For newbies ... understanding governing authorities.

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Bat-mite

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There seems to have been a lot of posts lately asking about rules regarding HPR, waivers, experimental (EX) motors, laws and club rules. I just thought I would post some guidelines to help folks who are new to the hobby understand the authorities that govern what we do.

I can only speak for people the in the USA, and mean no slight to other nations; I simply don't have access to your laws, nor do I have a need to know them.

In the USA, rocketry is governed by two federal authorities, as well as state and local authorities. The federal authorities are the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, or "the ATF").

I. The FAA has authority over everything that enters the air, including rockets, drones, gliders, remote control planes, etc. The FAA has regulations that specify what can fly where. Section 101 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) regulates all forms of rocketry.

The good news for low power rocketry (LPR) and mid-power rocketry (MPR) is that the FAA is pretty much hands off. Go to Hobby Lobby, buy a kit, build it and launch it (provided you have landowner permission), and you are good to go.

The above is true for anything that is a class 1 rocket -- that is, it meets none of the requirements to be considered a class 2 rocket, which we generally refer to in our hobby as a high power rocket (HPR).

You do not need special permission from the FAA (i.e., a waiver) to fly a class 1 rocket in the USA. A class 1 rocket meets these restrictions:
  1. Uses no more than 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of propellant;
  2. Uses a slow-burning propellant;
  3. Is made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic;
  4. Contains no substantial metal parts; and
  5. Weighs no more than 1,500 grams (53 ounces), including the propellant.
When your rocket exceeds one of the above restrictions, or when utilizing a motor that falls into the H through O impulse classes, you now have a class 2 rocket. Class 2 rockets require an FAA waiver to operate, and have additional rules regarding their safe operation.

A class 3 rocket is anything with a P impulse or higher, and incurs some more regulations, including the need to obtain the waiver a minimum of 45 days in advance.

You do not need to be a member of a club like TRA or the NAR in order to legally launch rockets with FAA approval. If you have a sufficient land area and file for your waiver, you can launch any rocket that you want, under the auspices of the FAA.

II. The ATF has authority over rocket motors, black powder, igniters, electric matches, and other incendiary devices commonly used in rocketry. Motors must be shipped, stored, transported and utilized according to ATF regulations. Whereas the FAA only cares about the air space, the ATF is concerned with the things that burn and/or explode.

Years ago, the NAR and TRA went to federal court with the ATF in order to get certain ATF restrictions on rocket motors deregulated. Rocket motors are no longer considered explosive devices by the ATF, which means we do not need to register rocket motors with the ATF, or be subject to their inspection. However, rocket motors are still considered hazardous materials, and many of them must meet hazardous materials shipping requirements (HAZMAT) in order to be shipped from a vendor to a consumer.

The deregulation, unfortunately, did not extend to igniters. So, sadly, igniters that use pyrogen or black powder do fall under ATF regulations. Some vendors have worked with the ATF to get their own products deregulated. Estes Industries igniters (now referred to as "starters" in order to specify the difference) no longer use any combustible material and do not fall under ATF regulations.

III. Local authorities.

Many states have adopted the National Fire Protection Act (NFPA) as their state fire laws, though some have adopted only portions of the NFPA, or have their own laws and do not utilize the NFPA.

The NFPA has three sections which regulate rocketry by those states that have adopted it: 1122, 1125, and 1127.

NFPA 1122 regulates model rocketry. If your state has adopted this portion of the NFPA as law, then you must follow the regulations for model rocketry even though the FAA does not require a waiver to use the air space. Launching an Estes Alpha at a state park might be a violation of local laws, so do not presume that where no FAA waiver is required, it is a free-for-all.

NFPA 1125 regulates the construction of rockets and motors. If you are a scratch-builder or research motor-maker, you will want to peruse this section.

NFPA 1127 regulates high power rocketry. It defines a high power rocket, and regulates the conditions under which a high power rocket may be launched. This is a must-read if you are expecting to get into HPR.

There are a lot of laws from the ATF, FAA and NFPA that regulate rocketry; however, the good news is that the NAR and TRA have lawyers who have understood these laws and built them into the model rocket and HPR safety codes. TRA and the NAR are on good terms with the ATF and the FAA. TRA prefectures and NAR sections are able to easily get waivers and ensure that rockets are launched according to the laws and regulations pertinent at the launch site.

So, while you don't need to be a member of a club in order to launch rockets, it makes the process very easy. Someone else has incorporated the relevant laws into the club's rules; someone else gets the FAA waiver; someone else works with the FAA and ATF to ensure that what you are doing is legal and safe.

As a result, the NAR and TRA are able to cover their members with liability insurance. As long as the rules are followed, the member is covered if a freak accident causes an injury or damage to property.

The clubs also have rules that are not strictly law, and members of the clubs must agree to these additional rules in order to take advantage of the clubs' benefits. As an example, both the NAR and TRA consider "sparky" motors (e.g., motors that emit burning bits of titanium sponge) to be HPR motors, regardless of the impulse class. TRA limits EX flights to 90% of the FAA waiver; this is not an FAA requirement; it is a TRA safety rule.

IV. Experimental Motors

An EX motor is any rocket motor that was not commercially manufactured, and/or has not been certified by the NAR, the CAR (the Canadian Rocketry Association), or TRA. Whether the motor uses black powder, ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP), sugar, or any other fuel or oxidizer, it is an EX motor if it was not purchased commercially and/or certified

TRA allows TRA members who are level 2 or 3 to launch EX motors at a Tripoli Research Launch (TRL). The NAR does not allow EX motors at any NAR-sponsored launch. Note that these are club rules, and not law.

Anyone can launch an EX motor if he complies with NFPA (as applicable), ATF and FAA laws; however, he may not do so at a TRL or NAR launch except as specified above.

Anyone can make an EX motor, as long as he complies with NFPA 1125 as applicable. The motor maker does not need to be the flier; however, TRA does not allow EX motors to be sold for profit. EX motors made and sold for profit are not allowed to be launched at a TRL.

FAQ
1. "I want to make and launch my own motors. I am not a NAR or TRA member. How can I do this?"
A. Go for it. Comply with your states' fire laws, obtain your own liability (if desired), and apply for your own FAA waiver. The FAA does not care whether or not the motor is commercial or EX.

2. "I am a NAR member and I want to fly EX motors."
A. See #1 above. You may not fly EX motors even if you are level 2 and at a TRL. Get your own waiver, or join TRA and go to a TRL. Certifications are reciprocal, but require paperwork.

3. "I am a TRA level 2, I am at a TRL, and my friend gave me an N motor he made. Can I launch it?"
A. No, because you would need to be level 3. However, if your friend is a TRA level 3 and present at the launch, he may partner with you in the launch and put his name on the flight card. As such, he is the one responsible to ensure that the safety code is followed.

4. "I like making motors, but I am not a TRA level 2. I have made an M motor for a friend who is a TRA level 3 and is going to a TRL. May he launch my motor?"
A. Yes.

5. "I am a TRA level 3 and I want to launch an EX K motor at a NAR HPR launch. May I?"
A. No, the NAR does not allow EX motors at their launches.


Okay, any experienced fliers reading this, please chime in with corrections and additions. Thanks.
 
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Steve Shannon

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Very helpful. Some corrections: NFPA 1122 is the model rocketry safety code. NFPA 1125 covers manufacturing and certification of commercial rocket motors. NFPA 1127 is the high power rocketry Safety Code (you just kind of swapped 1122 and 1125).
Also only certain types of research motors are permitted at Tripoli Research Launches. For instance we don’t allow research black powder motors or sugar motors with table sugar (sucrose).
All in all, that’s a very good rundown. I’m sure others will weigh in. Your post deserves to be stuck. Thanks!
 

Bat-mite

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Very helpful. Some corrections: NFPA 1122 is the model rocketry safety code. NFPA 1125 covers manufacturing and certification of commercial rocket motors. NFPA 1127 is the high power rocketry Safety Code (you just kind of swapped 1122 and 1125).
Also only certain types of research motors are permitted at Tripoli Research Launches. For instance we don’t allow research black powder motors or sugar motors with table sugar (sucrose).
All in all, that’s a very good rundown. I’m sure others will weigh in. Your post deserves to be stuck. Thanks!
Fixed. I hate stupid mistakes. :mad: Thanks for the endorsement and additions.
 

boatgeek

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There are a few baby H motors with less than 125 grams of propellant. I believe you may launch these at FAR 101 Class 1 launches without a waiver provided you meet the rest of the FAR 101 requirements.

Also, just because something is allowed by FAA/BATFE/TRA/NAR doesn't mean that your club will allow it. A club may have special rules for lots of reasons, often having to do with landowner requirements. If the club says there's a rule against rockets painted green, you can't launch a rocket painted green at that club. Same for sparkies, rockets with unpainted metal, etc.
 

Bat-mite

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There are a few baby H motors with less than 125 grams of propellant. I believe you may launch these at FAR 101 Class 1 launches without a waiver provided you meet the rest of the FAR 101 requirements.

Correct, and a good catch. For instance the Contrail H222 has a propellant mass of 22g. As you say, if the other four restrictions for a class 1 rocket are met, then this H motor could be flown without a waiver. However, NAR and TRA consider these high power and would require a waiver, just like sparky motors.

Also, just because something is allowed by FAA/BATFE/TRA/NAR doesn't mean that your club will allow it. A club may have special rules for lots of reasons, often having to do with landowner requirements. If the club says there's a rule against rockets painted green, you can't launch a rocket painted green at that club. Same for sparkies, rockets with unpainted metal, etc.

See my paragraph right above "IV. Experimental Motors." Thanks.
 

Nytrunner

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Good summary

  • Uses no more than 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of propellant;
  • Uses a slow-burning propellant;
  • Is made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic;
  • Contains no substantial metal parts; and
  • Weighs no more than 1,500 grams (53 ounces), including the propellant.


Is bullet 2 quantified or described somewhere? How fast are we talking? Blue Thunder/Blue Streak fast, or just Warp-9/V-max fast?
 

Bat-mite

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Good summary




Is bullet 2 quantified or described somewhere? How fast are we talking? Blue Thunder/Blue Streak fast, or just Warp-9/V-max fast?
Good question. I can't find any additional info. Perhaps the ATF has a definition of "slow-burning propellant?" I don't know. Is any solid propellant fast-burning, or do they mean liquid or hybrid only?
 

heada

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Good summary




Is bullet 2 quantified or described somewhere? How fast are we talking? Blue Thunder/Blue Streak fast, or just Warp-9/V-max fast?
Pulled directly from 14CFR 101.22:

101.22 Definitions.
The following definitions apply to this subpart:

(a)Class 1 - Model Rocket means an amateur rocket that:

(1) Uses no more than 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of propellant;

(2) Uses a slow-burning propellant;

(3) Is made of paper, wood, or breakable plastic;

(4) Contains no substantial metal parts; and

(5) Weighs no more than 1,500 grams (53 ounces), including the propellant.

(b)Class 2 - High-Power Rocket means an amateur rocket other than a model rocket that is propelled by a motor or motors having a combined total impulse of 40,960 Newton-seconds (9,208 pound-seconds) or less.

(c)Class 3 - Advanced High-Power Rocket means an amateur rocket other than a model rocket or high-power rocket.

[Doc. No. FAA-2007-27390, 73 FR 73781, Dec. 4, 2008]

From memory, "slow burning" was measured in inches per second and used to rule out mortar-type propellant.
 

Oberon

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As you say, if the other four restrictions for a class 1 rocket are met, then this H motor could be flown without a waiver. However, NAR and TRA consider these high power and would require a waiver, just like sparky motors.

Yes, they are high power motors. No, they do not require a "waiver" to fly. A "waiver" in the context of this hobby, is an FAA waiver, and the FAA does not care about the impulse, average thrust, or whether it is a "sparky" in their definition of "Class 1 Rocket".

What the NAR and TRA govern is who is allowed to fly what at NAR/TRA sanctioned launches. The NAR/TRA require a high power rocketry certification in order to fly high power rockets (all H and above, plus >80 N average thrust or sparky smaller motors) at their launches.

But an NAR/TRA sanctioned launch can fly high powered class 1 rockets without a waiver, because for the purposes of the (FAA) waiver, only the FAA rules matter.

Class 2 rocket waivers are governed / provided by the FAA, and apply to all rocket launches at the time and location specified by the waiver. High power certification is governed/provided by NAR/TRA and applies to the person flying the rocket. Certification is portable - it works at all NAR/TRA launches. Waivers are site and time specific.
 

Bat-mite

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Yes, they are high power motors. No, they do not require a "waiver" to fly. A "waiver" in the context of this hobby, is an FAA waiver, and the FAA does not care about the impulse, average thrust, or whether it is a "sparky" in their definition of "Class 1 Rocket".

What the NAR and TRA govern is who is allowed to fly what at NAR/TRA sanctioned launches. The NAR/TRA require a high power rocketry certification in order to fly high power rockets (all H and above, plus >80 N average thrust or sparky smaller motors) at their launches.

But an NAR/TRA sanctioned launch can fly high powered class 1 rockets without a waiver, because for the purposes of the (FAA) waiver, only the FAA rules matter.

Class 2 rocket waivers are governed / provided by the FAA, and apply to all rocket launches at the time and location specified by the waiver. High power certification is governed/provided by NAR/TRA and applies to the person flying the rocket. Certification is portable - it works at all NAR/TRA launches. Waivers are site and time specific.
Good clarification. Thanks.
 

BABAR

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Unfortunately there is no law requiring common sense.

The above provides a pretty clear definition of what you CAN do. It says nothing about what you SHOULD do.

What you SHOULD do is stay within the limits of the laws AND respect the fact that the hobby involves the use of flame spouting projectiles that when used improperly can injure you, others around you, and destroy property. Flying model rockets are not toys and should never be treated as such.

While you can’t cure “stupid”, maybe we in the rocket community can help “immunize” those entering the hobby.
 
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Bat-mite

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My goal was to provide a summary of laws relevant to rocketry, and to clear up confusion regarding law vs. club rules. Some people think that you legally have to belong to a club in order to fly HPR or do EX. Some people think that the only thing stopping them from launching HPR from their back yard is a lack of launch equipment. No moralism intended, just facts.
 

Scott_650

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Something that could confuse new folks are the requirements for purchasing HPR motors. Vendors are required to determine if the buyer is certified by one of the sanctioning bodies (NAR, TRA, etc) at the appropriate level for the motor they’re buying. However, if I understand things correctly, this is an industry monitored requirement - we’re responsible for policing ourselves. What, speaking hypothetically, would NAR/TRA do if a vendor didn’t check their buyers’ certification level?
 

Uncrichie

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"Rocket motors are no longer considered explosive devices by the ATF, which means we do not need to register rocket motors with the ATF, or be subject to their inspection."

I assume your refering to Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellent. Does this also extend to other propellents?
 

Sabrina

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Don’t forget CPSC. They are responsible for some of the rules that seem fairly arbitrary, but which do have legal bearing.

CPSC and FHSA – I know I little about that... :p:p:p:p

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):oops: and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA):eek: – affect me as a minor regarding rocketry.

Here is the reader's-digest version:
Rocketeers in the USA under the age of 18 are not allowed to purchase or use reloadable motors of any kind, or any single-use motors larger than “F” class.

It does not matter if the minor has obtained Jr. L1 or M1 certification. The motor must be purchased by an adult (certified adult for high power), and the flight card must have an adult (certified adult for high power) as the flyer of record.

For me specifically, this means that many of my rockets are flown with the assistance of my parents or mentors.:cool::cool::cool: I follow all rules and still get to participate in (almost) all areas.:):D:):D

Here is a >> Link right here << to some details about the CPSC and FHSA and rocketry. Some of this info is a bit dated, but I believe it is still relevant.:cool:

- Hey - as long as we're talking about the reg's... don't forget to mention the D.O.T. and U.S.P.S. rules for shipping motors.:D


In this photo below - I assisted with the "Chicago Fire" rocket which flew on a CTI N10,000 motor... but I did not purchase the motor:D:D:D

2015-11-01 12.42.11.jpg
 
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Bat-mite

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Thanks, Sabrina. I miss Gus. Get him to come back to us. :)
Something that could confuse new folks are the requirements for purchasing HPR motors. Vendors are required to determine if the buyer is certified by one of the sanctioning bodies (NAR, TRA, etc) at the appropriate level for the motor they’re buying. However, if I understand things correctly, this is an industry monitored requirement - we’re responsible for policing ourselves. What, speaking hypothetically, would NAR/TRA do if a vendor didn’t check their buyers’ certification level?
There is no legal requirement for this. It is my understanding that vendors do it in conjunction with the NAR and TRA as a service/courtesy, perhaps to help limit their own liability. But there is no law requiring any vendor to recognize and private club's certification system when selling their product. As Sabrina wrote, there are restrictions on minors, but not on certification levels, which are a club construct and not law.
 

heada

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Thanks, Sabrina. I miss Gus. Get him to come back to us. :)

There is no legal requirement for this. It is my understanding that vendors do it in conjunction with the NAR and TRA as a service/courtesy, perhaps to help limit their own liability. But there is no law requiring any vendor to recognize and private club's certification system when selling their product. As Sabrina wrote, there are restrictions on minors, but not on certification levels, which are a club construct and not law.
NFPA 1125

"8.5 Maintenance of Sales Records of High Power Rocket Motors and MotorReloading Kits.
8.5.1 A high power rocket motor or motorreloading kit shall be sold and shipped to certified users only.
8.5.2 High power rocket motor manufacturers shall maintain a list of those who have purchased high power rocket motors or motorreloading kits from the manufacturer. This list shall contain the following information:
(1) Name and address of the purchaser
(2) Name and address of the national user organization that has certified the user Copyright NFPA
(3) Type and number of high power solid propellant rocket motors or motorreloading kits sold to the certified user
(4) Date of sale and shipment of high power rocket motor or motorreloading kits to the certified user
8.5.3 The manufacturer shall make available, on request and at a reasonable time, the records specified in Section 4.3 to any law enforcement person or the authority having jurisdiction. These records shall be kept for 5 years from the date of sale."

Not law but has force of law where NFPA 1125 is adopted which is most of the US.
 

Bat-mite

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NFPA 1125

"8.5 Maintenance of Sales Records of High Power Rocket Motors and MotorReloading Kits.
8.5.1 A high power rocket motor or motorreloading kit shall be sold and shipped to certified users only.
8.5.2 High power rocket motor manufacturers shall maintain a list of those who have purchased high power rocket motors or motorreloading kits from the manufacturer. This list shall contain the following information:
(1) Name and address of the purchaser
(2) Name and address of the national user organization that has certified the user Copyright NFPA
(3) Type and number of high power solid propellant rocket motors or motorreloading kits sold to the certified user
(4) Date of sale and shipment of high power rocket motor or motorreloading kits to the certified user
8.5.3 The manufacturer shall make available, on request and at a reasonable time, the records specified in Section 4.3 to any law enforcement person or the authority having jurisdiction. These records shall be kept for 5 years from the date of sale."

Not law but has force of law where NFPA 1125 is adopted which is most of the US.
I guess I should have read that before replying. :oops: Thanks.
 

heada

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I guess I should have read that before replying. :oops: Thanks.
Thinking about it, this is the control over manufacturers. The sale from Aerotech to Wildman would have to be logged and be subject to these rules. The sale from Wildman to me wouldn't be subject to these rules since Wildman isn't the manufacturer, right?
 

Steve Shannon

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Thinking about it, this is the control over manufacturers. The sale from Aerotech to Wildman would have to be logged and be subject to these rules. The sale from Wildman to me wouldn't be subject to these rules since Wildman isn't the manufacturer, right?

I thought it referred to the end user since it requires the user certification organization. Sales to vendors are not subject to the certification requirements. Maybe Chris, Tim, Teddy, or another vendor can explain if they serve as the manufacturer’s representative in maintaining the lists of buyers.
Frankly, the requirement is poorly written.
 

Bat-mite

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Hmm, I don't know. 8.5.1 clearly establishes that you need to be certified in order to buy them, but after that it gets muddy. Yes, as written, only motors sold from the manufacturer to a certified user gets logged, but if motor dealers are considered an agent of the manufacturer, they may inherit the manufacturer's restrictions.

I'd have to ask a lawyer on that one.

Maybe this is why TRA doesn't allow the sale of EX motors for profit.
 

DaveW6DPS

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The clubs also have rules that are not strictly law, and members of the clubs must agree to these additional rules in order to take advantage of the clubs' benefits.

Also, just because something is allowed by FAA/BATFE/TRA/NAR doesn't mean that your club will allow it. A club may have special rules for lots of reasons, often having to do with landowner requirements.

One of the many good reasons to launch with a club is that the club will have people know who the applicable regulators are, and what rules need to be followed. A well established club has folks who have tip-toed through the regulatory minefield and figured out the safe path.

We are frequently asked if our club operates by NAR or TRA rules. The correct answer is that neither is the whole story. Our launch rules include a combination of the various "rules" and the added wisdom of a board that has decades of collective launch experience. We are both a NAR section and TRA prefecture. We obtain a FAA COA (AKA waiver) for each launch, and we are lucky to have a board member who is very familiar with the application process. We launch on federal land by permit from the BLM, which adds a whole new set of federal regulations, mostly about camping and selling stuff on our lakebed. We have permission from the county fire authority, who are pretty easy going after decades. Being in California we operate under the regulations of the Office of the State Firm Marshall, which adds requirements for Pyrotechnic Operators with rocketry endorsement and limits the motors that we can use. There are probably a couple of other agencies in the alphabet soup of regulators who add value to our launch activities. Each has requirements that we must follow, and some are more limiting than others.

And of course, we follow any local practices that our board has decided contribute to a safe and prudent way to operate.

For an individual, learning the requirements on your own could be very expensive if you missed the wrong ones.

For model (FAA Class 1) rockets in California you need the property owner's permission and the permission from the fire authority with jurisdiction. In some counties the fire department has very user friendly rules for getting permission. Other counties, and any incorporated city where I have ever tried to get permission, model rockets are banned. As you might expect in California, anything with fire shooting out the end tends to get folks attention. During high fire season, which is 365 days some years, we see additional restrictions. Usually the seasonal restriction are aimed at camping, not launching.

In most cities, even simply launching a small model rocket can result in fines and fees totaling hundreds of dollars.

Having made a short story long, my point is the best way for most flyers to comply with all the various federal, state, and local regulations, and NAR/TRA safety codes is to fly with a club.
 
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