June 23,2014 FAA published the Press Release - FAA Offers Guidance to Model Aircraft Operators. On June 25, 2014 we (MASM) have received the following inquiry via our website:
RE: FAA Guidance, June 23, 2014 “Special Rule for Model Aircraft”
As a local member of Flight Club and active RC and FPV enthusiast, we are reaching out to all our local clubs and companions in the field of model aircraft regarding the devistating "clarification" submitted by the FAA yesterday. We're hoping to partner and join together to address this draconian designation and we'd like to work together.
If you dont mind, please advise regarding the use of FPV at your field? Is your field FPV friendly? If you have enthusiasts, or any other issues with the FAA law and would like to help, please contact us and join the fight.
Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you.
Below, here is my response to that inquiry which is in line with the position of our club in that matter:
I'm a member of MASM and AMA since 2001. I'm flying all kind of model airplanes excluding turbine powered jets and FPV (First-Pilot View). I also carry a Private Pilot License with Instrument rating and I actively fly small GA planes (full scale) for pleasure. From these facts you may understand my position on the FAA publication.
I don't see any "devastation" or "draconian designation" in FAA publication. Comparing it to current AMA Safety regulations there are two new limitations imposed by FAA on model flying:
1. It cannot be commercial, what simply says, you can't take money for your service. I don't believe it is in any way related to sponsored flying (like many modelers currently do), but rater it is about flying as a service, for example taking aerial photos or videos, advertising, transporting products etc. That limitation does not affect any modeler for whom the flying is a hobby.
We need to understand that commercial flying brings more risk than hobby flying. I am not talking about the quality and reliability of the equipment or training and experience. The commercial flying adds a "human factor" to the equation. Commercially flying pilot has additional stress of "commitment" to get the job done and he/she is more inclined to take extra risk when the conditions are less than perfect. Additionally commercial flying is usually performed over the populated area and that brings additional risk in case something goes wrong. This is why in the wold of "full scale pilots" there is a distinction between "commercial license" and "private license".
2. Contact the airport or control tower when flying within 5 miles of the airport. This was never in AMA regulations or recommendations. I don't see this to be practical to call the tower every time the flying field is active. It may be practical if the field is holding a special event that would result unusual activity (amount of flying, flying higher that 400 ft etc.). It should be enough the notify the Tower about the field location and let the "Tower" decide if they want to have a call every time someone is going to take off.
Regarding the flying FPV AMA published it's regulations years ago. Especially regarding flying withing LOS (Line Of Sight). This is the only way we can assure that the model "does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft". The first and primary rule in flying is "see and avoid". When this is impossible (for example because of IMC) then the flying is coordinated by ATC. Neither of these two applies to flying FPV beyond LOS. Being on the other side of the windscreen (flying a full scale plane) I don't want to take a risk of colliding with other "out of control" plane, especially the one I can't see. Just a "bird strike" can be deadly but even birds try to get out of the way. Hitting a model plane is like taking a shrapnel - mostly deadly experience.
The rest of the text follows all AMA Safety rules, so I don't see anything new here.
Mather Aerospace Modelers is AMA chartered club. Our flying field is located 2.5 miles from the runway of Mather Airport (KMHR) just bellow the traffic pattern for runway 4R/22L. Traffic patter altitude at KMHR is 1000ft AGL what means at our location the full scale planes may fly relatively low altitude. We have a mutual agreement with Mather Tower that we do not need to notify tower personnel every time we fly. They are aware of our field location and our frequent activities.
Flying model airplanes at MASM field is limited to maximum altitude 400ft. When a full scale plane is spotted and seen to arrive near our field at low altitude (near pattern altitude), model airplane must land or fly as close to the ground as practical.
Our field is "friendly" to all kind of model flying with the exception of turbine powered jets in the summer time because of the fire hazard. All pilots must adhere to AMA Safety rules and MASM field regulations (published on our website). That also means pilots flying FPV must also fly within LOS and must utilize a spotter.