Sorry for the long ranting post, but something about this really bothers me, it makes me wonder "what's next"?
The 21st of December marks the first day of DOTs/FAA requirement for any rc aircraft over .55 oz to be registered with the United States Federal Government.
What does that mean? ANYONE flying something in the airspace, regardless if you are operating from private property, flying your kid's Christmas toy, or flying with professionals an rc/hobby event, has to register they name and address as if they were registering a full-sized aircraft.
How did this come to be? In my opinion, the same way most regulations in the U.S. have been brought about in the last three decades (across multiple presidential administrations and multiple sessions of Congress), knee-jerk reactions to the government's inability to keep up with modern consumer technology and look ahead to possible trends instead of political infighting and political careers. Now I have always been moderate in my views and have a pretty decent understanding of how our U.S. federal system works (political science, governmental administration, and history were my areas of concentration as an undergraduate many years ago).
I have come to the conclusion that "knee jerk" reactions in law and rule making making almost always lead to more problems down the road for everyone, including those "making" them. RC flying has existed as a hobby since the late 1930ss. "Drones" (a term that has been perverted by the media and a clueless public to mean any RC aircraft with a camera) have existed since the tail end of World War II, as their development was pretty much on par with guided munitions/"smart bombs" (something the public thinks has only existed since the 1991 Persian Gulf War). However, since most RC aircraft no longer require hours of building and tinkering in the garage and even more hours of flying time, anyone at any skill level can get their hands of something that uses to only be a niche market for enthusiast with time and money on their hands.
Can RC aircraft kill? Yes, for decades hobbyist have noted that their hobby requires skill and patience and bad accidents can happen. But unlike the gasoline and kerosene powered beasts of yesteryear most of the available aircraft on today's market are battery powered and are made of cheap polymers, foams, and plastics. But the worry about today's aircraft isn't about accidental killing, but more about worries by people who are professional "meddlers". On one hand, you have government employees/agencies looking to justify their positions and budgets. They believe that there is some secret terrorist society training to strap sticks of dynamite to rc toys in order to fly them into important places or people, something reminiscent of one of Wile E Coyote's schemes to catch the road runner (most consumer rc aircraft can barely lift their own weight, let alone alone an extra pound of explosive material). Then there are the "rubes" who believe that there is a secret society of expertly trained RC perverts, hiding in the shadows ready to spy on their home, property, and children. If the government does not take care of the "drone problem" then grandpa and his shotgun will.
I really see this whole "ruling" by DOT/FAA ending badly for all parties, either through sheer embarrassment or by litigation. The executive did an "end-run" around Congress's own laws/mandates that initially declared RC aircraft were a hobby and could not be regulated by the FAA http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/hr658_020112.pdf . They got around it by getting the DOT to declare anything over a certain weight an "aircraft", but they stopped short of calling any RC hobbyists "pilots". IMHO, due to the niche nature of the hobby, it is low enough on the pole for most people not to care (unless they think the gang of perverted terrorist are coming to track them down) and just enough legal play with words that certain categories won't draw the attention of Congress and the courts.
In my opinion, too little regulation leads to large catastrophic problems later, either in the system or in society at large and too much regulation stifles rights, innovation, and growth. Ideally it would be a "zero sum" gain, everyone would either get something or no one anything. But in some cases it is best to completely leave government/bureaucracy completely out for the good of personal rights and freedoms.
A bad precedent has been set.
Flying the Lancaster in Just Flight's venerable 'Dambusters' add-on for CFS2
There can't be many missions more famous than that flown in May 1943 by RAF Bomber Command's 617 Squadron to attack dams in the Ruhr, Germany. And justly so, for the mission was a triumph of technical ingenuity and airmanship, immortalised in the film named after the Dambusters. Flown with real Lancasters, some of the most impressive footage in the film was shot in daylight and recreated the squadron's low-flying practice over Derwent reservoir, with the mighty Lancs seen from above wheeling over the water as they made their practice runs.
The Just Flight CFS2 add on 'The Dam Busters' was officially licensed by the RAF and like most of the company's add-ons, comes in a nice, solid little box with a decent printed manual. It's far from a one-horse wonder. Subtitled '617 Squadron's Greatest Raids', as well as Operation Chastise, the dams mission, it provides many others, including raids on the Tirpitz, the Dortmund-Ems canal, the Bielefeld railway viaduct and the attack on Hitler's mountain-top lair at the Berchtesgaden. There's a variety of Lancaster variants, including the basic bomber and types adapted to carry the dam-busting 'Upkeep' mine and the Tallboy and ten-ton Grand Slam bombs; plus a pathfinder Mosquito, a late-model BXVI. There's even a Wellington bomber, included so you can fly one of the trial missions flown at Chesil Beach to try out the 'bouncing bomb' in daylight. I believe the add-on is still available:
Despite CFS2 not being built to handle bombers, the package does a rather good job, featuring such neat touches as the twin spotlights used for over-water height-finding and the 'wood and nails' rangefinder sight, both as developed for the dams raid. I believe the add-on was used as the basis for a TV documentary a few years back, which featured a crew drawn from current RAF personnel who were trained up and then attempted to re-fly the mission in a specially-made Lanc simulator.
As for the real thing, while we're lucky (in the UK anyway) to be able to see (and hear!) a real Lanc flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, you can get no better than this documentary, which features superb authentic wartime footage in colour:
Having recently once again watched and enjoyed the Dambusters movie, I thought I'd spool up Just Flight's add-on and fly one of the training missions, followed by at least some of the others. While the Dams raid and some others are in darkness, the package lets you fly them in daylight, if you wish. As I plan on doing it in the dark, there's little point in a screenshot-illustrated mission report on the dams raid itself so I thought I'd provide this short one of the training mission, as a little taster.
Here's the brief, using some of the custom screens that come with the add-on:
There's also a 'recce photograph, which shows the 'scenery' Derwent Dam that comes with the package, along with various RAF bases including Scampton and Woodhall Spa. The dam is crude but effective, and is neatly dressed up to look like a real-life RAF oblique recce picture.
For me, the star of this show is the Lancaster itself. The Just Flight version is nicely rendered by the standards of the time. And it has one outstanding feature - the engine sound. The roar and din of four Merlins at full throttle is an absolute joy and by far the best I've heard in any sim for any plane. And here she is, sitting at the end of the runway at RAF Scampton. She's a standard BI bomber, not the modified version cut away below to hold the drum-like dams weapon.
From the caption to the first screenie, you can see another of the add-on's nice touches - the pilot's injunction to the ground crew to remove the chocks. Neither can be seen but the accompanying audio is neat.
Looking right, I could see the airfield's buildings, a good selection including hangars and Nissen huts. Beside me was a tractor with some bomb tailers. Without further ado, I checked the controls, set the flaps down three notches, and started up. The engines fired up from left to right, bursting into life with a very satsfactory though muted roar. Ahead to the left you can see the controller's trailer, and beyond that a pair of parked Lancs. To the right, there's another parked aircraft, this time an RAF Dakota.
Now, came the mission's highlight - opening the throttles, and soaking up the din as the Merlins responded in full song. A bit of differential braking was needed to keep her on or near the centre line as we gathered speed, the rudders seeming ineffective, possibly as they are masked by that mighty Lancaster wing. Taking off in a crosswind is an even more interesting experience! Past the parked Lancs we went. As the speed increased I got the tail up and held her there until takeoff speed was reached. A gentle tug on the stick and we were airborne. I quickly retracted the undercart - the animation is a bit fast - and we were on our way!
...to be continued!