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RCFLI.ORG – Heard of it? You should look into it…

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RCFLI.ORG.  Remote Control Flight Leadership Initiative.

I first heard about this newly formed organization a few months ago.  It personally caught my attention, primarily because I am not an active member of the AMA.  I don’t fly at a club, so I haven’t yet been forced into a membership.  One of the reasons I decided to jump into RC was because I had a property that was large enough to start getting into it without having to drive to a field.  Of course, all of that has changed.  The helis are getting bigger, the planes I fly are going farther, and now I just finished my first multirotor….my tricopter. I don’t think I can avoid getting involved in an organization that should be working to help protect my rights as a radio controlled aircraft hobbyist.

So, what about RCFLI?  What exactly is it, and how is it different than the AMA?

Well, first, the obvious differences:

  • Membership is free. What does membership get you?  Well…I am not sure yet. I am still exploring that. At a minimum, it gets you “involved” in an organization looking to promote and protect the hobby. For many, that will be enough.
  • RCFLI doesn’t provide insurance.  Of course, I wouldn’t expect them to. Perhaps in the future if there is a paid membership option, I could see it. However, with a free membership, I wouldn’t expect such a benefit. Nobody gives you insurance for free. Nobody.

Many people join the AMA just because of the insurance, and others join because the local flying field requires it. It’s not a bad thing. I’m not against it. Honestly, I’m just cheap.  I probably should take the plunge, if anything, for the insurance.  I plan to attend the IRCHA Jamboree this year, and something tells me it will be required. And, I’d eventually like to get involved in the local club…so there’s that. 

So, back to RCFLI.  Here’s what their website says:

Remote Control Flight Leadership Initiative (RCFLI) is a nationwide community-based non-profit organization that supports RC hobbyists. We advocate through political process, public outreach and education, to assure the continued use of airspace to safely operate remote control aircraft with and without image capabilities.

 

RCFLI expects to carry out public education by identifying individual hobbyists interested in investing their time to spread the word about hobby safety, privacy, and fun both locally and sometimes regionally.

 

We believe on-the-ground advocacy, face to face interaction, and the efforts of many translate into increasing the number of hobbyists. Additionally, becoming recognized in the community as a hobbyist puts a face with an activity and a realization that the tools of our hobby are being used in a safe and respectful manner.

Okay.  I’m down with that. Now, it’s one thing to join and benefit from the work of the organization. It’s another thing to volunteer.  Here is what they are looking for:

Ambassadors: Individuals interested in advocating within their community through RC clubs, local hobby shops and schools to introduce the flying hobby and teach about safety and privacy.(e.g.: within their club and/or initiate “RC Hobby Clinics” with local hobby shops). An Ambassador can choose any action they’d like to advocate for the hobby. Currently RCFLI has a Hobby Clinic kit that provides structure and organization for this kind of event.

 

FLYTime Volunteers: Are individuals with RC aircraft that have video or photographic capabilities that are interested in volunteering their flying skills to help local community organizations and public safety agencies record ground based events (fires, scenes of interest, youth group activities, etc…)

 

Poli Fly’rs: RCFLI’s political outreach program in which members advocate for the hobby by reaching out to local, state or federal officials in order to provide them with the information, contacts and other resources they may need to help them make informed decisions. Poli Fly’r volunteers also monitor state and local lawmakers for legislation and rulemaking that may affect flying hobbyists and may craft Op-Ed pieces for online and newsprint media. We believe there is no more important subject than our ability to utilize airspace in a manner that allows us to fly. Our hobby is very small and often gets lumped in with broader politically charged current events. Having the ability to put a face to an activity, you may single handedly inform and protect your access to airspace and your flying fields.

I joined. I haven’t signed up to volunteer yet, because I can’t commit at the moment. I imagine it won’t be long, however, before I take a more serious look at how I can get engaged. Should you join?  I think so. At a minimum, we can start learning more about this developing organization, and keep up with matters that threaten our freedoms in this hobby.

Government regulation is going to get MORE RESTRICTIVE, not less.

On November 7, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration released the “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap.”

I am pleased to present the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Roadmap for Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA and the UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) worked together for the past year to produce this roadmap. Unmanned aircraft offer new ways for commercial enterprises and public operators to increase operational efficiency, decrease costs, and enhance safety; and this roadmap will allow us to safely and efficiently integrate them into the NAS.

Why is this important to us as RC Hobbyists? Take a look at page 71…

SEC. 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if—
(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).
(b) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—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.
(c) MODEL AIRCRAFT DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is— (1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; (2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

That sure is a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but you better bet that this applies to you and I flying our scratch built foam airplanes, our big FPV rigs, our helis… all of it.

A couple of things stand out to me:

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

Generally speaking, that has always been the AMA. I assume this is something they helped draft. As far as I know, there is no other “nationwide community-based organization” that is establishing “community-based safety guidelines”.   Perhaps that is an area that RCFLI is looking to change. As a member of RCFLI, am I now covered under this clause? Not sure today.

The other one that stands out is this:

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport…

There are airports all around in major US cities.  I bet lots of us could fly within 5 miles of an airport and not even realize it.  This clause requires us to notify the air traffic control tower.  Ummm… who does that to fly a park foamy with their kid?  Well…apparently we all should.

Anyway…  I thought I would throw all of this out there as food for thought. I look forward to seeing where RCFLI goes, and what they are able to achieve. Go check it out.  Join. Learn. Volunteer. Find them at http://rcfli.org.

Until next time…