in defense of permanent certifications

I have maintained, and thought others would agree, that lowering regulations and barriers to participation in rocketry is a "good thing". Below is a post by Rick Dickinson that was buried in another thread. I thought it was so eloquent and on target that I just had to bring it to the top level. Thanks Rick for sharing your thoughts.

Take care,

Ferrell Wheeler


Rick Dickinson writes: ====================== I can't speak for anyone else, as I no longer use NCSA Mosaic. Nowadays, I'm an Opera fan, myself....

That being said, I am a current senior member of NAR, high power (L2) certified, and I would continue being a member of NAR *without question*, even if they immediately declared that "from this day forward, HPR flyer certification is perpetual, and doesn't require membership". I get a *lot* of value from NAR, and the HPR certification is only one small part of that value proposition.

I get a darn nice magazine on a regular basis, on time, and filled with interesting articles, reviews, and ads I am interested in.

I get several local clubs that are able to get launch sites by virtue of their affiliation with a well-respected national organization that lends an air of legitimacy to our requests to use public spaces for the purpose of throwing bits of cardboard at the sky.

I get several local clubs that are able to get launch sites by virtue of their affiliation with a well-respected national organization that insures site owners against liability claims should any mishaps occur while we're busy throwing bits of cardboard at the sky.

I get a million dollars of coverage (secondary to my homeowner's coverage, but still nice to have) that insures *me* against liability claims should any mishaps occur while I'm busy throwing bits of cardboard at the sky.

I get a motor-testing service that, by virtue of its mere existence, tends to keep motor manufacturers a bit more honest about labelling their motors with designations that actually reflect the approximate total and average impulse levels of their motors.

I get a "Malfunctioning Engine Statistical Survey" program (MESS) that tracks user-reported motor malfunctions, in order to spot bad manufacturing runs, so that manufacturers can fix problems and end-users can avoid bad batches.

I get local clubs (which were able to get launch sites for the reasons I mentioned above, and which wouldn't exist without those launch sites) that are filled with helpful, friendly folks, always willing to lend a hand to anyone needing one.

I get a well-known national organization, whose name and web site address are inside (or were -- I haven't looked lately) every motor package from the largest motor manufacturer in the industry (Estes), and whose web site has a way for a complete newbie to locate a local club.

All of these benefits are just off the top of my head. I'm sure I could think of lots more if I gave it some effort. But, you can see the point -- NAR offers many benefits beyond HPR flyer certification, and I would gladly support NAR with my hard-earned dollars even if it offered HPR certification to all comers, member or not, and even if it made those certs permanent.

In fact, I think that the availability, through NAR, of a no membership required, lifetime "high power rocketry skills and knowledge certification" card would be such a *good thing* overall, in terms of increasing participation in the hobby, that I would be willing to donate, over and above my yearly membership dues, to a fund dedicated to setting up and maintaining such a program, so that NAR would never have to worry about the hypothetical costs of running such a program for non-members and members alike.

As I willingly donated $100 to the "Save Rocketry Now" fund to produce the commercial that aired during the Discovery Channel "Rocket Challenge" programs, I clearly am willing to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to supporting programs intended to increase participation in this hobby. I firmly believe that permanent user certs, irrespective of membership in NAR or TRA, would help bring in new rocketeers to the hobby, and I'm willing to donate to a fund to help promote the idea and fund running the program under the auspices of the NAR.

While I would be willing to do all of that, on top of remaining a member of NAR, my personal opinion is that it would not be necessary. I firmly believe that lowering the "barriers to entry" into high power rocketry, by making permanent certification available at low cost to all comers, regardless of affiliation, can only serve to increase participation in the hobby.

And, as the saying goes, "a rising tide raises all boats". Increasing the number of people flying rockets overall can only *help* NAR membership nmbers. True, a few "cheapskates" might not renew their NAR memberships if they didn't have to keep them to keep their HPR certifications. However, I am confident that this number would be dwarfed by the number of new members NAR would get as a direct result of growing the hobby as a whole.

As for the certification card itself, I'd make it a nice plastic card, imprinted with the person's full name and date of certification, and bearing a statement such as the following:

"This certification card shall serve as proof that the above-named individual has demonstrated, both by obtaining a passing score on a written test, and by practical skills demonstration, a level of knowledge and competence in handling, storing, and using high power solid-propellant rocket motors and high power rockets. This certification is effective as of the date listed above, and is valid for the lifetime of the person named."

"IMPORTANT NOTE: While the NAR high power certification program is intended to verify that the person certified possesses and is able to demonstrate a certain minimum level of knowledge and skill at the time of certification, it remains that individual's sole responsibility to ensure that all of his or her activities are conducted safely and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. BY ACCEPTING THIS CARD AS PROOF OF CERTIFICATION STATUS, YOU EXPLICITLY AGREE TO INDEMNIFY AND HOLD HARMLESS THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ROCKETRY (NAR), ITS AGENTS AND ITS ASSIGNEES, FROM ANY AND ALL CLAIMS OF LIABILITY ARISING AS A DIRECT OR INDIRECT RESULT OF SAID ACCEPTANCE."

As you can see by my proposed wording, I'm proposing that there be only one certification "level" (or rather, no levels beyond "certified"), and that it require a written test as well as a practical skills demonstration. To insure that the person being crtified is who he or she claims to be, I'd also require that the person administering the written test (or signing off on the skills demonstration paperwork) verify the person's identity against a government-issued photo ID. I believe that these components are necessary and sufficient to meet the legal requirements for a certification program per NFPA 1127.

In line with other certification programs, such as those in the computer industry, I'd suggest charging a minimal fee for each certification attempt, to cover the administrative costs of running the program. Perhaps $20 per written test, with $5 going to the NAR section that administers the test, would suffice. The fee would cover the expense of printing and distributing test materials to the sections, and would also cover the cost of producing and mailing the certification cards. If lost or damaged, replacement cards could be purchased by a certified individual who sends a photocopy of his or her ID (drivers license, passport, or other government-issued photo ID) along with a $10 or $15 charge to cover the time and expense of making up and sending out new cards.

Before I write this up as an email to Mark Bundick for consideration as a proposal at the next NAR BOT meeting, I'd appreciate hearing any constructive feedback.


- Rick "Rock the boat" Dickinson

Reply to
Ferrell Wheeler
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This calls for a vote. Chime in, everyone. How many would still pay yearly dues if they had a permanent cert card and membership was not required to launch at NAR launches?

Me? I would most likely not pay dues. The magazine is nice, the insurance nice to have, but I'll never use it. The only reason I continue my membership is to maintain my cert privileges.


Reply to

Anecdotal evidence is not helpful. In practice you have renewing zealots and you have HPR samplers. The trick is to turn the HPR go-aways into HPR BARS. Permanant certs would cause them to have a self-image of still being inH PR.

Think of it this way. They could rejoin and fly in the club for a lot less money and effort than starting fresh.

More likely future membership renewals.


Reply to
Jerry Irvine

Reply to
Duane Phillips

outgoing newsfeed

I can see it

Reply to

Ok, the first part makes sense.

the last sentence does not. say I was an HPR go-away. I want to fly again after three years being away. I join a club and then fly a I motor and bam, I just re-got my cert.

so what is cheaper ? the I motor cost the same.

the club cost the same ?

so what's different ?

Reply to

Currently I would remain a member of both orgs for as long as I could afford to, regardless of cert requirements. When I was new to high power, that would not have been the case -- I would never have joined any org had it not be necessary to do high power.

Reply to

insurance nice to have,

Appreciate you confirming that on a scale of 1 to 10 your personal integrity approaches zero as an uppper limit.

Reply to
Ed Benett

Bzzzt! Sorry, try again.

Seriously, I think that impugning Steve's integrity because he stated that he, personally, gets no further value from NAR beyond his HPR certification is completely unwarranted. People are individuals, and it is perfectly normal that the things that they find valuable would vary.

Steve has done nothing that would lead me to question his integrity. Actually, by having the personal confidence to voice what could be seen as an unpopular opinion, he's gone up a notch or two in *my* estimation. I disagree with him over the value proposition offered by NAR, but I don't think that disagreement is grounds for questioning his integrity.

The fact that you would make an ad hominem attack on him for stating his opinion does make me lower my estimation of *you*, however. Namecalling is no way to win an argument or sway people to your side.

Now, to the best of my recollection, I've never met you or Steve. So, I have nothing beyond what I see here to base my opinions of each of you on. bBut, based on the limited bit I've seen here, I'd say you owe him an apology.

- Rick "Now make up and play nice" Dickinson

Reply to
Rick Dickinson

Perceived cost/hassle to reenter. Often perception alone is the driving force for action.

Also whatever rocket you would fly to cert may not be the rocket you have in mind to fly for sport. In fact the sport rocket might be the ONLY flight you have in mind.

Reply to
Jerry Irvine


I'm flattered. I wasn't fishing for compliments, but I have to admit they feel darn nice when I get them. Compared with the usual usenet flamewars, it's nice to hear some positive words for a change.

And you, as well.

- Rick "Ok, enough from the mutual admiration society" Dickinson

Reply to
Rick Dickinson

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