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EAA Comments on Model Aircraft Interpretation

September 25, 2014 - Yesterday, the EAA submitted comments to the federal docket on the FAA’s interpretation of the special rule for model aircraft found in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The special rule states that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft” so long as the model aircraft is:

  • “flown strictly for hobby or recreational use,”
  • “operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines,”
  • not more than 55 pounds unless certified for structural and operational safety by a community-based organization,
  • “operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to manned aircraft,” and
  • operated with a “mutually-agree upon operating procedure” with any airports within 5 miles of the operations.

EAA supports the policy and procedures long in place for recognized model aircraft operations. As the use and popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and commercial drones increase, however, EAA is also protective of the national airspace system and whether UAVs could interfere with general aviation flying. The emerging technology creates a potential dilemma for licensing, operator training/certification, and safety. There is a balance that must be found.

The FAA interpreted Congress’ intent to be that model aircraft operations could, in fact, be regulated so long as the regulations were not specifically created for model aircraft but were regulations that apply to “all aircraft.” EAA is concerned that could be overbroad and unintentionally include all model aircraft flying, down to kids throwing balsa gliders in a park.

“This interpretation would expand the FAA’s regulatory reach into a community that has safely and successfully self-regulated for more than 90 years,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “The model aircraft community is very important to EAA members and the future of recreational aviation, and EAA will continue to push for a clear distinction between the hobbyist and oversight of the expanding capabilities of commercial UAV operations.”

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