Friday, April 29, 2022

WSR Fly2K launch, Cedarville, OH - 4/23/22

As is my custom, I spent Friday night gathering and prepping the 20 or so birds I planned to take to Cedarville for the Saturday WSR launch.  The list was heavy on rockets I'd yet to fly, and as has been the case of late, equally heavy on rockets I hadn't flown in several years, 21 years in one case.  Shockingly, I got to the field late after a trip where I watched the gas mileage in my car rise from 36 to 39 mpg.  It didn't register to me at the time that I had a killer tail wind.  When I arrived at the field it hit me.  Literally.  Temps were in the upper 70's already, on their way to the low to mid 80's, so things were comfortable from a temperature standpoint, but the winds were pounding us from our right.  Suddenly the E12-6 birds I'd packed seemed iffy at best.

C6-5's seemed perfect for conditions, though.  My first one would be my newly "finished" Estes Design of the Month Nike Needle.  This isn't a well-known D.O.M. kit and was only recently posted in a thread at YORF.  (Okay, 2019.  The pandemic has kind of compressed things.)  I copied it off then and finally got around to ordering the parts from eRockets earlier in the spring.

I literally finished this one on Friday, gluing in the engine mount and spraying a coat of primer and olive drab to give an idea what the finished product would look like, and from ten feet the only thing that marks it different from the finished product is the lack of lettering and the unpainted launch lugs.  

Launch lugs.  It's always the launch lugs.

With the strong breeze coming from the right, I was expecting serious windcocking, so I didn't bother to adjust the pad into the wind.  just a straight up flight that would immediately kick right and carry well across the creek before recovering in the beans near the pad.  It wasn't my best laid plan, but I felt comfy with it.  The flight was almost dead straight and if anything, tended to the left.  It did cross the creek briefly, but nowhere near as much as expected.  It recovered violently in the beans a good walk out toward the road, and I got a broken fin tip for my troubles.

My second flight of the day was one that was greatly anticipated by all.  Or not.  It was my Mary Kate and Ashley Estes Fat Girl rocket.  Or not mine.  It was the Estes Fat Boy that I built for my daughter in 2001 so she'd have something to fly at a family launch at Big Bone Lick State park.  Yes, that's the name.  Look it up.  Sarah, seven at the time, wanted the rocket to be white so that she could decorate it herself  to reflect the great esteem she felt for the Full House stars who may or may not resemble dashboard trolls.  

I sent her this picture of it on the pad.  She's now approaching 29 and quite proud of her masterpiece.  Her reaction was "LOLOLOL" which I can't decode, although it's rumored to be embarrassed laughter.  MK&A hadn't flown for almost 21 years, since a May, 2001 night launch at B6-4 Field.  It disappeared over the trees at the top of the hill and we wrote it off.  Later that night I got a phone call from a friend who lived behind the field.  He found a rocket hanging from his chimney and wondered if it was mine.  He also wondered why it was called Mary Kate and Ashley.  At that moment I wished it hadn't been.
Now, almost 21 years later the Dashboard Troll made a triumphant return to the skies on a C6-3.  Like the Nike Needle before it, the flight was largely straight despite the heavy breeze.  Altitude was around 500' and it barely crossed the creek before popping the chute and riding the breeze back, coming very close to a car that may have been in the midst of a doctoral thesis.  Or possibly just a Honda.

Flight #3 was the Estes Vindicator, a rocket I obtained through an eBay auction several years ago.  It was a part of a lot of battered rockets that someone likely found while clearing out a garage somewhere.  It was missing fins, but was fairly solid.  The lot also included another Vindicator, this one folded in half and missing a nose cone, but with usable fins still attached.  A couple of weeks back I decided that I was tired of the "patina" that this one had been saddled with and did a repaint.  I didn't bother to check for the correct colors and went from memory.  Oopsie.

I'd determined early on that a C6-5 would be the biggest engine that I could safely fly in the windy conditions, and that's what I loaded the Vindicator with.  Winds had picked up slightly, to the point that the exhaust from ignition disappeared immediately upon appearing.  The Vindicator windcocked some, but still not as much as expected.  Altitude was down, topping out around 400' because of the somewhat horizontal flight path.  At first the five second ejection charge seemed like a bad idea, but the ejection charge fired as it was pointing down and it cleared the creek easily to recover in the beans on our side.  The recovery hit was hard, and right on the aft end, but I have to credit the builder.  It survived without a scratch.

Of all the first flight rockets I bought to the field on this day, the old school Estes Scrambler was the only one that showed up with anything close to a catalog paint job.  The plastic doesn't hold paint well, nor does it like model glue, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  Even the stickers stuck as hoped.

No egg for this flight, (now I'm hungry,) but like everything else to this point, the flight would be on a C6.  As with the previous flight, the smoke from ignition was blown away to the left by the strong breeze.  The flight path was fairly straight and arced back over the flightline.  Altitude was impressive, especially considering the low level flight previous to this one.  It topped out around 750', popped the chute as it began to tip over, and recovered in the beans off to our left.

Flight #5 was the Moonraker, a reader plan I found in the March, 1971 issue of Model Rocketry Magazine.  Model_Rocketry_v03n06_03-71.pdf (  I get tired of building the usual suspects, so I occasionally skulk the various plan sites at YORP, JimZ and the NAR publication archive.  The good looks of the Moonraker caught my eye, so I ordered the parts from eRockets.  I expected the finished product to be small, but I was shocked at just how small it turned out.

Upscale!  That's what I thought when I finished the Moonraker.  A BT-55 main tube to BT-50 upper tube seems like it would be perfect, and I'll lay odds on having one flying at some point this summer.  Whatever the case, the Moonraker would fly on a 1/2A3-4T on this day.  Loaded with a streamer, the Moonraker left the pad heading ever so slightly right, but enough so that it carried across the creek.  It was a lightning quick flight to 300', so fast that I couldn't track it with my phone camera.  I did finally catch up to it after ejection and caught the very tail end of the recovery process.

All in all, this is a perfect rocket for B6-4 Field on the 1/2A.  Not too high as to overfly the field, and if I use brain one when setting up the pad, I should be able to keep it out of trouble.  Nothing will help the next step, deciding on a color combination, although I think something bright might be in order.

Sticking with the unpainted/unflown theme, my sixth flight would be a clone of the Centuri Firebird.  Calling this cheap and dirty might be an insult to cheap and dirty.  The whole thing is a giant shop scrap, but it joins a large, proud club of rockets I've built "close enough".  I think the fins on this one may be a bit large, but the overall effect is, as mentioned, "close enough".

The text for the Firebird in the 1983 Centuri catalog claims that 1000' flights are possible with a C motor.  Motors must have been a lot more powerful 40 years ago, because this C6-5 flight didn't appear to have come close to the 1000' mark.  I'm no altimeter, but I wrote down 750'.  Maybe 750' is the new 1000'.  Maybe I have fat shop scraps.  Anyway, this was the straightest flight of the day.  No noticeable turn toward the creek.  No arc back over the LCO table.  Ejection occurred just as it tipped over and someone mentioned that it would have been a perfect flight to use a streamer on.  Unfortunately, I'd chosen a full chute, so I had a long walk almost to the road.

My next flight would be an ill-advised D12 flight.  I really should have known better, but all turned out well except for my tired, aching feet.  Back in 2001, I wanted to build an Estes Rogue, but not being wise in the ways of the rocketry aftermarket, I had no idea how to go about finding the parts for one.  I did know eBay, and picked up a set of PNC-55BB nose cones.  This allowed me to do Rogue and Satellite Interceptor upscales, as well as a Cherokee D.  (Yeah, don't ask.)  All were built as D-powered birds, and two of them are still flying.  Today would be the Rogue's first time out since 2017.  It's an interesting bird, showing my short lived obsession with smooth finished balsa.  I don't remember having patience in 2001, but evidently I found a short lived stash.  It flew without decals for a long time, but now wears a set of upscales from Excelsior.  Man, I miss Excelsior. 

Ironically, the Rogue was at the pads with a correctly built Cherokee D.  It would play a part in this story.  It seems like I've been flying the Rogue forever, but according to my records, this is only the 11th flight.  As expected, it ripped off the pad nicely, windcocking to the right across the creek, but like most of the flights on the day, nowhere near enough.  It topped out short of 1000', popped the chute and began a fast run across to our side of the creek.  Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be losing any altitude as it crossed over us.  I watched it to touchdown but couldn't tell if it landed in the ditch on our side of the road, or in the corn on the other side of the road.  As a result, I missed the Cherokee D launch.

As it turned out, it did cross the road, landing about 30 feet deep in what was left of the cornstalks, an easy find.  The Cherokee D also hit the corn but wasn't so easily seen.  We walked around for 30 minutes looking for any sign of it, but never saw a thing.  After covering the bulk of the field, I went back to continue my mission, now two flights away.

Flight #8 was the only other new build other than the Scrambler to have a full paint job.  I didn't get the decals on, but the by now ubiquitous Estes E.A.C. Firecat from a Wal-Mart HoJo still flew the colors proudly.  Even if I did screw it up.  (That's okay.  I have two more tries.  Didn't we all buy at least three?)

Apparently, this was meant to be an 18mm bird.  I was under the impression that it was 13mm powered, probably because the E.A.C. Viper was.  That was a biggish error, but for this flight I also made another.  I had it prepped for a B6-4 Field flight and didn't swap out the 1/2A motor for the A.  As a bonus, I also chose a 4 second delay.  The bad news is that it was a really low-level flight.  The good news is that we got to see the ejection up close and personal.  Boy, did we.

I don't know, maybe 150'.  That's just a guess, but I can tell you the ejection charge fired about 6'.  I know that because I was looking it in the eye.  Somehow it managed not to re-kit itself.  It also was the closest to the pad.

My ninth flight on the day was a personal milestone, and for the occasion I had a special rocket.  Back in July of 1977, on the 21st if my 14-year-old penmanship can be trusted, I strapped my spanking new, freshly painted Estes Beta onto my ten speed and rode with my friends out to a deserted parking lot at Northern Kentucky University.  There we spent the afternoon launching our collective fleet, two Betas, several Mosquitos, a Rogue, a Javelin/Super Flea combo and a Scout.  Almost 45 years later, I'd made 1999 flights, and I had an original pink tag Beta that I built just for the occasion of Flight #2000.

Yep, single stage.  That's how I flew it every time in 1977, except it was a 1/2A3-2T back then.  This would be a 1/2A3-4T, because it's a better choice for conditions and I had a bunch of them.  The flight windcocked slightly right off the pad, tipped over at 250' and recovered via streamer in the beans to the left.  In the 70's I never had a streamer bird until my first Estes Wizard, but let's just say I learned something in 45 years.

At this point, my day was fairly complete.  I came hoping to get my nine flights I needed and could easily have spent the rest of the time before teardown socializing, but that E.A.C. Firecat flight nagged at me.  I had an A10-3T motor in the range box, so I prepped the Firecat again for Part Deux.

Much better the second time around, but by now the winds had become constant, as you can tell by the smoke trail in the launch pics.  The Firecat windcocked lightly to the right, crossed the creek, and popped the chute around the 300' level.  It landed just left of the pad in a nice, soft spot of plowed ground.  The next flight, a W-2 in honor of tax day, wiggled and blew around fairly violently on the rod.  It leapt sideways as soon as it cleared the rod, and aside from a spool from the mid-power pads, our day was finished.

Friday, April 8, 2022

WSR Launch, Cedarville, OH - 4/3/22

Our normal Saturday launch had been moved back a day to allow for The Ohio Cup at the Air Force Museum.  This meant a difference of five to ten degrees across the day for us on Sunday, so we really lucked out.  As it turned out, we had sunny skies and light winds through much of the day on Sunday.  In my case that allowed me to get in ten flights, and if not for a personal tragedy, possibly twelve or more.

As is the norm for me, I spent the week leading up to the launch planning out what rockets I wanted to prep for the weekend.  This is more of a time waster than anything else, but it gives me a starting point when the hunt starts in the tote jungle downstairs.  I generally pare the list down to 20 or so potential flight victims, with particular attention paid to rockets that had seen numerous years since the last flight or new birds that haven't seen action yet.  Sounds like a great system, until you toss in the "Ooh, that one looks cool!" syndrome that seems to rear its head whenever I'm turned loose downstairs.  Yeah, my list was largely for naught, but I still managed to pack along a decent mix for the day.  First out of the box would be the Estes Marauder coldpower upscale.

This project actually started out as an Estes Polaris upscale, but morphed to the Marauder when Jim Parsons pointed out that the two rockets were identical but for paint and decals.  The rocket was a body in white and I was planning on going with the gold, white and blue scheme, which was pretty uninspiring.  I'm much more likely to be inspired by neon orange, and I was pretty happy with the way this turned out.  This rocket was originally planned as a B6-4 Field staple, so I went with an 18mm motor mount, which gives me impressive B6-4 Field flights on a B6-4, and respectable C6-5 flights in the beans.  This one would be a C6-5 flight, because beans.

I set the pad up to take advantage of the tendency for everything to windcock left with the breeze out of the west, and in this situation I pretty much nailed it.  After a false alarm to reset the pad, the Marauder rode the C6-5 into the breeze to somewhere around the 600' mark, not quite out over the road.  At ejection it hitched a ride with the breeze to a spot in the newly plowed field, just to the left of the mid-power pads.  It was a great way to start the day.

Since I last flew my FRW SAAB 372, it had undergone a transformation from primer to fully painted and decaled bird.  Owing to the squirrelly nature of the first flight, an E12-6 flight that wound up on a horizontal path almost to the road, I opted for a D12-5 for this flight.

This didn't quite go as planned.  I angled the rod into the wind, not quite as much as with the Marauder, but enough to hopefully induce a flight path to the left.  The SAAB apparently missed that message.  The boost was fairly straight, with never even a head feint to the left.  All told, altitude was fairly close to the Marauder and the SAAB was well across the creek when it ejected.  As a result, it landed deep in the beans, far enough out that it laid unnoticed for the next few hours despite multiple trips across by other flyers.

I'm not sure how I came to acquire this Estes Mongoose kit, but several years ago I went looking for something to build while I watched a ballgame and pulled it from my stash.  I kinda think it may have been a Hobby Lobby clearance find that I couldn't pass up, but whatever the case, I remember being surprised at how quickly it went from started to finished.

In the past I've flown other versions of this design in the Sky-Hi and Scorpion, but those were eBay rescues.  This is the first one that was mine from start to finish.  Multi-stage kits are always fun, especially when your skin in the game is as thin as mine was with this one.  The flight would be a B6-0/B6-6 combination after I caught myself trying to make it a B6-6/B6-0 combo the previous night at home.  We had that happen here last winter.  Not my bird.

The Mongoose left the pad with a definite leftward lean, staging around the 150' mark and continuing on toward the road to about 754'.  The booster came in ballistic, hitting the beans hard enough for me to hear the impact, but without damage.  Ejection occurred as the rocket was pointing downward and it recovered several hundred feet off the flightline in the beans.  Multi stage flights should always be this much fun, especially since I have a couple of three stage flights waiting in the wings.

I have a checkered past with the Estes D.O.M. birds.  They're a great resource for building some cool, seldom seen kits, but the cool factor doesn't make up for the fact that I have about a .500 average when it comes to flying them.  My previous D.O.M. Argus II hung itself just out of reach on the telephone lines next to B6-4 Field, then was gone by morning, so this would be something of a redemption flight.

Paint issues plagued this one.  Two straight finish coats ruined by orange peel.  Despite it all, it turned out looking decent from ten feet.  Get closer at your own peril.  Decals were a mixture of Interceptor and some stray Centuri leftovers.  Not fac-tree, but what is for a D.O.M. bird.  It sat through two launch attempts before finally lifting off.  C6-5 flight, so I was expecting decent altitude, but it felt like a B6-4 flight.  It was straighter than expected and seemed to struggle for altitude to about 553'.  The straight flight path meant that it was iffy for the creek, but it cleared it and landed on the other side.  Someone else recovered it for me and I was surprised to find that it broke the  

Oof.  On a lighter note, one of the misfires for this rocket gave us the most random comment of the day over a loudspeaker when the LCO said "Ask your doctor if Bill Eichelberger is right for you."  Exactly the kind of advice my wife needed back in 1984.

The most interesting flight of the day came next.  I was a bit bummed when Estes brought out a Cherokee E that was little more than a Cherokee D with different graphics and colors, so I put together one of my own.  Mine was BT-60 based to extend my Cherokee lineup from the BT-5 Cherokee A, but until this flight, I'd never flown it in full livery.

This is another ten foot bird.  The big wrap decal cracked and stretched when I was applying it.  Such is life in the homemade decal sector.  The flight would be on an E12-6, well angled into the wind to attempt recovery on my side of the creek.

True, I adjusted the rod into the wind, just not as much as the angle off the pad seems to show.  The Cherokee E took off at an inexplicably steep angle, heading left, as expected, but WAY more left than intended.  It also flew behind us.  The flight burned for what seemed like an eternity, popped the chute while horizontal, then began a long trip back toward the flightline.  Yep, it landed on the right side of the creek.  (Correct right, not directional right.)  It drifted past the flightline and recovered way out in the beans over the hump.  The recovery walk would be long, but again, right side of the creek.  When I arrived at the landing spot, something odd immediately caught my eye; a missing launch lug.  This explained the extreme angle off the pad.  I ran into Mike Rohde on the way back from my recovery journey and showed him what I'd found.  Then, on a hunch, I walked over to check the pad to see if the launch lug was anywhere nearby.  It was.  Right on the rod where it had slid down after coming loose during the launch.  If you look at the last launch photo above, you can clearly see the lug on the way back down the rod, silhouetted against the back blackground next to the smoke trail.  Interesting and unique, but hopefully not a repeatable error, but never say never.

Next up was an oldie, the FRW Marauder.  (Actually, Marauder v. 2.  The first one floated off after a C6-5 flight that gave B6-4 Field its name.)  This was my first BAR scratch build back in 2001, born out of a Designer's Special that I was less than happy with.  The Marauder is beat up, with torn and chipping decals and noticeable scars from hastily repaired flight damage over the last 21 years.  It hasn't flown much lately, three times since 2005, and all of them NARAM flights.

C6-5 flight, because on the big field you feed 'em all the onions.  As expected, the flight was perfect, a sharp arc to the left off the pad to about 750'.  I was slightly worried about the 21 year old elastic shock cord, but it held up well.  The Designer's Special parachute, brittle and heavily reefed, also performed well and brought it down to a jarring stop in the soft bean dirt.  It bounced and wrapped itself up in the shock cord and parachute, all without damage.  The elderly wood glue held up nicely, so all systems are go for the rebuild.

My next flight was a Custom Satellite Drone that I last flew in 2017, but it was one of the rockets that caught my eye when I was prepping on Saturday.  I have two of these, but the other one has the fins and ring glued on backwards because I got a little too engrossed with a ballgame I was watching while building it.

This is a unique looking bird from the early days of Custom Rockets.  The catalog from this era was loaded with cool kits with a sci-fi edge.  They still have some unique designs, but are more of a 3fnc company these days.  This would be a C6-5 flight, but it is equally at home on a B6-4 at B6-4 Field.  As is the custom here, it went left off the pad to 683', popped the chute as it was tipping over, and began a swinging recovery back to the beans, a mere 50' from the launcher.  My sore feet thanked it.

Not sure if it's been mentioned, but I have a thing for Der Red max in any and all forms.  My latest was another take at the Mini Max, this one in harvest orange paint.  It's the Pumpkin Spice Max.  (Ducks and covers.)  It was supposed to fly last fall, but decal issues caused it to be delayed.  It still has a whole third of the fins undecaled, but that can be hidden with creative photography.

Or not.  You'd think I'd pay attention to these things.  At any rate, it would be an A10-3T flight, one that I'd be watching closely with the spring flying season at B6-4 Field lurking.  Well. based on this flight, there will be no A10-3T flights at B6-4 Field in rockets of this size.  Altitude was around 412' with a fairly severe windcock left.  Impressive flight, but that's asking for trouble outside of the beans.  Recovery is generally handled by streamer, but I found a tiny Estes chute that fit perfectly in the cozy recovery section of this bird.  Turned out to be a great pairing as it dropped the Mini Max 150' from the pad.  I just don't get it.  These should still be all over the hobby store shelves.  Great little kits.


Flight #9 would be my Semroc "Centuri Guy" Javelin, a Jay Goemmer inspired build.  The Centuri version was one of Jay's early rockets, possibly the first, and after painting my original Semroc offering like the face card, I realized that I liked the black and red version better.

Looking back now, with the aid of, I'm not sure where Carl came up with the yellow Javelin scheme.  All I ever remember was red/black/white.  At any rate, I was pretty happy with the final product and had it loaded with a B6-6 for the first flight.  It was a truly great engine choice.  Big field, so the temptation was strong to go with a C6-7, but I was hoping to recover the rocket in the same county.  The flight was wonderfully high, and I think it's possible that it may have crossed into Clarke County airspace at some point, but the breeze brought it back my way, although on the other side of the creek.  Mike Rohde picked it up on the way back from flying his Mega DRM on an H128, sparing my feet more agony.

My tenth flight on the day would be the Kopter XK-1 on an E12-6.  It would also be my final flight of the day, despite the fact that we still had over an hours worth of flying left in the day.  Stopping wasn't my idea.  I still had my Semroc Aerobee Hi, The Zorch and mark Kate and Ashley prepped and ready.  (Okay, Mary Kate and Ashley had already been passed over for launch earlier in the afternoon due to a nose cone that fit too tight for comfort.  I just wanted to say that I had planned on flying it.  It was my daughter's rocket from 2001.) 

The E12-6 was impressive in this Big Bertha-size bird.  It windcocked, brace yourself, left off the pad, but nowhere near as heavily due to the smaller than normal fins.  Altitude was excellent, well over 1000', with ejection out over the road.  It began riding the breeze back toward the flightline, but along the way there were times when it just looked like it was hanging, not descending at all.  Thermals, bah.

It finally landed across the creek, well into the beans not far from where the SAAB 372 was still laying.  Since these two flights carried both of my nylon chutes, I donned the muck boots and scouted places to cross the creek.  The creek crossing was a simple matter, and I picked up my two rockets and a bonus rocket before crossing back to prep another bird.

But then, tragedy struck, and thankfully there are no photos to share.  While heading back to my car I stopped to talk with a couple of the guys while they prepped their next birds.  While we were talking, the wind was blowing from behind me and I felt a breeze in an area that should have been breeze proof.  Sure enough, my $12 Wal-Mart jeans had suffered a rear closure failure, one that was growing with each move I made and threatening to expose family secrets that I'd spent a lifetime guarding.  Luckily for all it wasn't thong day, but my flying day was over.