The Other Shoe

The phrase “wait for the other shoe to drop” was born from noisy New York City neighbors:

“A common experience of tenement living and other similar style housing in New York City during the manufacturing boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. Apartments were built similar in design with one’s bedroom under another’s. Thus, it was normal to hear a neighbor removing shoes and hearing them hit the floor above. As one shoe made a sound hitting the floor, the expectation for the other shoe to make a similar sound was created.”

The common usage since then has been that “waiting for the other shoe to drop” is to anticipate a secondary or subsequent effect of an action. Readers of my blog have seen me refer to “the other shoe” when discussing sUAS registration. So, what is the Other Shoe that’s about to drop?

Part 107 rules should be published soon, and for commercial operators it will seem like a gift.  As the proposed rules are written, there will be no more COA’s. No required Visual Observer. No more NOTAMS. No more monthly reports to No more calls to the FSDO that go unanswered. Just take a written test and you are good to go.

And, now, the other shoe.

Proposed part 107 would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95. Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 defines a model aircraft 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.”

In a nutshell, Part 107 rules makes the definition of hobby flight in Section 336 the rule superseding AC91-57 guidelines. No more BLOS. No more FPV. No more high-altitude glider flights. If you fly FPV then your flight doesn’t meet the definition of a hobby flight and is operating under the Part 107 rules. Which also prohibits FPV.

Part 107 rules are not specific to commercial operations. As proposed it would regulate all sUAS aircraft, both commercial and non-commercial.  Only Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 is preventing the FAA from certificating hobby model aircraft operators.

All it would take is one high-profile incident with a hobby aircraft to get Congress to repeal Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, or one pissed-off Congresscritter.


Update 3/24/2016

The Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 has finally made it out of committee, and it contains 65 pages of requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). A major philosophical change in the bill is the requirement that all operators (even model aircraft pilots) pass an “aeronautical knowledge and safety test.”

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation also made three significant, last-minute additions to the bill. One gives the FAA nine months to establish a rule for micro UAS (under two kilograms, or 4.4 pounds) that would not require a pilot’s certificate and would be operated similarly to model aircraft.

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