Winter launches are unpredictable and usually occasions where only the truly committed show up and participate. The weekends of January 17-18 and February 28-March 1, 2015, were just such events. Of those four days, only one was the sort of day on which anybody actually wanted to be there, the others were exclusively attended by unfortunate souls who were on some sort of schedule, and needed to make a qualifying flight, or who had volunteered to be prefect, scholastic advisor, or who were coaching an academic team.
First, let?s talk about the one good day: January 17, 2015. The flight cards languished in the trailer in Lionel?s back yard until this last weekend, so my memory is a little vague about the details, but the cards tell the story ? I?ll list the flyers alphabetically:
Gram Barnes flew an Estes Patriot on a B6-4. Andrew Billin had two flights, first staging an Omega clone on a D12 to another D12. He then flew his Hojo on one of the long-burn H90 motors. Ray Bryant flew a pair of commercially manufactured motors (!).? The first was an H148R in his Pterodactyl Jr., and the next was a flight of his Orange Space Plane on a G80.
Professor Chuck Hall?s name appears on the flight cards for two flights made by North Carolina State University HPR team 3. This group was attempting a sub-scale stability demonstration for their rocket, Mission to Lars. The first flight was made on an Aerotech H148R, and I think I recall that something didn?t go according to flight plan.?? There was no serious damage, however, (these engineering students build heavy rockets that are stronger than a brick porta-potty), and the next flight, on an H284W, was a complete success.
Kurt Hesse flew his Shiny Diner on an H148R, and the main did not come out on time, resulting in minor damage. Blake Hesse also had a metallic-finish project ready for the weekend, and flew his Bronze Bullet on a G64W. The flight card is extremely legible, describing ?SL100 test main at apogee, nifling at 500 ft?.?? The main at apogee occurred on schedule, but I must have missed the nifling.
The most spectacular launch of the weekend was that of Dennis Hill?s Honest John, which he flew on the Aerotech L900 Dark Matter load. The main parachute came out a little late, resulting in minor damage, but the rocket will fly again. Johnny Hoffman was onsite with his SLI team from the Victory Christian Center who flew the Ascender 0.5 on an I 211W. Flight card records no adverse events.
Jim Livingston brought two homemade motors to the party — the first was a 54mm K400 which he flew in his venerable LOC V-2. The next was a blue-flame L motor flown in his rebuilt Carbon Hi, which worked perfectly.?? Mat Raymond made the trip from Jacksonville to fly 4 different rockets on 5 motors, ranging from the Shuttle Express, on a B6-4, to his Majestic, which he flew on one of the new long-burn F15?s. All flights were A-OK, according to the cards.?? Alan Whitmore flew his GFI on a 54mm homemade K motor for a perfect flight, and then launched the Astro-Mollusc VI on a 3-grain 54mm motor that burned through just south of the forward bulkhead, resulting in a brief rain of smoldering rocket parts.
Sunday dawned a little gray and drizzly. By the time we got to the field it was sprinkling. I waited there until about noon, waiting for any adventurous rocketry enthusiasts who might show up, until about 1:30 or 2:00, when it became apparent that the rain was getting harder by the minute. I hooked up the trailer and hauled it up to Lionel?s house. I dropped the trailer in rain so heavy that I couldn?t see my hands as I unhooked the chains. For a few minutes driving up NC 306 the rain was so heavy I could not even see the edges of the road.? Very scary!? I spent the rest of Sunday touring the far east of North Carolina, taking pictures in places like Pasquotank, Stumpy Point, Swan Quarter, and Manteo. In Pantego, I saw a flock of wild turkeys on a yard in the middle of town.
On February 28, we were back in Bayboro again.?? The NC State USLI team had their full-scale rocket, Hephaestus, ready for an initial shake-down flight. This flight was made with an Aerotech K805G, and it worked perfectly ? all of the separations taking place on time with exactly the right recovery events.?? About an hour later, the team attempted another flight with a different rocket, called D. F. I. U., and this one experienced a motor failure with an Aerotech H123W.?? For some reason, the delay grain seal failed and both ends of the motor were acting as nozzles for a few seconds, resulting in a severely barbequed rocket.
That was about all of us could stand for Saturday. The winds were hovering around 13 to 15 knots, with gusts to 19 knots, and the air was cold, raw, and very humid. I need to mention that Ken Allen brought his truck and trailer to Bayboro on Saturday, and got both of them stuck in the mud on one of the turn-offs on New Ditch Road. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ed and Sonya Withers, and to Joe Hill, who worked long and hard to get Ken?s vehicles out of the mud and to scrape and shovel the ruts out to keep our hosts mollified. My heartfelt thanks to all of you!!
On Sunday, Alan Whitmore flew his Red Snake on a homemade 4-grain 38mm I motor, and the skinny rocket completely disappeared, as it usually does. It was later recovered down near David?s house about 200 feet from the trees, even though the main parachute never came out. Jim Livingston flew his I-ROC on a homemade 38mm I motor made from the extremely energetic ?Jim Scarpine Tribute Blue 4A? formula.
Chuck Hall flew his Little John twice, first on an Aerotech H123W, which was recovered as planned, and then on an Aerotech I161W. This one caught the winds aloft, and drifted well into the trees to the N-NW of our usual launch site. By this time it was becoming clear that the wind situation above 1000 feet was a lot different than what we were experiencing on the ground, so the DART team that Dave Morey was coaching made the decision to put their project back in the truck. About that time the rains started, and I hung around long enough to greet an extremely wet Chuck Hall coming, empty-handed, out of the woods. The rain remained liquid long enough for me to drop the trailer and drive home past Goldsboro, and then it all turned to sleet and freezing rain for the remainder of my trip home to Chapel Hill. We?ll see you all in March!
Prefect, Tripoli East NC