— By Phil Lightstone (Photos: Phil Lightstone)
On December 17, 2022, the Model Aeronautics Association (MAAC) sent an email to their members advising them that within the next few days, a letter will be sent to its members advising them that MAAC’s board of directors had made a difficult decision mandating the temporary suspend all outdoor model aircraft flying effective immediately.
MAAC has over 9,500 members, operating radio controlled, free flight and control line model aircraft, in most provinces and territories in Canada and operating from 420 approved model aircraft flying fields. On May 17, 2019, MAAC working collaboratively with Transport Canada (TC) and Nav Canada (NC) were successful in obtaining a TC exemption (NCR-011-2019) from Part IX of the CARs governing the use of small remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). This exemption applies to MAAC and its members who are in good standing who operate RPAS weighing between 250 grams and 35 kgs and are operating in accordance with MAAC’s safety guidelines. Essentially, a MAAC member is not required to have an RPAS license nor register their RPAS with TC. Any MAAC member who continues to fly their R/C models outdoors during the mandatory no fly period, does so outside of MAAC, acting as non-members and would be operating under the CARs Part IX. In this case, that individual would be subject to any TC enforcement actions and associated penalties through breaching the CARs. Operating as a non MAAC member may have insurance implications. MAAC provides its members a CAD $7.5 Million liability insurance policy.
The exemption (available here) has 15 conditions attached, which are well thought out and are able to be practically implemented and monitored by MAAC. Two of the conditions include: prior to sanctioning a flying field located in Class C, D, E, F or other type of restricted airspace, MAAC shall obtain a written authorization from the controlling agency (e.g. NC); and prior to sanctioning a field which is within three NM of an aerodrome, MAAC shall establish procedures to ensure that RPAS do not conflict or pose a hazard to other aircraft.
With the distractions of the Covid pandemic over the past three years in the rear-view mirror, MAAC’s board of directors in the spring of 2022, began a self-assessment process reviewing the compliance of club flying fields, and determined that 15 sites were not compliant to TC’s exemption. Michael Anderson, President MAAC reports: “once we determined that 15 fields had not obtained the required approvals, we suspended their MAAC field approval and began a consultative information sharing process with Nav Canada, Transport Canada and COPA to ensure that MAAC had both the processes and procedures in place to meet the conditions of the TC exemption. We are expecting to have a re-write of MAACs safety code and field approval procedures in place by mid-April of 2023. In the spirit of safety and compliance, we have advised our members to stop their flying activities until further notice, however, we hope to be back to flying as soon as possible.”
MAAC’s direction to its members to stop their flying activities comes at a time when Canadian weather dictates the amount of flying which the average R/C pilot can experience. Hopefully their internal reviews and their proactive approach to TC exemption compliance will allow MAAC to self-regulate in an environment where NC and TC are trying to do more with less.