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Tucson R/C Flying Field

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DESERT HEAT APRIL 2 & 3

Desert Heat 2016 Desert Heat is returning this weekend, April 2nd and 3rd. This is the big one! The Southern Arizona Rocketry Association hosts Desert Heat every spring at the TIMPA flying field. For these two days the field will be closed to R/C aircraft as rockets big and small take to the skies. For more information checkout the SARA website at http://www.sararocketry.org/desert-heat 

TUCSON JET RALLY 2016 MARCH 17-20

website imageCome on out March 17th thru the 20th for the 2016 Tucson Jet Rally and see radio controlled turbine and electric powered aircraft fly at speeds approaching 200 mph!  Spectator admission is free so bring the whole family! Food and drink will be available for purchase. Parking is $5.00. Proceeds from parking and pilot fees will go toward AMA’s Ryan Sherrow Scholarship Fund. RV parking is allowed for $5.00 per night (no hookups). Sunday is a travel day for the pilots so there will be limited flying on that day as some pilots will be leaving early. We are looking for volunteers to help with parking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Please call John Gonzalez (883-5379) if you are able to help. For a cool preview of the Goin’ Vertical Video production of the 2016 Jet Rally follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HUVxXqk2jE

PILOTS WILL NEED TO REGISTER WITH FAA BY FEB 19

AMA gov relPilots flying R/C aircraft weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 pounds) will have to be registered with the FAA by Feb 19, according to the FAA.  Online registration is to be accomplished on the FAA website at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/ and the cost will be $5. The TIMPA board supports this measure but will not be required to enforce it as per recent AMA recommendations.  The AMA is encouraging R/C pilot registration with the FAA but does not expect R/C clubs to assume the burden of enforcing the FAA’s regulations. The FAA has made it clear that only the FAA or local law enforcement has the authority to enforce registration. Please note it is not mandatory you register with the FAA by Feb 19 if you do not plan to fly at this time.  To date, the FAA has agreed in principle to several AMA proposed initiatives that will help ease this process in the future. Go to http://www.modelaircraft.org/ to keep up with the latest developments.

THE R/C “DRONE” WITCH HUNT

Buzzbomb 100So, what exactly is a drone?  If you are new to the R/C hobby you might not have fully pondered this question. The media has taken the liberty of defining all R/C aircraft as drones, starting from the very beginning of the hobby (which happens to be prior to World War 2). But if you ask a veteran R/C pilot it is very unlikely you will find one that will identify their aircraft as drones. The first drones were actually target drones, flown remotely with a radio transmitter that was controlled by a pilot either on the ground or inside a following aircraft. The ultimate fate of these first drones was to be shot out of the sky, sacrificing themselves for the benefit of the practicing gunner or the developing missile systems that ultimately replaced anti-aircraft gunnery.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the meaning of the word drone has been expanded to include any remotely piloted aircraft, whether used for target practice, surveillance, photography, aerobatic competition, scale modeling or plain old Sunday flying.  Looking back at the last 20 years you will find an interesting convergence of technology paths that has brought the R/C hobby to a precarious position in the eyes of the FAA.  These are the technologies of first person view, electronic rotor wing flight controllers, and micro GPS systems.

First Person View (FPV) is the technology that allows a ground based pilot to control a remotely piloted aircraft through a small camera placed in or on the aircraft that transmits a real time video signal back to the pilot. This allows the pilot to see where the aircraft is going without actually being inside the aircraft. The first use of FPV cameras used by civilians dates back to the 1990’s when tech savvy hobbyists started putting them in conventional R/C airplanes. Look up Dave Upton’s youtube channel for some cool video from back in the pioneering days.Proto X

Microprocessor based rotor wing flight controllers are what make R/C helicopters and multirotor aircraft capable of controlled flight. Helis and Quads have been around for a long time, but it was the availability of solid state gyros and flight channel mixers that made radio controlled flight of these aircraft possible and very practical. When the Chinese chose to enter the rotor wing hobby market it made this technology accessible to an incredible number of people worldwide.

micro GPSAffordable micro-GPS hardware that plugs into rotor wing flight controller systems was the crucial technology that gave multirotor aircraft the ability to become steady, reliable camera platforms for aerial photography and FPV flight. One of the first companies to capitalize on this convergence of technology was DJI with their Phantom quadcopters. Today, DJI is one of the largest and most recognizable “drone” manufacturers despite the fact they didn’t even exist 10 years ago!

Okay, so what does all this have to do with the FAA and their recent rulings regarding R/C aircraft? For reasons never made clear to R/C airplane and helicopter hobbyists, the massive media attention given to camera carrying quadcopters has spurred the FAA to examine the entire R/C hobby under a regulatory microscope, going so far as to actively solicit full scale pilots and air traffic controllers for any “drone sightings”. The unfortunate consequence of this action is that everything unrecognizable has been classified as a “drone sighting”.  Drones have become the new UFO!

For a look at the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ comprehensive analysis of the FAA’s drone data follow this link:

 http://www.modelaircraft.org/gov/docs/AMAAnalysis-Closer-Look-at-FAA-Drone-Data_091415.pdf

The media’s response to the “Pilot Reports of Close Calls with Drones Soar in 2015” FAA press release was nothing less than sensational. Within hours of the release news channels all over the country were reporting about drones that “soar overhead by the thousands, without regard for the safety of anyone on the ground or in the air.”  Even model aircraft pilots flying at their own club flying fields were feeling the pressure of public scrutiny brought on them by the FAA’s press release.

Now let’s back track a few years to Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012:

 http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/hr658_020112.pdf

This ruling was passed by Congress with the intention that the FAA should not promulgate “any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft” if the model aircraft is flown in such a way that it abides by the guidelines of a community based organization, such as the AMA’s published Safety Code. Two years after Congress’ FAA Modernization and Reform Act the FAA released its interpretation of the Act which imposed new restrictions on the use of model aircraft in direct contradiction to Section 336 and against the intent of Congress. The Interpretive Rule expands the definition of aircraft to include model aircraft, with which AMA disagrees.

In February of 2015 the FAA released a Notice of Proposed Rule Making that impacts 14CFR Parts 21, 43, 45, 47, 61, 91, 101, 107, and 183.  After a lengthy commentary period the FAA has recently released a directive that requires ALL pilots of radio control aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds and are US citizens to register on the FAA website beginning Dec 21, 2015. According to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.”super zoom

Dave Mathewson, director of the AMA responded, “AMA is disappointed with the new rule for UAS registration. As a member of the task force that helped develop recommendations for this rule, AMA argued that registration makes sense at some level and for UAS flyers operating outside the guidance of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, the new rule is counter to Congress’s intent in the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and makes the registration process an unnecessary burden for our more than 185,000 members who have been operating safely for decades.”

As a point of comparison, organizations such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community, has roughly 7,500 members and the Drone Pilots Association, founded by attorney Peter Sachs to represent professional drone pilots, has even fewer members.

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Why not register and be done with it? For some pilots this is simply what they will do. But for the majority of hobbyists who have no interest in FPV or aerial photography this is very concerning as it makes no sense in the big picture which is keeping our airspace safe and preventing R/C technology from being used in a criminal way.  Yes, there are scary youtube videos of quadcopters with guns and flamethrowers. But the creators of these barely functional contraptions have no connection whatsoever with the R/C airplane and helicopter flyers that belong to the AMA. In addition, these individuals would never be a part of a community organization let alone register with the US government. Registration for the sake of tracking and identifying criminal usage of R/C aircraft will not work!

Lastly, let’s look at the reality of the risk of midair collisions versus the perception that thousands of drones will be flying overhead “without regard for the safety of anyone on the ground or in the air.” Anyone who is concerned about the odds of being harmed in a full scale aircraft that collides with anything heavier than two sticks of butter should read the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Report 1990 – 2014 located here:

 http://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/media/Wildlife-Strike-Report-1990-2014.pdf

BirdsThis very comprehensive report reveals that in the year 2014 alone 13,668 bird strikes had been reported on full scale aircraft. Of these, only 4.3% produced damage that required repair.  The report also has statistics for animals other than birds, such as turtles. Since 1990, 183 turtles have been struck by aircraft. Now, can you guess how many drone strikes have been reported to the FAA?  Zero.  Yup, more pilots have reported hitting turtles than drones!

Going forward, the AMA suggests its members hold off on registering their model aircraft with the FAA until advised by the AMA or until February 19, the FAA’s legal deadline for registering existing model aircraft. According to the AMA: “While we continue to believe that registration makes sense at some threshold and for flyers operating outside of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes, we also strongly believe our members are not the problem and should not have to bear the burden of additional regulations. Safety has been the cornerstone of our organization for 80 years and AMA’s members strive to be a part of the solution.”

Time to Renew Membership for 2016

2016 renewal form imageIt’s that time again. Time to renew for 2016. Also. be sure to renew your AMA for 2016. TIMPA can check for AMA renewal online so you do not need to send a copy of your AMA card. If you are renewing a family member or youth member, make sure to send a separate application with their information. Renewals can be made in person at the flying field or mailed in to the address on the renewal form. Be sure to mail a self-addressed-stamped-envelope so that you can have your card mailed back to you. Remember, the deadline for TIMPA renewal is January 31, 2016.  Click on the renewal form to save or print.

Marana Airport General Meeting Features sUAS’s

IMG_2481Friday, October 23, Marana Regional Airport held their General Meeting featuring information directed toward those of us that fly “small unmanned aerial systems”.  On hand were several expert speakers, including F-16 pilot Lt. Col. David Stine from the AZ Air National Guard, Greg Harrell, Chief Air Traffic Controller for Libby Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Robert Davis of the Quiet Creek Corp., Tom Stutsman of Robot Hobbies, and Ernest Copeland, FAA Safety Inspector. The well attended meeting was chock full of information useful to both R/C pilots as well as full scale pilots. Lt. Col. David Stine outlined the controlled airspace and MOA’s of Southern AZ, Greg Harrell went over the procedures that control air traffic over Ft. Huachuca, including details of all operations, UAS and manned. Robert Davis, owner of Quiet Creek Corp., an aerial photography and mapping service, described his sUAS aircraft and their operations and Tom Stutsman gave an informative and concise talk highlighting the state of the sUAS hobby and the benefits of the current technology. Afterward a demonstration of the fight & safety characteristics and digital filming capabilities of a DJI Phantom was performed, with full permission of Marana ATC of course! Go to TIMPA’s Facebook page for more pics.

2015 Tucson Aerobatic Shootout Results

12122933_1065240816844184_4006189086238473712_nThe long anticipated 2015 Tucson Aerobatic Shootout is now in the history books. Sitting atop the podium are some very happy pilots, having just won their share of a very generous prize purse.  Andrew Jesky won an impressive $12,000 with his win in the Invitational class while Gabriel Altuz earned $3000 for his win in Freestyle. Everyone who competed earned something for their efforts – engines, airplanes, radios, and R/C accessories. Here are the top placing pilots in their respective classes:

Invitational:

·         1st: Andrew Jesky

·         2nd: Gernot Bruckmann

·         3rd: David Moser

·         4th: Kurt Koelling

·         5th: Nicholas Pizon

Advanced:

·         1st: Santiago Perez

·         2nd: Kal Reifsnyder

·         3rd: Kyle Dahl

Freestyle:

·         1st: Gabriel Altuz

·         2nd: Gernot Bruckmann

·         3rd: Jase Dussia

Intermediate:

·         1st: Alex Dreiling

·         2nd: Howard Pilcher

·         3rd: Mike Marcellin

Unlimited Class:

·         1st: Spencer Nordquist

·         2nd: Bryant Mack

·         3rd: Andrew Taylor

Sportsman:

·         1st: Franz Kogler

·         2nd: Jim McCall

·         3rd: John Grabow

 

TIMPA IS 20 YEARS OLD!

20 yearsBack in July of 1995, the efforts of Mike Osier, John Clarke, Jerry Beals, Bruce Dusenberry, and architects Bob Cousins and Kip Merker paid off when the City of Tucson awarded TIMPA the lease to the land we currently occupy. Through the tireless work of these gentlemen and the generosity of Sundt Construction, Calmat Asphalt, and a flying site improvement grant from the Academy of Model Aeronautics, TIMPA was able to create a world class R/C flying site out of a scrubby, old cotton farm. Twenty years later, TIMPA is still considered one of this country’s premier flying sites. Here’s to another 20 years!

 

Lithium Battery Safety

Lipo Fire 2Lithium battery safety is a subject that can never be stressed enough, even after all these years of battery progress and an impressive safety record within our hobby. Because you cannot see inside a LiPo there is no way to inspect for internal damage or defects that could eventually ruin your day. Always remember, unlike NiCad and NiMh batteries, LiPo batteries are more sensitive to overcharging. Also, overcharging one or more of the cells during the charging process is possible if you do not properly balance LiPo battery packs. Thankfully, all of today’s quality LiPo chargers are capable of balance charging.

The following are the AMA’s suggestions for safe LiPo battery practices:

  • Store and charge in a fireproof container; never in your model.
  • Charge in a protected area devoid of combustibles. Always stand watch over the charging process. Never leave the charging process unattended.
  • In the event of damage from crashes, etc, carefully remove battery to a safe place for at least a half hour to observe. Physically damaged cells could erupt into flame and after sufficient time, to ensure safety, should be discarded in accordance with the instructions which came with the batteries. Never attempt to charge a cell with physical damage, regardless of how slight.
  • Always use chargers designed for the specific purpose, preferably having a fixed setting for your particular pack. Many fires occur in using selectable/adjustable chargers improperly set. Never attempt to charge Lithium cells with a charger which is not specifically designed for charging Lithium cells. Never use chargers designed for only NiCad/NiMh batteries.
  • Use charging systems that monitor and control the charge state of each cell in the pack. Unbalanced cells can lead to disaster if it permits overcharge of a single cell in the pack. If the batteries show any sign of swelling, discontinue charging and remove them to a safe place outside as they could erupt into flames.
  • Most important: NEVER PLUG IN A BATTERY AND LEAVE IT TO CHARGE UNATTENDED OVERNIGHT. Serious fires have resulted from this practice.
  • Do not attempt to make your own battery packs from individual cells.

2015 AIAA Design Build Fly Contest Results

WinnersThe 2015 AIAA/Cessna Aircraft/Raytheon Missile Systems DBF competition flyoff was held at the TIMPA field the weekend of April 10-12. Sixty-five different teams representing 65 different universities attended the flyoff. In all, over 650 students and faculty were present.  Excellent weather allowed for non-stop flying the whole weekend. Of the 262 official flight attempts, 121 resulted in a successful score with 56 teams achieving a flight score – a new record!  Twenty-three teams successfully completed all three missions.  First place went to the University of Ljubljana from Slovenia, the first time a team from outside the US has won DBF. Second place went to University of CA Irvine and Third place went to Georgia Tech. The Best Paper Award for the highest report score went to Georgia Tech with a score of 98.50. For more pics go to the TIMPA Facebook page.