Model aircraft
Members of Palomar RC Flyers with a model aircraft. Courtesy of the club

By Steve Gebler

For more than 20 years, my model aircraft club, the Palomar RC Flyers, has enjoyed flying our radio-controlled planes and helicopters on our own field in San Marcos. During this time, we have flown with hobbyists all over the county, as well as in local and state parks where we can share the love of flying with other model pilots and those with a keen interest in the hobby.

Two years ago the district superintendent of the Colorado Desert District of California’s state parks unilaterally decreed that hobbyists, like our club members and myself, can no longer fly within the boundaries of the district, even though most of the land within the parks is either barren desert or wide-open and is comprised of low-population-density areas. We urge the district superintendent to allow our group of responsible model aircraft hobbyists to fly in designated flying sites within the park, the perfect place for our passionate group of modelers to fly safely.

I’m president of the Palomar RC Flyers and one of almost 200,000 members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics in the United States, including over 20,000 members living in California. For more than eight decades, the AMA has successfully managed the recreational model aircraft community by providing robust safety guidelines and training programs. All AMA members, including the Palomar RC Flyers, follow this strict safety program and have the benefit of a $2.5 million liability insurance policy that comes with membership.

To put it simply, AMA members know where and how to fly responsibly. If allowed to fly in the Colorado Desert District Parks, we would not pose any safety risk to others or wildlife. In fact, AMA’s community-based organization model for managing hobbyists has been recognized by Congress, as well as by state legislatures, as a safe and effective means of keeping the skies safe.

We understand that areas of these parks may be restricted or marked for other activities, and we are happy to only fly at designated park locations. Our hope is to be granted access to fly model aircraft in fixed locations in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This requires an exemption from the district superintendent, who has yet to respond to our club’s multiple requests.

Model aviation is a big part of my life, and the lives of the other 200 members of my club. Since the 1950s, the Palomar RC Flyers has been a refuge for hobbyists from all walks of life. We not only enjoy flying together, but we’ve become lifelong friends.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation’s mission is “to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.” The district superintendent now has the opportunity to fulfill a key part of this mission by allowing the responsible hobbyists of the Palomar RC Flyers, and all active members of the AMA, to fly in the Colorado Desert District Parks.


Steve Gebler is president of the Palomar RC Flyers, a model aircraft club of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The club is based in San Marcos.

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