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The Sagitta Cantina > Rocketry News

So is it or isn't it a Model Rocketry fatality?

posted Nov 20, 2015 17:14:36 by Commander
From what little I can find, the rocket in question was described as being 4" dia PVC about four feet in length launched on 3 E engines with no parachute. That no rocketry organization was supervising (not that members weren't attending) and that videos from previous launches show numerous Safety Code violations.

Brian Saffell
Shannon Taylor is correct about the size below, the nose cone had a an approximate 1" gash/hole/tear in it from when it had crashed the year before. the cone had fiber glass/ plastic matt protruding from this hole. The owner had stated as he walked by me that the rocket would not have a parachute, and that it had three size "E" engines, and he was expecting it to "not survive" the flight. I have my own personal comments i could make but i believe they would not serve a purpose of making this any better sooo...

Let me be Clear This was an adults Rocket, not a Scouts. It was Launched at an experimental pad for rockets of this nature. As for its place to being used at an event like this i would leave it up to the NAR and the BSA to decide how to proceed at future events. I believe this incident will help with the safety of future events as long as the reality is shown that this was NOT a typical rocket seen at these events and that the Scouts Rockets are much smaller and typically only use up to a single stage "C" rated engine. I will say that a "Rocket inspection Check" at future events for safety should be conducted for larger unconventional rockets that then could be launched further away from spectators.

Forget the jailhouse lawyering and let me know how do you feel? It can be pretty much ascertained that more than one rule was broken.
Starport Sagitta
NAR No.97971
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5 replies
TedMacklin said Nov 21, 2015 02:05:52
It all depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.

I think Mr. Brian Saffell and Ms. Shannon Taylor were at the event and reported what they saw. Predictably, the "rocket community" went nuts...after the fact. (Douglas Shrock disagrees and has let his emotions rule his thinking, once again solidifying his liberal credentials.) I think the attorneys are going to have a field day with this one. What impact this will have upon "our hobby" remains to be seen.

I'm no saint and have pulled more than my share of dumb moves. But this is a "teaching moment" for all flyers regardless of their level of experience. And somehow I managed to slip this thread into the mix and it still remains. Go figure?

The fire is hot...don't stick your finger into it!

TedMacklin said Nov 21, 2015 02:40:32
And BTW, where the hell is "Mister Fast, Loud and Dangerous" on this stunt? Probably working for a slot in the next Clinton administration. Sorry GH, you're SOL!
Commander said Nov 21, 2015 16:14:18
If it were a normal world, I wouldn't see this going too far.


Yes, it is probable the lawyers will be attacking the deepest pockets.
Starport Sagitta
NAR No.97971
luke-strawwalker said Nov 22, 2015 20:07:57
Here is a message I posted to the "old rocketeers #724" yahoo groups club page yesterday... Pretty well sums it up AFAIC... As a landowner allowing club launches from my property, and an experience rocketeer, this is how I see it from the information that has become available...

OK... Turns out Teds proclamation claiming this as "model Rocketry's first fatality was premature.... As more facts filter out, turns out the rocket was launched at a BSA " rocket rave" event not connected with NAR or TRA, and using, by all appearances and anecdotal evidence, very poor safety procedures totally incompatible with the accepted MRSC and HPSC. This was, by various reports since the incident, an experimental homebuilt rocket consisting of a 4 inch PVC pipe body about 4 feet long, with a fiberglass nosecone that, by one eyewitness report, had exposed fiberglass in a gouge from a crash it suffered last year, and was being launched without a parachute out any other recovery scheme whatsoever, (not even "nose blow", popping the cone off without a chute, similar to " feather weight recovery "), with the intention of crashing the rocket and destroying it. The rod was tilted with the intention of it " crashing safely out in front of the spectators " but for whatever reason the rocket, which was powered by a cluster of three "E" motors (one or more of which might not have ignited, but there is no discussion of this and no evidence either way has been presented either way). The rocket lifted off in a "drag race" salvo launch with another large rocket, apparently did not fly the anticipated ballistic arc downrange away from the crowd, but flew straight up and then turned and dove straight down into the spectators, striking the victim in the face as he scanned the skies looking for it. Despite the efforts of two deputies in attendance providing first responder assistance and immediately calling for a CHP helicopter to Medivac the victim, his injuries were too severe and he passed away shortly after arrival at the hospital.

While an unfortunate incident and very sad that this gentleman lost his life, the lessons here, as I see it, are thus:

1. This launch was by all evidence presented this far was not conducted in compliance with the existing laws governing model rocket activities in the state of California, nor in compliance with the proper practices of the existing Model Rocket Safety Code of the NAR or the existing High Power Rocketry Safety Code of Tripoli and NAR, not was it conducted in any association with either of those organizations, but strictly as a Boy Scouts of America event (whether sanctioned or unsanctioned) and violated not only both safety codes but the laws of California as well pertaining to HPR/model rocketry activities, and thus was illegal.

2) Had EXISTING MRSC/HPRSC regulations and practices been followed, the incident would never have occurred as it did... Various photos show improper setbacks, safety distances from launch pads, etc. While following the safety codes might not preclude the possibility of a similar trajectory of an errant rocket overflying the crowd, deliberate launching of a rocket without a recovery system is prohibited at NAR/TRA launches... And in the event of a recovery failure setback rules and frangible materials rules should prevent or minimize possibility of serious injury.

3) salvo launches, ie "drag races", IMHO, present unwarranted additional risks and should be considered to be banned, especially where interested or unverified designs are concerned. In the event of an in flight anomaly and a heads up call, multiple vehicles in the sky at once from a drag race salvo launch prevent quickly identifying which rocket vehicle or parts of it present an imminent threat to safety and judging the proximity of such a vehicle or parts impacting nearby or presenting a hazard to a spectator, since multiple vehicles must be speed and assessed for risk, which takes precious time one might need to see and avoid being struck by an errant rocket or parts, especially in the case of large rockets that by their nature present a greater hazard due to their mass and propulsive power and altitude (gravitational energy).

Those are the facts as we know them now.

IMHO the best thing and most useful thing that can come from tragedy like this is good " lessons learned " that result in safety improvements to prevent a recurrence. Some rocket online forums are doing a considerable disservice to the hobby by branding any discussion as "speculation" and closing threads or banning discussions beyond scarce to nonexistent "official proclamations" and various platitudes and expressions of grief that ultimately serve no purpose for safety issues.

The biggest lesson I can see here is the importance of following the safety codes on ALL launches, observing proper setback distances, and ensuring proper rods angles and recovery practices and equipment properly packed or installed, wind directions to prevent overflying crowds, and ensuring proper stability of flown rockets, especially home built designs without prior flight experience or design vetting. I also think that drag races are a poor safety practice and should not be allowed, or have rules limiting power, rocket size, materials, construction, limited only to unmodified proven stable kits, number of vehicles allowed in a single launch, etc . I'm considering disallowing any further drag races on the Needville and Shiner farms due to the obvious safety implications, but I'm open to discussion on the subject...

Later! OL JR
Joe Wooten said Nov 24, 2015 14:37:31
I do several Scout/school launches every year. I make damn sure the safety code is followed and that every rocket is prepped correctly. Once I know a kid gets his done right several times, I won't inspect it every time, but I will do random inspections to make sure he does not slip off the reservation.
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