Launch Report, Bayboro, October 10, 2020

I usually rise about 5:00 AM on regular launch Saturday mornings, and conditions Saturday morning were about as bad as you can imagine in Chapel Hill for a potential rocket launch.   The rain was pounding on my roof so hard at 4:30 that it woke me up.   As I drove out of Chapel Hill the rain was coming down so thick I could not see the reflective dots that mark the lanes on I-40.

But, as we know, conditions in Pamlico county are often not even remotely like conditions in the middle of the state, so I continued to drive East and the rain got lighter and lighter.   At Bayboro, the rain had almost stopped by 10:00, and by noon we had the equipment set up and started flying rockets for one great afternoon.  Not many people showed up, which is very understandable because of the forecast.  We only had nine or eleven flights, so I can describe them individually.

We began the day with a TRA level 2 cert flight from Morgan Willis, who flew her new Psychedelic on an Aerotech J270W.  The flight was perfect and the rocket came home in mint condition, so we now have one more L2 cert flyer who I can bug to take a turn as RSO or LCO!!  Heath McPherson then flew his Steampunk to some serious altitude on a CTI J410R.  Brent Bierstedt brought out his well-used 7.5” V2 for a flight using the Aerotech K850.   All of us who are familiar with V2s remarked that it did NOT do the usual wiggly tail-dance that the short rocket usually does when flown in the hobby ballistic mode.  Tell us Brent! How did you do it?

Matt Willis, father of Morgan, then flew his JLT #3 on one of the extremely brassy Aerotech H550ST motors.   He was testing out the Jolly Logic chute release products, and he got it to work perfectly.  Alan Whitmore then made the first Research launch of the weekend, with a 2-grain 54mm J motor made from Augmented Livingston White propellant.   Very gratifying results with a perfect recovery.  Heath McPherson flew his second rocket of the day, the Mystic Encounter on a CTI H255ss motor.   I’m not sure that one made it back home.

William Felton was back at Bayboro for the first time in almost a year, and he made a successful TRA level 1 cert flight with his rocket called Cookie using the CTI H143.  William is getting into the potential complexity of HPR at an early stage, using dual deployment for recovery, even though this is not required for L1 certification.   All aspects of the recovery went well, so William’s progress through the cert levels looks very promising.  I have some memory that Williams daughter Evelyn made at least one flight of her rocket on an F motor, but there is no record of the rocket name or motor choice on the clipboard.   We’re still getting this ‘no-contact’ record keeping system worked out in detail, but I want to thank every single participant in this launch and the one 2 weeks ago for their cooperation with our anti-CoViD measures.  It is (to me) a fascinating coincidence that in a day that only 9 or 11 flights took place, 2 pairs of flights were made by father-daughter combinations.

Alan Whitmore then made another Research flight with his Red Flag of Mortal Peril on a 4-grain 38mm motor made from the Ferric Fudge propellant, and Jim Livingston wrapped things up with a fine flight of his rocket LZ on a 6-grain 38mm I motor using his White Smoke formula.

It felt great to be back in the wide-open farm land with my rocket friends, and I hope that all of you who have not come back to Bayboro since the pandemic started will come back and fly with us soon.

Alan Whitmore
Prefect, Tripoli East NC

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Launch Report, Bayboro, September 26-27, 2020

I had no idea how many people might show up for this weekend’s launch.   I knew that there was a lot of pent-up desire to fly, because it has been many months since most people have been able to fly anything.  But I also knew that people are rightfully concerned about the SARS-2 virus, and have been taking unprecedented measures to protect their health.  I publicized a series of extra safety rules for this launch, and I thought some people might find them too restrictive.  I was pleased to see a very good turnout for Bayboro, and a gratifying number of old regulars, first-timers, people getting back into rockets after a long hiatus, and excellent compliance with the safety regs.

Saturday morning started off with dense fog and heavy cloud cover.  But, it wasn’t raining, so we set up the equipment and began to prep rockets.  The field was damp, but not soggy, so ‘sparkies’ were on the menu, and we could walk around without sinking in the mud.   Somewhere around noon, we saw one of the strangest meteorological phenomena I have ever seen at Bayboro:   The clouds broke up and dispersed, blue sky was seen from one horizon almost to the other side, and it began to rain.   And, while the rain poured down for at least 20 to 25 minutes under a clear, blue, cloudless sky, it continued to rain.  Very strange.   All the rockets went back into the vehicles, the clipboards with wet paper were put away, and the launch boxes got wet, causing us troubles for the rest of the day.

I’ll put the motor use summary in here, and then we’ll mention some individual accomplishments.

Size Sat Sun Total
D 4 4
E 2 2
F 1 1
G 4 2 6
H 2 1 3
I 6 5 11
J 2 2 4
K 3 3
L 2 2
M 2 2
All 28 13 51


Keep in mind that we were trying to reduce the opportunities for people to touch objects that other people had touched, so we were trying to run the launch without flight cards, relying on people to tell the LCO about the rocket and recording the information on a clip-board.  We may have missed some flights and some important details.  Bear with us, we’re still trying to develop reliable, safe CoViD era procedures.

The certification flights are always the most important events at any launch.  On Saturday, Morgan Willis flew her LOC 4 on an Aerotech H100W for a successful TRA certification.   She then took the L2 written exam and aced that!

We were delighted to see some new flyers at Bayboro this weekend.   Dorsey and Teddy Delavigne both made flights on Saturday, and we hope to see them again over the winter.  Paul Kramer came over from Charlotte to fly with us, and although he is new to Bayboro, he has been in High Power for a long time.   Paul’s specialty is clustering, and he showed us some dazzling examples.  Paul flew his Super Big Bertha on a Cesaroni I125. Paul also made flew his LOC 7 on a central AT K270 and six H180W’s.   This flight is listed in the L range.

Regulars Jim Livingston, Robbie Kirk, Matt Willis, Mike Nay, Dennis and Joe Hill, and Kurt Hesse were busy all day.   Mike Nay’s two-stage skills were on display this weekend.   Anybody who has ever attempted a high power two-stage knows that the trick is not just getting the staging to work correctly, but actually finding the sustainer when the flight is over.   Mike has a good GPS product, and knows how to use it.  He left no hardware in the fields.

Two-stage projects and clusters were going up all the time.   Terry Delavigne, Sam Taylor, and Mike Nay all made staging flights, and Joe Hill, Dennis Hill, and Paul Kramer all pulled off successful cluster launches.   Frank Schneider made the one successful M motor launch of the weekend with a flight of his 5 Minute Express.

I am giving this month’s best rocket name to Dennis Hill’s Tarre Viszla.  Not only do I not know what it means, I don’t even know how to pronounce it! (Editor: the first Mandalorian Jedi, according to Wikipedia).

On Sunday, we started in deep fog, just like Saturday, but it cleared in good time.   We met Heath McPherson from Raleigh for the first time.   Heath is an L3 flyer but has never been to Bayboro before.  I hope we see Heath a lot more in the future, because he has exactly the right mind-set for a Bayboro flyer.   His second rocket, Tank Girl, got lost in the soybeans, and Heath made three different trips off into the foliage, refining his bearings and search techniques every time.   Finally he found it and brought it home.  Bayboro presents special challenges for new flyers:   the field is so big, and the waiver is so high, that people are tempted to fly as high as they possibly can, and then they realize that if you lose sight of a rocket, and don’t have some sort of electronic tracker in it, you have no idea where to look.   Even if you see it come down, the land is so vast and so flat, that you cannot know how far away it landed.  Electronic tracking is really the only way to go with flights to altitude.   The cut-off point for what is too high will be determined by how big your rocket is, and the atmospheric conditions.  Light haze can make small rockets disappear almost immediately, and for the large high-power flights, partly cloudy skies make for very difficult visual tracking.  Electronic tracking is almost essential for any flight a Bayboro that makes use of the resources we have.  The club owns a Walston receiver, so all you need to buy is a transmitter, and they are light and not very expensive.  We can advise you about frequencies and where to buy the transmitters.

Allen Rose flew three of his short, fat specialties, and Ralph Reda was up from Wilmington for a few flights in the J and K range.

The big Sunday news is that John Allman made a perfect score on the NAR L2 exam, and then flew his 4” Patriot on an Aerotech J425R for an exemplary Level 2 certification.  I think we can expect John to start spending even more money.  Regulars Mike Nay, Joe Hill, Robbie Kirk, and Alan Whitmore were back on Sunday and busy all day.

I want to extend a big thank-you to all who stayed to help with tear-down and trailer packing on Sunday afternoon.  Saturday was especially hard on your correspondent, and I was operating on a severe energy deficit on Sunday.  A lot of us were suffering from the effects on dehydration on Saturday night, and it’s hard to be active and lively on the day after a severe case of dehydration, especially if you have seen more than 70 winters.

I have a great idea for raising a few dollars for the club.  At almost every launch, someone leaves a folding chair somewhere on the field.   I have been accumulating these chairs in my truck, and when that became too full to load my own rocket weekend stuff, I began to stow them in the club trailer.  We’re now up to five chairs in my truck and four or five in the club trailer.   I’m going to put all these chairs (minus the best one, which I claim for myself) up for sale at the next well-attended launch, and collect whatever people are willing to pay.   The latest acquisition is a real doozey:   a folding chair lined with fake fur.   Nothing says elegance like fake fur, and if the actual owner of this chair does not claim it, I think this gem is going fetch a pretty penny for the club.

Alan Whitmore

Prefect, Tripoli East NC


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Bayboro Septemper Launch is a Go

Rocket people,

I have spoken with the landowner and decided to hold the September launch under some rather strict safety rules, which we can relax (or tighten up) as we gain experience with CoViD-era rocket launches:

  • Masks or face covering  of some sort will be worn at all times near the club trailer, RSO tables, LCO table, and the pads.  You can take them off at your vehicle or out in the field recovering rockets.  I will have a few extra with me, but when they are gone, if you show up bare-faced you will be sent home.
  • Park a little farther away from other vehicles than you  usually do, the extra walking is good for you!
  • Bring your own pen or pencil for signing in.
  • Contact-tracing information will be collected at the field.   If you are fairly certain that you will be attending, send me your name, home town, and telephone number by return email to save time.
  • If you feel sick, stay home!

The next items are strong suggestions:

  • There will be no soap and running water supplied at the field, so bring your own hand sanitizer or disinfectant.  Jim Livingston came up with a great idea that I will be adopting.   Get a package of baby-wipes that has been opened, or buy a new one and leave it open overnight.  Then pour in isopropyl alcohol until the wipes are soaked, and close it back up.  When I was working with the original SARS-1 in the lab, we could buy any space-age disinfectant we wanted, but we all used isopropyl alcohol because it was most effective on coronaviruses.
  • At least for September, there will be no porta-potty.
  • Please don’t bring visitors or children too young to be expected to comply with the safety rules.
  • We are going to try a “flight-cardless” method for listing rocket flights.   The RSO or LCO will have a clipboard on which he or she will record flyer name, rocket name, motor information, and, if it’s a high-power flight, the cert level of the flyer.   Please don’t touch that clipboard unless you are actually the LCO or RSO.

 We can improvise at the field and learn from our experience for the October and November launches.

 Alan Whitmore, Prefect, Tripoli East NC

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