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MPR & FAA Waivers

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JoePfeiffer

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Are there actually sites with a waiver so low this question can arise? Took a look in the NAR records and the highest altitude record I found was for a G at 2195 meters, or just over 7000 feet.
 

T-Rex

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Are there actually sites with a waiver so low this question can arise?
At NASA Houston our waiver only goes to 2500ft. Non-dual deploy are restricted to 2000ft by NASA regulation. (NASA also restricts us to "I"motors or less, though special dispensation can be gotten for Lvl2 cert flights as long as the ceiling is not violated.)
 

Bowman

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Spirit of the law, rather than letter of the law? I don't know. There are laws, there are NAR/TRA guidelines, there are clubs rules. A club with a 15k waiver could at some point say, "No flights over 10k today," and that would be the rule for all members, regardless of the law. There's no law against sparky motors on a hot, dry day, but many clubs disallow them on such days.

I have no dog in this fight. I think we should obey our club rules even if/when the law is more lenient.
I think an important point here is "Self Regulation".
We have a lot of leeway because we as a community have demonstrated responsible self regulation.
We need to continue to do that, not push the limits out of some self-righteous desire to be right.
If those in charge at a launch disallow some activity above and beyond what the rules say then a responsible flyer abides by that. If you don't agree then you should try to find another club to fly with.
We have gained too much to throw it away.
 

boatgeek

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Let's game this out. You're launching at the Really Cool Rocket Club (RCRC), which has a waiver for 2500 feet because it's kinda near a combo Air Force base and commercial airport. On the day of the launch, the USAF folks fly around a bit to practice looking for rocket launches. A few general aviation planes do the same thing. Hey, nothing wrong with a little sightseeing, as long as they stay out from overhead so the rockets can still launch. Everybody sticks to the waiver flying HPR until some joker decides to break the TRA G record with a Class 1 rocket. That launch gets reported since there are a few eyes on it in the air.

OK, everything but the waiver and the fact that a flight was reported is basically irrelevant, but it makes a nice story. The FAA either (a) starts an investigation or (b) just yanks the club's waiver. If they choose (b), it's the club's burden of proof that the flight was (1) Class 1 and (2) that Class 1 rockets at a waivered launch don't need to meet the requirements. Chances are they lose that argument. If the FAA starts an investigation, the same rules apply, but the club might have a slightly easier time making the case since they're talking to an actual person. Either way, flying is a privilege and the burden of proof will mostly fall on the club. If they aren't tracking altitudes for every HPR flight, they're probably out of luck.

Whether the Class 1 rocket at a waivered launch actually needs to follow the waiver is a mostly irrelevant point of law here since it would probably be impossible to show that the HPR rockets all followed the waiver unless every rocket that flew that day was Class 1 and you had the launch cards to prove it.
 

shockie

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I think an important point here is "Self Regulation".
We have a lot of leeway because we as a community have demonstrated responsible self regulation.
We need to continue to do that, not push the limits out of some self-righteous desire to be right.
If those in charge at a launch disallow some activity above and beyond what the rules say then a responsible flyer abides by that. If you don't agree then you should try to find another club to fly with.
We have gained too much to throw it away.
Self-regulation = self-control applied to human beings....what could possibly go wrong with that idea?

This is why man created the concepts of government and religions : laws created by men to control other men's behaviors.
 

TheBru

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But has anyone actually asked the FAA what their take is on this before? It sounds like the community is in frequent contact with them to get the waivers and permission, so why not ask?
 

samb

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But has anyone actually asked the FAA what their take is on this before? It sounds like the community is in frequent contact with them to get the waivers and permission, so why not ask?
Because I haven't had the issue come up with the flyers at our club (that I can recall). And, like I said in post #7, I think that all flights at a waivered launch must respect the waiver.
:)
 

UhClem

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Are there actually sites with a waiver so low this question can arise?
I don't know about the present but it was certainly the case in the past.

When DARS flew in Allen, tucked under the DFW Class B airspace, the HPR waiver was only a few thousand feet. I dug out a newsletter from the archives and the 1996 NTHP announcement within stated 3,200' AGL with windows to 5,000' on request. I know that certain members liked to abuse Estes plastic fins with a D21 so the 3,200 limit for HPR was almost certainly exceeded by at least one model rocket.

The limits in a Class 2 waiver/certificate of authorization should not apply to Class 1 rockets at the same location unless there is something specific added to the special conditions of the waiver.
 

watheyak

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But has anyone actually asked the FAA what their take is on this before? It sounds like the community is in frequent contact with them to get the waivers and permission, so why not ask?
Because the FAA that we have regular contact with are air traffic controllers. They know nothing about rockets or rocket regulations.

Imagine how the conversation might go-

"So hey, there's this loop-hole that would allow a certain type of rocket to go above the waiver you're carefully vectoring dozens of aircraft over and around..."

It would not go well.

The FAA people that we do talk to that have knowledge of these regulations are the folks responsible for granting the waiver on a yearly basis. It's a somewhat involved process, and opening this can of worms could open us up for much more scrutiny than we already deal with.
 

Steve Shannon

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But has anyone actually asked the FAA what their take is on this before? It sounds like the community is in frequent contact with them to get the waivers and permission, so why not ask?
We could indeed seek an answer from that portion of the FAA which is responsible for writing and interpreting the FARs, but there’s really no point to it. The entire premise is more hypothetical than practical. Launch Directors and RSOs are not going to approve Class 1 rocket flights that exceed the COA altitude. To do so could damage the trust the FAA has in our judgement. We have a great relationship with them now; as a COA holder I wouldn’t want them to think that I’m looking for ways to skirt their rules.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this whole thread demonstrates the difference between knowledge and wisdom and highlights the importance of discretion. Just because something is “technically” allowed is not a sufficient reason to do it.
 

TheBru

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this whole thread demonstrates the difference between knowledge and wisdom and highlights the importance of discretion. Just because something is “technically” allowed is not a sufficient reason to do it.
(read with a casual discussion with a cup of coffee tone)
I respectfully disagree. I think this thread highlights that there is a wealth of institutional knowledge that may or may not be based on actual rules or laws and that there may be some general aversion to asking clarifying questions for fear of upsetting the governing bodies, which isn't wisdom to me. There are absolutely times when just going with the flow and using discretion is fine but there shouldn't ever be a stigma associated with asking a question and trying to understand the why behind it.

I reached out to the NAR to get their guidance on it and was told (in its entirety):

Good evening, Dan,

Since a waiver only applies to the Federal Aviation Regulations that are actually being waived, a rocket that's not subject to the regulation isn't bound by the terms of the waiver. For example, since an F powered rocket won't exceed the total impulse or weight limitations in FAR 101.22 (125 grams of propellant, 1500 grams liftoff weight), that rocket isn't subject to the limitations in FAR 101.25, therefore no waiver is required to fly it and the terms of the waiver don't apply.

Of course, you still have to comply with the applicable portions of the regulation and the NAR Safety Code. As always, the RSO is the final authority on the field, and he/she may be aware of landowner issues, etc. that make such flights inadvisable even if they're not restricted by the waiver.

I hope this is useful. If you have questions or would like clarification, feel free to e-mail me directly at mark.wise@nar.org.

All the best,

Mark Wise
NAR Secretary
Obviously people will gravitate towards the portion of this response that speaks to their beliefs but I hope that at a minimum people see that asking a question is okay and that governing bodies are not going to just blanket assume you are doing bad things. Once I am able to find a contact in the FAA I plan on asking them as well, if only to prove that its okay to ask questions.
 

rcktnut

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Simple answer: No need to verify with the FAA, but go ahead if you want to, nothing wrong with that. No matter what the FAA says it isn't going to change the rules of the club you are flying with, got to follow them. If flying class1 by yourself, under model rocketry code, due as you wish.
 

CPUTommy

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Ok.. hold up everyone. Please..

The rule is the rule, its there to PROTECT THE PEOPLE FLYING IN THE SAME AIR SPACE YOU WANT TO VERTICALLY PENETRATE?

I've alwalys launched low power and on some of my lighter rockets, a C6-7 just moves out, and some of my E powered rockets will easily come within the limits ALREADY in place.

are we actually debating the FAA rules and looking for loopholes?

Tom

P.s. this IS interesting and a great read. Love the opinions...👍
 

CPUTommy

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While you are technically correct that a MPR doesn’t have to stay inside a club’s waiver, don’t be surprised if the launch organizers do not allow you to fly above their waiver ceiling. Here’s why. When a club activates a waiver, it usually done by coordinating by phone with the FAA air traffic control facility in charge of the airspace over the launch site. They know that rockets are flying there and how high they might be going to. Any IFR aircraft will be vectored around that cylinder if their altitude is equal to or less than the waiver altitude. Aircraft flying higher will be allowed to cross over the launch site because the FAA believes no rockets will be going above the waiver ceiling.
Then comes the guy who wants to fly a “unrestricted” Class 1 flight out the top of the waiver. While it may be legal, no one I know who is a waiver holder would allow it to happen on the off chance it “might” conflict with traffic, upset the FAA, and put their waiver at risk resulting in another loss of flying field.
Years ago when I became the prefect of the Kloudbusters I had one goal. Put simply, I didn’t want to be the last prefect of the Kloudbusters! I didn’t want to be the guy who approved something that would put our field at risk. There is no flight that is more important than the field.
Bob Brown
And it really is that simple, I take the oath seriously, even when im shooting low power, im conscious of ALL air traffic, conditions, and all spectators. I am the face of model rocketry when im out launching rockets.
 

GrouchoDuke

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To pile on & hopefully not derail (or shoot myself in the foot)... I've always assumed the "breakable plastic" part of the FAA's Class 1 rocket definition to count for composite rockets. Epoxy is a plastic and fiberglass or carbon rockets are definitely breakable. Buuuut, does my thinking match the intent of the definition? Anyone know?

Also, is there a definition for "slow-burning" anywhere?

From the FAA:

§ 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.

I promise you can bust a lot a waivers with a rocket like this flight of mine, but my understanding has always been that no waiver is required. So, flying on a non-HPR waiver day is fine, other safety concerns noted. (Also, I really miss having dry lakebeds nearby.)

 

Steve Shannon

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To pile on & hopefully not derail (or shoot myself in the foot)... I've always assumed the "breakable plastic" part of the FAA's Class 1 rocket definition to count for composite rockets. Epoxy is a plastic and fiberglass or carbon rockets are definitely breakable. Buuuut, does my thinking match the intent of the definition? Anyone know?

Also, is there a definition for "slow-burning" anywhere?

From the FAA:

§ 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.

I promise you can bust a lot a waivers with a rocket like this flight of mine, but my understanding has always been that no waiver is required. So, flying on a non-HPR waiver day is fine, other safety concerns noted. (Also, I really miss having dry lakebeds nearby.)

Your thinking is just fine. I never really understood the “breakable plastic” requirement. I understand the intent, but I am not sure what unbreakable plastic would be, maybe something like a solid urethane? It’s just not objective enough; breakability isn’t a material property that’s commonly listed. Instead it derives from other material properties that most of us never consider, and which may vary considerably based on temperature. A composite that’s heavily reinforced or thick enough to be “unbreakable” would probably result in a model that’s too heavy for requirement 5 and thrust to weight requirements.
As far as slow burning propellant, again, without specifying what burn rate (at what pressure) is considered the threshold, it’s not a very meaningful requirement. Our success in the lawsuit against ATF twelve years ago was tied to burn rate and the ATF’s incorrect understanding of burn rate as applied to rocket motor geometry. Our leaders and lawyers at that time were able to demonstrate that the burn rate of APCP was very low, near the burn rate of paper. So, I don’t think you have anything to worry about there.
 

Steve Shannon

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