Military Models Blog

 

Prop Plane or A-10 Warthog?

Could a prop plane out do an A-10 Warthog? Our government thought that it could save alot of money by giving it a try. They actually had the theory tested.

The U.S. Air Force has a complicated relationship with its low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog attack jet. And that’s putting it mildly. The flying branch has tried more than once to retire the ungainly A-10 in favor of speedier planes, only for lawmakers to block the move.

But on at least one occasion, the Air Force actually defended the heavily-armored, gun-armed Warthog from an unlikely challenger—a modern version of the World War II P-51 Mustang that Congress for some reason really loved.

In 1979, Congress demanded the Air Force test out the tiny Piper PA-48 Enforcer light attack plane—a derivative of the then-39-year-old P-51—as cheaper alternative to the A-10, which was brand new at the time. Five years later, the air service put two Enforcers through their paces.

The test revealed that the Enforcer was clearly incapable of competing with the Warthog. When they ordered the evaluation, American legislators did point out some real problems over at the Pentagon. “Congress expressed concern with the rising costs, increasing technological sophistication and decreasing readiness of tactical aircraft,” according to the official Enforcer test report, which we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The propeller-driven Enforcer promised to solve one of those problems. Piper claimed the plane would cost just a million dollars and be cheap to maintain.

Above and at top—one of the surviving Piper PA-48 Enforcers. Air Force photos The PA-48 was cheap because it was simple. Like, World War II simple. The Enforcer actually began as the Turbo Mustang, which Cavalier Aircraft Corporation developed in the late 1960s with the P-51 as a starting point. More than a decade later, Cavalier sold the rights to Piper, which renamed the plane as the Enforcer.

The practically all-new aircraft married the Mustang’s basic shape to a powerful turboprop engine. The plane had a variety of other improvements and could carry a range of weapons on 10 underwing pylons.

The various enhancements and the plane’s low cost gave the Enforcer some surface appeal. But in reality, politics propelled the modernized Mustang. By the time the evaluation kicked off in 1984, the Air Force had already been dodging the Enforcer—and its designer David Lindsay—for a decade.

After selling the rights to the PA-48, Lindsay had shut down Cavalier to free up time for promoting the plane. In addition to his aviation interests, Lindsay was a newspaper owner and publisher.

“In the mid-1970s, Lindsay achieved considerable traction … through briefings given to the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees,” says Air Force historian Brian Laslie.

“The Enforcer has impressive credentials,” a group of U.S. senators—including powerful South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond—wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger in 1974.

In the 1960s, the Pentagon had bought Cavalier Mustangs for Bolivia. The U.S. Army also purchased a few examples for experiments. Cavalier also sold upgraded P-51s to El Salvador and Indonesia. In the waning years of the Vietnam War, the Air Force had even briefly considered sending Lindsay’s planes to America’s Southeast Asia allies.

On the basis of those sales and near-sales, the senators insisted that the Enforcer “should not be cast aside by service biases.”

“How can we afford not to take the final step and flight test this aircraft?” the lawmakers asked. But the Air Force had just committed to buying the A-10. And political in-fighting had already forced a fly-off between the Warthog and the A-7 fighter-bomber. The flying branch was is no mood to hold yet another competition.

In spite of this hostility from his prospective customer, Lindsay continued to appeal to the Pentagon and Congress. Piper pitched the Enforcer to the Navy and Marine Corps, too.

“Some members of Congress considered offering the Enforcer to the Army if the Air Force refused,” Douglas Campbell writes in his book The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate. But the Army was wary of that idea after spending years arguing with the Air Force over what kinds of aircraft the ground combat branch should be allowed to operate.

Fearing another caustic battle, Army officials declined to get involved with the PA-48 campaign.

When their Congressional advocates finally prevailed, Lindsay and Piper seemed caught off guard by the victory. Having crashed one of the two original Enforcer prototypes, the company decided to build two entirely new aircraft for the tests.

Piper spent three years getting the planes ready for their big day. Even so, the newly manufactured Mustangs—just five percent of the parts came from surplus P-51s—had serious problems.

For one, the Enforcers lacked propeller and pilot safety features that both the Pentagon and the Federal Aviation Administration required. But perhaps more importantly, the PA-48s could not safely carry the GPU-5 gun pod.

The pod contained a smaller version of the A-10’s fearsome 30-millimeter Gatling gun. The Air Force had originally built the pods in an abortive attempt to give fast-moving fighter jets the same destructive power as the Warthog.

Without the GPU-5s, the Enforcers had no guns at all. Piper representatives promised they would fix these problems, but the Air Force insisted on evaluating the existing prototypes. The tests did not inspire any greater confidence in the design.

The flying branch did conclude the PA-48s were easy to operator and repair. But the aircraft were also under-powered and handled poorly with a full load of bombs and rockets.

Pilots also had trouble seeing targets because of the Piper’s long nose. The flyers couldn’t reliably hit anything if they were “unfamiliar with a target area,” the evaluators note in their report.

And while the aircraft were hard for heat-seekers and radars to track, the Enforcers had neither the speed nor the maneuverability to dodge surface-to-air missiles or enemy fighter planes, the official report points out.

Lastly, the single-engined attackers were almost dangerously fragile compared to the A-10. While a Warthog driver sat comfortably inside a tub of titanium armor, the Piper’s pilot had no more protection than his World War II counterparts.

True, the Enforcer was cheap. But so was the A-10—at least, when compared to other aircraft the Air Force was buying at the time.

The Warthog “was nowhere near as expensive … as the B-1 or F-15, whose respective per-unit costs were something over $60 million and $15 million,” Campbell writes.

“The A-10 … is not a sophisticated aircraft by any means,” according to Laslie

The Air Force concluded that the Piper plane possessed no meaningful advantages over the Warthog. “The Enforcer was antiquated even when compared to the A-10,” Laslie notes.

Lindsay never found a buyer for the PA-48. And having survived that challenge and others, today the A-10 continues to serve on the front lines of America’s wars. Maybe it was a waste of time but I can understand wanting to save money on aircraft. These A-10 aircraft are super expensive, however our guy's deserve the best to keep us all safe from threats abroad.

A-10's ready to go to work

A-10's ready to go to work

Piper PA-48 Enforcers

Piper PA-48 Enforcers

Commercial License May Be Required

I bought a small Drone for $100.00 a month or so ago. I love it, the video is pretty amazing, great still shots, fun to fly. I have lost touch with using a remote control but it does come back with practice. Drones are getting very popular and let's face it, everybody wants one. Amazon, to deliver packages, Hollywood to shoot movie scenes, agriculture interests to monitor crops.

And everyone is waiting for the FAA to issue regulations as to how commercial drones might be allowed to operate in the U.S. Those regulations are supposed to come out by the end of the month.

The FAA has been struggling to write the rules for unmanned aircraft for several years. In 2012, Congress told the agency to get on with it and set a deadline for final regulations by September 2015.

According to sources, the FAA is considering requiring operators of commercial drones to get a license; the drones could be flown only as far as the operator could see them, and only in daytime.

That's a lot more restrictive than commercial groups want. But John Villasenor, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution who teaches at UCLA, says the FAA is in a tough spot. "If they come out with rules that are not protective enough and then there's some sort of an accident then they will be criticized for not having been more careful with this technology," he says.

"On the other hand, if they come out with rules that are viewed as overly restrictive in the name of safety then they are going to be criticized as impeding the growth of the industry, so it's a very difficult balancing act that they have to navigate.

In fact, the industry does think that, based on the initial reports, the FAA rules are unrealistic. Take for instance the line of sight requirement. Michael Drobac is executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, which includes companies like Google and Amazon. Drobac says technology will allow drones to be operated far from where their operator is based, making use of tablets or mobile phones to control them. "The reality is that the technology is there but the FAA doesn't necessarily know it or spend enough time with it."

Right now, commercial drones are being tested at six FAA-designated locations across the U.S. Drobac says companies don't much like that restriction either, because companies are in the process of designing their drones, "and they certainly do not want to share their proprietary data with others." He says the testing at the remote locations is also expensive for companies. "It's illegal for companies to test outdoors near their headquarters", Drobac says "and so they can't bring their entire teams."

Meanwhile the FAA is dealing with another drone issue. The agency says it's receiving about 25 reports per month from pilots who have seen unmanned or model aircraft operating near their planes. The consequences of even a small drone colliding with an airplane or getting sucked into its engine could be catastrophic. Everyone from an Alitalia flight landing at New York's JFK airport to NYPD police helicopter pilots have reported seeing small drones near their aircraft.

The New York incident led to the arrest of two men on reckless endangerment charges.

When they do come out, the FAAs proposed regulations will start a lengthy comment and debate period, with industry, privacy and other interests likely to weigh in. It may eventually fall to Congress and the White House to sort it all out and decide how restrictive a drone policy should be.

I understand the concern as far as interference with commercial aircraft and personal injury. The drone's to me are safer as long as they have rotor guards installed but range is an issue. The new technology out there now allows you to fly using a simulator and GPS for locating your Drone model when it fly's out of site. When I was flying my craft that has a range of about 200 feet, a wind gust caught it and carried it almost a half a mile away and over 200 foot up in the air above some huge tree's I thought I could never fly over. Boy was I surprised!

If you buy one just be careful to avoid busy areas as you learn how to operate it. If you stay tuned with us we will keep you abreast of all the laws and the processes as the US works towards a solution. I can say that the implications for these craft as we move forward is great for the hobbyist but has some bad potential for bad guys too!

Large Drone carrying a cooler

Drone carrying a cooler

FAA Still searching out regulations for Drones

Drones are aircraft and therefore should be regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board said this week in its long-awaited decision on a 2011 drone incident at the University of Virginia involving Raphael Pirker. The FAA claims Pirker flew his drone too close to people, through a tunnel with people inside, only 10 feet above ground and up to 1,500 feet above ground.

The FAA claims Pirker flew his drone "directly towards an individual standing on a ... sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers so as to avoid being struck by [the] aircraft," according to court documents.

Pirker responded that the FAA doesn't have the authority to regulate drone use because there aren't clear definitions in place whether drones, or unmanned aircraft in general, are subject to existing aircraft regulations.

A lower court judge agreed with Pirker and was ready to dismiss the FAA's complaint, but the FAA filed an appeal earlier this year to have the decision reviewed.

On Tuesday, the FAA's appeal was validated, as the NTSB ruled that existing definitions of aircraft are "clear" and "unambiguous," and that there is no language exempting unmanned aircraft, model aircraft included, from FAA regulation.

The complaint against Pirker now returns to the lower court, where a judge must decide whether Pirker was actually operating his drone in a reckless manner.

But the NTSB decision has many implications for drone users across the country.

Until now, there has been confusion about drone regulations and how or when drone use is permitted.

Scott Shaw, attorney at Evans Harrison Hackett PLLC in Chattanooga, said U.S. drone regulations are unclear and have resulted in confusion.

But he said Wednesday that the NTSB ruling is "now the only binding decision on the issue," and it "puts a pretty solid lid on anyone considering using drones commercially."

For that reason, the NTSB decision is considered a step backward for advocates of commercial drone use.

"I think at this point no one can operate a commercial drone and argue that the FAA regulations are inapplicable because the UAV is a 'model aircraft,'" Shaw said.

The FAA isn't expected to release extensive new unmanned aircraft regulations until September of next year. In the mean time, Shaw said the NTSB decision should have drone users thinking twice before flying.

Thanks to Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

Man Builds Replica of the Red Baron

Mr Ford, from Egginton, South Derbyshire has spent 5 years building a replica of the famed Red Baron Tri-Plane. The project started in his in laws garden and has ended with this beautiful replica. See the story here:  Red Baron Rides Again

Aircraft Models Under The Christmas Tree?

From all of us at www.militarymodelsonline.com and www.shipmodelsuperstore.com we wish you all a safe and happy holiday. If you are giving our models for gifts we encourage you to order early to beat the rush for Christmas and order your wood models now! When you get to check out type in coupon code 001 and save a few dollars on us. This offer ends soon so hurry.

This story below was a pretty good read, I am interested in the Drone phenomenon and actually bought one myself, they take some killer pictures and video. I spent $100.00 on mine and have since found some cheaper. They are super cool.

Quadcopters, drones, unmanned aircraft systems: Whatever you call them, there's likely to be a lot of them under trees Christmas morning and hovering over houses and backyards by that afternoon.

"We sold about 600 of these last Christmas," Larry Bennett said, pulling a tiny helicopter with four blades — one in each corner — from the display case at his east side store, RC Hobbies Plus. With the flip of a couple of switches, tiny electric motors whine, sounding like a dentist drill, then the copter lifts off from the countertop for a quick trip around the shop.

Plunk down $40 at Bennett's shop, and you can walk out with this quadcopter that fits in the palm of a hand, even a tiny hand.

For $20 more, a slightly larger quadcopter comes with an on-board camera and can handle flights outside in calm winds. It has to be plugged into a computer, tablet or cellphone to retrieve the images though.

The popularity of the quadcopters is that they require very little — if any — practice to fly, unlike remote control airplanes, which might take years to master.

"Anybody can fly it. It doesn't take anything special," said Ron Kovach, a member of Lafayette Cloud Jockeys, a RC aircraft club.

As Kovach busied himself tinkering with a large remote control airplane, Tony Venezia and Matt McDonough launched their quadcopters into the cloudless sky, hovered over the field and streamed video back to McDonough's tablet. A review of McDonough's video is the stuff of kids' dreams when they imagine what it's like to fly.

Matt McDonough's dji Phantom 2 quadcopter captures video as it hovers about the airstrip of the Lafayette Cloud Jockeys Wednesday, October 22, 2014, in McAllister Park. McDonough said the Phantom 2 is very easy to fly.

"People have used them on boats and taken pictures out there in the ocean," Venezia said. "The views that you get are so fantastic to what a normal person could do, and it's a lot cheaper than renting an airplane or a helicopter."

Someone flew a quadcopter with a video camera into the New York City Independence Day fireworks show earlier this year. The video went viral, but the simplicity of the quadcopters — the ability to carry cameras and stream high-quality video — are the toys' curses and blessings.

"Privacy issues," Venezia said when asked what was controversial. "Are people taking pictures of people? Your back backyard, your pool?"

The blessings include that quadcopters can fly over crops and determine, by using special cameras, if there are problems. But the FAA will not allow commercial use of the quadcopters, so farmers have to own their own, Venezia said.

Another value is that a quadcopter fitted with infrared cameras can search for missing people over fields or above treetops, he said.

A copter with these capabilities is affordable. For those willing to jump up to the $700- to $1,000-price range, the copters come with cameras mounted on a gimbal that stream steady video to tablets or phones, Bennett said. McDonough paid $1,200 for his rig. The same quadcopter, camera and gimbal set is now about $750.

So far, Lafayette police Chief Patrick Flannelly said officers have not received any complaints about the quadcopters. On the West Side, where the toys are popular with students, police rarely take a report, Capt. Gary Sparger said earlier this year. When officers have taken a complaint, they forward it to the FAA representative at Purdue Airport.

The utility of these aircraft is not missed on police agencies. Flannelly said Lafayette police have considered using them in tactical situations, which Venezia said gives rise to constitutional rights issues of unreasonable searches. Right now, the FAA is reviewing its policies over the use of quadcopters in commercial applications.

Quads must be flown within the line of sight, Venezia said, which means you can't allow them to fly too high or too far. Bennett said the range is roughly a mile or so from the control box and the battery life is roughly 15 minutes.

Some of the copters for sale at Bennett's shop can fly and hover around 3,000 feet — admittedly in ideal situations. But that would be out of sight, which is not allowed.

In fact, within 5 miles of an airport, those operating remote control aircraft — quadcopters, model helicopters or remote control planes — are supposed to contact the tower to inform the FAA of where and what they're flying. Within the 5-mile range, remote control aircraft — including quadcopters — are not allowed to exceed 500 feet. Beyond the 5 mile range, it's whatever the machines can tolerate.

With the toys being sold at hobby stores, department stores and even truckstops, Al Borges, president of Lafayette Cloud Jockeys, said neighbors should expect to see more and more of the remote control toys.

The rules While most new owners of quadcopters won't take time to even read the directions, let alone research the FAA rules, here is what the administration says:

Do

• Fly at a local model aircraft club.

• Take lessons and learn to fly safely.

• Contact the airport or control tower when flying within 5 miles of the airport.

• Fly a model aircraft for personal enjoyment.

Don't

• Fly near manned aircraft.

• Fly beyond line of sight of the operator.

• Fly an aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds unless it is certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization.

• Fly model aircraft for payment or commercial purposes.

Courtesy of JConline

Quad-copter-drones-01

World War Two Dive Bomber Found On The Ocean Floor.

This old aircraft is a Stuka that has been on the bottom of the ocean for 60 plus years. It is amazing the condition this airplane is in considering how long it has been submerged.

Nearly 70 years after it crashed into the Adriatic Sea, a rare German World War Two dive bomber has been discovered off the coast of Croatia

. The National Conservation Institute says a well-preserved Stuka dive bomber was found lying on the seabed. As the Daily Mail reports, previously, two other Stuka bombers had been discovered, but they were in much worse condition.

An institute official said, "The engine, which was most likely ripped off when the plane hit the water, was missing and was found nearby, but the rest of the aircraft is complete and in very good condition. The plane is lying on its wheels as if it smoothly landed on the seabed."

Stuka bombers were designed to handle steep dives and were able to accurately drop bombs at low altitudes. It's believed this particular Stuka bomber was piloted by the Italian forces and was hit by the Yugoslavian navy sometime in April 1941.

See our model for sale here: Stuka Model For Sale

Stuka Aircraft

Original Aircraft

 
Stuka on sea bed

Stuka on sea bed

 
Stuka on Ocean floor

Cockpit Underwater Stuka Aircraft model

  Stuka history: The Stuka operated with success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground-attack aircraft became valuable to German forces in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean Theaters and the early stages of the Eastern Front campaigns where Allied fighter resistance was disorganized and in short supply. Once the Luftwaffe had lost air superiority on all fronts, the Ju 87 once again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. In spite of this, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.

Lawsuit over Drones and The FAA

I found this story very interesting. Now that toys can be perceived as a threat where is the government going to draw the line? R/C model planes have been around since I was a kid. My first model plane had strings attached to it but it did have a cox gas engine and flew very fast. Hopefully this ruling does not ruin the hobby for our kids!

Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency's ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation. The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Part of the agency's challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that's become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.

A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the FAA to issue regulations permitting commercial drone flights by the fall of 2015, but prohibited the agency from imposing new regulations on model aircraft. The FAA directive is a backdoor imposition of new regulations on model aircraft hobbyists and commercial drone operators without going through required federal procedures for creating new regulations, said Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuits. Federal procedures require an opportunity for public comment on proposed regulations and an analysis of the potential costs of the regulations vs. the benefits.

"People who have been using these technologies for years in different ways are concerned that they are suddenly prohibited from doing so without having their voices heard, and without regard to the detrimental impact on the commercial drone industry," he said. Schulman pointed out that hobbyists have been flying model aircraft nearly 100 years, but he knows of no instance in which a model aircraft has caused the crash of a manned plane or helicopter.

"In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely," he said. An FAA spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuits.

The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents more than 170,000 model aircraft hobbyists; the Council on Governmental Relations, an association of 188 research universities; and several commercial drone and model aircraft interests. Among them are UAS America, a fund that invests in the commercial drone industry; SkyPan International Inc., an aerial photography company; FPV Manuals LLC, a company that sells video systems for unmanned aircraft operators and an association representing commercial drone operators. All argued that the FAA policy would impede their activities, from hobby use to research and innovation.

r/c model aircraft

R/C Model debate rages on

By JOAN LOWY WASHINGTON (AP) -

Plane, Boat or Drone?

Drones have been in the news a lot lately in the US. And I don’t mean the large, lethal military drones that operate in war zones, but the small Phantoms, Parrots and similar quadcopters favored by many hobbyists and independent commercial photographers and videographers. Weighing a couple of pounds or less with a maximum speed measured in feet, these tiny flying machines – called model aircraft by many operators – have been defined as “aircraft” by the FAA most recently in an interpretive rule published June 25. Defining these small UAVs as aircraft makes them subject to many of the same regulations as full-scale aircraft, including certification, airworthiness and operational requirements, like having a pilot’s license.

According to the recently-published interpretation, the FAA has “historically…considered model aircraft to be aircraft that fall within the statutory and regulatory definitions of an aircraft, as they are contrivances or devices that are ‘invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air”. Whether the FAA has historically considered them to be aircraft is the subject of much debate; many drone attorneys and at least one NTSB administrative law judge consider model aircraft to have been long-excluded from the regulatory definition of aircraft, which most of us consider to include aircraft significantly larger than the ones you can easily hold in the palm of your hand.

But the question here is not why the FAA considers hand-sized drones to be aircraft, regardless of their size or the altitude at which they’re operated. But why it can’t decide that an 1100 pound passenger-carrying Flying Hovercraft that looks like an aircraft – wings and all – and can fly at speeds of 70 miles per hour (and more) and at altitudes of 20 feet to more than 50 feet in the air, over water or land, is also an aircraft. These flying machines, called WIG craft or wing in ground effect craft, fly on the air cushion created by aerodynamic lift due to the ground effect between the craft and the surface, the same as occurs between any aircraft and the ground on landing.

The question of whether these flying machines were aircraft came up when a friend asked how come Hammacher Schlemmer was advertising a Flying Hovercraft in its catalog with the claim that only a boat registration was required and not a pilot’s license. The Flying Hovercraft first appeared in the catalog in 2012. It is currently priced at $190, 000. Intrigued, by the question of how these craft avoided FAA regulatory requirements when tiny drones did not, I called the catalog company which promised to have a representative call me. I also called the manufacturer, Universal Hovercraft in Rockford, Illinois, and left a message. To date, no calls have been returned. How many have been sold and how many are being operated is unknown but there are quite a few videos on YouTube.

Here is a link to a Discovery Channel video that includes a conversation with the craft’s designer, aeronautical engineer, Bob Windt. In response to how high the craft can fly, he states: “It will go real high. But it’s not safe to do that.” I also called my local Coast Guard field office which promised to speak to its headquarters office and call me back. I’m still waiting. According to its website, no Coast Guard safety standards currently exist for WIG craft, although it claims to be working on them and will be getting “further assistance from the [FAA]”.

I also put the question of whether a WIG craft was an aircraft to the FAA. The initial response from an FAA spokesperson was “we haven’t made any determination whether any WIG [craft] is an aircraft because we’ve not received any applications for certification. We would have no reason to make a determination prior to someone applying.” That seemed like a bureaucratic non-response so I tried more directly, asking whether a commercially-advertised craft that weighs 1100 pounds, flies 70 miles per hour and can go to altitudes of 20 to 75 feet is considered an aircraft by the FAA. The response I got was that according to Frank Paskiewicz, FAA’s Deputy Director for Aircraft Certification, no decision had been made: “we simply haven’t made any determination yet. …It really depends on how someone wanted to operate it.”,

I think WIG craft embody some amazing technology that could have many beneficial applications. But their potential for raising safety concerns is also significant given their weight, speed, altitude and locations where they can fly. At least the FAA should be able to determine if they qualify as aircraft under its regulations.

By John Goglia

Plane, Boat or Drone

Plane Boat Drone?

New Chinook for British Armed Forces

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) unveiled the first upgraded Chinook helicopter of a planned new fleet this week. The helicopters are part of the country's $1.7 billion (1 billion pounds) campaign to strengthen their military force.

The new Chinook Mark 6, a helicopter that U.K. Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond calls "the battlefield workhorse of the RAF," will bring the British helicopter fleet to 60 — the largest in Europe.

The RAF ordered 14 upgraded Chinook helicopters in 2011 — a time when the British were fighting in Afghanistan and there were calls for more heavy-lift helicopters, reported BBC News. All 14 Chinooks will be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2015, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence. [Supersonic! The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes]

The RAF is relying on the aircraft's improved hardware to provide a "significant uplift in helicopter capability" to support the army "on the front line for decades to come," Hammond said in a statement.

The new Chinooks boast increased safety and stability through a new digital automatic flight control system, giving pilots improved handling of the aircraft. Chinook helicopters are used for a range of military operations and peacekeeping efforts overseas.

The first Chinooks were designed and manufactured in the 1960s by Boeing, an American aerospace company that still manufactures the helicopters for the U.K..

"Chinook has proved itself time and again on operations, most recently in Afghanistan," Air Chief Marshal Pulford said in a statement. "The new Mark 6 variant will ensure the Chinook fleet is able to continue to play a key role in future operations, wherever they may be."

Pulford added that the new Chinook helicopters are some of the most advanced that the RAF have ever operated.

Caroline Wyatt, a BBC News analyst, believes the new helicoptersare a necessary addition to the British fleet, whether they are deployed for military operations, peacekeeping or humanitarian tasks. "All three services need to remain ready for whatever conflict they may be called on to intervene in at short notice," Wyatt said. "Assets such as Chinooks are among the most useful military assets for transporting troops and equipment to wherever they may be needed in the years to come."

  chinook-helicopter-model   By Jillian Rose Lim

FAA Rules Concern Some Modellers

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Darrell Abby carefully wipes down the fuselage of his Curtiss P-40 Warhawk for its first flight of the day.

He checks the flaps, wiggles the rudder, pumps in gas and monitors the air pressure for the landing gear. Then he pulls on a gray heavy work glove before spinning the propeller to start the engine.

While Abby's warbird has a wingspan of 86 inches — the real deal is 37 feet — the pre-flight checks he performs mimic those taken by a pilot before crawling into a cockpit.

"We're very big on safety," said Abby, a 66-year-old retired Delta Air Lines pilot at a recent "fly-in" of model aircraft buffs in Fort Worth. "In my opinion, these things are like a real airplane."

So it should come as no surprise that Abby and other hobbyists are in a four-foot hover over the Federal Aviation Administration's recent efforts to clarify its rules for flying model aircraft in the wake of recent incidents involving small remote-controlled aircraft, commonly referred to as drones.

Published in the Federal Register late last month, the FAA proposal restates some of the agency's established rules for model aircraft and tries to shed new light on others with the stated purpose of protecting the public both in the air and on the ground.

"We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby — but to enjoy it safely," federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last month.

But opponents to the FAA's recent attempt at rule-making say that what the agency is doing flies in the face of a law Congress passed in 2012 to protect the model plane community from "overreaching and onerous regulation" by the federal government.

Comparing it to the ongoing debate over gun control laws, Abby and others say a few bad actors are causing trouble for the vast majority of model aircraft owners who operate their miniature bombers, fighters, helicopters and blimps responsibly and safely.

"The FAA is trying to take part or all of our hobby away on a knee-jerk reaction to a specific problem that they will never be able to control," said Ed Couch, who has been involved in aeromodeling for 62 years. "It's the individual, not the vehicle, that is causing the problem."

The FAA says it published the new 17-page interpretation of its rules after receiving multiple inquiries regarding its enforcement authority over model aircraft. There have also been several high-profile incidents involving unmanned aircraft in the past year.

In March, a U.S. Airways jet flying from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Tallahassee, Florida, nearly collided with a remote-controlled aircraft. The airline pilot described the aircraft as a camouflaged F-4 Phantom jet.

Last month, the owner of a remote-controlled quad copter was flying — in apparent violation of FAA airspace regulations — over downtown Dallas and Arlington. He eventually lost control of the aircraft while flying over the $1.2 billion AT&T Stadium and it crashed onto the roof.

But observers say the FAA's urge to restate the rules can really be traced to a ruling in March by an administrative law judge that dismissed a $10,000 fine against Raphael Pirker, a businessman who in 2011 used a remote-controlled foam glider to take video for the University of Virginia Medical Center. The FAA said Pirker's actions were reckless and is appealing the decision.

Despite complaints from the modeling community, the agency says it's simply trying to clear up ambiguities in its existing regulations.

The agency says the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 prohibits it from putting into force any regulation regarding model aircraft if it meets several criteria.

But the law does not prevent the FAA from any future rule-making that may affect model aircraft, such as the use of airspace for safety or security reasons, the interpretation states. The clarification was published June 25 and comments can be submitted for 30 days.

"What we were doing was clarifying the FAA's authority under existing legislation," Les Dorr, a spokesman for the agency, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1kdRqWr ). The FAA also restates that flying for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited and it gives examples of what is OK. Taking photos from a drone for fun is OK; a real estate company doing so for a property listing, not so much. Viewing crops grown for personal enjoyment to see if they need watering, go right ahead. But if those crops are part of a farming operation, no can do. "We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground and the public expects us to carry out that mission," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

At the field in east Fort Worth, Abby and other members of the Greater Southwest Aero Modelers were celebrating the Fourth of July with a cookout and a fly-in.

Parked along the main runway are several large-scale models, some of them "scratch built," others from "almost ready to fly" kits. Besides Abby's P-40 Warhawk, there is a Messerschmitt Bf 109, a Vought F4 Corsair and a North American P-51 Mustang.

Club members carefully fly their planes, keeping them in sight at all times, often with a second person standing next to them acting as a spotter.

In flight, some of the smaller engines have the high-pitched whine of lawn edgers, while the grumbling from the bigger airplanes — which can fly up to 120 mph — resembles chainsaws.

But the biggest buzz at the annual event is the fear that the FAA's "clarifications" may ground them.

Tim Lovett, a retired Hurst police officer and president of the club, is afraid that what the FAA is doing is a "gateway" to more stringent and unnecessary regulation. "It makes me wonder what the next step is," Lovett said. "When we are at a field like this, we don't interface with full-scale aircraft. We are a model aircraft hobbyist organization, so we don't and shouldn't come under the auspices of FAA control.

"Anytime model aircraft interfaces with a full-scale airport control areas then I've got no problem with the FAA being involved, they need to be for all of our safety. But outside of that no. I don't see it," he said.,

The Academy of Model Aeronautics, a community-based membership organization that has existed since 1936 and has more than 165,000 members nationwide, also issued a statement saying it is "extremely disappointed and troubled by the approach the FAA has chosen."

The Muncie, Indiana-based group said the FAA frankly is ignoring the intent of the 2012 law passed by Congress to exempt their activities from regulation if it is conducted safely.

"The people writing these rules are by and large people who don't have experience with or a background in this industry," said Rich Hanson, a spokesman for the AMA. "They would shackle the one organization that is operating safely and responsibly."

Brian Huff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington who is conducting cutting-edge research in drones, said the FAA's clarification is one of the largest rule changes he's seen.

"To me the criteria should be if it is being operated in a safe and appropriate manner rather than if it is being used for sport and recreation," Huff said. "People who want to put these (drones) to good use, that will slow them down."

Couch, owner of Over the Top, a company that flies small blimps in the American Airlines Center and AT&T Stadium, said he wants the freedom to enjoy his hobby and grow his business.

"Whether I'm flying a 30-foot airship for the Dallas Cowboys or a 13-inch model, it makes me no difference, it's part of my roots," said Couch, a retired engineer and technician at Vought and Lockheed. "We are not geeks, crazies or someone lurking in the background bound on taking the government down. As a group, we love aviation in all its glory."

MMO 712-aircraft model Blog MMo 7.12.14 By MAX B. BAKER, Fort Worth Star