[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 122 (Wednesday, June 25, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 36171-36176]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14948]



[[Page 36171]]

Vol. 79

Wednesday,

No. 122

June 25, 2014

Part III





Federal Communications Commission





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14 CFR Part 91





 Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 122 / Wednesday, June 25, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 36172]]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 91

[Docket No. FAA-2014-0396]


Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of interpretation with request for comment.

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SUMMARY: This action provides interested persons with the opportunity 
to comment on the FAA's interpretation of the special rule for model 
aircraft established by Congress in the FAA Modernization and Reform 
Act of 2012. In this interpretation, the FAA clarifies that: Model 
aircraft must satisfy the criteria in the Act to qualify as model 
aircraft and to be exempt from future FAA rulemaking action; and 
consistent with the Act, if a model aircraft operator endangers the 
safety of the National Airspace System, the FAA has the authority to 
take enforcement action against those operators for those safety 
violations.

DATES: Effective June 23, 2014. Comments must be received on or before 
July 25, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments identified by docket number FAA-2014-
0396 using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send Comments to Docket Operations, M-30; US 
Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building 
Ground Floor, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 
20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room 
W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue 
SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.
     Fax: (202) 493-2251.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dean E. Griffith, Attorney, 
Regulations Division, Office of the Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone: (202) 267-3073; email: dean.griffith@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Comments Invited

    The FAA invites interested persons to submit written comments, 
data, or views concerning this interpretation. The most helpful 
comments reference a specific portion of the interpretation, explain 
the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data. To 
ensure the docket does not contain duplicate comments, please send only 
one copy of written comments, or if you are filing comments 
electronically, please submit your comments only one time.
    The FAA will file in the docket all comments received, as well as a 
report summarizing each substantive public contact with FAA personnel 
concerning this interpretation. The FAA will consider all comments 
received on or before the closing date for comments and any late-filed 
comments if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay. 
While this is the FAA's interpretation of statute and regulations 
relevant to model aircraft, the FAA may modify this interpretation 
based on comments received.

Availability of This Interpretation

    You can get an electronic copy using the Internet by--
    (1) Searching the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    (2) Visiting the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/; or
    (3) Accessing the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html.

You can also get a copy by sending a request to the Federal Aviation 
Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence Avenue 
SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680. Make sure to 
identify the docket number or notice number of this proposal.

Background

    The FAA is issuing this interpretation because we have received 
many inquiries regarding the scope of the special rule for model 
aircraft in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 
and the FAA's enforcement authority over model aircraft as affirmed by 
the statute. In this interpretation, we explain the history of FAA 
oversight of model aircraft operations and the new statutory 
requirements that apply to model aircraft operations, and then clarify 
how the FAA intends to apply its enforcement authority to model 
aircraft operations that endanger the safety of the National Airspace 
System (NAS).

Discussion of the Interpretation

I. Background of FAA Oversight of Model Aircraft Operations

    Historically, the FAA has considered model aircraft to be aircraft 
that fall within the statutory and regulatory definitions of an 
aircraft, as they are contrivances or devices that are ``invented, 
used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air.'' See 49 U.S.C. 
40102 and 14 CFR 1.1. As aircraft, these devices generally are subject 
to FAA oversight and enforcement. However, consistent with FAA's 
enforcement philosophy, FAA's oversight of model aircraft has been 
guided by the risk that these operations present. The FAA first 
recognized in 1981 that ``model aircraft can at times pose a hazard to 
full-scale aircraft in flight and to persons and property on the 
surface,'' and recommended a set of voluntary operating standards for 
model aircraft operators to follow to mitigate these safety risks. See 
Advisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards (June 9, 
1981). These operating standards included restricting operations over 
populated areas, limiting use of the devices around spectators until 
after the devices had been flight tested and proven airworthy; 
restricting operations to 400 feet above the surface; requiring that 
the devices give right of way to, and avoid flying near manned 
aircraft, and using observers to assist in operations.
    These guidelines were further clarified in 2007, when the FAA 
issued a policy statement regarding unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) 
operations in the NAS. See 72 FR 6689 (Feb. 13, 2007). In this policy 
statement, the FAA also recognized that UAS fall within the statutory 
and regulatory definition of ``aircraft'' as they are devices that are 
``used or [are] intended to be used for flight in the air with no 
onboard pilot.'' Id.; see also 49 U.S.C. 40102; 14 CFR 1.1. The FAA 
noted that they can be ``as simple as a remotely controlled model 
aircraft used for recreational purposes or as complex as surveillance 
aircraft flying over hostile areas in warfare.'' The FAA then stated 
its current policy regarding UAS based on the following three 
categories: (1) UAS used as public aircraft; (2) UAS used as civil 
aircraft; and (3) UAS used as model aircraft.
    With respect to UAS used as model aircraft, the FAA reiterated the 
operating guidelines in AC 91-57, and further noted that to qualify as 
a model aircraft, the aircraft would need to be operated purely for 
recreational or hobby purposes, and within the visual line of sight of 
the operator. The policy statement also clarified that AC 91-57

[[Page 36173]]

applied only to modelers and ``specifically excludes its use by persons 
or companies for business purposes.'' 72 FR at 6690.

II. Requirements To Qualify as a Model Aircraft Under the FAA 
Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95, Section 336)

A. Statutory Requirements

    On February 14, 2012, the President signed into law the FAA 
Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) (the Act), which 
established, in Section 336, a ``special rule for model aircraft.'' In 
Section 336, Congress confirmed the FAA's long-standing position that 
model aircraft are aircraft. Under the terms of the Act, a model 
aircraft is defined as ``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.'' Public Law 112-95, section 336(c). Congress' 
intention to define model aircraft as aircraft is further established 
by section 331(8) of the Act, which defines an unmanned aircraft as 
``an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human 
intervention from within or on the aircraft.'' Congress' definition of 
model aircraft is consistent with the FAA's existing definition of 
aircraft as ``any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, 
or fly in, the air.'' 49 U.S.C. 40102; see also 14 CFR 1.1. Although 
model aircraft may take many forms, at a base level model aircraft are 
clearly ``invented, used, or designed'' to fly in the air. Id.
    Section 336 also prohibits the FAA from promulgating ``any rule or 
regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed 
as a model aircraft'' if the following statutory requirements are met:
     The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational 
use;
     the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-
based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a 
nationwide community-based organization;
     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;
     the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not 
interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
     when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of 
the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic 
control tower . . . with prior notice of the operation. . . .

Public Law 112-95, section 336(a)(1)-(5).
    Thus, based on the language of the statute, we conclude that 
aircraft that meet the statutory definition and operational 
requirements, as described above, would be exempt from future FAA 
rulemaking action specifically regarding model aircraft. Model aircraft 
that do not meet these statutory requirements are nonetheless unmanned 
aircraft, and as such, are subject to all existing FAA regulations, as 
well as future rulemaking action, and the FAA intends to apply its 
regulations to such unmanned aircraft.

B. Model Aircraft Must Meet the Criteria in Section 336 To Be Exempt 
From Future Rulemaking

    Congress directed that the FAA may not ``promulgate any rule or 
regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed 
as a model aircraft'' if the aircraft is being operated, or being 
developed to be operated, pursuant to the five criteria enumerated in 
the statute as described above. Public Law 112-95, section 336(a). In 
other words, Congress has restricted the FAA from promulgating 
regulations, from the date when the statute was enacted, specifically 
regarding model aircraft that meet the terms of the statute.
    However, the prohibition against future rulemaking is not a 
complete bar on rulemaking that may have an effect on model aircraft. 
As noted above, the rulemaking limitation applies only to rulemaking 
actions specifically ``regarding a model aircraft or an aircraft being 
developed as a model aircraft.'' Public Law 112-95, section 336(a). 
Thus, the rulemaking prohibition would not apply in the case of general 
rules that the FAA may issue or modify that apply to all aircraft, such 
as rules addressing the use of airspace (e.g., the 2008 rule governing 
VFR operations in the Washington, DC area) for safety or security 
reasons. See 73 FR 46803. The statute does not require FAA to exempt 
model aircraft from those rules because those rules are not 
specifically regarding model aircraft. On the other hand, a model 
aircraft operated pursuant to the terms of section 336 would 
potentially be excepted from a UAS aircraft certification rule, for 
example, because of the limitation on future rulemaking specifically 
``regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model 
aircraft.'' Public Law 112-95, section 336(a). The FAA interprets the 
section 336 rulemaking prohibition as one that must be evaluated on a 
rule-by-rule basis.
    Although the FAA believes the statutory definition of a model 
aircraft is clear, the FAA provides the following explanation of the 
meanings of ``visual line of sight'' and ``hobby or recreational 
purpose,'' terms used in the definition of model aircraft, because the 
FAA has received a number of questions in this area.
    By definition, a model aircraft must be ``flown within visual line 
of sight of the person operating the aircraft.'' Public Law 112-95, 
section 336(c)(2).\1\ Based on the plain language of the statute, the 
FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) The aircraft must be 
visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use 
his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by 
standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) 
people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator 
for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual 
line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of 
the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of 
the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of 
vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, 
powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a 
``first-person view'' from the model.\2\ Such devices would limit the 
operator's field of view thereby reducing his or her ability to see-
and-avoid other aircraft in the area. Additionally, some of these 
devices could dramatically increase the distance at which an operator 
could see the aircraft, rendering the statutory visual-line-of-sight 
requirements meaningless. Finally, based on the plain language of the 
statute, which says that aircraft must be ``flown within the visual 
line of sight of the person operating the aircraft,'' an operator could 
not rely on another person to satisfy the visual line of sight 
requirement. See id. (emphasis added). While the statute would not 
preclude using an observer to augment the safety of the operation, the 
operator must be able to view the aircraft at all times.
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    \1\ For purposes of the visual line of sight requirement, 
``operator'' means the person manipulating the model aircraft's 
controls.
    \2\ The FAA is aware that at least one community-based 
organization permits ``first person view'' (FPV) operations during 
which the hobbyist controls the aircraft while wearing goggles that 
display images transmitted from a camera mounted in the front of the 
model aircraft. While the intent of FPV is to provide a simulation 
of what a pilot would see from the flight deck of a manned aircraft, 
the goggles may obstruct an operator's vision, thereby preventing 
the operator from keeping the model aircraft within his or her 
visual line of sight at all times.

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[[Page 36174]]

    The statute requires model aircraft to be flown strictly for hobby 
or recreational purposes. Because the statute and its legislative 
history do not elaborate on the intended meaning of ``hobby or 
recreational purposes,'' we look to their ordinary meaning and also the 
FAA's previous interpretations to understand the direction provided by 
Congress.\3\ A definition of ``hobby'' is a ``pursuit outside one's 
regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.'' Merriam-
Webster Dictionary, available at www.merriam-webster.com (last accessed 
June 9, 2014). A definition of recreation is ``refreshment of strength 
and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or diversion.'' Id. 
These uses are consistent with the FAA's 2007 policy on model aircraft 
in which the Agency stated model aircraft operating guidelines did not 
apply to ``persons or companies for business purposes.'' See 72 FR at 
6690.\4\
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    \3\ In construing statutory language, agencies should assume 
that the ordinary meaning of the language accurately expresses the 
legislative purpose of Congress. Agencies are also permitted to 
presume that Congress was aware of the agencies' administrative or 
adjudicative interpretations of certain terms and intended to adopt 
those meanings. See BedRoc Ltd. v. U.S., 541 U.S. 176, 183 (2004); 
see also Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 300 (1981); Lorillard v. Pons, 
434 U.S. 575, 580-81 (1978).
    \4\ The FAA has also addressed recreational use of aircraft by 
pilots in the Sport and Recreational Pilot Certificate rules, which 
prohibit those pilots from acting as pilot in command of an airplane 
carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire, or in 
furtherance of a business. 14 CFR 61.101(e), 61.315(c). As discussed 
in the Sport Pilot final rule, those prohibitions are designed to 
limit those pilots to ``sport and recreational flying only.'' 69 FR 
44772, 44839 (July 27, 2004).
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    Any operation not conducted strictly for hobby or recreation 
purposes could not be operated under the special rule for model 
aircraft. Clearly, commercial operations would not be hobby or 
recreation flights.\5\ Likewise, flights that are in furtherance of a 
business, or incidental to a person's business, would not be a hobby or 
recreation flight. Flights conducted incidental to, and within the 
scope of, a business where no common carriage is involved, generally 
may operate under FAA's general operating rules of part 91. See Legal 
Interpretation to Scott C. Burgess, from Rebecca B. MacPherson, 
Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (Nov. 25, 2008). Although they 
are not commercial operations conducted for compensation or hire, such 
operations do not qualify as a hobby or recreation flight because of 
the nexus between the operator's business and the operation of the 
aircraft. See, e.g., Legal Interpretation to BSTC Corporation, from 
Rebecca B. MacPherson, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (June 
22, 2009) (noting transportation of mining employees and guests appears 
to be incidental to and within scope of operator's geological 
business); Legal Interpretation to Scott C. Burgess (Nov. 25, 2008) 
(noting transportation of automotive dealership employees and guests 
must be incidental to and within scope of operator's real estate 
development business).
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    \5\ A commercial operator is a ``person, who, for compensation 
or hire, engages in the carriage by aircraft in air commerce of 
persons or property. . . .'' See 14 CFR 1.1. The FAA would therefore 
not consider a commercial operation to be ``flown strictly for hobby 
or recreation purposes'' because it would be conducted for 
compensation or hire.
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    To provide guidance, the following are examples of flights that 
could be conducted as hobby or recreation flights and other types of 
flights that would not be hobby or recreation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Hobby or recreation                Not hobby or recreation
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Flying a model aircraft at the local model  Receiving money for
 aircraft club.                              demonstrating aerobatics
                                             with a model aircraft.
Taking photographs with a model aircraft    A realtor using a model
 for personal use.                           aircraft to photograph a
                                             property that he is trying
                                             to sell and using the
                                             photos in the property's
                                             real estate listing.
                                            A person photographing a
                                             property or event and
                                             selling the photos to
                                             someone else.
Using a model aircraft to move a box from   Delivering packages to
 point to point without any kind of          people for a fee.\6\
 compensation.
Viewing a field to determine whether crops  Determining whether crops
 need water when they are grown for          need to be watered that are
 personal enjoyment.                         grown as part of commercial
                                             farming operation.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Operations  that meet the section 336 definition of ``model 
aircraft'' must also meet the five additional criteria for model 
aircraft established in section 336(a) to be exempt from future 
rulemaking regarding model aircraft. These criteria, with the exception 
of the hobby and recreation standard that was previously addressed, are 
explained below.
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    \6\ If an individual offers free shipping in association with a 
purchase or other offer, FAA would construe the shipping to be in 
furtherance of a business purpose, and thus, the operation would not 
fall within the statutory requirement of recreation or hobby 
purpose.
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    Section 336(a)(2) requires model aircraft to be operated within a 
community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of 
a nationwide community-based organization. Congress explained that it 
intended ``nationwide community-based organization'' to mean, in part, 
a ``membership based association that represents the aeromodeling 
community within the Unites States; [and] provides its members a 
comprehensive set of safety guidelines that underscores safe 
aeromodeling operations within the National Airspace System and the 
protection and safety of the general public on the ground. . . .'' U.S. 
House, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Conference Report (to 
Accompany H.R. 658), 112 H. Rpt. 381 (Feb. 1, 2012) (discussion of 
special rule for model aircraft). Based on this language, which 
provides context to Congress' use of the term ``nationwide community-
based organization,'' the FAA expects that model aircraft operations 
conducted under section 336(a) will be operated according to those 
guidelines.\7\
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    \7\ ``[C]ommunity-based organizations,'' for example, would 
include groups such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics and others 
that meet the statutory definition.
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    Additionally, model aircraft are limited to 55 pounds or less. The 
statutory language does not specify whether it applies to 55 pounds 
unloaded or 55 pounds with other equipment, payload, or fuel, for 
example, on the aircraft. The FAA believes that Congress intended for 
the 55-pound limit to mean the weight of the aircraft at the time of 
the operation. If the weight of the aircraft, alone, was the 
determining factor then it could conceivably be loaded with equipment 
or payload increasing the weight of the aircraft at time of takeoff 
well in excess of 55 pounds, thereby increasing the risk of harm should 
the operation not proceed as planned. The weight at the time of 
operation is also consistent with the FAA's designation of small or 
large aircraft which is determined by an aircraft's maximum 
certificated takeoff weight. See, e.g., 14 CFR 1.1 (defining small and 
large aircraft). Congress' recognition of the increased risk posed

[[Page 36175]]

by heavier aircraft is demonstrated by the more stringent requirements 
for aircraft heavier than 55 pounds in the statute which are discussed 
below. Accordingly, the FAA interprets this provision to mean the 
weight of the aircraft at the time of the operation must not exceed 55 
pounds, including the weight of any payload and fuel.
    The statute creates an exception for model aircraft that exceed the 
55-pound weight limit if the aircraft is ``certified through a design, 
construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program 
administered by a community-based organization.'' Public Law 112-95, 
section 336(a)(3). If a nationwide community-based organization has 
provided its members with a set of safety guidelines that define a 
design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety 
program then model aircraft constructed in accordance with that program 
may exceed 55 pounds and operate in accordance with section 336(a).
    Model aircraft must not interfere with and must give way to any 
manned aircraft. This requirement needs no further explanation, and the 
FAA would expect that model aircraft operators abide by it.\8\ We note 
that model aircraft interfering with, or that do not give way to, 
manned aircraft would be subject to enforcement action under section 
336(b), as further explained in section III below.
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    \8\ This requirement is consistent with longstanding FAA 
guidance for model aircraft operators. See AC 91-57, para. 3 
(advising model aircraft operators to ``[g]ive right of way to, and 
avoid flying in the proximity of, full-scale aircraft.'').
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    Finally, the statute sets a requirement for model aircraft 
operating within 5 miles \9\ of an airport to notify the airport 
operator and control tower, where applicable, prior to 
operating.10 11 If the model aircraft operator 
provides notice of forthcoming operations which are then not authorized 
by air traffic or objected to by the airport operator, the FAA expects 
the model aircraft operator will not conduct the proposed flights. The 
FAA would consider flying model aircraft over the objections of FAA air 
traffic or airport operators to be endangering the safety of the NAS. 
Additionally, we note that following this 5-mile notification procedure 
would be read in conjunction with FAA rules governing airspace usage 
discussed below.
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    \9\ For ease of determining distance, the FAA interprets the 
statute to mean 5 statute miles.
    \10\ This requirement is consistent with longstanding FAA 
guidance for model aircraft operators. See AC 91-57, para. 3 
(advising model aircraft operators to notify an airport operator, 
control tower, for flight service station when planning to operate 
within three miles of an airport).
    \11\ If a group of modelers intends to operate in one area, one 
person could contact air traffic control on behalf of the group. 
Additionally, consistent with the statute, the FAA encourages 
operators who fly from a permanent location within 5 miles of an 
airport to ``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).''
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III. Scope of FAA's Enforcement Authority

    As discussed above, if a model aircraft is operated consistently 
with the terms of section 336(a) and (c), then it would not be subject 
to future FAA regulations regarding model aircraft. However, Congress 
also recognized the potential for such operations to endanger other 
aircraft and systems of the NAS. Therefore, it specifically stated that 
``[n]othing 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.'' Public Law 112-95, section 336(b).
    Through this language, Congress specifically recognized the FAA's 
existing authority to take enforcement action to protect the safety of 
the NAS.\12\ Moreover, it did not limit the FAA's authority to take 
enforcement action where a violation of a regulation results in the 
endangerment of the NAS. As demonstrated by the FAA's statutory and 
regulatory authorities, our charge to protect the safety of the NAS is 
not only intended to protect users of the airspace, but is also 
intended to protect persons and property on the ground.\13\
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    \12\ The NAS is broadly described as ``the common network of 
U.S. airspace; air navigation facilities, equipment and services, 
airports or landing areas; aeronautical charts, information and 
services; rules, regulations and procedures, technical information, 
and manpower and material. Included are system components shared 
jointly with the military.'' See FAA Aeronautical Information Manual 
(Apr. 3, 2014), available at http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/media/AIM_Basic_4-03-14.pdf.
    \13\ See 49 U.S.C. 40103(b)(2) (authorizing the FAA to prescribe 
air traffic regulations to protect people and property on the 
ground); Adm'r v. Johnson, NTSB Order No. EA-1008, 1977 WL 22279 at 
*2 (May 10, 1977) (recognizing FAA authority to promulgate 
regulations to protect persons and property on the ground); Adm'r v. 
Page, NTSB Order No. EA-2786, 1988 WL 250725 at *3 (July 19, 1988) 
(finding FAA's rulemaking and enforcement authority extends to areas 
away from runways and taxiways--in this case the ramp of a fixed 
base operator).
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    For example, the FAA regulates low-altitude operations to protect 
people and property on the ground. The FAA permits aircraft operations 
below 500 feet when flown over open water and in sparsely populated 
areas. 14 CFR 91.119(c). Such operations may not be conducted ``closer 
than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.'' Id. 
Therefore, although such low-altitude operations may pose a lower risk 
to aircraft flying much higher, the operation may still pose a risk to 
persons and property on the ground warranting enforcement action when 
conducted unsafely. See, e.g., Adm'r v. Kachalsky, NTSB Order No. EA-
4847, 2000 WL 1072332 (July 24, 2000) (affirming a violation of Sec.  
91.119(c) for operating within 500 feet of a dwelling in a sparsely 
populated area); Adm'r v. Beissel, NTSB Docket No. SE-19436, 2013 WL 
7809754 (Dec. 11, 2014) (ordering suspension of a pilot certificate 
when pilot flew a helicopter less than 40 feet above the surface of a 
lake).
    Reading the broad reference to the NAS, along with Congress' clear 
interest in ensuring that model aircraft are safely operated, we 
conclude that Congress intended for the FAA to be able to rely on a 
range of our existing regulations to protect users of the airspace and 
people and property on the ground. Therefore, regardless of whether a 
model aircraft satisfies the statutory definition and operational 
requirements described above, if the model aircraft is operated in such 
a manner that endangers the safety of the NAS, the FAA may take 
enforcement action consistent with Congress' mandate.

IV. Examples of Regulations That Apply to Model Aircraft

    The FAA could apply several regulations in part 91 when determining 
whether to take enforcement action against a model aircraft operator 
for endangering the NAS. The FAA's general operating and flight rules 
are housed in part 91 of the FAA's regulations. These rules are the 
baseline rules that apply to all aircraft operated in the United States 
with limited exceptions,\14\ and are the appropriate rules to apply 
when evaluating model aircraft operations. See 14 CFR 91.1.
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    \14\ Part 91 does not apply to moored balloons, kites, unmanned 
rockets, and unmanned free balloons, and ultralights vehicles 
operated under 14 CFR parts 101 and 103.
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    Rules relevant to these operations fall generally into three 
categories: (1) How the aircraft is operated; (2) operating rules for 
designated airspace; and, (3) special restrictions such as temporary 
flight restrictions (TFRs) and notices to airmen (NOTAMs). These rules 
are discussed in greater detail below.
    Rules addressing operation of the aircraft may include prohibitions 
on careless or reckless operation and dropping objects so as to create 
a hazard

[[Page 36176]]

to persons or property. See 14 CFR 91.13 through 91.15. Additionally, 
Sec.  91.113 establishes right-of-way rules for converging 
aircraft.\15\ Model aircraft that do not comply with those rules could 
be subject to FAA enforcement action.
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    \15\ Additionally, model aircraft must not interfere with and 
must always give way to any manned aircraft. Section 336(a)(4).
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    Rules governing operations in designated airspace are found in 
Sec. Sec.  91.126 through 91.135. In general, those rules establish 
requirements for operating in the various classes of airspace, and near 
airports in non-designated airspace to minimize risk of collision in 
higher traffic airspace. Generally, if an operator is unable to comply 
with the regulatory requirements for operating in a particular class of 
airspace, the operator would need authorization from air traffic 
control to operate in that area. See, e.g., 14 CFR 91.127(a), 
91.129(a). Operations within restricted areas designated in part 73 
would be prohibited without permission from the using or controlling 
agency. Accordingly, as part of the requirements for model aircraft 
operations within 5 miles of an airport set forth in section 336(a)(4) 
of Public Law 112-95, the FAA would expect modelers operating model 
aircraft in airspace covered by Sec. Sec.  91.126 through 91.135 and 
part 73 to obtain authorization from air traffic control prior to 
operating.
    The third category of rules relevant to model aircraft operations 
are rules relating to operations in areas covered by temporary flight 
restrictions and NOTAMs found in Sec. Sec.  91.137 through 91.145. The 
FAA would expect that model aircraft operations comply with 
restrictions on airspace when established under these rules.
    Other rules in part 91, or other parts of the regulations, may 
apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular 
circumstances of the operation. The regulations cited above are not 
intended to be an exhaustive list of rules that could apply to model 
aircraft operations. The FAA anticipates that the cited regulations are 
the ones that would most commonly apply to model aircraft operations.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on June 18, 2014.
Michael P. Huerta,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-14948 Filed 6-23-14; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P