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Dec 21, 2015, 01:00 AM
NorCal Electric Soaring (NES)
SoaringDude's Avatar
Thread OP
Discussion

FAA's 400' guideline


I keep seeing RCG posts from pilots who think that there is a new FAA-imposed 400' ceiling that we all have to fly under. There isn't one. If the explanation below isn't clear enough I'll keep editing it per everyone's comments until it is.

There are quite a few links you can follow from the FAA registration page. One of them will land you on the Model Aircraft Operations page that provides "safety guidelines" for hobby RC flying. One in particular is to "Fly below 400 feet." This is the most misunderstood guideline since some are under the impression it is a new Federal law/FAA regulation. It isn't. In fact the 400' FAA guideline has been around since the early 1980s. The latest related FAA Advisory Circular for "Model Aircraft Operating Standards" states in section 6(e):
"Model aircraft operators should follow best practices including limiting operations to 400 feet above ground level (AGL)."
This is a "should" not a "must." i.e. a recommendation, not a requirement.

A relatively recent Federal law that directly impacts RC soaring is Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012). In section 336 "SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT" it explicitly covers the 55 pound limit in 336 (a) (3) and the 5 mile limit from airports in 336 (a) (5) but there is no clause regarding any altitude limit.

And to confuse everyone further the AMA's "National Model Aircraft Safety Code" has a "400 foot within 3 miles "rule in 2(c) that does not quite line up with the FAA's own requirements for model aircraft flight.

So, if you were to follow just the FAA rules, at least for now we are legally allowed to fly above 400 feet as long as we don't interfere with manned aircraft. If instead you also want to follow the AMA's Safety Code then don't fly higher than 400' within 3 miles from any airport without first notifying them.

This whole thing is a mess. I can see it's going to be a while before everyone's clear about this.

Chris

Thread index

The following links are pointers to a number of key posts and following discussions. I'll update it periodically; feel free to suggest posts that you'd like to see added.

1. Post 22 - Dec 21 - Flying below 400' is strongly encouraged
2. Post 35 - Dec 22 - FAA's Interpretation of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
3. Post 87 - Dec 23 - Wording in the FAA registration page
4. Post 103 - Dec 23 - On FAA's ignoring of Section 336
5. Post 125 - Dec 25 - Restating the facts re: the 400' guideline
6. Post 131 - Dec 25 - Will the AMA be able to influence the FAA?
7. Post 134 - Dec 25 - AMA conflict of interest?
8. Post 165 - Dec 26 - Analysis of Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
9. Post 210 - Dec 28 - AMA's primary concern is registration?
10. Post 212 - Dec 29 - Commercial delivery drones influencing RC airspace?
11. Post 217 - Dec 29 - AMA priority: separate drones from traditional RC aircraft
12. Post 222 - Dec 29 - AMA sees drones as potential ally?
13. Post 230 - Dec 29 - FAA has convinced media there is hard 400' ceiling
14. Post 236 - Dec 29 - FAA's UAS terminology is too broad, hurts RC
15. Post 258 - Dec 30 - FPV incident article, why RC aircraft need better PR
16. Post 271 - Dec 30 - FAA Advisory Circular AC 91-57A
17. Post 282 - Dec 31 - LEO, AMA, and community-based guidelines
18. Post 291 - Dec 31 - AMA membership % for MR/FPV
19. Post 303 - Jan 1 - FPV pilots and the AMA safety code
20. Post 403 - Jan 2 - Multi-rotor "fly-away" video + following discussion
21. Post 410 - Jan 2 - At what altitude does FAA's airspace control start?
22. Post 450 - Jan 3 - The AMA's legal challenge to the FAA
23. Post 478 - Jan 5 - AMA's Section 336 lawsuit against FAA in 2014
24. Post 497 - Jan 6 - FAA releases B4UFLY smartphone app
25. Post 526 - Jan 9 - Finding and contacting airports near where you fly
26. Post 537 - Jan 10 - FAA doc-LEO Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations
27. Post 552 - Jan 10 - FAA Marke Gibson presentation at AMA Expo 2016
28. Post 572 - Jan 11 - AMA now suggests its members proceed with FAA registration
29. Post 714 - Jan 17 - Demo to the FAA 1/16/2016 at Pax River
30. Post 786 - Jan 18 - AMA's "FAA Advocacy" update, Jan 18
31. Post 841 - Jan 19 - AMA summary of discussion with FAA on 400' guideline
32. Post 934 - Jan 27 - Latest screen capture of FAA registration guidelines page
33. Post 963 - Jan 28 - Public perception of 400' ceiling
34. Post 1068 - Feb 3 - FAA's registration page wording and intent
35. Post 1096 - Feb 3 - AMA email says okay to fly above 400 feet
36. Post 1121 - Feb 4 - FAA document on what specific legal words actually mean
37. Post 1141 - Feb 5 - AMA video on how clubs should handle FAA registration of members
38. Post 1212 - Feb 13 - AMA insurance issues with FAA non-compliance in civil suits
Last edited by SoaringDude; Feb 14, 2016 at 02:31 PM. Reason: Updated thread index
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Dec 21, 2015, 02:11 AM
Team Futaba
Silent-AV8R's Avatar
You misread the AMA Safety Code. It says:

Quote:
(c) Not fly higher than approximately 400 feet above ground level within three (3) miles of an airport without notifying the airport operator.
So all the safety code says if you plan to fly higher than 400 feet within 3 miles of an airport, let them know. It absolutely does not say NOT to fly above 400 feet.

Neither Section 336 and the coming Part 101.41, which basically codifies Section 336, say anything about altitude for models.

FAA would like you to stay below it, but they do not require it.
Dec 21, 2015, 10:29 AM
Ochroma Pyramidale Tekton
Fly Wheel's Avatar
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show....php?t=2562955

See #5
Dec 21, 2015, 11:02 AM
NorCal Electric Soaring (NES)
SoaringDude's Avatar
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent-AV8R
You misread the AMA Safety Code.
I didn't misread it, I paraphrased it. But I do appreciate the clarification for everyone's benefit. The clearer we can all make this the better...
Dec 21, 2015, 01:34 PM
Registered User
Say goodby to thermal flying!

BTW, don't register until FEB!!
Dec 21, 2015, 02:33 PM
Registered User
jtlsf5's Avatar
Relax, it doesn't say "I will only (or exclusively) fly below 400'". As TK pointed out in another thread, we all will fly below 400' at some point during every flight.

JT
Dec 21, 2015, 02:43 PM
Team Futaba
Silent-AV8R's Avatar
I disagree JT, by agreeing to this registration requirement you are clearly agreeing to operate below 400 feet. Not much wiggle room in the way they worded it. The FAA really wants all of us to stay below 400 feet. But so far the only means they have had to do this is with Advisory Circulars (AC 91-57 and AC 91-57A) or vaguely worded "guidelines" like the Know Before You Fly stuff. This takes a big step in it essentially establishes a contract. They proposed something and you have to agree to it in order to get registered. That's a contract just about anywhere on this Earth.
Dec 21, 2015, 02:58 PM
Registered User
I don't know, it doesn't say I will fly "only" below 400 feet. Regardless, this wording is very bad and if this is required than we really are in deep trouble, Thanks " Camera Carrying Multi Rotor" twerps. Anyone who knows me knows what twerps is code for.
Latest blog entry: Testing the blog page
Dec 21, 2015, 03:19 PM
Dark Side of the Red Merle
Curtis Suter's Avatar
Now that's a first where it has been worded as such. That is not a good thing but what hold up in a court? The NAS rules, AC91-57a or the Public law? This agreement you are clicking to is not good. Someone is sneaking this in on us. Let's hear from the AMA!
Dec 21, 2015, 03:38 PM
Team Futaba
Silent-AV8R's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by s2000
I don't know, it doesn't say I will fly "only" below 400 feet. .
It is poorly worded for sure, but I think parsing out to mean you will sometimes fly below 400 feet is not what they meant and that defense would not hold up in any court.
Dec 21, 2015, 04:29 PM
Old Timer
California Condor's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by s2000
I don't know, it doesn't say I will fly "only" below 400 feet. Regardless, this wording is very bad and if this is required than we really are in deep trouble, Thanks " Camera Carrying Multi Rotor" twerps. Anyone who knows me knows what twerps is code for.
I'm OK with my Slowstick?
Dec 21, 2015, 04:39 PM
Dark Side of the Red Merle
Curtis Suter's Avatar
Here is the FAR on where the 400' rule comes from:
91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.
Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.


We are interested in (c) above.
So if we fly at 400' and full scale flies at 500' there is a 100' separation. But that is assuming the full scale plane sees the lone modeler on the field and isn't abiding by (a).

The See and Avoid FAR works even for models above 400 feet which is FAR 91.113 Right-of-way rules: Except water operations.

What a mess of uninformed professional folks in this situation. All they are really looking for is an education system to try and make folks more responsible and accountable. In the end as usually happens the law abiding folks get in the end.

Curtis
Dec 21, 2015, 05:47 PM
Registered User
tkallev's Avatar
Which is why I would not knuckle under to this registration crap until after AMA sees what can be done with legal recourse ... this is being slam-dunked in opposition to the lawsuit questioning FAA's ability to even create a rule ... set aside because FAA said they could not complete review of the 40K responses they got to their interpretation ... and just WHO is dragging their feet on that? FAA.

The courts will eventually rule on all this ... and I still think an injunction against this registration guano can kill it in its tracks ...

I'll play dumb first since I don't fly no danged multi-rotor camera thingies ... and I fkly model airplanes, not DRONES ... 'cause everyone knows who watches the news that DRONES have multi-rotors and cameras ...
Dec 21, 2015, 05:58 PM
It's gonna be YUGE!!!
LVsoaring's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent-AV8R
It is poorly worded for sure, but I think parsing out to mean you will sometimes fly below 400 feet is not what they meant and that defense would not hold up in any court.
Actually, it very well might. If it said "I will fly no higher than 400 feet", that would be a different story.

Plus, it clearly says Safety Guidelines. They are not codified rules and regulations.
Dec 21, 2015, 06:57 PM
Ochroma Pyramidale Tekton
Fly Wheel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoaringDude
I keep seeing RCG posts from pilots who think that there is a new FAA-imposed 400' ceiling that we all have to fly under. There isn't one. If the explanation below isn't clear enough I'll keep editing it per everyone's comments until it is.

There are quite a few links you can follow from the FAA registration page. One of them will land you on the Model Aircraft Operations page that provides "safety guidelines" for hobby RC flying. One in particular is to "Fly below 400 feet." This is the most misunderstood guideline since some are under the impression it is a new Federal law/FAA regulation. It isn't. In fact the 400' FAA guideline has been around since the mid 1980s. The latest related FAA Advisory Circular for "Model Aircraft Operating Standards" states in section 6(e):
"Model aircraft operators should follow best practices including limiting operations to 400 feet above ground level (AGL)."
This is a "should" not a "must." i.e. a recommendation, not a requirement.

A relatively recent Federal law that directly impacts RC soaring is Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012). In section 336 "SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT" it explicitly covers the 55 pound limit in 336 (a) (3) and the 5 mile limit from airports in 336 (a) (5) but there is no clause regarding any altitude limit.

And to confuse everyone further the AMA's "National Model Aircraft Safety Code" has a "400 foot within 3 miles "rule in 2(c) that does not quite line up with the FAA's own requirements for model aircraft flight.

So, if you were to follow just the FAA rules, at least for now we are legally allowed to fly above 400 feet as long as we don't interfere with manned aircraft. If instead you also want to follow the AMA's Safety Code then don't fly higher than 400' within 3 miles from any airport.

This whole thing is a frickin' mess. I can see it's going to be a while before everyone's clear about this.

Chris
All I can say is good luck. If there is one thing I've learned about forums is that it doesn't matter how many times you try and correct erroneous assumptions, how many threads you try and correct them in or what proof you provide to back yourself up with. People will continue to make the same erroneous statements, in the same same threads, and many times they're even made by the same people.


The so called 400' foot 'rule', for example, has been bantered about for as long as I've been using RC newsgroup forums (since 2007)


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