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USA Change in FAA practice re: flying in Class D airspace for 333 exemption holders?

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I just got some really bad news for all of us from the chief of a local air traffic control tower. He said that FAA has just issued a clarification to all air traffic control towers that prohibits all operations within Class D airspace (i.e. within 5 miles of an airport with an operating control tower) under the Blanket COA that most of us received with our Section 333 exemptions.

Apparently we now need to get a specific "Standard COA" for any operation we wish to conduct within 5 miles of a control tower, which could take up to 60 days for FAA to process.

This tower chief was sympathetic and supportive, but said his hands were tied: he could not under any circumstances issue a clearance for a commercial UAS operation within his Class D airspace without a Standard COA in hand.

Incredulous at this news, I asked a highly respected aviation attorney to speak with him to understand the situation. Here is what he reported back (names are obscured since they aren't particularly relevant):

Quote:
"Just talked with <tower chief> at <airport>. He reported that <the contractor who operates this tower> was told by FAA that there should be no ops under Blanket COA within Class D airspace and that holders of 333 Exemptions need to seek a standard COA for those ops. So it appears that this is the route you must pursue."

<He inserts a personal comment about the politics he thinks is driving this.>

"<The tower chief> said he was told that as soon as you file the application for a Standard COA the FAA will notify <the contract tower operator> of the request. That notification runs through the FAA's ATC Service Area and back to the local facility. He thinks the whole process may not take more than a week <but is promised no sooner than 60 days>."​

Incredibly, this same tower chief said he's approving operations all the time for hobbyists to fly all around the airport, and that he expects that some of these are actually commercial ops in disguise. It's only us 333 exemption holders -- folks who've meticulously played by the rules -- that end up hopelessly mired in paperwork and approvals.

As I see it, to conduct a single flight in Class D airspace, we need to: 1.) complete a lengthy COA form full of irrelevant information like climb rate and approach speed (total time to complete: about 30 minutes); 2.) wait anywhere from 7 to 60 days; 3.) file a NOTAM; 4.) coordinate at least 24 hours in advance with the control tower; 5.) call the tower immediately before (and typically immediately after) the flight. Did I miss anything? This dramatically raises the cost of doing business the *right* way, and only encourages cheating.

I'm really discouraged by this. I understand the need for caution and incremental steps, but this is just plain preposterous.

Has anyone else run into this in the last week? Apparently this is a brand-new edict. Or maybe just the strictest possible interpretation of what is already in the Blanket Exemption.
 
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The looser rules for hobbyists actually has a root in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012, which specified that hobbyist use of light UAV's must be treated under model aircraft rules. The model aircraft lobby is very strong, and thank goodness for that. We just don't have a commercial UAS lobby yet, so FAA is focusing there. I hope it will be better when we get final rules next year.
 
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Since this is an Inspire forum I'm presuming we're talking about hobby versus commercial use of the same aircraft. The implied regulatory assertion that somehow risk increases with the exchange of money is absurd. Hobbyists flying Inspire in Class D = good to go. Commercial operator flying in Class D requires approval up the chain. It's all rooted in air transport of people, which I'm all for having increased regulatory standards. Take the people out of the equation as we have with drones, and the risk is the identical.

I'm all for a commercial UAS operator lobby and would be the first to join up.
 
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This has always been the case. The Blanket COA specifically states that you cannot be within 5 miles of a airport with a control tower and mine was issued back in June. So maybe this was just news to your local ATC. I have applied and been issued "Standard COA's" it does take a long time to get one. I was lighting fires to get mine approved and it still took a month. so figure on 45-60 days. There is one person who approves COAs from Colorado all the way to Alaska when I called about 6 weeks ago! And no they do not have an express lane for simple approvals.

Yes you do have to do a bunch of work right now just to fly within 5miles of an airport, but I think when you filed for your exemption you knew what you were getting into. Filing a NOTAM 10min, submitting a COA 30min, Filing a POA with your Local FSDO 30min. Build it into your cost, when I do anything requiring a COA I bill up front and have no refunds for filling.

Yes the rules suck, yes people will do it illegally with out one. Its true of any industry and I feel your pain. Focus on clients that need legal operators and let them know that you need as much lead time as possible when scheduling jobs. I am starting to see a trend where people are seeking us legal operators out. TV and Production is finally catching on and they are looking for legal entities such as us.

Keep your eyes on the prize, anything that could be done illegally probably was not worth your time or the money anyways.
 
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I have experienced the same situation as Drone Tech. That being so, I just include it into the cost of everything we do. Where I am there are several military bases and I have had to meet with all of them to get the COA through. I have not had any denied as of yet.
 
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In addition, the local FSDO is approving your POA. If they deem the operation safe they will approve it. Then you just have to inform the tower of the operation.
 
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The one thing I don't see in ANY Hobbyist info from the FAA is that the Hobbyist allowed to fly a camera within the Hobby reulations? It still does not make sense that a hobbyist can control a rig and camera with less authority (regs) than a person who is certified.
 
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This has always been the case. The Blanket COA specifically states that you cannot be within 5 miles of a airport with a control tower and mine was issued back in June. So maybe this was just news to your local ATC. I have applied and been issued "Standard COA's" it does take a long time to get one. I was lighting fires to get mine approved and it still took a month. so figure on 45-60 days. There is one person who approves COAs from Colorado all the way to Alaska when I called about 6 weeks ago! And no they do not have an express lane for simple approvals.

Yes you do have to do a bunch of work right now just to fly within 5miles of an airport, but I think when you filed for your exemption you knew what you were getting into. Filing a NOTAM 10min, submitting a COA 30min, Filing a POA with your Local FSDO 30min. Build it into your cost, when I do anything requiring a COA I bill up front and have no refunds for filling.

Yes the rules suck, yes people will do it illegally with out one. Its true of any industry and I feel your pain. Focus on clients that need legal operators and let them know that you need as much lead time as possible when scheduling jobs. I am starting to see a trend where people are seeking us legal operators out. TV and Production is finally catching on and they are looking for legal entities such as us.

Keep your eyes on the prize, anything that could be done illegally probably was not worth your time or the money anyways.
Is anyone here using the Lockheed Flight Service UAS website to file notams?
 

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