On getting FAA Waivers for large rockets....

I'd like to share with those interested what is involved in applying for an FAA Waiver. It's not a particularly difficult procedure, and the FAA personnel I have dealt with are courteous, professional, and helpful. Don't be scared of the bureaucratic red tape, there isn't a whole lot of it.

You can get the forms from the Flight Standards District Office (the "Fizz- Doe") at any airport with air traffic control. Phone the tower and ask for Flight Standards. Tell them you're interested in launching rockets, and need an Application for Waiver, FAA Form 7711-2. They should know what you want. While you've got them on the phone, ask for the address of the Regional office. You will probably have to file your application with them, so it will help to know where it has to go!

Now, you take a field trip. Get in your car, and drive to the airport. Not the passenger terminal, the part where all the private general aviation planes are parked. There should be a place there for pilots to pay for fuel, buy toothbrushes and other sundry items, including section maps. Ask them for the map which includes your launch site. If you're not near a section boundary, it should be the same map which includes the airport. (It will also be the most popular map there, and they may be out of stock.)-: We're covered by the Detroit section map, for example. Never mind that it's a few states away, and New York is closer, that's just the way they carve things up. It costs about $3, and it's fun to look at and try to decipher.

Locate your launch site on the section map. Are there any airports within 5 miles? If so, you'll need a waiver of Section 101.23(c), which addresses your proximity to an airport, in addition to waiver of Section 101.23(b), which covers controlled airspace. You type these section numbers on line 4 of the application. Lines 1, 2, and 3 are your name, address, telephone number, and all that David Copperfield crap, as Salinger called it.

Line 5 asks for a detailed description of what you want to do. I usually put something like the following:

	Normal operations of Model and High Impulse Rockets
	weighing more than 16 ounces (but less than 80 ounces)
	in accordance with the National Association of Rocketry
	Safety Codes (please see attached).
Line 6 asks for the location. If you've got the lattitude and longitude to the second, use them. Otherwise, you can refer to a copy of the portion of the section map that contains your field, like this:

	On the grounds of and directly above the National Warplane
	Museum, Geneseo, NY (please see attached portion of Detroit
	section map).
You can then copy that portion of the section map, circle the launch site in red or some other color, and write the legend, "Area of Proposed Operations." (Remember, these folks talk in Bureaucratese.)

In either case, this is the line on which you request altitude. Again, in FAA patois, "No operation under this waiver will exceed 5000 feet AGL" are the magic words which have worked for us (along with "please" and "thank you"). If you can read the altitude of the terrain on the section map, you can add this to the requested altitude above ground level to arrive at the altitude above Mean Sea Level (MSL), which might be appreciated by the person processing your application.

On Line 7 you give your starting and ending dates and times, and any rain dates. It's not necessary (nor is it desirable) to use Zulu (Greenwich Mean) Time, but these folks use that "hundred hour" jazz that Colonel Blake on M*A*S*H hated so much. Make sure to indicate what time zone you're referencing, for example "1030 EDT".

Lines 8 through 14 pertain to airshows and the like, so just put an "N/A" or two there to let them know these areas aren't blank because of an omission. You sign on Line 15, and have an opportunity to say a little something about how you're going to be running things. I usually write in the following, under "Remarks":

	All operations will be conducted in accordance with the NAR
	Safety Codes and shall be under the control of an experienced
	Range Safety / Launch Control Officer. A spotter will watch
	for aircraft entering the operations area, and will temporarily
	suspend operations in this contingency.
Make three copies. Keep one for yourself, send your original and two of the copies to the Regional Office. Attach three copies of both Safety Codes, because the Model Rocket Safety Code covers rockets which will be under the terms of the waiver. Also attach three copies of the germane portion of the section map, if that's how you're indicating where you are going to fly. Include a short letter of transmittal.

After having some scares about the last two applications I sent in, next time I plan to include a receipt postcard. I'm going to put my address on the address side, and on the other side it will say:

	Received _________________ (date) an Application for
	Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, FAA Form
	7711-2, at this office. For further information,
	please contact ___________________ (name) at
	_________________ (telephone number, extension).
Bureaucrats see these things all the time, and they know what to do with them.

Mail off this packet to the FAA Regional Office, to the attention of Flight Standards (I think!). You need to apply at least 30 days (the form says 45 days, so be sure) in advance. If you don't hear back from them in two or three weeks, give them a call. We had to do this twice; once the form was lost, and another time it was just in the "in" basket.

If all goes according to plan, you should get back your application, all the other stuff you sent (talk about carrying coals to Newcastle!), and the Magic Certificate of Waiver! There will be a few strings attached. You should be instructed to inform the nearest ATC, and possibly an Automated Flight Information Service, a certain time before you start, in order to "activate" your waiver. You'll probably be instructed to contact them when you're done, too. Usually these things are not a big deal, but sometimes you get a person who doesn't know why you're bothering them. Just tell them that you're carrying out instructions from the Regional Office to give a Notice to Airmen, persuant to the terms of your Certificate of Waiver. A little official-sounding talk will make them feel right at home.

Of course, you have to make sure all fliers are familiar with the terms and conditions of your waiver, because it's your butt that's on the line, too. It is a standing MARS policy that the waiver certificate and application are available for inspection by all fliers.

After the launch, I usually send a letter to the person who sent me the Certificate of Waiver, thanking them for their help, and letting them know we had a safe and enjoyable time. It helps grease the skids for the next waiver you want, besides being common courtesy.

It's not hard to obtain a waiver if you make your application in a professional manner, and conduct your activities likewise. There's no fee, but there is some effort involved. Finally, keep in mind that the people working on your application are people, and as such they respond to being treated courteously and professionally. I hope you find the process relatively simple and painless.

Have fun and fly 'em HIGH!

John Viggiano, jsvrc@rc.rit.edu or sjvppr@ritvax.isc.rit.edu

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