Model airplane enthusiasts: City Council drone ban would ground us

modelflyer

Model airplane enthusiasts are revving up to fight a proposed City Council drone ban that would leave them stuck on the runway.

A bill introduced by Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) would ban flying the unmanned aircraft anywhere within city limits. Only NYPD officers with a warrant would be exempt.

The model airplane fans are aghast. “Your legislation would destroy a decades-old, family-oriented and community-based recreational activity,” said Academy of Model Aeronautics Vice President Eric Williams in a letter to Garodnick.

“A child flying a toy helicopter in his or her own backyard would be considered a criminal under your bill.”

He said kids should be encouraged to fly model planes to spur their interest in aviation careers — noting that astronaut Neil Armstrong and “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger were model aircraft fans.

A separate, slightly less restrictive bill sponsored by Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Queens) would set up 5-mile drone no-fly zones around airports, schools and hospitals and ban their use for surveillance or with weapons.

The model plane fans also sent him a letter, slamming that measure.

The Indiana-based model airplane academy has more than a dozen clubs flying the devices in and around the city, Williams said — including the Staten Island Radio Control Modelers, the Radio Control Society of Marine Park and the Pennsylvania Avenue Radio Control Society, which flies at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.

He said the proposed ban “will have a detrimental effect on the enthusiasm of New York City’s youth in their pursuit of aerospace, aviation, technology, engineering and similar careers.”

Garodnick stood by his bill, although he said he would consider tweaks.

“New York City is different from Indiana and other parts of the country because of our dense environment,” he said. “There may be a place for drone enthusiasts, but it can’t be unchecked. There are too many privacy and safety issues here.”

Tony Pansini, president of the Staten Island Radio Control Modelers, said he’s been flying model planes safely for more than 30 years and would consider pulling up roots if he can’t fly on Staten Island.

“I would consider either moving, or I’d have to drive to Jersey to fly my planes,” he said. “It would really be stifling, especially for the younger generation who learn a lot from models.”