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AMA getting above 400 AGL - Not so successful

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AMA getting above 400 AGL - Not so successful

Old 04-06-2022, 10:23 AM
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franklin_m
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Default AMA getting above 400 AGL - Not so successful

The AMA is NOT nearly so successful in getting clubs permission to fly above 400 AGL as their rhetoric indicates. In the period July 2019 to October 2021 (date of most recent document provided by FAA to my FOIA), there were just five clubs that received permission to fly above 400 AGL, three of which were only up to 600 AGL.

Background: Since LAANC and the 400 class G limit went into effect, July of 2019; in blog posts, annual reports, etc.; the AMA has touted its many "successes" obtaining permission to fly above 400 feet or in excess of the published LAANC minimums. On another site, as recently as yesterday, one of the AMA accolytes ("el..") posted a comment touting "the AMA has assisted a surprising number of clubs with successfully petitioning the FAA to allow flight operations above 400AGL. My understanding is that every single request, YTD, has been granted." But notably absent from all the chest thumping are actual numbers. Despite multiple requests to EC members in various public forums, the AMA refuses to provide actual numbers. I set out to get truth data, and now I know why AMA hasn't provided numbers.


How I obtained "truth data": While AMA can refuse to provide info, the government cannot. In a formal Freedom of Informtion Act (FOIA) filing, I requested the FAA provide copies of all agreements with the AMA (or it's agents .. i.e. clubs) that permit flight above 400 AGL. I did not distinguish whether controlled airspace or uncontrolled. After some back and forth, the FAA said it would be easier to just provide all written agreements with AMA or its agents rather than sort by type. They noted that there would be redactions, but these would be limited to things like the actual signatures, contact, personal contact information, etc.


AMA's actual results: Since LAANC went into effect, July 2019, the FAA signed 134 agreements with AMA clubs. Of those, just 5 allowed flight over 400 AGL. One allowed flight to 2000 AGL, one allowed flight to 1000 AGL, and three allowed flight to 600 AGL - one of which limited it to just one minute above 400 for every 10 minutes of flight.


Truth Data from FAA:
  • 156 agreements w/ CBOs, clubs, AMA, etc. in response to my FOIA request
  • Most recent agreement forwarded by FAA was 29 Oct 2021 (less than 6 months ago)
  • 10 agreements with 2021 dates, 62 agreements with 2020 dates
  • If club had multiple max altitudes based on conditions, I gave credit to the highest (best case)

Analysis of Truth Data from FAA:
  • 96.7% of agreements (151 clubs) limited to 400 feet or less
  • 11.5 % of agreements (18) limited to 200 feet or less
  • 3.2% of agreements (5) were greater than 400 (3x600, 1 ea 1000 & 2000)
Old 04-06-2022, 01:00 PM
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speedracerntrixie
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It would seem to me that you are rating the performance of AMA’s getting higher altitudes approved on the results of roughly 3% of AMA clubs and only 3 years into a government process? Seems a bit pre mature to me.

For those clubs you refer to that are locked into 200’ and 400’, what were their altitude limits prior to applying for higher altitude? It has been said multiple times that to date, virtually all the clubs got the altitude that they had asked for. Example: if a club location originally had them at 200’ and they asked for 400’ and was granted the 400’ then many would consider that a win. IMO without knowing a club’s baseline altitude and then what they ended up with it’s difficult to know how much value to place on your information.
Old 04-06-2022, 01:21 PM
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franklin_m
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Originally Posted by speedracerntrixie View Post
It would seem to me that you are rating the performance of AMA’s getting higher altitudes approved on the results of roughly 3% of AMA clubs and only 3 years into a government process? Seems a bit pre mature to me.

For those clubs you refer to that are locked into 200’ and 400’, what were their altitude limits prior to applying for higher altitude? It has been said multiple times that to date, virtually all the clubs got the altitude that they had asked for. Example: if a club location originally had them at 200’ and they asked for 400’ and was granted the 400’ then many would consider that a win. IMO without knowing a club’s baseline altitude and then what they ended up with it’s difficult to know how much value to place on your information.
The AMA has that data, but won't provide it. The FAA has only the documents signed by the clubs.

The data is the data. AMA hasn't been shy about touting their successes these past two years, so it seems more than fair to show how little they've actually achieved in that period. Actually, I should thank you. It was a comment you made a few months ago that gave me the idea of filing the FOIA. Something along the lines of being certain that AMA wouldn't hold an event at Muncie unless they had approval from FAA to exceed 400 feet. I thought what a better way to find out than to ask the FAA. And sure enough, there are no agreements that permit operations above 400 AGL at Muncie.

Over the period July 2019 to October 2021, it's pretty easy to track down all the events AMA permitted at it's site in Muncie. The absence of written permission from FAA to operate above 400 will make it easy to prove that AMA doesn't hole people accountable for following the rules within line of sight from it's own HQ. So the media and Congress should be very skeptical when AMA tells them that "its members are not part of the problem."
Old 04-06-2022, 02:29 PM
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speedracerntrixie
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I guess all I can say is “ you’re welcome “ LOL. During that discussion the topic was the 2021 F3A World Championships that were to take place in Muncie. Unfortunately the event was canceled due to Covid concerns which I believe both of agree was the correct thing to do.


That does however remind me that we are only a few months away from the 2022 AMA NATs which I predict will once again happen without any FAA intervention. What is your opinion on why the FAA turns a blind eye to not only NATs events that break 400’ but the thousands of events that take place throughout the US as well?
Old 04-06-2022, 03:29 PM
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franklin_m
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Originally Posted by speedracerntrixie View Post
I guess all I can say is “ you’re welcome “ LOL. During that discussion the topic was the 2021 F3A World Championships that were to take place in Muncie. Unfortunately the event was canceled due to Covid concerns which I believe both of agree was the correct thing to do.
As someone who worked in a job with frequent daily public contact from the start of the pandemic through today, and have yet to get so much as a sniffle, think both the number and durations of cancellations and cancellations were largely wrong.

Originally Posted by speedracerntrixie View Post
That does however remind me that we are only a few months away from the 2022 AMA NATs which I predict will once again happen without any FAA intervention. What is your opinion on why the FAA turns a blind eye to not only NATs events that break 400’ but the thousands of events that take place throughout the US as well?
I would take a different approach than FAA, choosing to send a strong signal (shot across the bow) early. However they're taking the approach of giving individuals and organizations plenty of rope to hang themselves. So for AMA, it will be how far and how hard do they want to fall? So imagine that AMA continues holding events at Muncie that are in blatant violation of rules. What happens if there's a serious near miss or actual mid-air with a manned aircraft? Instantly, the credibility of AMA will suspect, and everything they have touched --- all those agreements --- will be immediately suspect as well. Roll the dice often enough, and sooner or later you're going to roll the hard six.

The FAA is in the drivers seat. They just sit back and wait until something happens. Whether they enforced it in the past or not doesn't matter. Precedent has shown that is not a defense.
Old 04-06-2022, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by franklin_m View Post
As someone who worked in a job with frequent daily public contact from the start of the pandemic through today, and have yet to get so much as a sniffle, think both the number and durations of cancellations and cancellations were largely wrong.


I would take a different approach than FAA, choosing to send a strong signal (shot across the bow) early. However they're taking the approach of giving individuals and organizations plenty of rope to hang themselves. So for AMA, it will be how far and how hard do they want to fall? So imagine that AMA continues holding events at Muncie that are in blatant violation of rules. What happens if there's a serious near miss or actual mid-air with a manned aircraft? Instantly, the credibility of AMA will suspect, and everything they have touched --- all those agreements --- will be immediately suspect as well. Roll the dice often enough, and sooner or later you're going to roll the hard six.

The FAA is in the drivers seat. They just sit back and wait until something happens. Whether they enforced it in the past or not doesn't matter. Precedent has shown that is not a defense.


Interesting as I clearly recall you giving Andy a fairly large dose of grief due to Florida Jets going forward in spite of the dangers of Covid. You even brought up a valid point of the average AMA members age putting them in the higher risk democratic.


As far as the FAA not taking action or turning a blind eye, I obviously have a different outlook. As far as an incident happening, I would say that the odds grossly favor it not happening. At least with a traditional model airplane that is. Odds are much better that it will be some sort of quad copter or some other FPV aircraft. This is one of the points I will agree with Astro, when I open up a copy of MA and see pictures of quads I just toss the mag in the garbage. When a UAS brings down a manned aircraft we ( traditional guys ) will somewhat be collateral damage. In the meantime I don’t think the FAA gives a rat’s behind about us traditional guys simply because in that respect ( collisions with manned aircraft ) we do have a great safety record. I would be willing to venture at this point, party balloons have created more forced landings then model airplanes.
Old 04-06-2022, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by speedracerntrixie View Post
Interesting as I clearly recall you giving Andy a fairly large dose of grief due to Florida Jets going forward in spite of the dangers of Covid. You even brought up a valid point of the average AMA members age putting them in the higher risk democratic.


As far as the FAA not taking action or turning a blind eye, I obviously have a different outlook. As far as an incident happening, I would say that the odds grossly favor it not happening. At least with a traditional model airplane that is. Odds are much better that it will be some sort of quad copter or some other FPV aircraft. This is one of the points I will agree with Astro, when I open up a copy of MA and see pictures of quads I just toss the mag in the garbage. When a UAS brings down a manned aircraft we ( traditional guys ) will somewhat be collateral damage. In the meantime I don’t think the FAA gives a rat’s behind about us traditional guys simply because in that respect ( collisions with manned aircraft ) we do have a great safety record. I would be willing to venture at this point, party balloons have created more forced landings then model airplanes.
You'll note the wording above is generic, not referring to any single event. That said, I'm age group where risk goes up sharply, and I worked through the whole thing.

As for the second part, with respect to FAA. It only takes one event. Again, roll the dice often enough, and sooner or later the odds catch up and you get that hard six. Even very low probability events happen from time to time, most often with high consequences ...
Old 04-06-2022, 09:43 PM
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Not to pick nits here but there have been mid-air "incidents". The most notorious ones, off the top of my head, were when a quad ended up in the engine intake of a military helicopter over New York, IIRC, a quad was watched flying around the Seattle Space Needle before being seen videoing the inside of apartments several stories up, another quad running into the "Big Wheel" before falling to the ground along the Seattle waterfront and the firefighting aircraft being grounded in California after several close calls with quads. I would have to agree with Speed, winged aircraft have not been nearly the issue that multirotor "drones" have been. That said, of the incidents above:
  • the helicopter strike has been dealt with by authorities
  • the firefighting planes were ordered grounded if a drone was seen, seriously hampering firefighting operations
  • the operators of the two drones in Seattle are still unidentified and at large
It's the last one is the one that really worries me. The flight around the Space needle was only 1025 feet from the helipad on the roof of the KIRO TV/radio studio facility, 250 feet from the helipad on the roof of the KOMO TV/radio studio facility and 1.7 miles from the triple helipad at the Harborview Hospital and Trauma Center. I know both KIRO and KOMO either do or did operate Bell Jet Rangers from those locations and I think Harborview is self-explanatory.
Old 04-07-2022, 04:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Hydro Junkie View Post
Not to pick nits here but there have been mid-air "incidents". The most notorious ones, off the top of my head, were when a quad ended up in the engine intake of a military helicopter over New York, IIRC, a quad was watched flying around the Seattle Space Needle before being seen videoing the inside of apartments several stories up, another quad running into the "Big Wheel" before falling to the ground along the Seattle waterfront and the firefighting aircraft being grounded in California after several close calls with quads. I would have to agree with Speed, winged aircraft have not been nearly the issue that multirotor "drones" have been. That said, of the incidents above:
  • the helicopter strike has been dealt with by authorities
  • the firefighting planes were ordered grounded if a drone was seen, seriously hampering firefighting operations
  • the operators of the two drones in Seattle are still unidentified and at large
It's the last one is the one that really worries me. The flight around the Space needle was only 1025 feet from the helipad on the roof of the KIRO TV/radio studio facility, 250 feet from the helipad on the roof of the KOMO TV/radio studio facility and 1.7 miles from the triple helipad at the Harborview Hospital and Trauma Center. I know both KIRO and KOMO either do or did operate Bell Jet Rangers from those locations and I think Harborview is self-explanatory.
That was the AMA philosophy 30 years ago when winged aircraft were flying FPV around skyscrapers before there were quadcopters. The AMA stance at that time was "so what, it's no big deal."
Old 04-07-2022, 05:08 AM
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RG, I was referring to the period starting with quads, not back in the 1980s and 90s.
I remember seeing a story from NYC about an R/C motor glider that was launched from LIberty Island and flown FPV through the city. IIRC, the NYPD followed it back to Liberty Island and gave the operators what amounted to a "slap on the wrist"
Old 04-07-2022, 06:19 AM
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I will do some investigation when I have more time but I’m not sure if the correct type of equipment required to fly FPV even existed until after 2000. In the summer of 2000 I was traveling with the Dixie Chicks operating their R/C blimp. At one point they wanted it to carry a camera and air the real time video on screens at the back of the stage. At that time we were unable to find equipment that was suitable. Biggest issue was weight.
Old 04-07-2022, 06:41 AM
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LOL awesome! I did that for the hockey team here for a while till I got hired as PA announcer then pawned the blimp off on a couple of club members.

Too bad Natalie couldn't confine her mouth to singing, her little political rant didn't play well with the conservative audience of country music.
Old 04-07-2022, 07:04 AM
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Andy, I had 7 seasons with the Sharks and 8 with the Golden State Warriors. Lots of fun. The Chick’s blimp was by far the most challenging. 28’ in length and 14’ tall.

Yes, Natalie had the habit of getting caught up in the moment. I didn’t have a problem with her “ slip “ but not thrilled over their apparent “ Woke “ behavior as of late. Quite disappointed as when I was with them they were determined not to be confined within the traditional country music mold. To me it seems as if they sold out. Photo was taken in Columbus Ohio.




Old 04-07-2022, 07:50 AM
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I never said the motor glider incident was in the 80s or 90s, just that it happened. All I know is that the equipment used was first generation and it happened in NYC.
Old 04-07-2022, 07:52 AM
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Hydro, more focused on RG’s post stating 30 years ago.
Old 04-07-2022, 08:00 AM
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Can't help but notice the resident EC member is curiously silent on the lack of AMA success as shown in the FOIA response...
Old 04-07-2022, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by franklin_m View Post
Can't help but notice the resident EC member is curiously silent on the lack of AMA success as shown in the FOIA response...

Old 04-07-2022, 09:02 AM
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Sorry, couldn't resist the Hogan's Heroes joke, , , carry on......
Old 04-07-2022, 09:58 AM
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project cyclops.
early to mid 90s

i was a HAM band flyer, so i got drafted
aircraft resembling an over sized<way oversized> trainer 60, flying on 50 mhz..
had to be HAM operator to legally operate the aircraft and transmitter for the camera. do not remember the transmit freq for the camera.
had a modified video arcade booth/seat set up as a cockpit using a regular tv screen for display.
had a buddy box connection from real tx, JR, to slave connected to the controls in the cockpit.
stand by pilot, ME a lot of the time, had visual on the aircraft and held the trainer switch in place so the designer/pilot could fly.
i got very little flying time as standby, the system worked very well.
did get a little stick time "in the box", it was rather easy, once you quit trying to follow the movement with your head.

i seem to remember that there was coverage of this project in MA.

project leader/owner was a retired tv/radio repair guy,
think his name was Robert Thorton.(old timers disease moment occurring)

all involved were AMA
Old 04-13-2022, 10:32 AM
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C’mon fellas, Franklin took the time and effort to process a FOIA request seeking information to either confirm or dispel AMA’s responses, or lack of, on a topic important to our hobby’s future.

Reportedly the document is multi-page length and will take time to sort, cross check and process. Some has been done already and reported here but nitpicking with counter comments isn’t respecting work already completed.

Let's give some time to the reveal process and learn as we go.

Perhaps we can encourage Franklin to share the file via Dropbox or any file sharing platform so skeptics can digest for themselves.

A thanks to Franklin for undertaking the FOIA process for those of us lacking time or are too lazy to do ourselves.
Old 04-13-2022, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Dick T. View Post
C’mon fellas, Franklin took the time and effort to process a FOIA request seeking information to either confirm or dispel AMA’s responses, or lack of, on a topic important to our hobby’s future.

Reportedly the document is multi-page length and will take time to sort, cross check and process. Some has been done already and reported here but nitpicking with counter comments isn’t respecting work already completed.

Let's give some time to the reveal process and learn as we go.

Perhaps we can encourage Franklin to share the file via Dropbox or any file sharing platform so skeptics can digest for themselves.

A thanks to Franklin for undertaking the FOIA process for those of us lacking time or are too lazy to do ourselves.
Dick, thought we've mixed it up in the past, thank you for the kind words. It was a considerable effort to compile the data to quote the number above. If someone will pony up the Dropbox space that's open to everyone, I'm happy to upload. On my PC it's showing as bout 235MB spit (unevenly) between two files.

I'm not saying there's no errors in my data, but if there are, they're de minimis. What's posted above paints a very good picture of the AMA's focus and progress up through the date of the last document received. I also want to remind folks that when you look at the clubs getting well above 400, you'll note they're almost exclusively jet focused clubs. Which it telling with respect to the AMA's priorities. Remember, how an organization spends it's scarce resources, money and staff time, are the most direct indicator of their priorities.

Old 04-13-2022, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by franklin_m View Post
Dick, thought we've mixed it up in the past, thank you for the kind words. It was a considerable effort to compile the data to quote the number above. If someone will pony up the Dropbox space that's open to everyone, I'm happy to upload. On my PC it's showing as bout 235MB spit (unevenly) between two files.

I'm not saying there's no errors in my data, but if there are, they're de minimis. What's posted above paints a very good picture of the AMA's focus and progress up through the date of the last document received. I also want to remind folks that when you look at the clubs getting well above 400, you'll note they're almost exclusively jet focused clubs. Which it telling with respect to the AMA's priorities. Remember, how an organization spends it's scarce resources, money and staff time, are the most direct indicator of their priorities.
Echoing what Dick said, I'll also extend a thank you to Franklin for taking the time to put this together. The one comment I have here is regarding the jet clubs, perhaps the AMA's primary focus is on them first because, of "traditional" model airplanes, they have the greatest potential to do major damage to a passing full scale aircraft, so the AMA is sorting the most dangerous first? Or perhaps it is that since they have the most dollars invested in the hobby, they get the more immediate response?
Old 04-13-2022, 11:43 AM
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What I found interesting is that, at a R/C hobby expo last weekend, I talked to reps from a couple of flying clubs and specifically asked about altitude limits. I was told by both clubs, one soaring and one general flying club, that altitudes weren't an issue since they flew outside of the controlled areas since they were not close to an airport. This is, technically, not true for the flying club. It's 9 miles from but not in the approach/departure paths of a GA airport AND only 1.28 miles to a local store and housing area. Seems to me the altitude limits would apply to that site as well. Am I wrong on this or was I lied to?
Old 04-13-2022, 01:46 PM
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The issue I have with the original discussion - how many requests for other limits were turned down? Or never included in the requests? If only 5 asked for higher limits, that's as good as it can get. If 100 asked, then....
Old 04-13-2022, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by tedsander View Post
The issue I have with the original discussion - how many requests for other limits were turned down? Or never included in the requests? If only 5 asked for higher limits, that's as good as it can get. If 100 asked, then....
I can't evaluate info I don't have. I asked for copies of all agreements. That's what they sent. Asking for pre-decisional materials, applications, etc. would likely be denied. Even if not, it would result in thousands of dollars in research costs. Plus, it likely wouldn't capture verbals or meetings. Which is why I asked for what I knew existed - actual signed agreements.

And in the end, all that matters is what’s on paper.

Last edited by franklin_m; 04-14-2022 at 02:27 AM. Reason: corrected characters that proved box instead of '

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