US airline industry stakeholder groups are calling on Congress to allow FAA to regulate small drones that are flown for recreation.

In a letter released Feb. 13, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and trade group Airlines for America (A4A) asked Congress to amend Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the last multiyear FAA reauthorization legislation. That section, called the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, prohibits FAA from regulating model aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), that are flown for hobby or recreation.

“The restriction by Congress has limited the FAA’s ability to fully regulate model and hobby UAS to the point that safety of the national airspace is at risk,” said the letter, which was signed by ALPA president Tim Canoll, A4A CEO Nicholas Calio and NATCA president Paul Rinaldi.

Under its Part 107 regulation, which became effective in August 2016, the FAA regulates the commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 lb., requiring operators to obtain a remote airman certificate and follow certain operating conditions. People flying drones for recreation must register their names with FAA and label each of their aircraft with a registration number. But they are subject to voluntary operating guidelines.

In the letter, the airline groups cite a video, widely disseminated on the web earlier in February, that shows a Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 passing underneath an apparent drone while on approach to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. FAA guidelines call for operating a drone no higher than 400 ft., and Section 336 specifies that an operator notify an airport operator or air traffic control in advance of flying within 5 mi. of an airport.

The Muncie, Indiana-based Academy of Model Aeronautics, which reports having 195,000 members, did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the airline industry letter.

Bill Carey,