Parks and Rec oversight of a flying field - RC Groups
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Aug 11, 2017, 04:33 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
Question

Parks and Rec oversight of a flying field


We have a flying field near Charlotte NC that is on an old landfill. The land is managed by a land use company who has granted use to the county P&R. Currently the county has a contract with a group to manage it as a flying site. This group has a board of directors with five members. Two from each of the two clubs, one RC and one control line, that fly there plus a President elected by the board.

Currently to fly at this park you have to have AMA and then purchase an annual park pass. Guests with AMA can fly there for a few times without the park pass. There are approximately 150 pass holders. Membership to the two clubs is optional, you do not have to be a member to fly. The clubs offer instruction, fly-ins, build the tables and pilot stations, etc. P&R provides the field, mowing, and general facilities upkeep. This has been in effect for about 30 years.

There is a paved runway and behind the flight line three control line circles. There is no specific spot to fly helicopters or quadcopters. They fly from a pilots station out in the general flying area in front of the flight line.

Radio control flying, flying of any kind really, is not allowed at any other park in the county. No quad copters, park flyers, free flight planes, kites, Frisbees, or anything though I doubt they would chase off someone picnicking and tossing a Frisbee.

P&R wants to change the basic operation of the park we use. They say they are under pressure to designate a place for quadcopters to fly. They say the people asking are not the high end racing quad people but rather people that buy a quad on line or at a big box store and then show up at a park to fly. When a ranger tells them they can't fly at the general park they are told to go to our park. When they show up there and they see what is happening at our park they usually call P&R saying that they need a park for their type of aircraft or in some cases try to fly at a place that's not acceptable at our field (parking lot, pits, control line circles, grass in the landing or take off areas). When this happens they sometimes go back to P&R to complain.

Sooo. P&R has asked us (the board of directors for the park) to meetings. They have mandated that a new contract will be drawn up and that it MUST include days, or portion of days, when non AMA member, non pass holders can fly at the field. They say no choice, it has to happen. We are discussing with AMA but so far the President of the board tells us that AMA says that if we don't require AMA all the time we lose our charter.
EDIT- Today the AMA says we can allow the non AMA days or times but that for those periods AMA coverage, as a site not the individual members will be suspended. Once the date or time for open flying closes the AMA coverage resumes.
They also say that they are not concerned with proposed legislation in the Senate or House, the FAA and really don't care about AMA guidelines or the liability insurance that comes with the AMA membership. We have tried to educate them about both law and guidelines.

We are discussing this now, what if we do lose the charter for both the AMA chapter and the two clubs and how this effects day to day management of the park.


Has anyone here heard of something like this? What was the outcome? Is there a way to make everyone happy?
Last edited by Evan D; Aug 11, 2017 at 10:36 PM.
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Aug 11, 2017, 05:33 PM
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GoatZilla's Avatar
That's actually the best news I've heard so far. Your P&R is doing the right thing.

You have been granted use of the land, implying it's not yours, and it can be taken away from you. Now you have to learn to share.

The most common-sense thing to do is to carve out a parcel from your site, fence it off, and allow casual use there. It's no longer a part of your club, and hence AMA's got nothing to do with it. Everybody strictly flies within their boundaries.

The main technical problem is the antiquated FPV equipment. Within your club field I assume you have some discipline regarding analog VTX's which you can neither count on nor enforce at the casual site (since they're not club members).

So really, the argument should be to parcel off a small second chunk of land on the opposite end of the park to at least provide physical separation.



It's really just a small field that's been fenced off.

A park near me incidentally had a small area fenced off, mostly for what I assume was grass-regrowth reasons. I called it my personal playpen because even on busy park days, there would obviously be nobody inside it.
Aug 11, 2017, 06:15 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
Thanks for the response. Interesting. We did propose to carve off an area to dedicate to quads but that was not good enough for P&R. They want specific days or times where people (not necessarily quad fliers) without AMA or a park pass can fly using the main area.

I repeat this is aimed at the more "toyish" quads or planes that people would buy at a big box store and then show up in a park to fly unaware of what the AMA or FAA is or that there are any rules or guidelines.

They, P&R, don't care about frequencies, radio or FPV, or understand them. That would be left to the individual pilots to sort out.

We do have many people that are currently flying quads at the field with AMA and park passes. We do have many flying FPV, both planes and quads. We do have people still on 72MHz if that matters. We have a frequency board at the main line.
Aug 11, 2017, 07:11 PM
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At our field, also owned by the City Parks and Recreation, the rule goes like this. Anything electric powered that is 2lbs and under does not require AMA or any other club membership.

Electric over 2 lbs and all Internal Combustion powered aircraft regardless of size, must have membership in the AMA and membership in at least one of the two clubs that have a lease with the city to use the field.

Seems to work OK. The FPV folks show up and fly from time to time as do the traditional modelers. Everyone seems to tolerate everyone else but the traditional camaraderie found at flying fields in the past is more or less gone due to the vast differences in aircraft.
Aug 11, 2017, 07:35 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
Interesting, and the clubs are AMA chartered? We were told if we are a AMA club all pilots have to have AMA membership.
Aug 11, 2017, 08:00 PM
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GoatZilla's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan D
Thanks for the response. Interesting. We did propose to carve off an area to dedicate to quads but that was not good enough for P&R. They want specific days or times where people (not necessarily quad fliers) without AMA or a park pass can fly using the main area.
So they want to time-division instead of space-division.

I would say that that's unworkable for everyone involved (both the club and non-club members), and meanwhile there's probably plenty of alternate space that could be allocated. Like, as a non-club member, I wouldn't want to have to follow some arbitrary schedule, or really cross paths with any clubs in the first place.

I measured my playpen on Google maps -- it was less than 0.7 acres. It's not huge, but for someone who just wants to play with a toy, it's plenty. Build a fence, fly inside the fence, done.

I'm betting your park has the space. Maybe just pick a spot in the far corner and just be like, "Hey, can we at least just try this out to see how it goes? I think this will make everyone happier."

You might also need to phrase it differently, like "Do you really want to be fielding calls for people to GTFO the field because it's not their allotted time?"


Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan D
I repeat this is aimed at the more "toyish" quads or planes that people would buy at a big box store and then show up in a park to fly unaware of what the AMA or FAA is or that there are any rules or guidelines.

They, P&R, don't care about frequencies, radio or FPV, or understand them. That would be left to the individual pilots to sort out.

We do have many people that are currently flying quads at the field with AMA and park passes. We do have many flying FPV, both planes and quads. We do have people still on 72MHz if that matters. We have a frequency board at the main line.
I would feel safe ignoring the 72MHz issue (because anyone interested in self-preservation should have switched over by now), but it's the FPV stuff that currently still needs the frequency board treatment. Even the toys come with analog VTX's.

P&R has to understand this. You'd think there would be some "community based organization" which could, you know, help educate local governments on these matters in order to promote the hobby. Oh, wait...
Last edited by GoatZilla; Aug 11, 2017 at 08:08 PM.
Aug 11, 2017, 08:39 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
As I said we did suggest a smaller are to the side, much lrger than .7 acre. The thing is we cant easily kick people off 72 since its legal and actually safe with few people using it. But that's not as big of a problem as requiring one group to have AMA and a park pass at $100/ year and the other group to have free access and not have to comply with the same safety code.

Good discussion
Aug 11, 2017, 10:31 PM
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GoatZilla's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan D
As I said we did suggest a smaller are to the side, much lrger than .7 acre.
You've repeatedly stated that this is for "toys" yet you tried to allocate a space much larger than a toy field.

It sounds to me you designed the proposal to fail instead of succeed.

Look, I run into people flying in parks all the time. Most of the time, they don't make it further than 30 feet before it's time to find a new hobby.

Something like a trial 16:9 1 acre sized field would probably do it for the "toys".

If they fly something so large or so fast that they can't keep it in bounds, then you recommend that they join the club. It feeds into your club.

If nothing else you might have bought yourself some time to come up with a better plan.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan D
The thing is we cant easily kick people off 72 since its legal and actually safe with few people using it.
Never said you had to kick people off 72MHz.

72MHz is a self-solving problem.

Members want to keep flying 72MHz? Fine, keep flying it.

The best thing about unsustainable situations is that they are, by definition, unsustainable.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan D
But that's not as big of a problem as requiring one group to have AMA and a park pass at $100/ year and the other group to have free access and not have to comply with the same safety code.
I think you need to let that go.

Let me put this gently.

You have enjoyed a 30 year reign on apparently public land with free mowing and upkeep. You made a devil's bargain -- a zero sum game where, for your mini-flight-monopoly, you sacrificed the flying rights of all regular citizens to fly anywhere else on this public land. Everyone has been funneled to your little club for 30 years.

You might want to readjust your view of iniquity.

If I were your P&R I'd yank your contract.
Aug 12, 2017, 08:39 AM
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Evan D's Avatar
And how would you run it?

You'll have the serious modeler with up to $100k in it with 200mph stuff, big stuff, helos, fpv planes and quads, racing quads, and kids with toys.
And control line planes.

Don't get all worked up, I'm asking what others have done and is working under current law and will continue to work under proposed legislation in both the house and senate.
Aug 12, 2017, 01:24 PM
I miss President Reagan
KMK001's Avatar
I see several issues here.

First and foremost, WHO is requiring AMA membership? What does the agreement/contract with P&R say? If P&R requires site insurance by the users, then the clubs are within their rights to require AMA membership as that is the means for the insurance. But IF the contract does not specify site insurance, then the clubs can not force AMA membership for anything other than club membership. Because unless P&R calls for it, you can not deny a tax paying citizen access to a public facility simply because they don't belong to some not for profit organization. And what if someone like me shows up with my own insurance? Clubs (AMA) get away with such behavior mainly because most people prefer to NOT take them to court over a place to fly. Some however prefer to present the issue to the property owners and get everyone thrown off. So watch for that.

Next issue I see it a lack of understanding on the part of P&R. They need to be made to understand that rotary winged aircraft fly differently from fixed wing. And while rotary winged aircraft can emulate and fly in pattern with fixed, fixed wing aircraft can not emulate and fly with rotary. It's that hovering thing. Not much of a problem with just a few models in the air at a time. But when you reach a certain number, which will be different for different situations, they must understand having rotary winged hovering and doing their thing near and over the runway is simply not conducive to SAFE fixed wing operations. Ergo, for most flying a separate area for rotary is usually preferred.

I like to use the roller skating rink analogy to demonstrate the issue. Imagine a roller rink with just 3 people on it. Those 3 can pretty much skate in any direction and do whatever they want out there. Lots of room. But as the rink fills up you start having close calls and maybe even some collisions and falls. To the point where eventually everyone is required to skate in one direction around and around in the pattern. Make sense?

Seems to me it's time for the clubs to step up and be adults about this whole issue. If P&R mandates the site insurance AND that said insurance is from the AMA. Then and only then can the clubs require AMA membership of anyone who flies there. But if P&R doesn't require that, then you can't stop any citizen access simply because they do not belong to the AMA.
Aug 12, 2017, 01:38 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
You are wrong on two major points. First the organization managing the park can require AMA even if P&R doesn't mandate it. But P&R have mandated AMA up until this point and continue to require it except for specific times/ dates set aside as "open" flying.

Secondly we can tell people they can or can't fly at the park as its designated special use and a seperate group has been tasked to manage it. Can you fly at the local public golf course?

The old FAA legislation (and new in the house and senate) require we have commercial drone license or fly within a set of community based rules. We need to be ready for the new stuff but are not building them into the contract we are working on now.

I know many here are anti AMA and anti rules in general. I'm also not saying that someone that has a high dollar aircraft has more right to fly than a $10 quad. I'm asking what people have where they fly that works for all.
Aug 12, 2017, 03:46 PM
I miss President Reagan
KMK001's Avatar
I try to honestly be of help and I get a load of garbage. Please refer back to the first sentence of my last paragraph.
Aug 12, 2017, 04:10 PM
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Evan D's Avatar
Sorry you feel that what I said is garbage but your were wrong on two points so I pointed them out. The clubs don't really have a say in this. The two parties are the county and a board of directors that the county has manage the park with input from people that fly there. Some of these people are club members some are not.

I am looking for suggestions on what works for others here on RCG that may have a similar situation. From your post the main thing I got is that AMA should not be mandated, that if you have your own private insurance that should be enough. Requiring AMA is easy on our group. If you have it you have insurance and it's easy to verify AMA membership. Individual insurance varies in what it covers and the how much it covers. Verification of person insurance is much more difficult and could be cancelled at any time. But should we suggest to P&R to not require AMA or insurance at all? They don't require proof of insurance to play baseball or to have a cook out, should they for our activity? What if they don't and someone gets a eye poked out? Even with a sign (no one reads signs) that says fly at your own risk is the park or the group managing the park at risk of a law suite?

And I get that you think that dissimilar r/c craft should be kept separate. So separate flight areas for general R/C airplanes, R/C quad copters and helos. If they can fly the pattern then the quads and helos can fly the airplane line? Keep helos and quads separate? Control line would also need their own area.

What works where you fly? 049 had some good input.
Aug 12, 2017, 06:50 PM
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JohnsPop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoatZilla
Everybody strictly flies within their boundaries.
So you really think that someone who comes right out and says they don't care about federal legislation, the FAA, the AMA, insurance or safety guidelines in general are going to fly strictly within their boundaries? Good luck with that OP, when those people start flying there, the days of your P&R allowing ANYONE to fly model aircraft in that park are numbered.
Aug 12, 2017, 07:14 PM
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JohnsPop's Avatar
We have a somewhat similar situation. Our club has flown at a municipal site for roughly 25 years. A few years ago, they put in a walking track on the flying field. Well, someone was flying one day and someone was walking on the track and from what I understand, some words were passed. So the city cut us back to just Saturday from 12-6 and Sunday from 1-Dusk. We still catch hell from everybody who wants to give us hell, but we just bite our tongues. We know there's absolutely nothing we can say and nothing we can do or we'll lose our field in the blink of an eye. We are an AMA chartered club so we require membership. No one has every really contested that to my knowledge, but we know some residents come down during the week and fly. We're concerned that if they injure someone that the city will give us the boot, even though we've made it clear that ALL of our members know the strict rules and NONE of our members fly outside the posted hours. But yeah.... basically, we know we're on borrowed time. Whether a resident of the city complains, a non-member hits someone with an aircraft, a member hits someone with an aircraft, whatever..... sooner or later we'll be closed down without even notice to try to find another place to fly. Our guys fly pretty much everything and outside of us busting each other's chops for sport, no one really cares what anyone else flies. As they say..... it is what it is.


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