Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Okay, how does this work again?

This blog is a guilty pleasure.  The guilt comes from the long periods of time when I ignore it due to lack of flight time.  The pleasure comes when I have something new to contribute.  I finally have something new, but I almost didn't. 

WSR had a launch scheduled on Saturday, April 28 at the Rip Rap Road Field in Dayton.  I love the Rip Rap field because it's just about an hour from home, it has a nearby Sonic for iced tea reasons, and a close proximity to eRockets.  I spent Friday finishing up painting and prepping rockets, and if not for a "watch a movie with me" request from my wife, I might have been completely ready to go as I'd planned.  As it was, I had two Tupperware totes full of rockets.  I planned to load them Friday night.  Didn't happen.  Still, I was up bright and early on Saturday morning, and was ready to hit the road early enough to help with the load out at eRockets, and pick up an order I made on Thursday.

Didn't happen.  I got to eRockets right at 10 and found one car in the lot.  I figured they got an early start, and went in to collect my parts for my vacation project.  I've done this before, and knew where to find the finished orders, but the two orders I found on the table were either too big or too small.  Luckily I found someone working and asked.  We looked, and he remembered seeing my order as it was the only one for pickup, but we couldn't find it anywhere.  Checked the shipping log just to be safe.  Someone had shipped it, despite me not paying for shipping.  Not a problem.  On to the launch.

Despite only having driven from eRockets to the Rip Rap Road Field one time in the past, I found it again easily, impressing myself no end.  (I impress easily.)  I expected to see the pre-flight stuff being done, but found instead a couple of baseball and soccer games going.  Our corner of the field was empty.  I'd encountered this before back before Christmas when I arrived at the Federal Road field to find no one there, and that one was due to everyone going to see the new Star Wars movie, (I still haven't seen it,) so I figured there was another big movie premier that everyone was attending.  I sat and sipped my iced tea.  I played my internet Scrabble.  I updated Facebook.  I checked Facebook to make sure that the launch hadn't been cancelled.  I ate my Slim Jim.  Still alone.  When noon rolled around I was planning on going home, and I was literally starting the car to head back when I saw that the Facebook page was incorrect.  The launch was actually being held at the Federal Road field.  I did the math.  We had 7:00 dinner reservations.  I was 36 miles from the field.  Arriving at 1 would give me three hours to fly the 20 or so rockets I'd prepped and brought along.  I hit the road for another tour of Ohio backroads.

Sure enough, I found evidence of rocketry at the Federal Road site.  I also found cold.  Wow, did I find cold.  I had stepped out on the back deck at home a couple of hours earlier and 90 minutes southward and decided that I could get by with a long sleeve shirt and my utility vest.  That would have been fine for Northern Kentucky, but Central Ohio is a different animal.  There was a ten degree difference in the temperature.  And wind.  Does the term "wind chill" generally get tossed around in late April?  In Ohio, heck yeah.  Luckily, my winter coat had been left in the car a few weeks before.  And gloves.  Gloves in April?  Ohio, remember?

They never knew what hit them.  All of the rockets in my totes were unflown and newly finished.  The first one out was my shortened version of the Estes Star Orbiter.  I called it Rat Bite.  Ol' Rat had been sitting around my rocket room since before Christmas, so it was only fitting that it got to hit lead off.  It had been so long since I did this that I completely forgot the on pad glamour shot.  Rookie mistake. 

The Rat Bite was loaded with an Estes F15-6, so I was announcing my presence with authority, to borrow a phrase from Bull Durham.  Wow.  I shouldn't be trusted with that kind of authority.  The Rat Bite had authority in spades, and left the pad with all possible authority.  Double wow. 

Winds were fairly brisk, as you can see by the picture.  The Rat Bite windcocked left off the pad and promptly disappeared in a low cloud bank.  Oops.  The ceiling hadn't looked that low, but the overcast made it hard to judge.  Many moments passed as I calculated what time I'd have to leave the field to be able to stop at Hobby Lobby to buy a replacement Star Orbiter kit. 

It was President Lee who finally saw it, still high above the field moving left to right on your dial.  "Parawad," someone said.  It was actually quite a bit worse.  Landing occurred deep in what had several months ago been the corn.  What had once been a parachute held on by the slightest of shred of plastic.  The Rat Bite must have been moving at a rapid clip at deployment.  It broke a fin on impact, but only slightly and some glue will set it up for another flight another day.  This time with an F15-8.  And a nylon chute.

The trip out to recover the Rat Bite produced some artifacts of a previous race of flyers.  I think Jay might be readying it for the May 5 launch.

My next victim would be the Estes Protostar that I recently completed after letting it sit for several months, finished, but unpainted.  I got serious about it a couple of weeks back and came up with a paint scheme that I found acceptable. 

All that gold seemed too much, so I broke it up with some Rustoleum Black Night Metallic, one of my go-to paints for several years now.  Consider this a recommendation.  I also have most of the decals left over if anyone needs them.  Too busy for me, but I love the way the rocket turned out, even if the pod cones were a real pain to attach.  First flight would be on an E9-6, which had everyone on the flightline ducking for cover.  Yeah, so I have a CATO or two with Estes E9's.  It's a new year!

Winds were still pretty stout, but changing subtly as the afternoon progressed.  The Protostar windcocked, but more back over our heads than to the left like the Rat Bite had.  The Protostar came nowhere close to the low hanging clouds and ejected just as it began tipping over, then drifted quickly back our way before touching down in the ex-corn. 

Couldn't have asked for a better flight.  I like this bird a lot, and especially liked the recovery walk, which was half that of the Rat Bite.

The third flight would be another Estes bird, and another that I bought, built, then left it gather dust before recently becoming reinterested in it, the Rogue Voyager.  I just finished the paint on this one Friday afternoon, and barely had time to get a few decals on it for the glamour shot.

Yep, only this side of the rocket has decals.  Other than that, it's nekkid.  Gives me something to do this week.  This flight would be the legendary C6-5, High Power to me in 1977, and it still elicits a chill on occasion.  This time the chill was the wind.  Ohio?  April?  Sprinter is what one of my fellow flyers called it. 

Not sure what happened, but I completely whiffed on any ignition or liftoff photos.  The RV flew back over our heads, ejected as expected, then drifted into the corn.  Great flight and it looked cool doing it.  This one will be a definite B6-4 Field bird if I get my igniter issues sorted out.

Flight #4 would be another story bird.  Over the years I'd bought several of the Estes Screaming Mimi's from Hobby Lobby.  I used them to clone several of my favorite PNC-60AH birds.  Der Red Max.  The Patriot.  Der BIG Red Max.  All of them started out life as a Screaming Mimi.  It got to the point that I was either buying a Mini Red Max or a Mimi on every Hobby Lobby trip.  I have two Hobby Lobby's close by and I went A LOT!  Until recently I still had several Mimi's laying around.  I gave one to a friend who occasionally dabbles in the hobby and realized that I had but one left.  I decided that I needed to build it as a Mimi for Mimi's sake.  Did my soul good.

Ah, yes, I see you noticed the whistles.  Yeah, I added them.  I'd seen a lot of Mimi's launched over the years and only once heard a peep out of the whistles, a low humming that occurred when one was launched on an AP motor.  I didn't have much hope of making Mimi scream, but I know a trick or two.

Mimi was loaded with an E9-6, which turned out to be a great choice for her.  She left the pad quickly in the suddenly less gusty wind, but followed the same flight path as the Rat Bite had.  She got nowhere near the clouds, but the flightline was quiet as the E9-6 stopped thrusting and the coast portion of the flight occurred.  WE HEARD THE WHISTLES!!!!  At first I thought I was imagining it, but another flyer mentioned that he heard it.  Kind of a low buzz, but very distinct, and very audible.  Bonus cool points for the old girl.

Mimi came to rest in the corn, but noticeably closer to the flightline.  Mother Nature was becoming more malleable as the day progressed.

The USR Hammerhead had been finished for quite a while, but hadn't been flown due to me running out of time at our January launch.  Since then it had undergone a repaint as I didn't care for the coverage I'd gotten with the fluorescent yellow I'd initially used.  For this flight, I'd chosen an E9-6, pulling out all the stops.  In retrospect, it may have been more of a candidate for an E9-8, but those are pretty scarce and the last one I flew was a bomb.

The Hammerhead ripped nicely off the pad.  All I got was ignition, then a smoke trail.  No one saw much after that, despite all of us scanning the skies for the orange streamer.  Alakazam-1-2-3-and-POOF!  Knowing his predilection for big motors in minimum diameter rockets, I think Jerry would approve.

I'd almost rather not talk about the next "flight", but the flight call by Lee turned out to be a classic.  I had a couple of these 2nd generation R2D2 rockets sitting around, and have had them for several years, but this was the first one I ever flew. 

It'll never look this good again.  Prez Lee then announced it as the Estes R2DooDoo.  That pretty much says it all.

I never saw the "flight", only the bounce.  As you can see in the liftoff pic, despite the lack of wind, ol' Artoo took an immediate left.  I had the camera up to my face and by the time I lowered it, all that was left to see was it impact the ground, then fire off the ejection charge.  The crash zone was across the creek from us, and there it stayed until I was ready to leave.  The only reason I stopped for it was because I didn't want garbage like that littering the field.

This winter wasn't as flight friendly as in previous years, and when I did find a dry B6-4 Field, I ran into "starter" problems.  Not able to sooth my flight pangs, I sought out other outlets.  One of those was cloning rockets from some of the more obscure companies in our history.  MRI was one of these companies that I tried my hand at, often working off of the thinnest of info.  Cloning might be too strong a word.  Close-enoughing is more like it.

The Lambda 8 was one of these projects.  I had been involved in bidding for an original kit on eBay, but it quickly got out of my price range.  Luckily the seller had included a picture of the back of the kit bag, clearly showing the pre-printed balsa fin stock.  I knew that the kit had a finished length of 15.5" with a 6" payload section, so I found a likely nose cone and blew the fin pic up proportionally.   It's not a pretty way to go about cloning, but for close-enoughing it works nicely.

Quick off the pad, even with an A8-3.  I got the ignition, then nothing but smoke.

Pretty deep walk into the former corn on recovery.  The streamer wadding up and refusing to stream at least cut down on some of the walk, and the Lambda 8 was recovered intact.

The Estes Design of the Month entries have been a frequent source of build inspiration for a while now, and the Long John Silver was one of my more recent projects.  I'd picked it because of the similarity to the Custom Metrix, another long BT-5 that I'd built for flying at B6-4 Field, where it currently watched launches from.  The LJS had previously been on pad at B6-4 Field, but the starter bugaboo cost it that chance at flight glory.  This flight would be on an A3-4T because of the expansive field.  The B6-4 Field flight would likely have been a 1/2A flight.  (I'm only now noticing how poor this shot actually is.  New camera.  I'm still learning.)

The LJS flight was fairly high and straight, but at ejection the streamer failed to stream just like the others on the day.  It actually began recovering sideways as all the other failed streamer flights had on the day, but as it approached the ground, it came in straight down, hitting the packed dirt hard.  It's now the Not Quite So Long John Silver.

The longest suffering rocket from my build pile was next on the pad.  I had purchased the Semroc Goliath within minutes of Carl releasing it, right place, right time.  Back then I bought two kits, one to build, one to keep.  I received kits #6 and #7.  I started #7 immediately, and had the basic structure ready for the motor mount around the time we moved.  At some point in the move, the motor mount disappeared, and as a result the partially finished rocket sat and gathered dust until last month when I thought to buy a replacement from eRockets.

The Goliath had three engine options, 18mm, 24mm or 3x18mm cluster.  Since I had plans to make this a B6-4 Field regular, I went with the single 18mm mount.  B6-4 Field got its name due to the performance of rockets like this on a B6-4, so it will be perfect up there, but the size of the fields up here in the Ohio corn demand a C6-5.  The C6-5 flight was as expected, a quick jump off the pad with the requisite windcocking back over the flightline, topping out at 400-450'.

Ejection occurred as the rocket was sideways, but moving slow enough as to not be in danger of a zipper.  The recovery path brought it back toward the flightline, slow enough that I was able to keep snapping off pics as it passed over.  It landed in the corn, but only about a fifty foot walk in.  One of my favorite flights of the day for that alone.

The MRI Zeus was the next first-timer, flying on 1/2A3.  (Another oddly poor photo from the same angle.)  I can't help but think Iron Man when I look at this rocket.  Not even sure if the suit is this color in the movie, but in my mind, it is.  This one was built based on a Facebook post, only it made it a bit easier on me by being smaller and having the length of the finished rocket printed on the face card.  I was able to blow the fin picture up to the proper size, and found a nose cone that fit the profile at eRockets. 

The flight was a pop-up, perfect for B6-4 Field, but a bit lacking in the corn.  Once again, no streamer as it ejected but remained wadded.  The whole flight completed in the corn within throwing distance of the Goliath.

My last MRI clone of the day was the Theta 37.  No great gymnastics were involved in the cloning of this one as everything is included over at YORP.  The hardest part was figuring out a paint scheme.  Since the gold had served me well recently, it made that choice easy, and a few minutes in the paint aisle at Hobby Lobby helped me decide on the blue.  This was another rocket that had been previously prepped for B6-4 Field, and when I took it to the pad, I was sure it was an A8-3.  Eh, not so much.

As you can see by the angle of this pic, I expected more altitude.  Heavy sighs all around.

Several things contributed to the mistaken loading of a 1/2A6-2 into the Theta 37 instead of the expected A8-3.  Several rockets had been prepped to fly at B6-4 Field, and after that launch failed, they were brought back to the shop.  Several of these had been still in primer, and were painted in between that launch and this one.  I had lined the motors up on the Hoosier cabinet, but one of the rockets had been a Jet Freak glider, which I had planned to fly on the 1/2A as a trim test.  (They have a disconcerting habit of flying away on A8-3s.)  At any rate, on Friday when I was prepping my Saturday hopefuls, I had grabbed the 1/2A for the freshly painted Theta 37, thinking it was an A8.  The flight was MicroMaxx level, 30 feet at best.  Pathetic, but it brought down the flightline.  And as an odd aside, the streamer worked.

We were coming up on the planned end of the launch at this point, and I had one more bullet in my bandolier that I wanted to fire.  This was a pseudo-clone of a Bo-Mar Spartan that I had done a best-guess at earlier in the week.  When I had finished and compared it to the catalog photo, I realized that I had actually gotten the fins a bit big.  By that time they were on the rocket, so I added a piece of scrap tubing on top, which made it look a bit more like what I'd been aiming for, it not a bit out of proportion.  

This was a verified A8-3, and flew like it.  The winds had been beaten back some at this point, so the flight was dead straight to 200'.  Ejection occurred just as forward motion had ceased, and the streamer semi-deployed to bring it safely back to the corn.

Cornfield launching is usually not the way to go if you plan to put up big flight numbers, but by prepping the previous day, I managed 12 flights.  This could have been higher if not for my lost two hours as I left several loaded and ready to go in the car.  The NAR Jet Freak, Inflight Mach 10 and SAI Mini Bat were loaded, but the winds made the idea of glider flying disappear as soon as I got out of the car.  I also had the Canaroc Maxi Challenger, Centuri Sky Devil, Estes Big Bertha 2x18mm cluster, Estes Ranger (not the Estes Ranger, but the Estes Ranger,) and the Flis Kits Goblin Cluster ready to fly.  Vacation is next week, so I'll miss the Derby launch, but two weeks from Saturday we're scheduled at Rip Rap Road, so I'll have eight ready to go.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankful for good weather and unflown rockets

Flight time has been at a premium for me in 2017, and flight time at B6-4 Field has been all but non-existent, so when the Sunday after Thanksgiving showed up in its 50 degree splendor without the always present wind, I leapt at the chance to fly some of the small field birds that clog my "unflown" list.  Some of these are recent builds, but a couple pre-dated our move to the new house in 2005.

Speak of the devil, the Starlight F-32 Avenger was purchased right around the time of the move.  Instead of waiting until we had settled in the new house to open and ogle the parts, I had to open them at the old house to inspect them.  Somehow during the course of the move the fins disappeared.  For a long time I had the body tube, engine mount and nose cone, along with the face card.  One day it occurred to me that I could fake it, and this was the result.  I also still have the sticker decals, which I plan to apply this week.

A8-3 for the first flight.  It's a light rocket, and when I started there was something of a breeze, as the flag in the background shows.  The F-32 Avenger windcocked to the left, then began drifting toward the trees at ejection.  I never got concerned as it was obvious that it would run out of altitude before the trees became a problem.

Recovery was in deep left field on the line.  Perfect flight and recovery to start, but it wouldn't last.

Second flight on the day would be my Custom Satellite Drone.  I actually had to buy this one twice over the years because I screwed up construction on the first one.  (Glued the fins on upside down while watching a football game.  That one has yet to fly, but eventually will.)  I loved how this one turned out.

As the flag attests, the breeze had gone elsewhere by the second flight of the day, and good riddance.  The B6-4 was a perfect choice for conditions and the flight was fairly high and arrow straight.  Recovery was an adventure as the chute came out at ejection, but only flapped as the rocket descended.  I was cinched up for the inevitable damage that never came.  The Satellite Drone made solid contact with the ground, but bounced off of a tuft of unmown outfield grass and incurred no damage.  Chute and streamer issues would hound me all day. 

Flight #3 was the Estes D.O.M. Loadlifter 1-A, one of my recent builds.  I'd been having trouble trying to find something interesting from the Hobby Lobby hangers, so I took to the Estes Design of the Month plans for inspiration.  I copied several birds that had an old school feel to them, and the Loadlifter 1-A was the first one I finished after ordering the parts from eRockets.

Since the Loadlifter 1-A turned out to be a fairly small bird and since I generally fly on a small field, I opted to go with mini-engine power.  The Estes 1/2A3-2T was a great first flight choice, plenty of altitude, with the added bonus of an on-field recovery.  Seeing this one fly has me thinking upscale, so that may be on my list for my next eRockets order.

This Custom Ion Pulsar is a replacement for my 2001 version that tried to take the launch pad with it on its one and only flight.  That ended badly with parts and pieces all over a gravel parking lot.  Damage was more than I was willing to attempt to fix, and I cannibalized it for parts.  Years later I got a second one at a good price and decided to make up for the bad first flight.

The A8-3 flight was undoubtedly a bit conservative, but this felt lighter than the Satellite Drone.  Flight pattern was almost dead on the previous rocket, the Loadlifter 1-A.  I'm guessing that the slouch they both had on the pad and the breeze indicated by the flag in the background had some thing to do with it.  Not terribly high, but recoverable, which is where I'm at these days.

Landed just up the hill from the Loadlifter 1-A landing spot.  There was a moment when I was a little concerned by the tree limbs, but it cleared them with ten feel to spare.  Great second flight, sixteen plus years later!

The Estes Astron X-Ray and I have a fairly checkered relationship dating back to 1978/79.  There was a Rocket Red X-Ray, an ill-advised ball bearing launch from a church parking lot, and an ill-placed Plymouth Volare.  Todays Rocket Red paint is a bit different than the one in my memory, and I can afford other colors, so the 2017 X-Ray only has Rocket Red as an accent color.  I'm also not flying it on a C6-5.  Yet.

The A8-3 flight was plenty for this field, and I didn't put anything in the payload section for this flight.  As it was the flight was perfect, with light windcocking to the left, topping out around the 250' mark. 

Of course, recovery had to be more interesting, although no Volares were present.  There was a moment during this flight when I feared for the safety of the X-Ray, but it dropped harmlessly in deep left field, in the shadow of the trees, but safely out of their reach.

Far from a first flight bird, but not seen at the pads since 2013, the Goony Vector G has always had an issue with fins breaking off, even on a perfect parachute recovery.  Since it's been my experience that Goony's tend to be a bit lethargic on A8-3 flights, I loaded it with a B6-4, which also happens to be the perfect motor for this bird.

Recovery was standard for the day, with the balled up chute fluttering behind the rocket acting as a half-wit streamer.  The Vector G hit the ground butt first, and bounced.  Sure enough, one of the newly replaced fins delaminated again.  Chances are good that this rocket will require a replacement of the bottom body tube.  It started out life as a pizza ad, but it was the only piece of cardstock I had handy on the day I caught Goony Fever.

The next flight set a personal record for me with two Starlight rockets flown in one launch.  My previous high was none, so even I could figure that out.  The Starlight Super Tiger had been around for a lot of years and had never flown, but had still come by a reputation as a bad luck bird.  It was in my B6-4 Field Deluxe Flight Box one day, and actually made it to the field, but when I took it out to load a motor into it, I found a fin broken off.  That damage was fixed, then another fin was broken when I set up the paint stick incorrectly after a primer coat.  This launch day found it all in one piece, so it was brought along quietly as it apparently angers the rocket godz.

The flight itself didn't seem cursed at all, but that flag in the background should have been a clue to me as to what was to come.  Despite the breeze, the flight was dead straight and the launch pic was one of the best I got all day.

No other recovery on the day was quite like this one.  The A8-3 flight was quite a bit higher than I expected, probably due to the arrow straight flight path.  At ejection it began racing toward the trees, which worried me at first, but then it became obvious that the trees were going to be the least of my recovery worries.  I might have traffic to contend with.

There wasn't much I could do but walk and watch.  The first thing I noticed was the sudden and complete absence of traffic.  The second thing was that this would probably work in my favor because it looked like S. Ft. Thomas Avenue would be my landing site.  Fifteen feet from touchdown the breeze died down enough that the parachute dropped slightly and nicked the branch of a fir tree in the parking lot of the office building at the intersection of S. Ft. Thomas and US 27.  The Super Tiger dropped to the grass with maybe eight feet to spare.  Couldn't have planned it better.

Flight #8 would be an oddball that, like the Super Tiger, was not yet out of the sanding stage.  I'd gotten interested in the old Kopter Rockets plans at YORP.  http://www.oldrocketplans.com/kopter/kop_RK05/kop_eagle.htm  Three Kopter birds in particular caught my eye, the Hawk, the Eagle, and the XK-1, which in my mind equated to Kopter versions of the Estes Wizard, Alpha and Big Bertha.  I ordered parts from eRockets, picked them up when I visited the shop for a Tuesday night build session, and actually had the Hawk ready to fly that night before I left for home.  I forgot the Hawk when I was gathering small field birds for this launch, but I brought the Eagle, still covered partially in Fill & Finish.

The A8-3 flight was perfectly nominal, light windcocking on the way up, then a gentle recovery in deep left field.  Now to just finish the tight job of sanding around those six fins and figure out a paint scheme.

The Semroc Nomad had flown previously, but never in full livery.  (Well, almost full.  There was an issue with one of the wrap decals.)  Lots of decals with this one, but the single color paint scheme helps even things out.

A8-3 flight couldn't have been more routine.  Slight windcocking to the left, as most of the birds did on this day, then a gentle recovery near the line in short left.  Plus we get a bonus selfie.  

The final flight of the day was actually two flights.  The Semroc Baby Orion was a Christmas gift several years ago that had been built and flight ready for quite some time.  The white paint was no trouble, but I couldn't decide on which blue would go best with the decals.  Yeah, I was overthinking things.  As it turned out, I just used some Arctic Blue Metallic that I'd had on hand for years, and it came out great.

The flight was a different matter.  I had pre-loaded a couple of 1/4A motors with the intent of using them in the Estes Javelin and Super Flea, but both rockets needed masking tape to be friction fit.  Yep, I forgot the masking tape.  I grabbed a motor from the bottom of the box, not thinking that it was a 1/4A.  The Baby Orion is small, but it is not a 1/4A bird.  The flight was such that it barely cleared the rod and topped out at 15 to 20 feet.  Ejection occurred on the ground just next to the pad and launcher.  I scooped up the barely used wadding and reused it for a more respectable 1/2A flight.

The second flight was more like what I'd planned for the rocket, decent altitude and a perfect recovery in deep left.  At this point in the afternoon, shadows were getting long and I was sure my wife would be getting hungry, so I packed up and left with a couple of bullets still in the chamber, which just gives me an excuse to sneak off to the field later in the week if the temps stay September-like.