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Barnstorming: Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater…

Anti-Drone Hysteria May Kill One of Aviation’s Most Important Entry-Level Pathways

Comments/News/Commentary by ANN CEO/Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell

I’m going to keep this uncharacteristically short and sweet… recent news from our less than aeronautically competent elected officials indicate that they may be on the way to doing critical and lasting damage to the future of aviation.

Specifically; much (but not all) of the new language inserted into the FAA Reauthorization will restrict the freedoms model aviation has had for over 100 years. The very first foray into aviation, for many an aviation legend and most of the rest of we flyers, is about to get hindered, harmed, restricted and minimized by the very government that has overtly benefitted from the inspiration model aviation has provided to millions of men and women… from the Wright Brothers, to Amelia Earhart, to Neil Armstrong (and so very MANY in-between).

For the government to restrict and inhibit model aviation is simply one of the most bone-headed moves I’ve seen them undertake since they tried to ground Bob Hoover. If you want to kill an industry off, a little bit at a time, and strangle it until it becomes a shadow of what it once was, this is one way to do it. Hinder the new blood, and before you know it, nothing’s left.

I truly believe in the power of model aviation to determine, in large part, the future of the rest of the aviation and aerospace world.

Model aviation has always been a huge part of my life… having started out years ago with tissue paper and balsa wood free flight models to my very first radio-controlled airplane (a Carl Goldberg Falcon 56), and dozens since. More to the point, I can’t even begin to count the people who have related similar stories for their own lives… leaving me with one inescapable conclusion… that one of the most important/tried and true means we have to help bring people into aviation starts with model aviation… no matter the age or gender of those who become involved… and that includes the recent drone revolutions… which is driving thousands of new aviation adherents into our fold. 

Some of the model aviation aspects of the bill defy reason.

It does little or nothing to inhibit the bad operators and illegal operators that conduct the rare operation that the reactionaries all love to point to. The Bill makes little or no distinction between drones, model airplanes, control line, free flyers, and other aero-hobbyist activities/toys – just dumping them all into one category that will now be regulated… despite over 100 years of surprisingly safe history.

The Bill has an altitude restriction that limits all models to 400 feet in Class G… whether they be gliders, model jets, helicopters, drones, you name it – the altitude cap, according to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), will needlessly exclude AMA and the USA from participating or hosting many world aero-modeling events sanctioned by the FAI through the AMA and NAA. And it does this even in recognized and documented AMA flying areas and clubs.

Worst of all… there is a testing mandate that is going to scare the bejesus out of many young people and needlessly warn them away from the hobby. AMA also adds that Federal and State regulations could hinder young people from participating in the testing requirement therefore denying them enjoyment of the hobby and the inspiration it can provide. They also note that the bill stifles youth involvement in STEM education. Further; all of AMA’s proposed language to protect middle school and high school STEM aeromodeling use were removed while also opening the door to restrict operations to model flying sites.

The bill restricts model aviation, in part, because of drone hysteria on the part of a number of myopic legislators and the influence of commercial drone interests who couldn’t care less about the future of the model industry (which makes one wonder where they think all the future drone operators are going to come from).

Most important; the bill allows the FAA, as they see fit, to raise the bar and continue to add restrictions with little input or feedback from the true experts in the model aviation community and strips the various Community Based Organizations that helped model aviation grow, from providing much of their needed influence and expertise, that they were encouraged to undertake before the bill.

Ultimately; it’s a myopic, foolish bit of language that was added at the last minute to the bill to appease outside political interests, cajole the public into a false sense of safety, and exert control where none has (thus far) been shown to be needed—and the result is this… restricting, inhibiting, and reining in the dreams of young and old who simply want to enjoy model aviation activities, sport and freedoms without the oppression of the FAA looking over their every move. Most important; it’s not what they’re doing NOW that worries me nearly as much as what they will be empowered to do in the future.

Model aviation is well represented by a number of entities, AMA in particular, and despite the fact that their staff remains some of the best we’ve ever worked with, it’s obvious that the aeronautically ignorant not only do not listen, but are being swayed by interests that are either uncaring or overtly antagonistic to the hobby.

  • To our elected officials… you blew it.
  • To the special interests who pushed for model aviation restrictions – you’re shooting yourselves in the foot.
  • To the FAA – you have neither the resources nor the expertise to regulate and administer to the model community and will strangle it, bit by bit.
  • To the aviation community, at large – stand up, be heard, and oppose this nonsense, OR watch the aero-verse continue to shrink around you.  

AMA, and the model aviation community deserves the united support of the rest of the aero-verse – now more than ever – because if that support does not come about and the model aviation world continues to be hindered, the rest of aviation WILL suffer.

It IS in our collective best interests to demand that our law-makers allow AMA and other CBOs to take the reins in determining the course of the hobby, continue to build safety and education systems based on expertise instead of greed or hysteria, and help to build a proper future for the rest of the aviation world—one flyer at a time.

FMI:, ANN Readers—YOUR thoughts on new restrictions for model aviation?


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