Tuesday, August 24, 2021

WSR launch, Dayton, Ohio - 8/14/21

 Attendance was spotty for out scheduled club launch on a breezy, strangely temperate Saturday.  Temps in the mid-80's, atypical for August in Ohio, and a constant breeze made for comfortable flying conditions, but must also have inspired the regulars to find other ways to amuse themselves.  For the rest of us, this meant 8 pads, no waiting, and as a result, some of us posted some big flight numbers.

Prez Dave asked if I'd brought gliders when I arrived, and I had, so my first flight of the day would be a glider.  More specifically, an Edmonds Aerospace Geminee that had been languishing in the basement for more than a decade.  It had been ready to fly not long after we moved into the new house, but my wife had crushed it with an errant broomstick and I kind of lost enthusiasm for the project.

The Geminee flew on a 1/2A3-2T, which I'd found to be a great glider motor in past flights at B6-4 Field.  Today would be a different story.  It seemed like the flight had just started when it finished.  Balsa parts were floating to the ground, not confetti like pieces that we saw when I tried to fly my NAR Jet Freak at Virtual NARAM last year, but an entire wing.  The balsa spar for the back glider in the pair had given way under boost and the wing fluttered to the ground near the pads.  The rest of the rocket continued under boost and landed at the base of the tape that designated the flight line.  There was no ejection charge.  The clay cap was still in place on the expended motor casing.  This scenario would revisit me later in the day, but not with a glider.

Flight #2 would be an Estes Mini Shuttle that I'd actually brought to fly at the previous launch, only to find that it didn't have a launch lug.  It got a launch lug during my Friday night prep session, so it was loaded and ready to go on a C6-5.  I've had a number of Mini Shuttles over the years, and have never managed to get one to the point of being painted and decaled.  I'm halfway there with this one.  The masking process is a major pain. 

A C6-5 might have been a bit much for conditions, but past experience has taught me that the Mini Shuttle can take the abuse and usually turns in a pretty impressive performance.  This flight was dead on that description.  It left the pad and flew straight for the first hundred feet, then began jinking around the sky to apogee.  It's also a tough bird to get a chute in, but everything worked well despite the tight fit.  The recovery walk was a pretty long one, but would seem short within a few flights.

The Estes Alpha III was next up, a long languishing member of my fleet that hadn't flown since around 2005.  It had made it to several launches over that period, but this would be the first time it actually saw the sky in a period long enough for my niece to have gotten her driver's license.

What can you say about an Alpha III flight?  If the motor holds it will be straight and fairly high, which is exactly what happened in this case.  A C6-5 flight, so plenty of altitude and a landing deep in the field to our right, though not as deep as the Mini Shuttle.

Flight #4 (after an igniter change,) would be the Estes Wildfire.  This was a kit that I got years ago in a bulk purchase from a guy known only as the Beer Skunk.  I'd previously bought one from eBay just for the nose cone when I wanted to clone a Satellite Interceptor, but after scavenging that cone, I subbed in another BT-50 and promptly treed it.

The flight would be my third straight C6-5 flight, and was the one that begged the question "How much motor is too much?"  On a day like this the answer was likely a C6-5.  I took some undue criticism when the recovery combination of a streamer AND parachute was announced, but these Neanderthals had no sense of history.  It was how the kit was produced and I judged them unable to grasp the complexities of the kit.  Then there was the song.  A day and a half later it was still stuck in my head.  Just brutal.  The flight was impressive.  The recovery doubly so.  The Mini Shuttle had been a long walk.  The Wildfire was still several hundred feet in the air as it passed that recovery zone and appeared to clear the grove of trees at the end of the field, putting it near the parking lot of the Rip Rap Roadhouse or Rip Rap Shake Shack.  

I scoured the baseball fields and the areas between them and the football fields, turned around and started back, then decided to brave the barbed wire and check the RRR parking lot.  I found nothing, and was just about to turn and head back when I saw something orange fluttering out of the corner of my eye.  The streamer.  Turns out the Wildfire had been on a crash course for Rip Rap Road and certain death from a speeding vehicle, but the body just barely caught the fence around the Shake Shack.  The strong breeze was still trying to dislodge the rocket from the fence, and the streamer was standing straight out in the breeze.  None of the customers even noticed the rocket.  They were really focused on the shakes.

Streamers again for flight #5, the Estes Solar Warrior.  (This was the real Solar Warrior, not the more recent Solar Warrior which for some reason pilfered the name.)  It was another long languishing bird, not having flown since 2015 and I went with an A3-4T over the normal 1/2A just because the field was big enough to make recovery an option.

The A3-4T flight was quick off the pad as expected, windcocking slightly to the left and ejecting the streamer just past apogee.  Recovery took it back across the field to the right side of the pads near the cars, where it stuck the landing like a gymnast.

The next flight, #6 on the afternoon, would be the Estes S.P.E.V. that I built as a 24mm, just to see if I could.  It had been a pretty impressive performer on C and D motors, but had sat gathering dust for 14 years.  No idea why.

Even though the fins are on the smallish size, this one has always been impressively stable on the 24mm motors.  Today it would fly on a D12-5, and as in the past, it was perfectly stable and fairly high.  I wasn't immediately concerned when it turned over at apogee, but the five count came and went and it was obvious that there was an issue.

We've all been there.  The rocket tips and begins picking up speed toward the ground and all the while you hope against the inevitable.  When impact happens, I always expect complete destruction, only to be surprised at the impact and the bounce.  The S.P.E.V. wound up jumping about three feet to the left on impact, and from the nose cone almost to the first transition the destruction was almost total, with splintered balsa nose cone and transition (about $150 damage at todays prices,) and lots of sprung and crushed tubing.  It kind of looked like a ? when I got to it, and you can hear me laugh on the phone video that I didn't realize I was taking.

I never had heard anything approaching an ejection charge, and when I pulled the spent engine I was not shocked to see the clay cap still in place.  Ironically, If I'd have flown it on an A8-3 the ejection charge would have snapped the shock cord.

Flight #7 would be the MPC Aquarius, a rocket I was thrilled to pick up in an ebay auction several years ago, then was less than thrilled with the oddball fin attachment.  It broke a fin on the first flight and wound up at the bottom of a storage tub, then turned up two weeks ago when I was picking rockets for the previous launch.  I happened to have a tube of plastic cement on the desk, so I fixed it right then and painted it in between the two launches.

Like most everything else on the day, big field, biggest motor that I had available for it, in this case a C6-5.  I swapped out the original MPC chute with a Semroc one because the original felt a bit rigid and the fins have already proven to be fragile.  The flight windcocked to the left in a gentle arc, ejected the chute at apogee, and landed back in the field beyond the cars without damage.  I have plans to search for the original decals to complete the look while on vacation next week.

Back in 2001 when I rediscovered the hobby and discovered the JimZ plan archive, the Estes Condor was first on my list of my 70's fleet to recreate.  I found a selection of parts in a hobby shop in Akron and just by chance picked out the exact nose cone, body tube and balsa stock that I'd need for the project.  In my head the Condor was a huge bird, so I also purchased an 18mm motor mount instead of a 13mm mount.  I bought decals from JimZ and was blown away at how much my cobbled together clone looked like my 1977 original.

Since this was a very early clone it was a learning experience.  I learned that it was better to have too much shock cord than too little, as can be seen by the gash at the top of the body tube.  Other indignities had been foisted upon this version of my childhood favorite, and as a result, it hadn't flown since 2005.  Today it would fly on a B6-4 despite the big field.  I didn't relish the idea of trying to track that tiny glider from 900' in the air after a C6-5 flight.  The B6-4 was more than enough motor for this flight, topping out around 400-500' and ejecting at apogee.  Something was obviously not right as it descended flat and the parachute appeared to barely be slowing the descent.  The glider detached as expected and began a tight corkscrew glide toward the field.  Both parts recovered to the right of the pads behind the cars.  The issues had obviously been caused by the nose cone rebounding into one of the rear vertical fins, and as a result, most of the fin was gone.  The glider flew well when hand tossed, but obviously needed some nose weight removed before the next flight.

Generally, all of the rockets that I had been flying of late had been those that I hadn't flown in a number of years or those that had never flown.  Somehow I picked up the Semroc Mini-Hustler on Friday while I was prepping my Saturday birds.  It last flew in 2020, so it was clearly picked in error, but it's still cool.

As it turned out, the Mini-Hustler turned in the flight of the day.  Everything about it was perfect.  It was a C6-5 flight to about 700'.  It ejected gently at apogee, then slowly rode the thermals back down to the field, at time seemingly just hanging without moving.  Very cool.

After this, it was time to bring out the big gun, the Fun Rockets Tangent.  Cheesy foam flies again.  This is my second Tangent, the first one has been hanging in one of the trees around B6-4 Field since 2006

Impressive flight on a C6-5 to about 800'.  Ejection at apogee, and the chute filled instantly.  Recovery was nice and soft on the right side of the field behind the cars, another fairly long walk.  Interestingly, there must have been a leak in the joint between the cheesy foam fin can and the body tube.  All three fins had burn holes right at the spot where the fins reach the body tube.

Had I checked things beforehand, I may have been a little more choosy about what the next flight would be.  It would be flight #1900 for me, and luck of the draw meant that it would be the Estes Vigilante.  The Vig was an orphaned rocket given to me by Mike Rohde.  It needed a new shock cord and a fin reglued, but was in very good shape overall.  Or so I thought.


Flight was on a C6-0/B6-6 combo, probably a bit too much for conditions, but I wasn't feeling cowardly, especially since it was built by someone else.  Everything looked great at first, and it staged as expected, but then everything went sideways, and upside down.  The sustainer fell to the ground, still under thrust, but did no damage.  Everything looked perfectly normal until I went to remove the motors from the sustainer, and the whole motor mount pulled out of the body tube.

Flight #1901 was another Fun Rockets cheesy foam bird, the Wicked Winnie.  Winnie was a workhorse for me back in my early keychain camera days and is showing the scars.  She'd show more after this C6-5 debacle, but Randy Boadway had never seen cheesy foam fly before.

Well, he still hasn't.  The Winnie had apparently forgotten a lot about flying in the years since the last flight.  The C6-5 powered flight was uncomfortable, and seemed to be struggling for what little altitude it got.  The ejection charge didn't deploy anything but the nose cone and the whole mess fell into a pile of trash at the edge of the field.  Two fins broke off on impact.  It's repairable, but......feh.  I'm not at all certain that Randy was impressed by the flightworthiness of cheesy foam.

No idea what to think about the next flight, an Estes Mini HoJo on an A3-4T.  It had previously flown at the NARAM in 2013, inexplicably on a  1/2A motor, and did so with nary a wiggle.  Today it wiggled, early and often.

This never really developed into a flight.  It reminded me of my attempt to build a rocket powered snow sled back in the winter of 1977, only that went unstable almost as soon as I lit it, then wound up melting a hole in the snow and possibly burning up.  No snow this time, and luckily no burning up, but other than that it did a pretty spot on imitation of the ill-fated sled.  To be fair, it flew better than that, but not much.  It was clearly taking a fairly hard turn to the right as it left the pad and was skywriting before it was 100' in the air.  It flipped around several times before landing hard on its side next to the pad.  No damage, so it should fly again, but likely at B6-4 Field on a steady diet of 1/2A motors.

The Canaroc Orion was up next, or to be honest, a guess your best clone using Semroc parts and Excelsior decals.  This was part of a batch of birds I'd prepped for a launch at B6-4 Field that got rained out, so it was flying on an A8-3.  Still a decent performer despite the smallish engine.

As expected, a comparatively low-level flight compared to a lot of what I'd flown on the day, but at around 300', nothing to sneeze at.  Recovery was nose blow, so my recovery walk was greatly cut down as it landed just at the edge of the field, near the asphalt, but on the nice, bouncy grass.

The next flight would be a heartbreaker.  Several years ago I bought a group of rockets from eBay that belonged to a teacher from New York.  One was an X-Wing, erroneously listed as a "70's jet fighter with missing pincer".  Another was an FSI Dart loaded with a live A4-4.  The third was a completely finished, unflown MPC Zenith II Payloader.  Until today, it had been the only one of the three to have not flown because the coupler that held the stages together was noticeably tight.  Well, after a couple of years of sitting in my cool, dry basement, the coupler had eased up quite a bit to the point that it came off with light pressure. so I decided to give it a chance at a flight.

B6-0/B6-6 flight, and everything looked great at first.  The worries I had over potential staging issues proved unfounded as the familiar "pop-woosh" occurred at about the 250' mark.  From there things got a little more interesting.  The sustainer rode the wind to the left, but not quite as deeply as everything else had on the day.  The flight finished fairly high and all looked fin until we realized that the pieces didn't appear to be attached anymore.  They weren't, and tracking became an issue.  I thought we did pretty well, as the sustainer itself came down behind the soccer fence while the nose cone looked like it came down just along the fence line.  I recovered the body first and found a shock cord and screw eye that was covered with glue and balsa particles.  The ejection charge had been more than the 30+ year old balsa could take.  I walked the fence line for the next half hour, but found nothing.  The nose cone/payload had disappeared into the void.  The next flight would provide them with some company.

Next off the pads, and my next to last flight on the day, would be an Estes Hi-Flier on a B6-6.  This was another that wasn't built by me, but in this case I knew the builder.  My golf partner showed up one Tuesday last month with the rockets and supplies that had belonged to his son back when he was interested in the hobby.  Several of the kits inside had come from my stash back in the day, the Estes Big Dawg and Quest Brighthawk being two.  Rick and Rich had built an Estes Chrome Dome, an Exo-Skell (missing one of the legs if anyone is junking one,) and the Hi-Flier.  Rick had actually attempted to do the silver highlights on the Hi-Flier fins, something I'd never bothered with, and I liked the looks enough to bring it along for this launch.

I'd hedged my bets on this one because I really wanted it back.  The B6-6 flight was chosen because I knew the H-F had stability issues with a C motor, and I purposely made it nose blow recovery to bring it down a little quicker.
Wow, that B6-6 got a LOT more altitude than I expected.
Still, it had angled into the wind and away from us to the left, so I thought I'd get it back no trouble.  The whole flightline watched it descend, falling rapidly, but obviously heading for the road at a good clip.  It finally came down across the road, but when I went across to find it, the piece that I thought was a rocket was nothing of the sort.  I walked for almost as long as I did when I was looking for the Wildfire, hoping for a similar miracle.  Nope.  Not in the trees, not on the roof of the original eRockets, not behind the trucks, not in the road.  Alakazam 1-2-3 and POOF!  Gone.  Color me bummed.

The Centuri Akela would be the last flight on the day for me, but I didn't realize it at the time.  I'd completely lost track of time and still had several birds prepped and ready, but as I was loading the Akela, I happened to check my phone.  This would be another B6-6 flight, which has to establish a personal record for B6-6 usage at a single launch for me.

The Akela-1 is the real deal, an honest to goodness Centuri bird complete with metallic spec plate.  It was sent to me by Earl Cagle, who had broken up a bulk pack hoping to see one of the old birds fly.  I couldn't resist the opportunity.  The flight itself was exactly like most of what I'd flown that day, left off the pad and streamer recovery behind the parking area.  My day was done with two bullets left in the gun.  Not a problem as I was pretty close to done myself.  Not Max Saturday tired, but darn close.  I'm a whole year older.