AMA Correspondence

 

From: John Zaner
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 5:02 PM
To: 'president@modelaircraft.org'
Subject: FPV Flying (Via Video)

Hello Dave,

As a long standing member of AMA and a supporter of the Safety Code, I understand the requirement to fly radio controlled aircraft by direct visual contact. I would like to explore the possibility of FPV flying while on a buddy box. We permit student pilots who are not qualified to fly the aircraft to fly via the buddy box because the instructor, with his finger on the switch is really the pilot in command.

 Would it be permissible to fly FPV (via video) if the pilot flying this way were on a buddy box with another pilot who is fully qualified on the instructor transmitter and who is in direct visual contact with the aircraft at all times. This would relegate the FPV pilot to the same position as a student and the control (or safety) pilot could take over in an instant if the FPV pilot suffered loss of signal or control. This concept does not seem to conflict with the current safety code and would provide an avenue for those modelers who want to explore flying radio control from the cockpit view.

 Thank you for your consideration,

John Zaner, AMA 41094

AMA Instructor, Introductory Pilot Instructor, Contest Director,

IMAC Certified Judge, NSCRA Certified Judge. FAA Private Pilot,

FAA A&P Mechanic.

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

From: Jay Mealy [mailto:jmealy@modelaircraft.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:36 AM
To: jzaner
Cc: Mary Lou Vojslavek
Subject: RE: FPV Flying (Via Video)

 Good Morning John,

 Thank you for contacting us with your inquiry. I have been passed your e-mail for response and I will do my best to address your question.

 First, I have attached a copy of the AMA definitions of a model aircraft and flying site for your review. As per the definitions attached, there is no acknowledgement of PIC or differentiation between "student" and/or "instructor". In the definition you will find the terminology referring to "operators" and those operators, no matter who, "...shall control the aircraft from the ground and maintain unenhanced visual contact with the aircraft throughout the entire flight operation."

 My recommendation for those wishing to experience flight from the cockpit perspective would be to take a full scale ride, utilize one of the full scale flight simulators, or one of the model flight simulators that allow for views from  the cockpit. Hope this answers your question  but if you should have further questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to contact me directly.

Jay Mealy
AMA Programs Director

_______________________________________________________________

From: John Zaner
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 3:38 PM
To: 'Jay Mealy'
Subject: RE: FPV Flying (Via Video)

Mr. Mealy,

Please excuse my abruptness but that is probably the most patronizing thing anyone has ever said to me. I have put a lot of thought and effort into this for some time and expected a more thoughtful answer.

I have always viewed the AMA as an educational institution as well as an advocate. I would like to consider my AMA a leader in the advancement of model aviation technology rather than an impediment. Forward thinking rather than just maintaining the status quo.

Evidently I am wrong.

The AMA is loosing touch with the modeling community and has taken an arrogant "We know what is best for modelers" attitude. I have seen evidence of this in recent years with the failure to recognize trends in modeling and provide policy and safety guidance which would integrate the new ideas safely into the mix. Continued failure to do so has put the AMA in a position of catching up all the time firing from the hip with new policies which are both ignored and laughed at.

One famous example is Dave Browns involvement in the Maynard Hill record breaking Trans-Atlantic autonomous flight and then declaring the next month that such flights were against the AMA safety code. Another is the ban against touching aircraft in flight and I hear more derisive laughter and see total disregard of these rules which are poorly thought out and hastily implemented.

I have found that, in recent years, the availability of an AMA sanctioned flying field is much less important to me than in the past, many of today’s modelers seldom go there anyway. Without the need for members to fly at sanctioned fields where will the AMA find the clout to maintain the membership? I see it gradually slipping away as the AMA becomes less relevant.

I am not saying that I disagree with all these policies. What I am appalled at is the high-handed way they are mandated from on high with no previous study or participation by interested members. I would think some debate would be very healthy. The definitions that you provided are just that, definitions, not policy. I have been working with Hq FAA for the past 18 months to help define policy for Small UAVs in a commercial context. The FAA is very much in favor of the term Pilot-in-Command (PIC) rather than Operator because it implies significantly more responsibility and qualifications than the term operator denotes.

Throughout my participation with the FAA and that of others the absence of AMA participation has been obvious. It would seem to me that, if you intend to manage the entire spectrum of recreational model aviation, you would be very interested in participating in that policy which is going to result in new guidance to you from the FAA.  

In this response from you:

"As per the definitions attached, there is no acknowledgement of PIC or differentiation between "student" and/or "instructor". In the definition you will find the terminology referring to "operators" and those operators, no matter who, "...shall control the aircraft from the ground and maintain unenhanced visual contact with the aircraft throughout the entire flight operation."

My recommendation for those wishing to experience flight from the cockpit perspective would be to take a full scale ride, utilize one of the full scale flight simulators, or one of the model flight simulators that allow for views from the cockpit."

There is no PIC distinction between "student" and/or "instructor". Does that make them co-equal in responsibility in the event of a liability issue? It is obvious that the instructor should be the PIC.

In these excerpts from the 2007 Safety code:

"2007 Official Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code Effective January 1, 2006.

I will not fly my model aircraft in the presence of spectators until I become a proficient flier, unless I am assisted by an experienced pilot."

This refers to "pilot" and "flier". How do these relate to "instructor, student, or operator". The use of all these different terms is, at the very least, confusing. It seems very basic, every flight should have a single pilot in command.

This excerpt from the 2007 Safety Code contains the same misleading policy that all the previous versions exhibited. The AMA is becoming a laughing stock because they refuse to recognize this misinterpretation and correct it.

"I will not fly my model aircraft higher than approximately 400 feet above ground level, when within three (3) miles of an airport without notifying the airport operator."

 The enabling policy, ADVISORY CIRCULAR AC 91-57, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration way back on 9 June 1981 states clearly:

"Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface. (notice the period) when flying aircraft within 3 miles of an airport, notify the airport operator, or when an air traffic facility is located at the airport, notify the control tower, or flight service station."

I know for a fact that the AMA President has been called to task about model aircraft flying above the permitted altitude and yet this error persists in the current Safety Code.

Now, we get to the other recent additions to the AMA Safety Code:

"The operator of a radio-controlled model aircraft shall control it during the entire flight, maintaining visual contact without enhancement other than by corrective lenses that are prescribed for the pilot.

No model aircraft shall be equipped with devices which allow it to be flown to a selected location which is beyond the visual range of the pilot."

The second statement I agree with, the first statement is hogwash and could easily be changed to state that the Pilot in Command of a radio-controlled model aircraft shall control it during the entire flight, maintaining visual contact without enhancement other than by corrective lenses that are prescribed for the pilot. That would permit the use of FPV or video flight by a second operator on the trainer box. The PIC would be in control of the aircraft and would be in direct visual contact with it during the entire flight.

This change would not only be in concert with the current thinking at the FAA but would allow for the safe operation of new technology that the modeling community is going to embrace with, or without, the AMA.

Please download and view this 9MB video: http://www.zaneraviation.com/images/slalom.wmv

You can also peruse the remainder of my webpage at http://www.zaneraviaion.com at your convenience. However, this video was made in Montreal by a Canadian gentleman who posted it on the web in October. You will notice that in this video the pilot is sitting in a chair in the parking lot looking the other direction. The aircraft is a 27 ounce electric Multiplex Easystar.

The system being used is called headtracking and is absolutely amazing. Others think so too because this video was copied onto other services like YouTube and Google and MySpace and within a week had 500,000 views. That is nothing short of phenomenal and this system is now on the market out of Switzerland with two or three US versions soon to follow. Using flight simulations are going to fall far short compared to the opportunities presented by this technology.

There are several people that I know of who are buying radio controlled aircraft for the first time just so they can fly like this. There is a world of new opportunity for the AMA if you can just get our of the status quo and look into the future a bit. Imagine the new events that could take place at sanctioned AMA clubs where they could be done safely. How about pylon racing around a rectangular course or Red Bull style aerobatic competitions? Scale events like Top Gun with in-cockpit videos displayed real time on large screens in the spectator pavilion? The AMA has a chance to move out in front of this technology and gain the advantage before modelers just go off and do their own thing.

This can be very good for modeling and for AMA if embraced instead of rejected. This was the reason for my original question. The world is getting flatter and the changes occur more rapidly. Organizations must keep re-inventing themselves to make it is this environment. Look what is happening to General Motors and Ford. Here is the chance for the AMA to do a little reinventing, otherwise, the tar pits await.

Regards, John Zaner

 

____________________________________________________________

From: Jay Mealy [mailto:jmealy@modelaircraft.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 4:07 PM
To: John Zaner
Subject: RE: FPV Flying (Via Video)

 Good Afternoon John,

Thank you for your input. It is always important to share viewpoints and you have taken the time to do just that, which respect. I am sorry however if I was not able to provide the answers you were looking for, I am only able to respond with truthful, honest, and timely information.

We are all experiencing the rapid growth of technology in almost all aspects of our lives and due to this rapid growth we are often faced with making tough decisions that not everyone agrees with. Such is the case currently for the type of flying activity you refer to. The AMA is definitely not going to stand in the way of such progress, it probably couldn't if it wanted to, but under current circumstances, with the very real potential integration of UASs into the NAS the AMA has always and will always do its best to protect model aviation as a sport and recreation. That is not to say what you endeavor to achieve may not fall into that category eventually but for the time being what you are suggesting is only helping to blur the line between traditional modeling and the burgeoning UAS market. A market which the FAA is wrestling with how to regulate and regulation is not something that modelers want to be faced with.

May I suggest that if your feel strongly about models, as we have defined them, and UASs being combined you should let your District VP know. He is part of the Executive Council, the group you as a member elect to set policy for this organization.

As before, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this subject with via phone. I feel quite often that e-mails don't do as good a job of communicating as personal conversation does.

Again, my direct line is xxxxxxxxxr, if you prefer, provide me with a number and time I might call you and I would be glad to contact you.

Sincerely, Jay Mealy
AMA Programs Director

__________________________________________________________

 From: John Zaner
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 8:03 PM
To: 'Jay Mealy'
Subject: RE: FPV Flying (Via Video)

Hello Jay,

Thanks for the more thoughtful response. I intend to talk to Tony Stillman, I have known him as Radio South for some time. My dealings with the FAA lead me to conclude that they do not see any difference between recreational and commercial use of SUAS as far as safety in the NAS is concerned. They do not see any change in the way recreational models are managed and will continue to look to AMA for that. There will be some additional clarification of things what were not addressed in the original Advisory Circular or have come into being since then.

I do believe they want to use the terms Pilot and Pilot-in-Command when referring to SUAS regardless of purpose. There are some large commercial operators that want to introduce the term operators in reference to UAS with the inference that one operator could handle more than one vehicle, just like Air Traffic Controllers do now. That may come eventually but the FAA is not about to let go of the pilot term and all that it implies just yet. I think the AMA would do well to embrace the term Pilot-in-Command and even insist that all training would require a buddy box so the PIC could be clearly defined. This would establish the PIC precedent and satisfy the FAA preferences. It could also lead to additional things that pilots could do if they were on the student end of the trainer cord.

I am in North Central Florida and my number is xxxxxxx. I would be quite happy to discuss this further over the phone. I intend to put together some demo videos of the types of events I was talking about and will get a number of the local folks involved, including Tony. I just wanted to get a Headquarters take on the idea first before I put considerable resources into developing demos that had no chance of influencing anything.

Regards, John Zaner

_______________________________________________________________________

From: Jay Mealy [mailto:jmealy@modelaircraft.org]
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 6:43 AM
To: John Zaner
Cc: Dave Brown; Tony Stillman
Subject: RE: FPV Flying (Via Video)

Good Morning John,

I will give you a call later this morning so we can discuss this issue further.

I look forward to the exchange.

Sincerely,  Jay Mealy

 AMA Programs Director

 

Mr. Mealy did call me that afternoon and our discussion did not change anything. Basically, the AMA is running like hell from any terminology that even smells of UAS for fear that the FAA may come out with some regulations that would have an adverse effect. Told him that was a head-in-the-sand attitude and the AMA should be pounding on the doors of the FAA to help with the definitions. They are just running scared because they have no vision beyond the tip of their nose.

John Zaner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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