A bill close to passage in Congress would repeal the current exemption for hobbyists from regulations and for the first time require them to take a test before flying. It also says such operators must fly no higher than 400 feet and stay clear of traditional aircraft. They may have to eventually install radio identification signals on the devices.
While model aircraft have not killed anyone, users will:
- Have to register their craft with the Federal government
- Pass a written exam
- Provide credentials to any law enforcement officer upon demand
- Be limited to 400 feet above ground level (Congress insists there is a waiver process but I did not see it in the legislation)
- The FAA will shortly propose mandatory beacon ID transponders on all model aircraft so that aircraft can be tracked at all times, in real time. This will include retrofitting millions of existing aircraft, if even possible, or otherwise grounding them.
- There are also proposals to require filing of flight plans prior to flight (using an app) and receiving government authorization for each flight.
Think about this – model aircraft that have killed no one, must be registered, the operator licensed, be trackable in real time, and may require government authorization before flight.
Compare that degree of regulation to regulation of weapons that kill thousands every year. The priorities of Congress make no sense.
Congress is largely ignoring the long standing hobby community in favor of de facto privatizing the public’s airspace for corporate America.
What the FAA is setting up to do is to basically eliminate hobby aircraft from the skies through burdensome regulation.
In recent years, the FAA largely shut down the growing ultralight aircraft movement. Part 103 ultralights permitted the flight of light weight, single passenger aircraft with limited range and speed, outside of controlled airspace. However, post 9/11, the FAA and Homeland Security viewed ultralights as a threat. Unable to ban them, they merely did some clever rule rewriting that (mostly) eliminated two-seat training aircraft. Without training aircraft, new pilots have a challenging time learning to fly ultralights. The FAA de facto shut down ultralights.
I suspect the FAA is gearing up to do roughly the same thing to the nearly one hundred year old model aircraft hobby: over regulate it in to literal death. The costs will be borne by the hobbyists and the benefits will accrue entirely to the commercial operators.