Saturday, March 28, 2015


Some quick projects in pre-season.  Lately I've gotten the urge to clone something from Canaroc, a company I've for some reason ignored in the past.  Well, not ignored exactly since I have built the Sunward Gravity Rider and Galactic Wave, but those were an upscale and downscale of previously available Canaroc kits, the Starship Antares and Starfighter Scorpion respectively.  Still ironing those two out, but my next projects should fall more into my skill set.

First up was the Canaroc FK-3, picked mostly because I have difficulty with metric conversions.  ("You'd better get to know this because the USA will be converting to the metric system in the next few years." Mrs. Becker - middle school math teacher in 1975.  Is 30 a few, Mrs. B?)  Okay, so the metric system really didn't play into this as much as my ADD did.  I had initially planned to build the Canaroc Orion first, and picked out a section of BT-50 to cut down on my lunch break.  For some reason I checked before I cut and realized that .752 translates (more closely) to a BT-20 than a BT-50.  Not to worry, because on the next page was the FK-3, whose .98 diameter is the rounded up equivalent to a BT-50s .976.  Confused?  Apparently I was, but it all worked out.  Fins were cut from 3/32" basswood, both because it was on hand and because it finishes so nicely.  The nose cone is our old friend the Estes PNC-50Y, a cone I seem to have in bulk in my shop.

Based on the catalog pic at Ninfinger and the scan at YORS, the decals look like they'll be inkjet friendly, which is cool because I recently laid in a new supply of paper.  The FK-3 will be 18mm powered, perfect for the friendly confines of B6-4 Field.

The second rocket was actually the first I had planned on, the Canaroc Orion.

The BT-20 based Orion was as simple a build as the FK-3.  The fins were done in 3/32" basswood, again for the sake of finishing ease and because I had the sheet handy.  The nose cone has an interesting history.  It's a foundling.  It turned up several years ago when I was tramping through the woods at B6-4 Field in search of one of my own lost rockets.  The cone has an orange base and was painted blue.  I never owned such a cone, so that means that B6-4 Field was used by another rocketeer, quite a long time ago from the looks of it.  In any case, it will get a second chance on the Orion.  I'll need to make a base for it, but that's not a problem.  The Orion will also be 18mm powered and probably subsist on a steady diet of A8-3s.

  Gordon at Excelsior has this one on his site already, and the white lettering means that I'll need to order from him, so it's on my list for my next purchase.

The third and final project for today is one that not many are likely familiar with.

In fact, it's so unfamiliar that it doesn't really have a name.  Back in 1977 I asked for the Science Fair Aeronautical Lab for Christmas.  It came with two rockets, one that was to be launched by a rubber-band catapult, the other launched in the traditional way with a motor.  I built the catapult rocket and wasn't impressed.  It worked.  Kinda.  I built the other one but never flew it.  We moved a couple of years ago I found the book that came with my set and started looking on Ebay for one to replace the one I'd never managed to fly.  Found one.  Incomplete, but cheap.  The only problem was that the nose cone base was missing and the parachutes were gone.  I built it, called it the Logix Explorer, and flew it once.  Then a couple of weeks back I found another one, also incomplete, but also cheap.  This one had the complete nose cone AND the parachutes.  I'm pumped.  I have the decals scanned because they were stickers and I hate stickers, so with a little luck I should have this one ready to go in Logix livery the next time I get a chance to fly.

One cool thing I noticed.  The parachutes have a space to write your phone number.  Can trees read telephone numbers?  That would explain all the odd calls I've gotten.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Opening Day at B6-4 Field - Part 2

No way I could have an opener at B6-4 Field without a Carl McLawhorn Memorial bird or two.  In the case of this launch if would have been 1.5 with the finished Semroc Aphelion and nekkid Semroc Stellar Spartan both flying.

Quite happy with the way the Aphelion turned out, even with the massive finishing error.  I wasn't 100% sure I could get the face card look that I wanted, but threw caution to the wind and dragged out my math abilities.  I measured the wrap decal, transferred the measurement to the body tube, masked the area off, and laid down a perfect segment of neon yellow to match the fins.

Missed it by that much.  (Holds fingers 1/2" apart.)

I knew I was in trouble when I started arithmeticing.  It never ends well for me, which means I've developed a keen scrambling ability over the years.  My solution?  Cut the decal in half across its width, then apply the decal in a top and bottom section, taking care to line up the lines in the roll pattern.  Worked like a charm, and the error probably wouldn't be noticeable if not for this blog and my big mouth.  I'll pause her to allow for applause.

The flight was impressive.  Smaller rocket, so an A8-3 flight, which I knew from a previous flight would be perfect for both the field and conditions.  The flight was straight up, with ejection occurring at the optimal post apogee tip.  The Aphelion then rode the breeze to the deepest, sloppiest corner of center field, landing without damage among the collected goose leavings.  Not a fan of geese on any level, but I've never eaten one, so there's still hope.

Oh, and I should mention that I was wrong about not catching any lift-off shots on the day, as is seen above.  I really need to at least prep to the point that I look at the pictures before I start writing.  Yeah, that'll happen.

Speaking of memorial flights, my #6 flight on the day was one of a different kind.  James Gartrell and I occasionally had night time conversations via e-mail and private message when we were churning out reviews for EMRR.  James was a good man, had a cool sense of rocket history, and an eye for the seldom seen clone.  I remember hearing that he had been diagnosed with cancer at some point, but I was coming back from a year-long break that had almost become permanent when I found that he had passed in my absence.  Carl's passing was hard for anyone who had ever made a purchase from Semroc.  James wasn't as high profile, but every bit as good a guy as Carl.  Both deaths felt like family.  Still do.  They both had the ability to make you feel that way.  After James passed I started seeing his rockets for sale on Ebay under his "Rocket Grandpa" name.  I bid early and often on anything that caught my eye, the list of which would probably be good for a laugh if I'd have kept track.  I bid on quite a few unbuilt kits, and an equal number of built ones.  I'd almost given up hope when I landed an Estes Spitfire SSI that had been built and flown by James.

Far out, man.  I vaguely remember this kit from the early part of the Y2Ks.  It was one that came along in the midst of the great Estes identity crisis when they couldn't decide if they were a hobby company or a toy company.  The Spitfire has the look of a toy company offering.  I think I might have been the only bidder.  The rocket had the look of an experienced bird, and would have even without the Estes dent in the top of the body tube.  The dent had cinched it, and I was surprised to find that it had the sadly short Estes shock cord installed, which explained the aforementioned dent.  I added another length of sewing elastic that had been in my range box for a while, perfect for emergencies.  (Remind me to stick a pack of elastic in there before the next launch.)

This rocket was a tweener for B6-4 Field.  From a size standpoint it was an A8-3 bird, but the draggy looking fins made me think it would work well as a B6-4 bird.  Considering the lengthening drift that I'd been experiencing on the day, I went conservative with the A8-3.  Probably for the best as it turned out.  The rocket left the pad heading down the third base line, the only rocket to do that on the day.  It kept a wiggly flight path the whole time, eventually ejecting in foul territory, then riding the breeze back out to recover in center field, surprisingly deep.

I earned a pat on the back for the engine choice.  I think the B6-4 flight may have reached one set of trees or another.

Flight #7 was the Estes Crossfire ISX.  (SSI.  ISX.  Were the extra letters really necessary?  Couldn't the last two rockets have just been the Spitfire and Crossfire?  Both were the builder of a two rocket starter kit, so maybe that has something to do with it.  I'm boycotting the extra letters from here on.  Rant over.)  The Crossfire had been in my build pile for a while when my buddy Zog attempted to fly his to death on this very field a few years back.  He kept loading it with C6-5s and TRYING to lose it.  For some reason it had angered him, but even he couldn't explain why.  I think he made three flights with the Crossfire that day, all three straight up and straight down.  By the end of the day he admitted that he'd gained a new respect for the rocket.  As had I.  With this in mind, I loaded mine with an A8-3 for the first flight.

After the wiggly flight of the Spitfire, the Crossfire was a welcome sight, tracking straight and true through the whole flight.  The breeze carried it out toward the outfield at an alarming rate, and at first I thought I might do with mine on an A8-3 what Zog had failed to do on a C6-5.  It wound up deep in dead center, then began racing toward right, flirting with the trees the whole time.  In the end it recovered deeper than any flight had all day, and actually wound up on the hill.  I uncinched.  Seriously.  Thought it was a goner.

Flight #8 was the Estes Firehawk, which brings me to another rant.  WHY DOES ESTES HAVE TO RECYCLE NAMES?????  We already had a Firehawk, a perfectly cool BT-60 bird.  Why sully the name by sticking it indiscriminately on a plastic, no paint needed, disposable rocket?   End of rant #2.  That said, the new Firehawk was a rocket I picked up at Hobby Lobby from the clearance rack when I was in Cleveland for NARAM 55 two years ago.  My nephew was due in town and I wasn't sure if Tony and I were going to be taking him to the range with us, so I needed something that he could build quickly and fly without worrying about its future.  The $4 Firehawk fit the bill nicely.  As it turned out, John never went to NARAM, and I had to leave early to take my Mom to a funeral.  The Firehawk came home with me and got stuck in the build cabinet.  Then one night over the winter when I was bored, I decided that I needed something to distract me from another library movie that my wife had brought home, and the Firehawk fit the bill.  I had it done in under an hour, and in the end, I was fairly impressed with how good it looked.  The plastic fin can and motor retention didn't seem long for this world, but at least they'd had the forethought to include two of the rings.

Flight was on a 1/4A3-3T, so it was quick.  I was surprised to find that I captured the liftoff.  I turned to look skyward after it left the rod and almost immediately heard and SAW the ejection charge.  A ball of flame burst out of the front of the rocket and the sound was far an away the loudest of the day.  I know it was also one of the closest to the ground, but the blast was significantly louder than any of the others.  I thought I saw the rocket fall to the ground in more than one piece, but it was all together when I got to the landing site in short right.

That doesn't mean that all was well.  The top of the motor had been turned to ash when I pulled it from the rocket.  It was charcoal to about 1/16" and just crumbled when I touched it.  The clay nozzle was still there, so it didn't seem to have CATO'd, but it was a heck of an ejection charge.  No wonder my 220 Sprint disappeared into the ether last year.

The last flight of the day was the Semroc Stellar Spartan on an A8-3.  I didn't start out with the idea of it being the last.  I still had several rockets in the box, but the winds were picking up noticeably.

This is another perfect rocket for the A8-3 on this field.  Flight was straight and fairly high.  Ejection occurred at the normal time and the rocket began racing across the field with the breeze.  I kept firing, all the while thinking how much it reminded me of the recovery path my Astron Drifter clone had taken two years ago before hanging itself up on the wire.  I cinched up again. 

Things looked grim, and I initially thought it might have landed in the street.  I quickly walked up to retrieve it and didn't see it anywhere.  That was when I looked to my right and noticed it in the side yard of the house at the top of the hill.  As you can see, a good distance from the launch site, (now more of a no-man's land that I look at it, not a pitcher's mound setup.)  That was enough to convince me.  My day was done, and everything was going home with me.  Another small field success story.

And FINALLY.........Opening Day at B6-4 Field - Part 1

Like most everyone, recent weather has not been kind to us here in the B6-4 Field metroplex.  Things were drying out nicely for a while, but a couple of days of soaking rain put things back underwater.  As a result, I was thinking more along the lines of an April opener, but we then got a nice stretch of days with warm temps and actual sunshine.  Yesterday was as nice as it gets for March in these parts, so much so that I got a sunburn while golfing, so I decided to take a walk today to see what the status of the field was.

The verdict?  The outfield started to get soggy midway out, and the warning track area was bad from right field to left center, but everything else was very good.  Definitely flyable.  I headed home to pack up some first flight birds.

There was a fairly steady breeze blowing from behind home plate, so I chose the pitcher's mound as my launch area.  First off the pad as the wind-test dummy would be the MPC/Round 2 Red Giant, an almost RTF bird that I picked up at clearance price around Christmas.  The launch lugs had just been glued on this morning, which tells a lot about how much faith I had in the field being flight worthy.

Loaded with a B6-4, the Red Giant did a credible job in the leadoff slot with an almost dead straight flight despite the breeze.  I'd chosen a reefed 12" chute for the flight, which turned out to be a good idea based on the amount of drift the Red Giant had.  Landing occurred in deep left-center, my first experience with the muck on the day.  Infinitely survivable.  I really hadn't given these MPC/Round 2 kits much thought when they came out.  I flew the GTS 1 last year in the opener after finding a bargain kit on Ebay, so history repeated itself to some extent.  If you can get them cheap, they aren't bad kits if you need a quick build.  I've seen them as high as $24, which is a joke.  Hold out for $6.

If nothing else, the wind flight told me to keep the power down for the day, so my second flight would be the Estes Comet Chaser.  This rocket has things I love as well as things I hate.  I love the overall design, the simple paint and decals and the performance.  I HATE the exposed engine hook.  It did turn out very nice with very little fuss, and overall I'd have to say the good outweighs the bad by a significant margin.  This one is/was one of the stalwarts of the recent spate of Estes holiday close-outs.  The most recent one was St. Patrick's Day, so you might want to check around Easter for the next one.

The Comet Chaser flew on an A8-3 with a streamer, which helped a lot with the recovery drift, but didn't slow things down much.  The flight itself was as straight as the Red Giant had been, but quite a bit quicker.  I got an ignition pic, but nothing else, as the rest of the flight was over before my camera recycled the images.

Recovery happened in short right center, and didn't appear to be terribly harsh contact with Mother Earth, but when I picked the rocket up I found a fin hanging on by a thread.  It was a very clean break and the Comet Chaser will fly again.

Flight #3 was the last of my MPC/Round 2 kits, the Lunar Shuttle.

The Lunar Shuttle is also sold by MPC/Round 2 as the Duck Dodgers Cadet Cruiser, a design lambasted by Chris Michielssen on his Model Rocket Building blog.  His Cadet Cruiser had stability issues that eventually wound up putting an end to its flying days.  I must live lucky.  My Lunar Shuttle flew perfectly, albeit only on an A8-3.  It really should have been a B6-4, and will be in the future.

Oddly enough, my Lunar Shuttle started off at a disadvantage.  When I was packing up to leave I found one of the launch lugs at the bottom of the box that I transported the rockets to the field in.  If you look closely at the liftoff picture above, you can see the rocket torquing left due to the missing lug.  I must REALLY live lucky.  The flight was much the same as the Red Giant, a straight up flight followed by a recovery in left-center field.  The recovery pictures even look similar.

Next on the pad for flight #4 was the Estes Hornet, a former Hobby Lobby clearance bird that gathered dust in my cabinet for a few years before I unearthed it over the winter.

I cloned a 24mm Centuri Magnum Hornet back in the VOA days, but circumstances conspired to make that a one flight wonder.  The 18mm Estes version is much more B6-4 Field friendly.  First flight was on said B6-4, and the flight was as smell-field impressive as I thought.

I'd taken my big camera along for the launch, not exactly a mistake, but it was set up for the large field launch that I attended back in February when I never got it out of the car.  The mild telephoto is great for in-air shots, but it's a bit slow in burst mode to catch the action.  As a result, I have a lot of pics of my birds farting on the pad and very few actually leaving it.  This was as close as I'd get to a liftoff shot.

The flight was as hoped, fairly high considering the ring of death that surrounds the field, and a perfect ejection just as it tipped.  Ejection happened just over my head, so I had no excuse to not burst away.  I got a pretty cool shot of the moment after the event with the wadding still dispersing and the chute filling.  The giant spill hole kept the Hornet out of the trees, and recovery was in the soup and poop in deep right.  Darn geese.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Take three.....

I've attempted to start this on two occasions, both of which ended when I couldn't get my pictures to upload.  This seems to be the time of year when I start thinking about doing this, as both of my past attempts have been in the mid to late winter.  It's probably triggered by an early 50 degree January day or just wanting something rocketry related to talk about after the long winter layoff.  Whatever the case, here I go again.

And it appears that I've figured out the picture bugaboo.  Stick around.  This could get ugly.

Last year was one of my more disappointing years since coming back to the hobby.  There was probably a bit of a letdown after 2013 when I flew more flights than any year previously.  I had a NARAM just up the road from my brother-in-laws house and B6-4 Field seemed to be flight ready whenever the mood struck me.  I wound up with 160 flights, beating my previous high by four.  That was good for a total impulse of 1528.969 Ns on the year, which was almost 500 Ns better than my previous high total.  In 2014 those numbers dropped to 60 flights and 281.569 Ns.  B6-4 Field spent the summer under water.  NARAM was out west.  The cornfield launches always seemed to fall on weekends when there were other plans that couldn't be changed.  Hopefully I'm in a groove like the San Francisco Giants, but in odd years.  Look out 2015.  It's my year again.