Posted, with permission from Trip Barber.
Diversity and Tolerance
By Trip Barber, NAR 4322, NAR President
I have seen and flown a lot of different types of sport rockets in the 47 years that I have been an NAR member and an active rocketeer. I have enjoyed it all and that’s why I’m still flying it all, and why I do what I do organizationally in the NAR. The interests of our association’s members are very diverse; they fly everything from 1/8A competition events to Level 3 high power and from intense competition to large-scale build-and-fly public outreach. As I said in my opening statement as NAR President in 2008, “It’s all good, and it all belongs in our NAR. As NAR members, we share a fascination with all things that fly vertically on a roaring rocket motor. Regardless of the size or power of the rocket, every flight fascinates us. We are all rocketeers together, and proud of it.”
One of the things that has become clear to me over the last two years from my vantage point as NAR President is that not everyone in our NAR shares my enthusiasm and tolerance for every aspect of our hobby that our Safety Codes permit. In the worst cases this has led to friction and fragmentation inside sections from disputes over what aspect to emphasize, as if one were more important or worthy than another. The most common dividing line that I see in our membership is between model rocket and high power fliers, although there is some friction as well between competition and sport fliers. Tolerance for diversity in rocketry interests is often lost in what is seen as a zero-sum competition for a section’s resources and launch site. But diversity within the limits of safety is a source of long-term strength for our NAR. Any safe rocket flown under our Safety Codes is a good rocket.
Those who prefer smaller rockets often see larger high-power models as dangerous – but in fact if they are flown with close attention to the NAR Safety Code and on an appropriate field, they are thrilling and not dangerous. Those who prefer the larger rockets often see model rockets as low-tech toys – but in fact the level of design technology and craftsmanship sophistication in successful competition models (particularly those for international competition) can rival any Level 3 project. Remember that not everyone in our NAR has the money or shop facilities to build large rockets even if they want to. And even simple beginner model rockets have a vital place in our NAR; everyone has to start somewhere to develop the skills and enthusiasm to carry them to whichever “high end” of our hobby they find rewarding, whether this high end is competition or Level 3 high power. Without a steady influx of beginners our hobby and the NAR will shrink and eventually disappear.
I ask that each of you practice tolerance for the diversity of our hobby. Keep the NAR operating as a full-spectrum rocketry organization that flies across the entire range of our Safety Codes and insurance coverage, and where members and sections support – or at least tolerate – all aspects of NAR sport rocketry. I cannot make any of our members enthusiastic about any aspect of our hobby that does not bring them pleasure to do or at least watch; but I do ask that each of you tolerate and accept every part of the hobby that a fellow member wants to engage in as long as they do so safely and responsibly. Share the launch range and take the time to learn about what your fellow NAR members are interested in doing and find personally rewarding. This is our hobby and we all deserve to have some fun with it.
Clearly some sections have launch site or equipment limitations that currently preclude high power or serious model rocket competition flying. I ask that these sections and their members keep an open mind toward growing into either of these areas (or both) if some of the section membership seeks to go in these directions. And clearly other sections have a significant high-power focus; I ask that they support model rocket flying and youth participation so their membership (and the NAR’s) can grow with what could become the next generation of NAR high power fliers. Diversity of rocketry interests is what defines us as an NAR; tolerance for the safe interests and activities of other members is a source of strength and growth for our association. Let’s practice both in the way we all operate.