Keeping RC Planes Airborne

Mar 01, 2012 No Comments by

Model Airplane News reader Paul Rogers recently sent me a note with some commonsense suggestions on ensuring that the FAA maintains its support of RC aircraft. I agree with all of his suggestions and thought it would be worthwhile to share his letter with you:

It’s just an opinion, but the FAA people are in the process of rewriting all the rules as they apply to light weight and unmanned aircraft, and especially remotely operated aircraft which (by their definition) includes model airplanes and model aviation.


The model airplane industry, over the past twelve -fifteen years has greatly expanded. So have the technologies; 2.4 MHz, foamies that look like hand crafted airplanes, electric power, turbines and physical size from six inches to twenty feet or more.  In short, some versions can fly faster and higher than ever before.  


The FAA sees this as a real risk to civil, commercial and in some cases, even military (including remotely operated) aircraft.  These aircraft are usually tracked by a district FAA Radar Center.   Model airplanes which are not tracked by the centers to warn other of something else being in the airspace are now seen as the intruder and the cause of increased risk to all aviation.  True or not, that is how the FAA now sees model airplanes:  as a real hazard in the air space above.


The American Modeling Association (AMA) has been in long term discussions with the FAA and other interest groups to maintain the freedom to fly model aircraft.  While the FAA has listened and tried to represent all operators, it cannot place equal rights and equal priorities for model aircraft compared to civil, commercial and military aircraft.  Something will eventually have to “give”.


The discussions are still in progress but nearly finalized.  The proposed new rules are not in complete support of model aircraft.


There are some things we can do.

1.    Watch for and make comments when the FAA does open the rules “For Public Comment”.  The AMA will post the comment dates and addresses, where to get the forms, in their own publication.

2.    Stop building and supporting the large, fast and powerful models until we have the technology to protect and avoid civil, commercial and military aircraft and those who fly them.

3.    Encourage development of devices which can detect and avoid the larger civil, commercial and military aircraft.  Help promote and give special recognition to those who find or develop breakthrough technologies the will help models avoid manned aircraft.

4.    Support a special set of safety rules for the big and fast models.

5.    For the AMA and other aviation organizations to continue the dialogue with the FAA so both interests can continue to fly safely.

Paul Rogers
Honolulu, HI

Debra Cleghorn, Great Planes

About the author

Model Airplane News Executive editor. About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.
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