Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fixing a broken bunny...

Every rocket suffers battle scars during its lifetime; dings, nicks, chipped paint, and torn decals are the proud badges of many flights. Most of these are easily touched up with a dab of paint or the judicious use of markers, but sometimes the damage is more than a slight nick on a fin - sometimes it is severe enough to warrant considering scrapping the model. Such was the case with two of mine, which were damaged so badly that they sat in the repair box for years, dolefully waiting for me to decide their fate.

The first of these was my clone of the Centuri MX-774. Its first - and only - flight was at a Manchester launch about 5 years ago. The rocket achieved a decent altitude on a A8-3, but was unlucky enough to land on a gravel area near the barn. The wind caught the streamer, dragging the model a considerable distance across the ground. Gravel and balsa, like asphalt and balsa, don't mix very well - the MX-774's nose cone was badly dinged and scraped, and a huge chunk was ripped out of one fin. Upon my return home, I deposited the model in the repair box, fully intending to build another. However, the years wore on, and my skills advanced to the point where I thought I may be able to repair the rocket.

My MX-774 clone before its ill-fated flight
(Click to enlarge).
So I sanded down the nose, applied Fill N Finish to the damaged areas and repainted. This repair of the nose cone was the easy part; I still had to deal with the torn fin. I used my hobby knife to carve the missing section into a small rectangle, into which I glued a piece of sealed and primered balsa. It worked better than I expected - a little sanding with sandpaper glued to a popsicle stick and some black paint resulted in a very decent repair. The nicked decals were touched up with a marker, et voila! Repair done, rocket returned to the fleet.

The pieces of my Cloud Hopper clone (Click to enlarge).
My Estes Cloud Hopper clone was next. It had suffered damage at the hands of some enthusiastic youngsters at Horizon Elementary School back in April of 2014 - being over eager to recover the model, they accidentally shattered one of the top wings and the winglet. My poor bunny rocket lay in the repair box for 3 years until I finally glued various pieces back together, applied Fill N Finish to the seams, did a bit of sanding, and repainted. It also turned out pretty well; the Cloud Hopper is once again ready to leap off the pad.

The repaired MX-774 and Cloud Hopper (Click to enlarge).

Been doing a lot of work travel this month, so I haven't had much time for the hobby. Still, I managed to finish an Estes Alpha (1970's decor) and a clone of the MRC Firefighter. I also have gathered all the parts needed to build a clone of the Estes Falcon Commander, which I hope to start this weekend. The build pace may have slowed, but it hasn't stopped.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Crossing the finish line...

Hope Rising starts Headhunter on another flight (Click to enlarge).
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

These words from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities apply to so much of life, including TARC. The best of times - the Hope Rising team winning the University of North Alabama regional event with a 16 score, topping even the TARC world champions of a couple of years ago, Russellville. Or the Buckhorn Gold team scoring a extremely respectable 7 on their very first qualification flight.  Or Liberty Middle's Team Bazinga scoring 17 and 18 in back-to-back qualification flights. The worst of times - the sustainer of Fort Payne Elite's 4th rocket drifting into the trees, experiencing the same fate as its predecessors. Or the Falcon Rocketeers' rocket suffering through yet another destructive CATO involving a reloadable motor.  Or Buckhorn Gold's rocket dragging the launch controller wires up with it on their second qualification flight, resulting in a loss of 90 feet in altitude and a dismal score. This TARC season, like those of the past, saw many highs and lows. Many teams didn't think they would ever get a decent flight, while others struggled with achieving consistent results. Some teams performed 30, 40, even 50 practice flights; others only 5 or 6. However, no matter how much they practiced, all achieved the most important goal of TARC - they qualified.

They crossed the finish line...

Every year, after the qualification scores are turned in, I am inevitably confronted with the same comment - "My team worked so hard. We should have had a couple of good scores, but because of <motor variability, weather, or other reason>, we didn't. Do you think that's fair?"


TARC is like a race or other sporting event - you prepare, practice, and get your team ready for the big event. Lots of preparation and practice correlates with winning, but it does not guarantee it.  There are other factors that determine the outcome, some of which are beyond the team's control. Winning is desirable, but the most important thing is that you hung in there, giving it your all until the last score is turned in. A TARC team that does that is a winner, regardless of their final standing. The submission of 3 qual scores, no matter their values, is cause for celebration. The race has been run, the finish line crossed - no one can ask for more. The TARC teams in this area did great!

Congrats to the Falcon Rocketeers, Jurassic TARC, Hope Rising, James Clemens Team #1, Liberty Team Bazinga, the Fort Payne Elite, Buckhorn Team Blue, and Buckhorn Team Gold! See you on the field next season!

The Buckhorn teams prepare their blue and gold rockets (Click to enlarge).
The James Clemens team activates their rocket's altimeter (Click to enlarge).
Two of the Falcon Rocketeers load their rocket on the pad (Click to enlarge).
The ladies of Jurassic TARC get ready for another qualification attempt (Click to enlarge).
A Liberty Middle team member gives their rocket the final once-over before flight (Click to enlarge).