Monday, June 18, 2018

WSR newbie launch, June 1, 2018

This will be a fairly short entry.  I spent Friday night prepping rockets for the Saturday launch from my backlog of unflown projects.  All told, I had 21 ready to fly when I got to the field on Saturday, but circumstances didn't allow for all of them to fly.  Heck, most of them.  Eight made it to the pads, but only six got flight time.  Would have been a pretty big shew, as the man said.  As it was I was dealing with a civil war knee injury that I incurred on vacation last month when I missed a step at Fort Moultrie.  My wife has been after me to go to the doctor, but every time I'm about to make the appointment, the knee starts feeling better.  It's Sunday night as I type this.  I'm supposed to call on Monday.  Tonight it feels better.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

I found the field full when I arrived at 11:15.  (The Sonic drive-thru was slow.)  There had been a build and fly scheduled that morning that I hadn't been aware of.  (I'd have scaled back my flight plans and gotten up early to help if I'd known.)  The kids had spent the morning building all sorts of rockets, Semroc My Boids were most plentiful, but I saw several big ones that I couldn't place.  I became one of the on-field "experts", as one Mom called me.  (I typed that without laughing.  I'm getting good at this.)  Mostly what I did was man the CA and accelerator, shoring up wobbly fins and attaching the odd forgotten launch lug.  (Okay, so in some areas I was an expert.)  The best part of the morning for me was hearing a girl behind me say to her friend "I think they just call it that.  There's no way they use the real stuff."  I didn't have to turn around to know they were talking about dog barf.  Speaking of which, I barfed up a bunch of tubes over the course of the day, and debarfed one.  The kid apparently felt that a cubic yard was needed in his rocket to withstand the ejection charge of the mighty B6-4.  In the end, the parents were happy, the kids were happy, and a few rocketeers were grumpy, but by 1:00, the field was ours.

I hadn't really given much thought to what I wanted to fly first, but I jokingly pulled out the BMS Clone of the Month Astron Invader to show Mike Rohde, and thought "Why not?"

Well, I was soon reminded of why not.  I remember experimenting with my first Invader clone back in 2002, and what I remember most was that the flights were generally over with almost before the smoke cleared and not very good photo subjects.  Flying on an A8-3, this one was almost over with before the smoke cleared and the photos didn't turn out that well.  Heavy sigh.  To top it all off, the ejection charge sounded like a truck backfire and blew the nose cone into the next dimension.  At least my other Invader flights did some gliding.  This one could only muster a flutter.  That said, I would love to see the Clone of the Month revived.  Very cool idea.

Flight #2 would be another on the mighty A8-3.  Lately I've gotten bored with the never changing product in the Hobby Lobby aisles.  It's still my go-to for paint and balsa, but it's been a while since anything on the pegs tempted me into a purchase.  That doesn't mean my build fever has subsided, so I've taken to coming up with kits to clone that have no clear plan other than a tiny catalog shot, then plotting and planning a parts order for eRockets.  MRI was an early contributor, but most of them flew at the cornfield launch we had back in April.  My new obsession was Bo-Mar, a short lived New York company from the 1969-70 time frame.  All I had to go on was a catalog at Ninfinger.
Very little to go on in the catalog, but that back cover photo gave me enough information that I felt I could fake a couple of the kits.  I did the Spartan last month, guessed wrong on the fins, then guessed again and re-did it closer to scale.  When that was done, I decided that the Alpha-B looked doable, so while I was painting the Spartan last week, I was building the Alpha-B at the same time.  The on pad glamour shot was a fail, so this will have to do.

Semroc ST-7 and the nose cone came from eRockets.  Build was fairly quick and came out looking as hoped.  First flight would be an A8-3.

Boost was dead straight.  The light breeze took over and the Alpha-B wound up flying behind us and to the left to about 300'.  Ejection occurred just as it tipped and it returned to the field via a hot pink streamer.

Next step, primer!  The worst part of building unknown rockets from black and white catalog shots is figuring out a paint scheme.  Wish I could say I'm getting good at it.

My third flight would be the highlight of the day for me.  I've been on something of a glider tear of late, striking fear into the hearts of gliders everywhere.  Gliders and I have a history, and a lot of it is written in shattered balsa and disfigured nose cones.  Several weeks back I was guided to the plan for the AMROCS Wombat after an inquiry on YORF.  I cut one out and put it together, but it was only Thursday, with the weekend launch staring me in the face, that I got brave enough to attempt to work with the metal tape.  It turned out looking a lot better than I expected.

This would be another 1/2A6-2 flight, as would all my gliders on the day.  I just wanted an idea of how they'll perform, and didn't figure the rest of the flightline needed to be digging foxholes in the event that one of these was a headseeker.  That and I'd seen my share of gliders sailing off into the sun at my B6-4 Field launches.  Turns out the 1/2A6-2 would be a perfect choice for the Wombat.

As much as I'd like to say I got a launch sequence with the Wombat, this was as close as I'd get.  The boost was perfectly stable, with a slight windcock to the left.  It got surprisingly high and ejection happened just as forward motion stopped.  At ejection the glider fluttered slightly, flipped over, and began tracking toward the cornfield.  It fluttered again, flipped over, and turned back toward the field, then began a gently looping left-hand circle back toward the soccer goals.  The glide was occasionally interrupted by a slight hitch when it passed over the access road, which I attributed to it catching a slight thermal.  Just before the flight ended it crossed the road, the nose came up, and the glider dropped gently to the grass of the empty soccer field.  No matter what the rest of the day had in store for me, this made my day.  The Wombat is truly idiot proof.

At this point the gremlins arrived.  We started having problems with the launch equipment, very much like I've been experiencing at B6-4 Field since the new "starters" began showing up in motor packs.  As a result, my Centuri Sky Devil clone sat on the pad through a couple of launch cycles.  I wasn't the only one afflicted.  The whole flightline had the yips.

After two or three cycles and an igniter change, it finally flew.  The flight was an A8-3, but like the Alpha-B earlier it was plenty of motor for the field.

Another flight where I got the ignition, then a smoke trail.  The new camera takes great photos and is perfect for barns, bridges and buildings, but I'm beginning to think it might be a good idea to invest in another small camera for rocket purposes.  The new Canon is pretty slow and bulky.  That said, the Sky Devil left the pad and rode the breeze slightly left, ejecting around 250' and recovering in the field just to the right side of the above photo.

From here on it was glider flights, although I would try to sneak in a 3fnc bird that the gremlins would thwart.  Flight #5 was the Space Age Industries Mini-Bat.  Several weeks back the Mini-Bat was one of a group of rockets that I tossed from the upper deck into the back yard.  The Mini-Bat wasn't one of the better gliders, but it did glide.  Since then I'd painted it for visibility.

Looks great.  Less gliding.  The paint may have been a little heavy.

This was another 1/2A6-2 flight, but likely could have been an A8-3.  As you can see, I got another liftoff pic.  The Mini-Bat didn't seem to have an issue with the light 2mph breeze, unlike every other flight on the day.  The heavier bat topped out at the 100' mark, ejected the mighty 1/2A6, and began a fluttering descent.  Once again, paint seems to have been a bad idea.

Although it wasn't planned that way, my latest incarnation of the NAR plans Jet Freak would be my last flight on the day.  I'd run out of time and my leg had had enough.

Once again, a 1/2A6-2 flight that boosted to around the 100' level.  Things looked promising at that point, but the glider was tipped down when the ejection charge fired.  Way too much of a charge and it sent the Freak straight into the ground with no chance for a glide.  I expected to pick up balsa dust, but aside from some minor scorching, the Freak was unharmed and will fly again.  Might be time for an A8-3 again.

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.