas

     
     
      

    "...I share your concerns that these new proposals carry unintended consequences for model airplanes and the hobbyists who enjoy them. It is important that bureaucrats in Washington understand how the rules they create here affect Americans everywhere. Unfortunately, I have found that this is not always the case and we need people like you to stand up and voice your opinions."

    -Richard Nugent (R), Representative from Florida

     
     
      

    "...I support the amendment to allow model aviation to remain a recreational activity."

    -John Boehner (R), Speaker of the House from Ohio


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      House Bill Does Not Yet Protect Model Aviation

    Both the Senate and the House have prepared Bills that address the FAA’s Re-Authorization. S.223 has already passed the Senate and it contains an amendment to exempt model aviation. Click here to view the amendment. H.R. 658 is on the House floor awaiting passage and does NOT yet have a similar amendment. We are actively meeting with Representatives on the Hill and working to build support for such an amendment. While we have had many promising meetings, we still need your help.

    Please continue to urge your Representative to safeguard model aviation by supporting an exemption in H.R. 658 similar to that passed by the Senate. If you haven’t done so, send a letter in just a few clicks to your lawmakers urging the protection of model aviation. Together we can protect model aviation from pending federal regulation.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      Candid Letter About the AMA

    A recent posting on the AMAGov Facebook Page got me to thinking and reflecting back on my own feelings about the AMA. I've been a member and part of AMA for over 40 years and for me AMA has always been the heart beat of the hobby. AMA has consistently been at the forefront of nurturing and protecting Model Aviation with the goal of ensuring this activity survives and thrives for the enjoyment of generations of aeromodeling enthusiasts. But, I think Arend Schuurman put it much better than I can. Arend, Thank you for your candid and heart-felt posting. 
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative
       

    Arend Schuurman wrote:

    You know, not too many years ago I was a actually quite anti-AMA. I had at that time a misconception that the AMA was simply a waste of money and a bunch of ego-centered blowhards.

    Well, a few years of maturity, some research in to what the AMA stands for, and the desire to belong to an organization who stands for the advancement of model aviation I am a proud member. It is because of the AMA I have become aware of the current items before the FAA. It is because of the AMA I am able to meet far more friends through AMA fun flys and the like. It goes to show that one should not always assume everything.

    Thank you to the AMA for being there and helping make this hobby what it is. Who knows, maybe with time and a little luck, the AMA may gain a member or two when my children are older and start enjoying this hobby with their old man.

      
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      Keep Those Letters Coming

    We're not there yet. Though S. 223 was a great first step in getting an exemption for model aviation, we still need a similar amendment in the House. Keep an eye on H.R. 658 "FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act." Keep those letters coming.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      Standards Workgroup Meeting Next Week

    The AMA Model Aircraft Standards Workgroup will meet face-to-face next week to continue its work on AMA's proposed MA standards. The workgroup is focusing its efforts on assessing and addressing a list of potential hazards presented by the FAA.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      Proposed Restrictions to be Published this Summer

    Over the past few days I've received several emails asking for the exact restrictions being proposed. Unfortunately, we won't know exactly what is being proposed until the NPRM is published in the Federal Register later this summer. However, we do know what was recommended by the ARC and what is currently under consideration. Click here to view the recommendations submitted to the FAA in 2009.
     
    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      Congressional Awareness Campaign Marketing Toolbox

    Our Congressional Awareness letter-writing campaign has really grown. To keep the momentum going we'd like to offer a marketing tool box. Thanks for helping to protect model aviation from federal regulation. Click here to visit your marketing resource tool box.

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      "Freedom of Flight" Inspirational AMA Member Letter

    I would like to thank everyone for the rapid-fire response we’ve seen to our recent Congressional Awareness Campaign. So far we have had over 27,000 individual letters sent to Congress… But don’t stop now. My hope is that each and every modeler and aviation enthusiast with a love for the “Freedom of Flight” will respond to this call to action.

    To put it in perspective, I would like to share with you a recent letter received from Ali R. Moshiri, and AMA member. This letter touched my heart and Ali expressed better than I can why our efforts are so important.

    -Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative


    Hi AMA team,

    Regarding recent motion by FAA about regulating our hobby, it saddens me. I was born in Iran and came to USA in 1976. My earliest memory of building a model airplane is when I was six years old. As I was growing up and still lived in Iran, any time I build a flyable model my father was against it and he was very unkind to me and my passion of flying my model planes. I used to use shaving blades to cut balsa wood and many times I cut my fingers doing so, but I loved building model planes. I used to use regular righting papers to cover my planes, not because shrink papers were not available but I was forbidden to go to buy it. I used clothing elastic to power the rubber powered airplane and the results were not that great. My father always broke my planes by hitting it at the edge of the table saying that my son does NOT play w/ toy planes While I still lived in Iran,I used to take bus then walk a few miles to get to where radio controlled plane were flying to just watch and be amazed.. When I came to USA my first goal was to find a near by hobby shop and see what’s there.

    Now lets forward fifty three years. I still fly RC planes even when at that time my wife was not happy with me. Once she told me that if she had wings I’d pay more attention to her. But her and my father failed to see that aviation was in my blood and no one could take that away from me. I have always enjoyed flying and I am always amazed by any thing that have wings and can fly. After all flying is man’s oldest dream.

    And now the big brother (FAA) is coming in and is going to tell me where, where, and how I should fly my plane. In short I am facing my dictator father with another name (FAA). Please don’t let them do this to me, after all flying is indicator of free spirit, and now big brother is say that I am that rich kid in the block and I have the ball. My ball my rule.

    I do understand that as a civilized society we must have rule, but there are soft rules and there are hard rules. For example a traffic stop sing indicates that you stop your vehicle, look both ways and then if there’s no car coming in your path you proceed and drive on through. A hard rule is a red light. You can NOT pass it unless the red light changes. Please AMA personal don’t let the big brother make hard rule. After all this is a hobby that should be enjoyed and not be limited.

    Thanks for your time.
    Ali R. Moshiri

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      Congressional Awareness Campaign Initiated

    On February 17, the US Senate passed S. 223, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Additional help in shepherding the bill came from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma was instrumental in including an amendment to the Bill that provides an exemption for aeromodeling activity “conducted in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” We would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Senators Rockefeller, Inhofe and Hutchison for their support and efforts on our behalf.

    This was a huge step forward in AMA’s efforts to protect model aviation from unnecessary and potentially debilitating federal regulation.

    Although this was a significant accomplishment, we are far from being out of the woods on this issue. A similar amendment needs to be filed and passed by the House of Representatives before going to conference committee. AMA and our political liaison will be working diligently on accomplishing this in the next couple of weeks, with the hopes of having the amendment included in the bill when it leaves Congress.

    What can you do to help? AMA has initiated a Congressional Awareness Campaign, aimed at educating Congress on the social, cultural and educational attributes of model aviation and making it aware of our concerns. In the suggested letter to Congress on our website is a paragraph advising that “We are pleased the U.S. Senate has adopted an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill exempting the operation of model airplanes from unnecessary federal regulations.” And, “We urge you to ensure that this amendment is included in the legislation when it is sent to the Executive branch for signature.”

    Please be sure to take a minute to make your voice heard and submit the suggested letter to your congressional delegation.

    – Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      Tell Congress To Protect Model Aviation

    The FAA is developing new regulations that may place onerous and unnecessary restrictions on the hobby, sport and educational pursuit of model aviation. It is extremely important that all aeromodeling enthusiasts stand up and tell Congress to protect model aviation from pending federal regulation by the FAA. Therefore, we have developed a simple, direct way to reach your lawmakers in only a couple clicks. You can begin HERE or by clicking on the ACT NOW button at the bottom of modelaircraft.org/gov page and then CONTACT CONGRESS.

    – Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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       Now Providing Updates Through Facebook

    You can now find the latest developments with AMA's efforts to protect model aviation from the FAA's pending regulations through Facebook. Sign in your Facebook account and click on the LIKE button to read and comment on our efforts to protect the hobby, sport and educational pursuit of model aviation.

    – Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

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      AMA Works to Amend Reauthorization Bill Providing Relief for Model Aviation from sUAS Rules

    Senator James Inhofe, OK, successfully sponsored S.223 in the Senate yesterday with an amendment specifying a “Special Rule For Model Aircraft” that provides an exemption from regulation for model aircraft. Read the latest press release found in our Articles section under the LEARN button at the bottom of the page. We also encourage you to show your support to Senator Inhofe by emailing him directly here on his webform.

    -AMA Media Room  

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