Sunday, November 8, 2015

Note to self: Replace launcher batteries

Vacation day, and with the spate of Indian Summer we're experiencing and an empty B6-4 Field, I couldn't think of any reason not to take advantage of the day to launch another batch of unflown or seldom flown rockets.  I arrived after lunch at the school because I wasn't sure where the kids played for recess and I knew an army of kids would kill any chance of making a dent in my box.  As it turned out, I needn't worried.

Winds were nonexistent, but the field was strangely damp despite several days without rain.  I set up on the infield near shortstop and chose the Estes Generic E2X as the first flight on the afternoon.  It had flown before, but never in full livery.  Well, close to full.  Only an 8 year old would have used all of those stickers.

This set the baseline on flights for the day.  With the lack of any breeze at all the A8-3 flight was arrow straight to about 250'.  Recovery happened in short center field without incident.  I hoped it would be a harbinger of things to come.

The New Way Check It has also flown before, but as with the Generic E2X it would be the first time in full livery.  The flight would be on a 1/2A3-4T, but based on the low level flight a full A would have been a better choice.

The Check It is a fairly beefy bird, and obviously struggled to gain altitude off the rod.  It appeared to peter out around between 100' to 150', then recovered without damage despite the parawad recovery.  Apparently the square tubing could use a sheet or two of wadding in addition to the dog barf.  In the future this will likely be an A3 or A10 bird.

Flight #3 would be an Estes Screamer that I've had for several years.  I picked it up in an Ebay lot, and it was so poorly built that I almost pulled the nose cone and tossed the body.  In the end I replaced the rotted shock cord and decided to give it a chance to fly.

I debated the engine choice on this one, deciding between the 1/4A and the 1/2A.  In the end I went with the 1/2A, mostly because of the lack of oomph the previous rocket had shown on that engine.  This one certainly didn't lack for oomph.  The Screamer did just that, screamed off the pad.  Had conditions been normal with even light breezes this rocket would have been gone.  As it was it came quite close to the trees on the edge of the field.

The MRC Firefighter would be my next first flight bird.  It's the last of my MRC trio to fly, and likely to be the most durable of the three given that it doesn't seem to use the same typing paper-thin tubing that the other two were saddled with.  This tube feels more like the Estes tubes, or since the nose cone is the same as the current ATW cone, Custom.  No decals yet.  I can't find the sticker set and the clown who scanned his set for YORF didn't scan them flat, so they have shadows.  (Hey, I was new to scanning.  Cut me a break.)  I tried cleaning up my scan to get a workable set of waterslides, but the results were iffy.

First flight would be an A8-3, standard for minimum diameter 18mm birds at B6-4 Field.  That might have been too much.  I missed the launch shot when the launch was delayed, something that should have tipped me off to the problems I would experience later in the launch.  The streamer may also have been an iffy choice.  The flight was very high with a pronounced arc to left field, a "can of corn" in baseball parlance.  Ejection occurred just as it tipped and the streamer streamed, but the rocket recovered noticeably fast.

No stream to this one, and the body did nothing that looked like floating.  It was a flat out speed run toward left field with the body tube leading the way.  The outfield was mostly grass, but football practices have left some bare spots, and the Firefighter found one.  Solid contact, but the ground gave way nicely and the dirt was easily blown out when the expended engine was removed.  Gave me bad breath, though.

 Flight #5 would be my only B6-4 flight of the day, my newly finished Polaris XL, a BT-55 upscale of the old gold, blue and white Estes Polaris.  The donor kit for this build was one of the Estes clearance Phoenix Bird kits.  I built one as intended, but somehow opened two, so I scanned the old catalogs for a likely 4FNC upscale.  I always liked the old Polaris, and the tube slots seemed to be made for it.

The flight was dead straight to around 300 feet, possible trouble in breezy conditions, but quite majestic in the dead calm that this day brought.  Come back anytime.  Tell your friends.  There was no drift at all on recovery, possibly due to a tangled shroud line.  The big Polaris came down fairly fast and hit the infield fairly hard.  Scuffed one balsa fin, but not enough that most would notice.  Looking forward to getting this one painted, and hopefully I'll be back printing soon and can try my hand out on making the decals.

The Tau Zero Prometheus qualifies as a seldom flown bird, having flown last 8 years ago.  That flight ended with a kinked body tube as a result of an ejection rebound, so I hoped this one would be different.

Another A8-3 flight, this flight was a carbon copy of the Firefighter except for a slight drift toward center field.  The flight would have been perfect if not for another audible thunk at ejection.  Even before it hit the ground, sticking the landing on one of the unbroken fins, I knew that there would be damage.  The contact was too loud, as was the ejection charge.  Sure enough, one of the fins was broken and holding on by only the slightest of threads.  In fact, when I turned the model over looking for impact points the fin fell off.  Snakebit.  Tune in in 2023 for the next flight.

Some rockets get built for the oddest reasons.  The Vector came about because I had an original decal sheet that came in an Ebay lot back in the pre-Paypal days.  It was one of several that I guilted myself into building just because.  Truth is, I like having reasons like this to clone obscure BT-5 birds.  Who else would fly them if not me?

This flight would be the 1/4A flight that the Screamer should have been.  Plenty high for the field, and dead straight.  Everything worked as expected, including the thermonuclear ejection charge.  Even with the extra ejection umph things went well.  The Mylar streamer streamed and glinted as hoped.  The rocket landed on the infield near pitcher's mound.

Oh, and it stuck the landing.  Twice.  How often do you get to see this?  It occurred to me as I typed that the Vector would have been another great potential design for that BT-55 upscale I was looking for when I did the Polaris.  Wonder if I have another Phoenix Bird kit in my clearance stash?

Final flight for the day would be the Ebay Fougee, a kit I bought in a lot last spring, sure that I'd seen the design before.  Well, I was wrong.  It needed a new shock cord, and was old enough that the previous one had been attached through two slits in the body tube.  I replaced that dried out husk with a piece of Kevlar and some old Estes elastic, and was really looking forward to flying it.  While it looks like a two stager, it's actually single stage, so the flight would be on an A8-3.  No launch picture.  It was this flight that convinced me that my batteries were dying if not dead.  I had cycled through a complete camera burst and dropped the launcher when it took off.  It did the same lazy can of corn flight path that several others had done on the day, but this ejection charge was like a bird fart and didn't clear the old chute.  The Fougee came in on the same path as the Firefighter had, but the upper body tube buckled where the slits had been cut.  This might be a one flight wonder, but at least it flew.  I packed up, beat the after school traffic, and headed to Lowes to treat myself to a large pack of AA batteries, enough to replace the current four in the launcher, and extras to keep this from ever happening again.  The old dog learned a new trick.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Breaking in some newbies

I had a box of previously unflown rockets together that I had hoped to fly on my last vacation day a couple of weeks ago, but when I walked outside on that perfect autumn day I was greeted by sunshine and strong winds.  Leaves blowing down the street at my house mean terrible flying conditions up the street at B6-4 Field, and I decided that I'd decorated enough trees for 2015.  Sunday was a similarly perfect day, but without the winds, so I took advantage of a late afternoon flight window.  The day was a true oddity in that what wind there was was coming from the north, which allowed me to set up on the infield for the first time since I can't remember when.

I also had a vintage Holverson Slider pad that I had been waiting to use.  I wanted my most recent Holverson Tangent to be the first rocket off the pad, but I'd run into some delays finishing it.  The Tangent is a classy bird, but the sticker decals left a lot to be desired.  I had planned to make a set of waterslide decals like I had done for the previous Tangent, but I've been having some issues with the printer that I use for my inkjet decals, so Saturday night I sucked it up and applied the stickers instead.  Feh.

I've flown a Tangent here several times previously and I knew from experience that it's a B6-4 bird at the very least, so that would be the combination for the first flight of the day.  The Tangent windcocked lightly back toward home plate and flew to about 250'.  Ejection occurred just as the rocket tipped over and it began riding the light breeze back across the field in the direction of the school.

The parachute I'd chosen for the flight was a clear 12" one, the last of a lot I'd bought in a long ago Ebay auction at 10 for $1.  I'd cut a large reef hole in the chute to keep the rocket from hanging as it descended, and it was a good thing I did.  Even with the heavily reefed chute there was some question about the recovery.  The Tangent rode the light breeze to the warning track in left center, but there was some initial question about the trees and phone lines on Woodfill Avenue.  In the end it dropped gently next to the blocking sled and I could breathe again.

The Holverson Slider Jr. pad.  No longer mint in the box. ;-)

Flight #2 of the unflown was the Semroc Ruskie.  The Ruskie has been built for several years but kept from flying because of a paint issue.  The entire body had been sprayed with a gloss white paint, but the wings looked like they were still in primer, something I didn't notice until I had started applying the other decals.  I'm currently trying to figure out a way to mask the wings so I can respray them without harming the other decals, but in the meantime, it needs air time.

Unlike the Tangent, which left the rod straight and true, the Ruskie left the pad looking for trouble.  It seemed to hang up or experience rod whip and headed immediately out over US 27.  This meant that one way or another, it was going to be in trouble when it came time to recover.  By the time it reached the 250' mark and ejected it was on the other side of the pike, and just my luck the traffic light changed.

So, which of the terrors would I encounter on the recovery attempt?  The backstop seemed out because it would take a huge drift to reach.  The trees seemed like a distant possibility as well due to the distance.  That left the wires and the road.  I fired off a recovery shot and started running, just in case it chose the road.

Maybe this was just my day.  It looked ugly for the wires, but at the last moment the bottom dropped out of the recovery and it dumped in the road.  The traffic, which had been heavy only moments before, was non-existent.  Go figure.  One wing has a slight crunch in the tip, but nothing a little sanding won't hide.

The third flight would be the first of three straight mini engine birds, the Custom SunRacer.  This one had flown before, but never in the deluxe livery.  (A fin decal that says "SunRacer".)  Mind.  Blown.

The 1/4 flight was perfect on the way up, topping out at about 150' and following a similar flight path to the Tangent.  Unfortunately the long delay meant that the SunRacer was pointing down at ejection.  The charge itself was the kind you grew up with, not the shotgun charge we've come to know and hate of late.  Still it was enough to propel the nose down rocket into the ground at a harsh angle.  The SunRacer hit the concrete pad of the water fountain and rekitted itself.  At least I got the on pad glamour shot.

So, after one flight the score stands Fire & Forget Mini - 1, Bill - squat, but I have high hopes for the Estes 220 Swift, right?  Well, at least it looks good for the glamour shot.  I have a past history with the 220 Swift here, but not this one.  That one disappeared on a 1/4A3-2T that I had from back in my Johnny's days.  It was built and painted, but I never got around to putting the stickers on, figuring I'd do them after the first flight.  HA!  I saw it leave the pad and heard the ejection charge, but could only judge the ejection point by sound.  I walked the field and looked for a bright yellow item that looked out of place.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  I wouldn't have bothered with another one, but I found one in my kit stash during the big purge earlier this year.  I waited to fly this one until after I had it painted AND stickered.  (BTW, worst sticker decals ever for Estes.  The name decal wouldn't stay formed to the body tube for more than a couple of minutes.) 

Another 1/4A flight, and for some reason I thought I might be getting it back.  Yeah, no.  This time I actually saw the whole flight, ejection included.  That still didn't help when it came to finding the rocket.  I walked the field, the neighboring field, and the area across the street twice each.  Not a shred of yellow to be found.  Fire & Forget Mini - 2, Bill - Jack Bupkiss.  And I still have a Mosquito that has yet to fly.

Sticking with the mini theme, the next bird up was the Semroc Red-Eye.  This was the last kit I bought from Carl at NARAM 55 (along with the Satellite Killer which is still unfinished.)  It wasn't going to be the only rocket flying in primer on the day, and I figured it would be draggy and fairly low level, perfect for conditions.

First flight would be on a 1/2A3-4T, probably a mistake on my part.  Had I gone with a two second delay it might not have ended like it did, but I got three boxes of the 4Ts on clearance at Hobby Lobby.  I try to use them as often as I can.  The flight was a classic stovepipe, straight up, straight down.  The problem arose from that extra two seconds that allowed the Red-Eye to tip and face down when the ejection charge fired.  It was less than 100' up at that point, and the ejection charge fired it into the infield.  On grass it might not have been such a big deal, but the infield was packed hard by the previous nights rain, and took its toll.

I was cleaning up the pieces, all easily reglued, when it occurred to me that there was supposed to be a pop-pod.

There was.  And 20 feet back I found it.  Good thing I went with the streamer.

Flight #6 was the Estes Hi-Flier, which, if I'm counting correctly, was Hi-Flier #2 of 3 for me.  Hi-Flier #1 met a horrible fate under the weighty book bag of a careless co-ed.  All that was left to salvage was a nose cone and engine hook.  Hi-Flier #3 was originally supposed to be the first Hi-Flier to fly, but was maimed when the masking tape brought up the bulk of the Midnight Black Metallic paint after the Burgundy Red Metallic was applied to the body tube.  It will eventually fly, but right now I just can't get my head around the masking job again with no guarantee I'll experience the same primer failure.  So, #2 gets the nod in its nekkid state.  A8-3, which I suspected would make for an impressive flight on the small field.

And I was RIGHT!  This thing cranked on the A8-3, just like the Wizard has in the past.  It left the pad angling to the right and finished the flight high above the trees.  Even though ejection happened over the trees, the rocket was never in danger of landing in them as it wound up in deep left field, well off the line away from the trees.  

Back in the spring I was asked for my opinion on rockets that might be suitable for a scout build that never quite materialized.  I'd built several suitable rockets over the years that were available in bulk form like the Estes Alpha III and Wizard.  I picked up an Estes Generic EX2 one day while bored at Hobby Lobby and had it ready to paint in under an hour.

It had gone to the field with me on a couple of occasions since I finished it, but it never managed to bubble to the top of the box.  This trip changed that.  A8-3 flight, but this one might be a tweener.  The fin can gives it enough weight that I think it might work well on a B6-4, but that will be for another time, another launch day.  The A8-3 flight was fairly high and straight, never overflying the field and ejecting just as forward momentum stopped.  Then came the DOH! moment.  Since it had been packed with wadding and ready to fly since summer, I neglected to take out and unfurl the parachute.  The shock cord fouled on the fin can at ejection, and the whole shootin' match came down in a flat spin, hitting hard on the first base line.  I had noticed that the body tube was a bit less sturdy than most when I built it, and I was expecting the hard hit to have kinked the tube, but it survived without a scratch.  Had to be impressed, and I unfurled the chute and prepped it immediately for another flight.

The second flight couldn't have been more perfect.  Same height as the previous A8-3 flight, but quite literally straight up, straight down.

It landed six feet from the pad.  Exhausting walk, that one.

The next to last flight on the day was an Estes Yankee.  Back in the Johnny's Toys days I would occasionally pick up skill level one rockets to keep in my range box to give away to interested onlookers.  Over the years I gave away Custom Razors and Estes Wizards, and I'm fairly sure I bought the Estes Yankee as a potential give away as well.  It eventually got shuffled into my unbuilt kit stash, and was one of the rockets that I pulled out this year when the urge came to divest myself of some of them.  The A8-3 flight was one of the more impressive on the day, catching the breeze and ejecting high over the trees on the left field line.

That same breeze kept it out of those trees, but took it quite close to the trees on the hill, the wires near the street, and the sidewalk a foot away from the landing spot at the top of the hill.  Cool rocket, which I now need to think about painting.  As with the Estes Wizard, I like the old paint and decal scheme better than the current one.  I'm hoping Sandman has the old one in stock.

The last rocket on the day comes with a back story.  Back in 1977 I was thrilled to find an Estes Goonybird Cloudhopper on a clearance table at a Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby while on a family outing.  I think it was $.50.  Around this time I also had come across several cans of off brand spray paint at a similar bargain price, so my bunny was painted Rocket Red.  The original Cloudhopper died the death of a warrior at an ill conceived backyard launch where I learned about rod whip and about setting up too close to the house.  The Goony left the pad on an A10 and whipped right into the underside of the eaves of our house, completely destroying itself and leaving a Rocket Red reminder of the contact on the freshly painted white surface.  I was home alone at the time and muscled the Cincinnati Bell extension ladder out of the garage to paint over the evidence.  I must have done a decent job because nothing was ever said, and we sold the house two months later.  Back in the spring, I found a half finished Cloudhopper under the storage shelf in the shop and decided to try my luck again.  I even found a can of Racing Red paint that closely approximated Rocket Red, at least to my eyes.

Since the Goony is a BT-60 based bird, I thought I would be safe using an A3-4T for this redemption flight.  That trick never worked.  I've found that when you can see things going wrong on the camera display, they're probably not going all that well in real life.  The last image I saw before I let go of the button was the Cloudhopper going sideways at the 20 foot level.

It landed with a thud just as the tracking smoke started, at the edge of the infield behind second base.  I tried to get the shot of the ejection, but I had the wrong camera for quick image recycling, and all I managed was the carcass sitting dead and some of the smoke drifting off.  At least this time there's no repaint job necessary on anything.