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.  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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's good to be back

Assuming, of course, that anyone is still out there.  It has been almost a year.  After a disappointing 2016 I promised myself that I'd try to get a launch in each month.  January conspired against me in both planning and weather, but I had this weekend circled on my calendar since the start of the month.  A three day weekend for President's Day, and all three days had projected temps above 60.

An odd bout of fog kept me inside until after lunch, but I got a couple of late arrivals flightworthy in that time.  By the time I got to the field it was after 1:00, but I was heartened to find the field empty.  I'd gathered up a box of rockets, most of which had never before flown, and those that had were not in full livery.  First up on the day was my recently primed Estes Quinstar on a C6-0, because you should always boost your Ns with a C flight in a saucer when the opportunity arrives.  Plus, I wanted to see it fly.  Do I really need anything else?

I haven't given any thought to paint color yet, but visibility isn't of much importance with this bird.  Low, slow and draggy, which is a great combination in the happy land of trees

The Quinstar announced my presence with authority on the mighty C6-0.  Heads turned in the birdcage where a girls softball team was practicing.  Distances are hard for me to judge, but I guessed around 200-250 feet, turning the whole time.  It recovered upside down, spinning slowly to the grass in short right.  Good to smell BP again.

As you can tell by the flag, the breezes were light enough as to be negligible.  That would change as the day progressed.

Next up was the Canaroc Orion I finished over the weekend.  This was flightworthy last year, but I ran into decal issues and didn't want to fly it in white.  The white decals were what was derailing my efforts, but Gordon at Excelsior had some printed and they were of a select few decals in stock on his page.  I jumped at them and got the finishing ball rolling again.  I was quite happy with the results.

Brought the wrong camera today, so I didn't get a lot of liftoff shots, but I got this A8-3 one.  Fairly high flight, but considering that this is a minimum diameter bird I shouldn't have been surprised.  Topped out around 300' and I immediately noticed two pieces falling when there should have been one.  A lot of that going around.

Sure enough, there was no nose cone when I got to the landing spot in deep center.  I'm a bit rusty, I guess, because instead of following the smaller object I focused on the rocket body.  The nose cone was nowhere to be found.  Realization dawned with a thud.  This was one of the rockets that I worked on while I was waiting for the fog to lift in the AM.  I'd friction fitted the motor, but hadn't thought to check to see if the shock cord was fastened to the nose cone.  Everything else in the box had been prepped two weeks ago with motors, igniters and wadding.  This one just got decaled on Saturday.  DOH!  Yep, everything was scorched inside the body tube.  I can't claim rookie mistake, because most rookies wouldn't so something so stupid.  In the end, all was well, because the nose cone showed up a couple of flights later.

As far as I remember, the Semroc Der V-1.5 was a bonus kit in an order a few years back.  I wasn't wild about the paint and decal scheme, but built and flew it in white, hoping for inspiration to strike.  In the end I resprayed it gloss white and put the decals on as Carl intended.  It's growing on me.

This would be the second flight, the first being four years ago on a B6-4.  (I must have been feeling lucky that day.)  Today would be an A8-3 flight, but being the third flight meant it was early enough that the breeze hadn't picked up yet.

As expected, the A8-3 was plenty of motor for this rocket on this field.  Straight up to 250' with a perfect recovery in short right center.

It was about this time that the girls team finished practice, so I had the place to myself for a little while.

With my Canaroc thing in full swing I chose the Eager Beaver as flight #4.  Yeah, I know.  THAT NAME!  No, I don't know what they were thinking.  Yes, I've occasionally stopped and laughed when I thought about what I was building.  That said, if you can get past the name this is a pretty sharp looking bird.  Decals for this one all came from Excelsior.  Everything else came from my stash.  I'm not sure what an original EB looks like, but dimensionally it all seemed to measure up to the Estes parts I used.

Size-wise, this bird is almost a dead ringer for the Estes Der Red Max, so a B6-4 was the perfect motor choice for the field.  The flight was high and arced a bit toward the outfield, topping out around the 300' mark.  It landed in deep track in right field, displaying opposite field warning track power.  That's assuming that the Beav is a righty, eh?

I had a few moments of "uh-oh" at the end of the flight.  I thought it was going to carry onto the softball field, and with the girls gone, I would have had to hope another practice would start before I left, but in the end it landed well short of the fence.

Flight #5 was a rocket that hadn't existed on Sunday evening.  Being President's Day, this was a holiday weekend for me.  I got abandoned on Friday night by my wife, which meant I had to fend for myself as far as dinner and entertainment.  Dinner was a half-rack of ribs, baked beans and corn pudding.  Entertainment was sitting on the floor working on rockets and watching COPS.  Good times, eh?  Jay Goemmer had sent me a care package back around Christmas that included some nose cones, one of which was sitting near me on the floor.  Also in the vicinity were two pieces of scrap BT-60 tubing, one with an 18mm motor mount already glued in, a scrap of BT-55, and a 5560 transition.  I was pretty sure I had another 5560 transition somewhere, and found it on Saturday.  All of the parts were there, I just had to think of a fin pattern.  On Sunday night I glued the body parts together and ginned up some fins out of scrap 1/8" balsa and Scrap Iron was born.  Or Scrapper.  Or Junkyard Dog.  I'll have to do some more thinking on that and get back to you.

SI/S/JD was one of the rockets I was working on while waiting for the fog to lift this morning.  (I forgot a launch lug on Sunday night.)  It's a legitimate B6-4 bird for this field, which is just what I was going for. 

The landing shot.  You can see that the breeze was starting to get a bit more insistent at this point, and I still had a long way to go.

Not all of my Canaroc flights on the day were flawless.  I almost didn't bother to bring the Canaroc Tornado Two.  First off, I was shocked to find that it was a BT-20 bird when I worked out the plans.
I put one together anyway, despite my lack of success with spin fin rockets in the past.  Loaded with an A8-3, I managed to catch the launch shot.

Yeah, the launch shot.  It's been my experience that when the launch shot shows the rocket sideways immediately upon leaving the rod, that there is an issue to be dealt with.  Not sure what that issue might be.  Not sure I care enough to investigate further, to be quite honest.

Next in line was one of my Ebay orphan brigade, an Estes Astro that came as a part of a bulk buy several years back.  It featured a rotted elastic shock cord, which I replaced.  It was also missing a screw eye in the balsa cone, which I also replaced.  Loaded with a 1/2A3-4T, it screamed off the pad as expected.  (I should have used a 1/4A, but I wasn't that emotionally invested in the rocket.)  Impressive, almost out of sight flight, but I thought to wear my glasses, so I saw the whole thing.

The ejection charge, though several hundred feet in the air, still sounded like a pistol shot on the ground.  Think Dirty Harry.  As expected, the nose cone and body tube separated and once again I tracked the body.  I walked the field in the area of touchdown in right center field for ten minutes, but never saw any flash of blue except for the remnants of the many discarded sleds.  (The hill here is regarded as one of the best sled riding spots in Northern Kentucky.  The hill shows the wear and tear that comes with this reputation, and the field shows where they leave their garbage.  Don't get me started.)   I eventually found it, but several flights later in deep center.  I doubt that I'll bother to fly it again, but I did once, which is all that matters to me.

And now for the coolest flight of the day.  At some point last year I began looking for a glider that I could build quickly and easily for a regional contest that my club was having.  I found the Jet Freak plans on the at the YORP website and it was the one I chose to go with out of the stack that I copied.  I built it, but life interfered with my contest plans and it didn't get flown until today.  A8-3 flight, minimal trimming.  This will be a heads-up flight, kids.

Somewhere in this pic is an image of the Jet Freak sailing off into history.  The flight was high and straight, and at ejection the Freak fluttered noticeably, which was expected.  Then it righted itself and made a beeline for the sun.  When it crossed over the telephone pole in the center of the picture I remember thinking how high above the pole it still was.  It headed south and never looked back.  I drove Grant Street and looked for any flash of balsa in any of the yards, but I think it may have even cleared Grant Street, and possibly even Bonnie Lane.  Yeah, I plan to build another one, but you can bet I'll add some weight to one of the wingtips to induce something of a circular flight path.

In the mood for another successful flight, I made the Canaroc FK-3 the next choice.  This had flown previously in all white, so I was pretty sure of success in the largely calm conditions.  Unlike the other two Canaroc birds that I'd recently finished, the FK-3 was all home grown.  I scaled and printed the decals myself.  They were slightly oversize, but you'd have to know where to look to be able to tell, and I'm not telling.

That was exactly what I got.  A straight up flight to 250' on an A8-3.  And it looked pretty good doing it.  Then came the ejection charge.  Another separation.  This time it wasn't an issue, just the glue on the two-piece nose cone gave way.  I think I used CA instead of model glue.

Had it not been for the Jet Freak stealing the show, the Estes Astron Gyroc would have been a hands down winner as the best flight.  I'd never flown a Gyroc before today, despite buying one from Thrustline many years ago.  I couldn't figure out anything to use for the flaps, so the Thrustline version still sits in primer.  This oldie came in another Ebay lot and needed help, so I figured I could experiment with it and not feel bad if things didn't work out.  I rebuilt it, scavenged some mailing envelopes from work for the adhesive and gave it a shot on an A8-3.  Not quite a straight boost, but at ejection the expended motor flew out and it helicoptered perfectly, far better than I thought it would.  Now to finish that Thrustline clone before it's old enough to drive.

A couple of years back I began building upscale and downscale versions of iconic rockets, the Red Max, the Wizard, and the Rogue.  Last year it occurred to me to do the same with the Cherokee D, hence my BT-5 Cherokee A.  I did all of the decal work myself and was quite pleased with the results.   

Considering the small size of the rocket and the quickness with which the mini motors usually propel things from the pad, I was surprised to find that I got something of a launch shot.  Not great, but it definitely suggests a rocket launch.  The 1/2A3-4T flight was surprisingly wiggly, leaving the corkscrew smoke trail that I'd have expected more from the earlier Tornado Two "flight".  Shotgun ejection.  Recovery in deep center field.

Lucky #13 on the afternoon would be the Estes Viking that had been around my shop since the days of the Milford location of Johnny's Toys.  It still had the Johnny's price sticker on the package when I opened it, a huge nostalgia buzz.  Great selection, great prices, and good for two or three visits a week by me due to my daughter taking skating lessons nearby.  Sadly no longer with us.  The Viking is one of those rare Centuri kits that existed during the merger days of Centuri and Estes that used available Estes parts.  (It's also the basis for clones of the Centuri Akela and Vector V, but that's a whole other tangent.)  It's still in existence, though now saddled with an ugly paint and decal scheme.  That was the first thing to go.  Against my better judgement I kept the fiber fins, but losing the sticker decal was a no-brainer.  I went with the original white and red Centuri paint scheme of 1982 and printed off a decal.  As a looker, it's great.  Fiber fins?  Not so much.

The A8-3 flight was to about the limit of B6-4 Field, but dead straight.  Ejection occurred as it was still moving forward, so an A8-5 might have been a better choice.  It drifted toward right center on recovery and hit hard despite the streamer, and when I got to the landing site I found one of the fiber fins bent and the fillet broken.  Disappointing, but sadly expected.

The Semroc Lune R-1 was one of the kits that Carl had produced in the early days of Semroc.  At some point I decided to pick up all of the kits that Carl had designed back then.  I anguished over the paint colors for the fins on this one, trying to match them to the decal, but in the end I settled for "close enough".  I don't think it suffers.

The B6-4 flight was dead straight and caught a cross breeze at ejection.  Easily 350', and probably not a wise choice considering the conditions, but very impressive.  Recovered in deep right center after causing some cinching as it passed the trees.  A warning I should have had sense enough to heed.

The Rook was a homebrew rocket that used parts from a Semroc Lil Hercules, the fins and nose cone, and a stray body tube.  I'd flown the Lil Herc here with no luck, (except for finding it on the tennis courts after an extremely enthusiastic ejection charge.)  This one has nose blow recovery, which I'd hoped might keep it from being blown into a neighboring town.

The A8-3 flight again proved to be well over the normal limits of the field, but the high straight flight ended in a core-sample in deep right center.  It was becoming a day for digging mud out of body tubes.

My other 2016 downscale Cherokee project, the BT-20 Cherokee B, was a good bet to overfly the field on an A8-3 if there was any kind of breeze blowing.  The flag was barely fluttering for this launch, so I went ahead with it.

Despite the leftward lean to the liftoff shot, this was pretty much a dead straight flight.  I was right about overflying the field in windy conditions.  The B landed in deepest right field with the barest suggestion of wind.

The Estes Guardian had knocked around in the basement for years, possibly even long enough to have knocked around the basement of the old house.  Whatever the case, somewhere along the line after all the knocking around, I found that I no longer had the large set of fins or the upper fins, but I did have the body tubes and nose cone.  What to do but wing it.  I scratched out a set of main fins from some pieces of scrap balsa and had it ready for flight in about two hours.

The B6-4 flight was just what the field ordered, fairly high and arcing toward deep left center.  It was then that I noticed that the flag was doing a fair imitation of waving, and the wave was toward the trees.

Yep, this was a real cinch-up flight.  I thought it was a goner.  There's a precedent for that.  I have an Estes Monarch and a Solar Sailer somewhere on that hill from first flight miscalculations.  Those are the first two to come to mind.  I'm sure there are others.  In the end all the cinching was for naught.  The Guardian must have had a guardian.  It skirted the branches and landed in deepest right center.  Two feet to the west and it's an ornament.

I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  Sixteen flights in the books, a cinch-up flight that told me the winds were moving in, but I couldn't resist sending my Semroc Skyhook up for a first flight.  Heavy sigh.

Heavy sigh.  A8-3 flight.  I can almost hear the flag flapping.  Dead straight flight to the 350' mark, then what looked like a slight drift that would land halfway up the hill.  Same thing happened with this one that happened a couple of years back with an Estes Amraam.  I was following it down and thinking all was well when it suddenly stopped its descent.  Now they can gaze across the field at each other.

I'm 0-2 on Skyhook flights up here.  It's shown here visiting with the Estes Monarch nose cone from 2015.  I'm only 0-1 on Monarch flights, but I have another one that I'm about to start on.

Seventeen flights is enough, right?  Well, not exactly, but a second flight of the Estes Quinstar was hardly a risk.  Beefs up my Ns numbers, too.  Second verse, same as the first.  Cool flight.  Has anyone upscaled one of these yet?  Since this flight day the weather has been pretty much the psycho-fest that is normal for a Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky winter/spring.  I've actually made two trips up to the field with another box of unflown rockets, but both times the winds scared me off.  It's taken me several weeks to finish this post.  I just find my stupidity depressing.  Live and learn, they say, but do I?