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Written by Chad Budreau
Busy start to 2018
AMA in Action
As seen in the March 2018 issue of Model Aviation.

I often hear people complain that our federal government is too slow, wasteful, and inefficient. This is partially by design.

Here is a quick history lesson. After the American Colonies won their independence from England, there were many debates about how our country should operate. Founding fathers, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, expressed the need for a centralized federal government, but with enough fail-safe procedures to prevent the leaders from becoming corrupt or too powerful.

A slow-moving government was created to allow the public plenty of opportunity to engage and shape the regulatory and legislative process. I suspect our current government isn’t exactly what our founding fathers envisioned, but as a result, we now have a federal government that operates quite slowly.

This is an important perspective as to why we have Section 336 and why our work to refine and strengthen Section 336 takes a while.

With the growth of drones, the FAA is working as quickly as the federal government allows, but the agency simply does not have the resources to manage the operations we have been conducting for 81 years. Our safety programming spans hundreds of pages that address everything from flying site layout and competition rules, to event management.

Congress recognizes community-based organizations such as the AMA, that have well-vetted and time-tested safety programs that do not pose a risk to the airspace. As a result, Congress created Section 336 in Public Law 112-95 stating that those following the guidelines and operating within the programming of a community-based organization should be able to continue flying as they have been—safely and responsibly. In a sense, think of AMA as a private/public partner to relieve the workload from the FAA.

Section 336 is absolutely not a “get out of jail free card” and does not mean we are not under the enforcement purview of the FAA. Section 336 even clarifies in writing in that “Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.”

I shared the quick history lesson because for a few years, you have been hearing AMA Headquarters discuss that we are working to refine and protect Section 336. I suspect that some of you are becoming numb to the government relations message, but know there is plenty of talk, and there have been many revisions discussed concerning Section 336 in Washington, D.C.

The revisions often stall because of the nature of the federal government, but 2018 might be the year that we see significant changes. We will continue to keep you posted via email, social media, online, and this magazine.

I hope I do not become the “boy who cried wolf” and I find myself asking for help and receive no response.

Busy Start to 2018

It has been a busy start to 2018 for the AMA Government Affairs team. At this year’s AMA Expo West in Ontario, California, representatives of AMA and the FAA Safety Team led a panel on current regulations of UAS. AMA President Rich Hanson, as well as Government Affairs team members Chad Budreau and Tyler Dobbs, participated in the panel, along with Ken Kelley from the FAA’s Airworthiness FAA Safety Team Program Managers/Point of Contact sUAS Educational Outreach Safety Promotion Program Office.

Additionally, earlier this month we participated in four Drone Advisory Committee meetings and we lent our expertise and insight into shaping the future of model aviation in the national airspace.

We continue to monitor legislation that could affect our hobby at the local level. We worked with lawmakers in Pitt County, North Carolina, and Washington state on legislative language to protect our members from potentially harmful laws. We also worked alongside clubs with flying sites located at U.S. Air Force bases in Arizona and Texas to discuss possible waivers for Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) that would allow AMA members to continue flying safely at these sites as they have for many years.

It is important to note that since the start of 2018, more than 169 model aviation-related bills have been introduced at the state level. Although most of these do not appear to be problematic for AMA members, we are actively tracking each one to ensure that our members and our beloved hobby are protected nationwide.

Of the 169 proposed bills, there are currently 16 that we consider especially troubling. In each of these cases, we are actively engaging with legislators to improve the proposed bill. At this stage, we do not feel it is necessary for AMA members to become involved; however, the voice of our members is always important to protect our ability to fly model aircraft without burdensome restrictions. That’s why we ask members to remain engaged and monitor their emails, social media, and for new information and ways that they might become involved with these issues.

FBI UAS Outreach

As you know, we have been enjoying our great hobby safely and responsibly for more than 80 years. Unfortunately, there is now some concern that extremist groups could use drones to inflict harm and cause serious damage. In an effort to understand friend from foe, the FBI has contacted AMA as part of its routine community outreach to ask for our help in staying ahead of this threat.

If your club receives a visit by an FBI agent, welcome him or her to the site. Educate the agent about our hobby and commitment to safety. If appropriate, offer flight time with a model trainer and AMA instructor.

This is a good opportunity to show someone new to the hobby the basics of RC flying and our commitment to safety. You might even end up with a new club member because we know this hobby is addictive.

Additionally, the FBI has asked for AMA members to be vigilant and help identify any unusual behavior. If you feel someone or something is in immediate danger, call 911; if the threat is not imminent, call 855-TELL-FBI.

Finally, we ask that you contact the AMA Government Affairs department at (800) 435-9262 and let us know if you are visited by the FBI or have arranged a flight time with someone from the bureau. We’d be glad to assist with whatever you need. Thank you in advance for your help with this matter.

—Chad Budreau
Public Relations & Government
Affairs Director

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