What size RC airplane would be illegal for me to fly? - RC Groups
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Jan 05, 2007, 01:40 AM
Registered User

What size RC airplane would be illegal for me to fly?

...without some additional paperwork? A parkflyer is perfectly legal. A Cessna 152 with a receiver and actuators installed would almost certainly be illegal. Somewhere between those extremes there has to be a line... where is it?

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Jan 05, 2007, 01:54 AM
I Wish I Was Flying...
sdueck's Avatar
Doesn't the AMA say anything above 80" wingspan, or 1/3rd scale, whichever is smaller. Not sure, as I am not a memeber, nor have I read anything from them, but I think I heard that somewhere. Also anything with a jet turbine.

Now these models can become legal. I am not sure of the process, but I believe they come, inspect the plane, see it safely fly a few times, you fill out some paperwork,a nd you fly safely, in a safe area. Not sure where the cutoff is, but you will at one point have to register with the FAA as well...
Jan 05, 2007, 02:23 AM
Registered User
Usually the cutoff is weight, not size. Turbines also have some special rules. Here (in New Zealand) the weight limit is 25kg, above that requires some certification, and above 75kg requires certification as a fullsize experimental airplane. Beyond visual range UAV work also has some certification requirements, and you need a pilots license.
Jan 05, 2007, 02:46 AM
Deletedfor proving Nauga wrong
AMA limits are 55 lnb takeoff weight without waiver, 100 lbs absolute limit for thier liability coverage.

FAA rules are unclear as to what would require a permit from them. As long as its a hobbiest aircraft model being flown using a 72 mhz radio and not a type certified full scale aircraft (which would already have an FAA airworthyness certificate) Its probably technicly legal.

so... its unlikely to be legal to stick a radio system in a full scale Piper Cub without the FAA approving. But it might be legally OK (stretching every limit as far as possible) to put the radio into a "KitFox" ( an ultralight under FAA rules when built to carry a person) as long as you were going to keep it in visual range....

Soon as you start using an on-board camera to keep track of the plane or put in a GPS based system to make it go where you program it... you would be looking at the FAA wanting to call it a UAV or RPV, which requires FAA authorization. If you are flying it for any semblence of a commercial purpose.. FAA WILL call it a UAV or RPV.

AMA does not set the rules about whats legal... but thier rules are really pretty reasonable. You can make a VERY large model and keep it under 50 lbs. (which allows 5 lbs for fuel)
Jan 05, 2007, 06:39 AM
Registered User
vintage1's Avatar
Not sure that's true..I am fairly sure that most giant scale models over a certain weight do need to be certified by the CAA, although its not too onerous.

I don;t think that the CAA actually cares whether its a model or not..I did some research when the whole AMA/parkflyer thing came up last year and microlights and hang gliders - which are not far off large models in weight - were subject to relaxed CAA type rules, but not exonerated. There is a formula based loosely on wing loading that defines the class.

I had always understood that below a certain weight - about 25kg? - you could do what you like, above that you needed to involve the CAA.
Jan 05, 2007, 11:03 AM
Registered User
Is the weight limit in the US 50lbs?
Jan 05, 2007, 11:18 AM
Deletedfor proving Nauga wrong

AMA has a FIRST weight limit of 55 lbs without a "waiver" The waiver allows you to go up to 100 lbs. This is TAKEOFF WEIGHT an includes fuel and anything you stick in or on the plane. (so if you make a plane and use it to lift RC skydivers, you have to keep it uner the limit by the fuel capacity and the weight of the RC skydiver(s) that will be carried)

This is NOT an FAA rule.. and only applies to AMA members.

FAA rules are unclear regarding when a "model" turns into a "UAV" or "RPV"..... There's no weight listed for that.

FAA is clear about the break between an "Ultralight" and a plane requireing FAA Certificate of Airworthiness. (I forgot the weights... one max weight the aircraft has a safety parachute and a lesser weight without The difference is essentially the weight needed to put in an effective paracute system)
Jan 05, 2007, 11:43 AM
BFMAC Founding Member
Originally Posted by IWC
Is the weight limit in the US 50lbs?
Depends on who defines 'legal.'

AMA says 55 lbs, or 100 lbs with waiver, but AMA doesn't make laws, just rules for its own members.

ICAO says 25 kg (~55 lbs) and the US is a member nation of ICAO, represented by FAA. Call that quasi-legal, as FAA has the authority to enforce it, but doesn't.

FAA defines a model aircraft as a UA that is excepted from UA regulations if it is operated in accordance with AC 91-57. Basically, this document defines the operating envelope only - under 400 ft AGL, and not within 3 mi of airport without coordinating with airport authority (AMA has copied the substance of this AC into the AMA Safety Code). There are no size, weight, powerplant or control link type (e.g., VR and or autonomous) restrictions specified. FAA has the hammer, so I submit this as the word of authority on what is a 'legal' model airplane in the US.

Jan 05, 2007, 12:06 PM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
IW, if this really interests you, plunge into the FAA rules, rather than rely on hearsay.
AMA regulations have no force outside anything AMA has any authority over, while AMA is subservient to the FAA.
Jan 05, 2007, 12:50 PM
Registered User
It was a rather theoretical question - if I fly anything significantly bigger than a parkflyer, then I'd rather sit in it than stay on the ground

The point about GPS was interesting. I thing I would be capable of putting a GPS in a parkflyer and make it go out of radio range and back. Would it make it an UAV? Interesting...

Thanks for replies, guys!
Jan 05, 2007, 02:02 PM
BFMAC Founding Member
Originally Posted by brtlmj

The point about GPS was interesting. I thing I would be capable of putting a GPS in a parkflyer and make it go out of radio range and back. Would it make it an UAV? Interesting...
It wouldn't matter as far as FAA is concerned. FAA includes model airplanes in their definition of UA - any aircraft flown without a pilot on board. The exception from general regulation of UAs that operate in accordance with AC 91-57 applies without regard to purpose (recreation, commerce, law enforcement, etc.), physical characteristics or means of guidance, if any. Basically their current stance is keep it under 400' and away from airport operations and they don't want to know about it.
Not that they don't have the authority or mandate to regulate anything in the national airspace, but like any other regulatory agency they have their priorities. Priorities could change if modelers create problems for them - until then, they have bigger fish to fry.

BTW, the FAA policy paper that states their most current position to be made public re unmanned aircraft is AFS-400 UAS POLICY 05-01, available on-line at the FAA website. You can find therein the definitions and exception cited above and in my prior post to this thread.

Jan 05, 2007, 05:19 PM
big-john-52's Avatar
OR WE TALKING AMA legal or FAA legal???????? we all need to be on the same page!!
Jan 05, 2007, 05:54 PM
resU deretsigeR
PaulVi's Avatar
Originally Posted by big-john-52
OR WE TALKING AMA legal or FAA legal???????? we all need to be on the same page!!
It would not be AMA Leagel but rather meeting AMA policy as the AMA does not make or enforce laws..

Now on the other hand FCC does not make Laws but rather submits doctrine to become law and then has the ablity to enforce it.

Pranger said it best and cited refrance.

Off topic but same problem here. My wife just lost her job and while the manor in which she did was down right dirty pool and not very moral leagly it was with in the rights of the company.

We all seem to talk about what is leagel based on what we feel is right. That is really more how laws get changed rather than how they are enforced.

I fly 800 feet from a active airport. I fly in acordance to AC 91-57 and am left alone but if i were to run into a low flying aircraft im sure that AC 91-57 would not protect me from litigation if i cased injury.

Now was it flyboy who flew a 25 foot pink foamy and was working on a 50 footer..

Size and weight determin safety paramiters im sure if you RC'ed a ultra light and flew it in the Desert not to many folks are going to complain but fly it at your local school and im sure some one will shut you down..

Size Does Matter

Opps been ranting again Sorry...

PS. And keep in mind the FCC is just a US agency other countrys vary in Law and Enforcment
Jan 05, 2007, 05:59 PM
BFMAC Founding Member
Originally Posted by big-john-52
OR WE TALKING AMA legal or FAA legal???????? we all need to be on the same page!!

Both of the above, and more. E.g., Vintage1 replied and he isn't subject to what either FAA or AMA have to say is 'legal.' He was right, though.
Jan 05, 2007, 08:24 PM
big-john-52's Avatar
The IRS is just a U.S. agency too but I don't piss them off .

The FCC is just an agency but talk to someone in radio and see if they have

been fined.

The FAA is just an agency but fly an airplane under a bridge and see who

shows up at your door.

The AMA makes rules not laws and expects us to

police ourselves. But break enough rules and you will

be ask to leave your club field..... I hope.

just my thoughts


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