Tony Stillman is available to help any AMA member with a flying
site problem. He was on hand at this year’s Toledo Show: R/C
Model Expo to answer all of the author’s questions.
As someone who works in the RC industry, I’m privileged to be able to visit flying sites across
the country. Although the drone craze
has overtaken the hobby in the last few
years, I feel 100% certain that winged
flight will not only return, but surge back
into the spotlight. With a quadcopter
you don’t need a good runway, but RC
airplanes do. This is where the AMA’s
Flying Site Assistance Program comes
For longtime pilots who are reading
this, we all know how important a good
field is for our hobby. New pilots usually
start out with park flyers and then
advance to bigger airplanes. They soon
realize that they need a place to fly.
How to Get a Flying Site
This is harder than you can imagine.
The trick is to find a property that is
suitable for flying. That means wide-open
spaces—not only where you are flying,
but also in outlying areas. I have flown at
fields that are surrounded by trees. They
eat airplanes and then you can’t find or
Let’s say that you find the perfect
spot. Your next worry is neighbors.
How close are they? Will you only fly
electric-powered aircraft to keep the
noise down? Will the area develop and
ultimately push you off your field? These
are all things that can happen and are
happening right now.
Then there is the local government.
My local field is in a city park. We had to
prove that we had enough current and
future pilots to use the area. You need
to show that there is a need and there
are benefits to having an RC field. You
must sell government officials and the
community on the concept.
This is where the power of AMA
comes in. You can show that you are
backed by a large organization.
You need to have insurance. I can
tell you from personal
being able to say to a
landowner, “My pilots are
all insured,” has saved us
from losing a field. You
not only need to look like
you have your ducks in a
row—those ducks need
to actually be lined up.
That is the power of the
How to Keep Your Field
You have a runway, you have a
fieldhouse, and you have a parking lot.
If you are lucky, you have electricity and
bathrooms. The next trick is keeping
your field. You could run into issues with
local farmers, land developments, and
The AMA has a booklet all about this
called Getting and Keeping Flying Sites.
There is even a video about the topic
that you can check out. Learn from
others and utilize what the AMA has to
offer. The price of not doing it could be
the loss of your airfield.
I spoke with AMA Flying Site
Assistance Coordinator Tony Stillman
and asked him what his top suggestions
were for pilots who need guidance.
Tony Stillman: Not everything is on the
AMA website and every situation is
unique. You can always contact me if you
need help. For clubs that are trying to
keep a site, there are several components
that you can present.
We have presentations that clubs have
put together. I can send you copies of
those. Think about what your club does
or what you want the club to do.
You want to present four or five main
components. You should explain that
you are a part of the AMA and have the
insurance that goes along with it.
One thing a club can do is provide
security for a piece of property. If it’s
fairly remote, you could relate the fact
that you and your club members will be
out there on a daily basis. It is an asset to
the site owner if you can watch out for
his or her property.
Another component is that you can
become the answer to a city’s drone
problem. City officials know they can’t
get rid of them, but your club field could
be where the city can direct multirotor
pilots to go fly. It’s like the skateboard
issues that many cities had until they
created skate parks. Your club could be a
good solution to that problem. This city/
county relationship becomes an asset and
makes your club/flying site important
and valuable to your community.
You need to be a group that is open
to growing. You need to connect with
young pilots to keep the hobby alive. A
kid who has a drone might see you flying
your RC airplane and want to graduate
We had drone races at AMA’s
International Aeromodeling Center last
year, and most of the multirotor pilots
were watching our [RC] Scale event
that was going on. Your field could be
the connection that takes a commercial
drone pilot and turns him or her into a
lifelong RC pilot. It all cross-pollenates.
You also want to bring up the concept
that your events can bring money into
a community. You are adding value to a
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How to use the AMA Flying Site
BORN TO FLY