Academy of Model Aeronautics
The Academy of Model Aeronautics, based in Muncie, Indiana, USA, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of model aviation as a recognized sport as well as a recreational activity. It is the largest organization of its kind with a current membership of more than 170,000.
Founded in 1936, the AMA is the official national body for model aviation in the United States. They sanction more than a thousand model competitions throughout the country each year, charter more than 2500 model airplane clubs and offer contest sanctioning, liability insurance and the procurement of flying sites. They certify official model flying records as well.
All AMA-chartered clubs require their flying members to purchase AMA memberships for said liability insurance. In order to be covered by their insurance an AMA member does not need to fly at a chartered club's flying site, but members have to follow their guidelines. AMA's insurance is an add-on provided by a member's existing homeowner's insurance.
AMA organizes the annual National Aeromodeling Championships, the world's largest model airplane competition. They also coordinate a national exposition held every January at the Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, California. The expo is a weekend-long event highlighting the latest in model aviation and radio control in general. Virtually every major manufacturer and distributor has a presence at the expo and most have booths with items for sale. Flight demonstrations, scale model contests, activities for children, a swap meet and important keynote speakers such as astronaut and R/C enthusiast Robert "Hoot" Gibson are part of the expo as well.
Given the unique nature of model aviation insofar as it requires both airspace as well as frequency allocation for radio control, the AMA serves as a liaison with both the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission, and has the American Radio Relay League as an additional partner. As an associate member of the National Aeronautic Association, the AMA is recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world governing body of all aviation activity.
While many see AMA insurance as the primary purpose of the organization, the insurance program is low on the list of priorities.
In 1936, when the organization was formed there was no insurance program associated. In 1939 the first offering of optional liability insurance was first suggested. $0.50 extra was to provide $500.00 liability protection. By the early 1940s this program was in effect, but the $0.50 got you $1000.00 worth of coverage.
By the mid 1940's the insurance program was often referred to as a "gas license" as it was becoming required for operation of gasoline powered models at most club flying sites and for many contests.
Currently, the insurance program offers $2.5 million in coverage. Most leases on flying sites not owned by an aeromodeling club require adequate insurance to be carried by all people who will be flying. Clubs have little desire to handle the paperwork of tracking individual liability insurance coverage policies.
AMA also offers optional "site insurance" which is considered "primary" and is very low cost. This insurance is subsidized by part of each member's dues.
There is also an additional insurance coverage for each sanctioned event.
The insurance is a means to an end. By providing the insurance, AMA makes it far easier for clubs or individuals to acquire access to flying sites. For example it is now standard policy of the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to require AMA "site insurance" or equivalent coverage in order to acquire a lease of COE-managed land for model aircraft operation.
A popular misconception is that AMA (or BMFA) insurance only covers you when you fly at a 'sanctioned' field. This is NOT TRUE and there is a history of insurance claims to prove it. You must however being taking reasonable care - it's not a 'get out of jail' card.