Sunday, January 24, 2021

Quarantine launches - January 19 & 21, 2021

 Not thinking that 2021 is going to provide me with the opportunity to approach 250 flights, so this year my goal is to fly every month.  Took me a while to get started, including two cancelled club launches, but while on quarantine for COVID 19 exposure I was gifted with a sunny day with mid-40's temps and very little wind.  I took a hard pass on daytime television and gathered a bunch of rockets to take up to B6-4 Field.

The leadoff rocket on the day (aka: wind tester) would be the Estes Air Walker, a 30 minute project from earlier in the week.  Nothing to write home about, and I don't expect it to be a regular flyer, but it told me what I needed to know today and will likely see a B6-4 on future trips to the field.  The name of the game today was A8-3 for all seven flights.

The breeze was blowing in at me from right field, so the AirWalker windcocked away from me slightly as it left the pad.  The flight topped out around 250', somewhat higher than expected.

Ejection occurred as it was pointing down, and the rocket began to drift back toward the pad with the parachute flailing uselessly behind it.  It opened slightly just before touchdown, but the impact was still fairly jarring.  The AirWalker was recovered dirty, but undamaged.  (Dirty doesn't tell the whole story.  A goose turd decorated one of the fins.  Geese and deer can generally be seen on this field at all hours of the day.  It's become a public toilet.)

Flight #2 was another first timer, the newly finished Semroc Lil' Ivan.  Ivan was one of two Semroc birds I'd recently finished construction on, but the other one, the Lil' Centauri, was in the paint booth when I was getting ready today and I forgot to pick it up.

Goony-esque birds have always been a weakness for me, and I consider any short rocket that has a nose cone that mimics the original Goony cone as a member of the club.  The Ivan really brings to mind the Quest Full Moon, a favorite flyer here in the past few years.

The flight path of this one left me a bit puzzled.  It wiggled as it left the pad, enough that I first wondered if it had lost a fin.  It straightened out fairly quickly, but still had me wondering.  Altitude was much like the previous flight, around 250', but the recovery device, an old school crepe streamer, worked to perfection.

After topping out in deep right field, Ivan began racing back toward the pad at a rapid rate, so much so that I had trouble keeping it in frame.  Despite only a light breeze it quickly passed by me and dropped to the ground, sticking the landing nicely in the hole at shortstop.

Third flight of the day was another first flight bird, a clone of an AVI Star Hawk that I put together using a bunch of Quest parts I'd picked up over the years.  This was a very quick build, so much so that the orange and white color scheme is just the color of the parts that went into the project.

Okay, this one really got up there, and did it quite fast.  There was also quite a bit of wiggle, surprising since the fin can is all pre-formed plastic with no chance of a fin being glued slightly crooked.

Unlike the previous two flights, the Star Hawk headed for dead center field, topping out around 350'.  It then began dropping quickly toward the field under streamer, eventually impacting hard in left center field.

Flight #4 was supposed to be another first flight bird, the Estes Nike Apache, but in loading it on the rod I discovered that a stray run of Fill & Finish had been missed inside the top launch lug, and it trying to clear it I ripped the lug from the mount.  DOH!!  In its place I grabbed the Estes Kadet, a quicky build that hadn't flown in almost five years.

The Kadet came about out of boredom.  Lousy weather, everything in my build pile caught up, but parts on the floor, and when they added up they equaled one of the plethora of Estes semi-RTF kits produced over the years.  Nothing exciting, but a perfect rocket for B6-4 Field action due to the scrap nature of the build.

Unlike the previous flight, this one headed straight for the right field corner, topping out around 250'.  The Kadet is a fairly heavy rocket, and tipped over before the chute popped.  At ejection, the chute filled immediately and barely seemed to slow the descent.

The Kadet landed with a thud within 20' of the pad.  At impact the excess powder in the chute exited in a cloud.  Kinda entertaining.  Worth mentioning is that an old Chevrolet commercial kept playing in my head from the time I pulled the Kadet out of the box.  "Estes Kadet, it'll fly you happy!"  I think the commercial was for the Chevette, of which nothing in my memory recalls as happy.

Flight #5 was the Estes Spin Fin, the rocket with the most misleading name ever.

I built the Spin Fin because I got a vintage decal in an eBay lot years ago.  Everything was fine until I went to apply the decal.  It completely came apart in the water despite having been treated as I usually did my decals.  With the rocket finished except for the decal, I had to print out another one.  When it was finished I took it to the field to see the spinning spectacle and it was gone as soon as I'd pressed the button.  Never saw anything to make me think this rocket do anything that resembled spinning.  This time I was sure it would be different.

PSYCH!  I never expected to be able to see the rocket spin.  Already learned that lesson.  I figured there was a greater likelihood that the Easter Bunny would attend my launch.  I also figured that the minimum diameter Spin Fin would fairly scream off the pad, and nailed that guess to the wall.  (Interesting thing about the above pic: that yellow orb to the right of the fin is the igniter plug.  I caught it.)  The flight was as expected, easily the highest of the day and toward the hill, though never in danger of getting treed.  It drifted more to the left than I was comfortable with, and I wasn't completely sure it was going to clear the tree on the Woodfill Avenue side of the field.  (Yep.  THE tree, and I almost found it.)  In the end the Spin Fin performed 100% better than the plastic streamer, which never gave a hint of streaming.  The rocket hit hard and when I got to the landing site I was surprised to find it had broken a fin.  Okay, I faked the surprise.

The Estes Courier was another rocket I cloned because I happened upon a vintage part.  I picked up the BNC-20AM nose cone in a late night eBay "Buy It Now" binge, and since I'd already cloned the Stinger with a Balsa Machining cone I'd picked up at NARCON, the Courier was the only remaining choice.

I built and flew this back in 2013, flew it again in 2017 and now in 2021.  For some reason it never really caught on with me and the next flight appears to be coming in 2025.  On this day the Courier followed the classic flight path, arcing out toward the right field corner.

The flight topped out around 300' and was just tipping over when the ejection charge fired.  Fired might be too conservative a word.  Detonated is more like what it sounded like behind second base.  There were two very definite objects falling, one obviously the rocket body, the other not quite as easily identified, but I took it to possibly be the nose cone until it landed ten feet from me in the grass.  It was the engine casing.  I kept the camera pointed toward the body as it plummeted to the ground in deep right field.  Impact was pretty hard, but since the ground was fairly soft I wasn't expecting complete destruction.  What I found was the nose cone barely out of the body tube and the streamer barely clearing the lip of the tube.  The end of the tube was slightly crushed and split.

Final flight of the day was the THOY Macron.  I won this on eBay in an auction where I was surprised to be the only bidder.  I knew of THOY as an early employer of Buzz Nau, so it was kind of cool to have a piece of rocketry history.

The Macron flight was out toward right field, but not quite as deep as most on the day.  Altitude was 258' 7", and it had tipped over and was pointing down at ejection.

Unfortunately the recovery was marred by a parawad chute.  During a couple of the loops it looked like it was about to fill, but never did.  Impact was hard, but being on grass helped.

At this point I packed up and left the field to beat the after school traffic, which can verge on stupid.


I was originally supposed to go back to work on Thursday of that week, but there had been an issue in getting my PC moved at work, so I wound up with Thurday off again.  Thursday wound up being an atypical 50+ degree day, sunny and cloudless, very odd for January.  I couldn't pass that up and grabbed another bunch of rockets to take to the field and dodge the goose poo.

First on the pad was my newly finished and primed Semroc Lil' Centauri.  This was one of the Semroc kits I had hoped to buy from the source, but eRockets sold out before I could pull the trigger, so I bought one for myself as a late Christmas present instead.

Probably more of a tweener kit that could fly on a B6-4 as well as an A8-3 here.  Today would be an A8-3 flight, which would turn out to be a pretty good idea based on the steady breeze.

The flight was almost a carbon copy of my flights on Tuesday, straight out toward right field.  Altitude was lacking some, likely because of all the balsa out in the breeze.  It tipped over around 200' and popped the chute almost immediately.

Easily the best flight on the day for me.  Not much by way of altitude, but it performed as expected and stayed on the field, which was a rarity on this breezy afternoon.

Flight #2 was the Estes Scamp I cloned after losing a previous one in the VOA days.  Never figured that one out, and I can only assume that it walked out of the park, because it definitely didn't fly out.

Very little chance of this one getting away, either walking or flying.  The A8-3 flight followed the same path as the Lil' Centauri, higher, but not quite as deep into right field.  

It ejected over short right field and began drifting back toward the infield fairly quickly.  Unfortunately the parachute deployed in parawad condition and never did fully inflate.

Even with the infield still damp from recent rain and snow, it was packed hard by billions and billions of goose feet and their monster turds.  The Scamp hit hard and bounced.  I was not surprised to find a fin broken when I walked over to retrieve it.

Third flight of the afternoon would be the Flight Dynamics Zepher 5.  This was a long ago eBay purchase from what I assumed was a new company.  Nice kit, interesting design, but it took almost three weeks to arrive and got the project off to a bad start.

I kept an eye out for further product from Flight Dynamics, but never saw a thing, and if I hadn't kept the face card and instructions I might have been tempted to think I'd imagined the whole thing, but I ran into someone at NARAM in 2013 who was also flying one.  Unfortunately, that one landed in the swamp at the back of the sport range, out of reach even with giant muck boots.  This one last flew here in 2012 and shattered a fin when it hit the infield.  It got better.

The A8-3 was a mistake and I knew it as soon as I saw it struggle off the pad.  B6-4 Field means B6-4 when the bird in question is BT-60 based, and I knew this based on past experience.  I can throw a rocket this high.

The Zepher got lucky.  The flight may have been to 150', and it was pointing down when the ejection charge fired.  The chute just fluttered until about 20' from disaster when it popped and put the brakes on the free fall.  The Zepher 5 survived without a scratch.

The fourth flight was the Estes Stinger (the Stinger, not the Stinger.)  It should have clued me in to how much conditions had changed, but I ignored the signs and kept launching.  

The Stinger flight itself was impressive, and was the highest of the day for a few minutes, topping out around 300-350'.

At ejection I watched the streamer fall out with a plop and fail to stream.  About that time my glasses slipped from my head and I began a series of contortions designed to keep them from possibly falling in goose crap.  My contortions failed, but here's my ear.

By the time I was done dancing the Stinger had passed over me and looked like it was heading for US 27.  If this flight had happened in 2017 the Stinger would have been treed, but the trees were gone and it dropped safely on the hill in the grass.

Flight #5 was my luckiest flight of the day.  At least until flight #6.  When all was said and done, the MRC Firefighter still had the highest flight of the day.  Nothing else came close.

Of the three MRC rockets I've built, this is the only one that will ever fly again.  It's a strange, sturdy little minimum diameter rocket that turned out better than expected, but not without some serious help along the way.

"Wow," was my reaction on the video of the flight.  I must have been only thinking the other stuff because I was silent after that, but I could swear I remember some off color remarks about the obvious trouble the flight was in, the wires it was about to get hung up in, and the fact that it was going to land in traffic.  None of these happened.  The flight topped out north of 400', but the breeze didn't take it nearly as far into the outfield as I'd been hoping.  The streamer in this flight did stream, and it was high enough to catch the light breeze and head toward US 27.  It looked iffy for clearing the wires at the edge of the field, then for clearing the road, then for hitting the building.  All my panic was for nothing.

As you can see from the landing photo, the Firefighter avoided disaster by all of 18 inches.  It landed on a narrow strip of grass within six feet of the building.  No big deal.  Just another day at the office building.

Having averted that particular disaster, one might think I'd be tempted to pack up and go home, but one might also think I'd ignore the signs and keep launching, which is exactly what I did.  I knew the sixth flight would end things because it was very close to the 2:00pm cutoff when parents would start arriving for the traffic jam that I wanted no part of.  The last flight would be a Wizard upscale, 1.34x to be more to the point.

Many years ago, I called my original Wizard my first "jaw-dropper", and I'll not back down from that claim.  In 1979 I was absolutely thrilled to have my original turn out looking EXACTLY like the pic on the face card.  (What Mom was doing with that particular shade of purple spray paint in the basement is still a mystery.)  For some reason I felt compelled to fly it from the front yard of our house.  On a C6-7.  Man, did that get out of sight quickly.  Not entirely true, as we were able to see the whole flight, up the street over the top of the church, then back toward us with the bright orange streamer flailing.  It wound up landing in the gutter of a duplex at the top of the street, just before it began pouring rain.  A literal one shot wonder.  The Wizard thing bit hard, and I was horribly disappointed in 2001 to find that they'd changed what I considered as the perfect paint and decal to an ugly mess with sticker decal.  To this day I have a stack of those stickers and I've never painted a Wizard in any scheme but the original.  No matter the size.  This is my BT-50 version. 

Looking back at the video, it's apparent that this was the flight I was thinking of with all the chatter.  I said three words, two of which I can't repeat.  (Well, I could.)  The third word being "road".  The Wizard followed the same flight path as the Firefighter, into right field, but not deep enough.  This one topped out around 300', but was equipped with a parachute, (one of the ancient Estes drag chutes from the Fantastic Estes Land Rockets.)  It was in trouble from ejection onward.

Not the clearest photo in the world, but you can tell that the road was the landing area.  I dropped the launcher and walked slowly toward the spot (a balky knee was giving me issues on this particular launch day.)  As I was walking toward it a small bus came up the hill, swerved and drove directly over top of the rocket.  The parachute filled and followed the bus up the street 100' or so.  Luckily there was no other traffic.  The Wizard survived with a gash on a fin tip and some paint scrapes.  I survived but for some knee pain, and I had Advil waiting to snack on when I got home.  The total for two days of abbreviated flying, two lost fins, one gashed fin, two boots clotted with goose poop.  Winner.


  1. Always love your flight reports Bill! Glad you got the Wizard back - seems that you were indeed lucky!

  2. I was stupid lucky. I can live with that.

  3. Hi, Bill, Great flight report(s)!! Always enjoy your excellent pics and narrative. You are a fine example of LPR 'fandom'. No matter what birds you are flying, from E2X on up, you exhibit great enjoyment of the hobby.