AC 91-57 be gone, welcome AC 91-57A


Just promulgated by the FAA

1. PURPOSE. This advisory circular (AC) provides guidance to persons operating Unmanned Aircraft (UA) for hobby or recreation purposes meeting the statutory definition of “model aircraft” contained in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This AC describes means by which model aircraft may be operated safely in the National Airspace System (NAS). Nothing in this AC changes the requirement to comply with the statute or any applicable regulations.

2. APPLICABILITY. This AC provides information for any person who engages in model aircraft operations using model aircraft as defined by statute. (See paragraph 6.)

3. REFERENCES. Title 49 U.S.C. § 40101; P.L. 112-95 (126 Stat. 77 et seq.).

4. RELATED MATERIAL (current editions).

 Subtitle VII of Title 49, United States Code (49 USC)

 Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR)

 Subtitle B of Public Law 112-95 (Feb. 14, 2012)

 Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

 Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) listing:

 Aeronautical Navigation Products (Charts):

 Notices to Airman:

5. CANCELLATION. AC 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, dated June 9, 1981, is cancelled.

6. MODEL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS. a. Terminology. (1) 49 USC § 40102 defines an aircraft as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air.” 14 CFR § 1.1 defines an aircraft as “a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.”

(2) Public Law 112-95 defines unmanned aircraft as an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. (3) Section 336 of P.L. 112-95 defines a model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and flown only for hobby or recreational purposes.

b. Model Aircraft Hazards in the NAS. While aero-modelers generally are concerned about safety and exercise good judgment when flying model aircraft for the hobby and recreational purposes for which they are intended, they may share the airspace in which manned aircraft are operating. Unmanned aircraft, including model aircraft, may pose a hazard to manned aircraft in flight and to persons and property on the surface if not operated safely. Model aircraft operations that endanger the safety of the National Airspace System, particularly careless or reckless operations or those that interfere with or fail to give way to any manned aircraft may be subject to FAA enforcement action.

c. Determination of “Model Aircraft” Status. Whether a given unmanned aircraft operation may be considered a “model aircraft operation” is determined with reference to section 336 of Public Law 112-95:

(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(2) The aircraft operates in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO);

(3) 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 CBO;

(4) The aircraft operates in a manner that does not interfere with, and gives way to, any manned aircraft; and

(5) When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the model aircraft provides the airport operator or the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation. Model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should 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).

d. Public Law 112-95 recognizes the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the National Airspace System. Accordingly, model aircraft operators must comply with any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR). TFRs are issued over specific locations due to disasters, or for reasons of national security; or when determined necessary for the management of air traffic in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations or major sporting events. Do not operate model aircraft in designated areas until the TFR is no longer in force.

Model aircraft must not operate in Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or, the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone, without specific authorization. Such areas are depicted on charts available at Additionally, model aircraft operators should be aware of other Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) which address operations near locations such as military or other federal facilities, certain stadiums, power plants, electric substations, dams, oil refineries, national parks, emergency, services and other industrial complexes. In addition to the previously mentioned link, information regarding published NOTAMS can be found at: /publications/notices/.

The requirement to not fly within TFRs, or other circumstances where prohibited, would apply to operation of model aircraft that would otherwise comply with section 336 of Public Law 112-95.

e. Model aircraft operators should follow best practices including limiting operations to 400 feet above ground level (AGL).

f. All other operators and for additional information on Unmanned Aircraft Systems please visit: .

Elizabeth L. Ray Vice President, Mission Support Services Air Traffic Organization

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  • Hi P2P,

    I know the FRZ has basically been in effect since 2002, but RC aircraft were pretty much ignored in many places until the whole personal drone thing started to blow up a couple years ago.

    There were a few restrictions, but it wasn't until the FAA started in earnest to cover this that the DC FRZ was taken to completely exclude RC planes of all types.

    And even if there is some technical disagreement over that, there was virtually no enforcement related to RC planes.

    But times have changed and it is easier to just enforce the existing legislation than to make new more reasonable regulations.

    A lot of the manned pilots having to deal with the FRZ consider them to be ridiculously restrictive and for all practical purposes not economically feasible to deal with thus actually severely impacting business in that area.

    By comparison we have no clout whatsoever and I am sure the politicians would just as soon we stay as far away from their town as possible, possibly rightly.

    I am afraid this may spread to State Capitals for the same reasons.

    Best Regards,


  • Hey Brendan, once again your attempt at an uncalled for personal attack has failed miserably.  Please note a few things in this other blog post that you apparently didn't bother reading before attempting to fling mud.

    1) Yes I saw it, since I've been active in the topic all morning.

    2) I posted that I would happily help NYPD determine who the operator was through the logs.

    3) Existing laws already in place were used to take enforcement action against the operator.

    So, once again... Do you have anything intelligent to add to this discussion? Or are you here solely for the purposes of slinging mud (unsuccessful) because you're still sad?  I realize it must be difficult to have someone point out you were wrong in a blog. But seriously, this is inappropriate and childish. Get over it.

  • Hey Pedals, you see the drone that crashed into the stands at the US Open last night?

    Let me guess, the images/video are probably fake, right?

  • John, technically you can't fly a CX10 (roughly the size of a bloated mosquito) outside in a TFR, the SFRA, or the FRZ.  You made a very good example of why the laws these moronic bureaucrats push out are so bad. There is no thought behind them. They're all knee jerk and illogical.

    Gary, The FRZ (15 mile radius around DCA) has always been off limits.  This encompasses DC and the surrounding areas of VA/MD.  The White House is well within the FRZ.  This new version doesn't change that.  This update has no effect on a Phantom crashing on the white house lawn.  Model aircraft have been prohibited in the FRZ for over a decade.

    That's what makes this so stupid. The notion that phantom in someone's yard 30 miles away from the capital is somehow a threat to national security. The threat to manned aircraft is also no different than anywhere else in the country.  There is nothing different about manned aircraft traffic in the SFRA than there is anywhere else.  Actually wait a minute, there is something different about it... there is less!  The threat to manned aircraft is actually LESS in the SFRA than any other similar location.

  • Hi Guys,

    I think they are a bit heavy handed on the DC thing too, kind of like the French regarding Paris, but the fact is that DC has been shut down for all RC for well over a year now, including basically shutting down several local flying fields.

    The US is very terrorist conscious these days and I suspect Homeland Security has had a lot to do with this.

    I think you will be lucky, even in the long run, to get just a few RC flying fields exempted.

    No more Phantoms interrupting the Presidents morning coffee.

    I think that what is represented in this AC is very likely to become law as it carefully avoids the special rule while offering reasonably clear interpretation of the FAAs intention regarding model aircraft.

    There are still a lot of semi-open ends, but that may work as much for us as against us.

    At least it officially removes and puts to rest the one sided (and totally unreasonable and restrictive) interpretation that was initially put forward by the previous leadership of the FAA's UAV group.

    Best regards,


  • Agree on your first point. Although I may still fly an 18g 4" nano qx (technically an aircraft and model aircraft as the FAA is keen to remind me)  in my backyard 30 miles from an International airport, even as a 60 mile TFR no fly zone around it  is issued as the pres is  showing  up in town. And I don't think the FAA would care a bit, or dare to take me up on "definitions".

    Good points on FRZ and SFRA distinction, I hadn't gone that far.

  • I think Gary was pointing it out to illustrate that the requirement to comply with a TFR is nothing new.  A TFR may specify who/what is specifically prohibited, or more often they will simply prohibit "all aircraft".  That does include model aircraft.  You could debate with them that "It's not an aircraft" and you'll probably lose like everyone else has.

    The DC FRZ and SFRA are not traditional TFRs.  The FRZ specifically prohibits model aircraft and UAS.  The SFRA does not specifically prohibit them, and up until yesterday, the FAA had no problem with model aircraft and UAS operating in it if you follow the rules like anywhere else. There are even numerous groups and clubs that fly within the SFRA that the FAA knows and communicates with.  Yesterday, they released this little gem and screwed everyone over for literally no reason at all.

  • Bubba> So with this:

    d. Public Law 112-95 recognizes the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the National Airspace System.

    Some legal experts (I certainly am not one)  may actually disagree with this.

    Gary, the fact that the AMA publishes TFRs is irrelevant from a legal standpoint. 

  • I'm sorry, did you have something to add that isn't a personal insult?  You might have a point if your comment had some logical basis, but it doesn't.  I know you don't like me because I pointed out how unreasonable and impossible the rule were that you posted about last week.  So that is probably why your making mindless personal insults now.

    But just in case I'm wrong.... Please detail why you think this new blanket prohibition is a good idea and makes logical sense.  You will need to explain why flying a 2lb plastic toy, following all the AMA safety guidelines, in my own backyard, 28 miles away from National Airport, is a critical threat to national security and the NAS.  Please cite examples and facts.

    Put up or shut up

  • Most shocking (not shocking) development of this story is Pedals thinks it's a bad idea

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