Unfortunately, the Apogee motors were not available February 1. Or March 1. Or April 1. On April 20, a private announcement was e-mailed to U.S. Team members to announce that the motors were ready to ship. An announcement to the general public was made April 30.
It would seem obvious to everyone that these motors have not been in compliance with the "generally available" requirement. It hardly seems fair that a "well-connected" modeler can obtain and use these motors in NAR competition, while other flyers don't even know that they are available yet. Since pre-manufactured motors are a basic tenet of model rocketry, it should be obvious that equal access to these motors is essential for fair competition.
I have contacted S & T and requested that Contest Certification of these motors be suspended until they become "generally available". Note that this action would not effect Apogee's ability to sell these motors (they would still retain basic NAR Certification) or for the U.S. Team to use them. It would only restrict their use in NAR competition until everyone has a chance to obtain them. S & T have declined to do so and, considering the circumstances at this date, I can see their point.
The problem is timely notification of the NAR membership. The NAR Board has decreed in the past that such notification must be published in the official journals of the NAR (Sport Rocketry or The Model Rocketeer). At this late date, it is impossible to announce a Contest Certification suspension before the motors are used in competition.
I would hope that the NAR would reconsider electronic dissemination of this information, particularly since more and more NAR members have access to the Internet and the NAR itself maintains a World Wide Web site (with engine certification information) as a service to its members.
While that may prevent future problems, it can not explain away our current problem. S & T, in consideration of notification limits, should have been on top of this matter. Not when the motors finally came out (April 30), not when the first complaint came in (late February), not when the motors began Contest Certification (February 1), but making sure that the motors definitely would be available (not just that the manufacturer says they will be) when the Contest Certification begins. It appears that a too casual relationship between Apogee and S & T contributed to this situation. Perhaps Contest Certification should not be granted (and begin its 90 day delay) until motors are actually shipped to ensure availability.