Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I survived Southern Thunder 2017


Just a few minutes after arrival, I slipped in the very muddy ground along the tent line and created a big new mud puddle when my huge carcass hit the ground. Fortunately, my pride was the only thing to suffer damage - if you discount the fact that I went through Saturday covered in mud like a sewer worker. Nonetheless, I soldiered on and managed to enjoy Southern Thunder 2017 very much, especially on Sunday when I stayed a good deal cleaner.

Lining up at the RSO tent for pre-flight checks (Click to enlarge).
For those of you who don't know, Southern Thunder is the big annual launch for the Music City Missile Club (MC2) and my club HARA. Traditionally held in June, this year we were joined by a new co-host, the SoAR (Southern Area Rocketry) club out of north Georgia. This is a good thing, as SOAR brings to the event some very experienced folks and some nice launch equipment to augment MC2 and HARA's already awesome capabilities. The Birmingham Rocket Boys also came north and joined in on the fun by conducting a night launch on Saturday night. I haven't seen the official numbers for Sunday, but there were about 227 flights on Saturday, which is lower than in past Southern Thunders. The cause was obvious - a smaller attendance, no doubt caused by the monsoon rains that blew through the area Thursday and Friday, creating the treacherous quagmire that led to my fall. The weather was so bad that I was doubtful it would improve by launch day, and I am sure many potential attendees were put off by the iffy forecast. Their loss, because those of us at ST2017 had a great time flying rockets with all sorts of motors, from 1/4 A all the way up to M's.

Looking south from the middle of the tent line (Click to enlarge).
My Estes Orange Crush on the pad (Click to enlarge).
I flew 7 rockets during the two day launch - not great, but hey, at least I got a few birds in the air. Here's the list:
  • Estes Orange Crush on a C11-5 (Saturday)
  • Estes Mammoth on an Estes F15-6 (Saturday)
  • Aerotech Initiator on a G74-9W (Sunday)
  • Downscale Enerjet 2250 clone on 3xB6-4 (Sunday)
  • MPC Pioneer 1 on a Quest A6-4 (Sunday)
  • Estes Marauder clone on a B4-4 (Sunday)
  • Estes Alpha on an A8-3 (Sunday)
All flights went well, with soft landings in the drier parts of the field. I got some ribbing from members of my club about the Mammoth and Initiator flights, which were considered to be a significant deviation from my norm. I guess they are right - I rarely fly anything with more impulse than an E, even in Geezer TARC. The Initiator flight was my favorite; I love the fire and sound of the brilliant Aerotech White Lightning motors, and the G really put the rocket way up there.

My Enerjet downscale awaits its turn (Click to enlarge).Racking up mod rocs (Click to enlarge).
Allen accompanied me and Duane to the field, and his modified Madcow Patriot put in a very nice flight on an H motor. I gave him considerable grief about sticking a G118 into an Estes Ventris, which I figured would shred the rocket, but it held together nicely, with the electronics in the modified payload section executing a perfect dual deploy. I also enjoyed the flight of his finless induction rocket, which flew (mostly) straight on an C6 motor - to the amazement of the onlookers.

Allen's induction rocket on the pad (Click to enlarge).And in the air (Click to enlarge).
And Duane? He flew nothing - nada, zilch, bumpkus. Perhaps I shouldn't criticize, because he may have been the smartest of our trio. With no prepping and waiting in lines, he was completely free to watch the flights, some of which were rather spectacular in a NASCAR fashion. I was oblivious to quite a bit of the action while doing flight preps. Lots of things go on at a Southern Thunder, with the launches, raffles, and special events. Blink and you can easily miss something quite neat.

Southern Thunder 2017 sponsors - there were lots of goodies given away! (Click to enlarge).


  1. Sewer Worker pics. Your public demands it.

  2. Billy, it was very good to see you again. My family and I had a good time at Southern Thunder. I understand it was toned down a bit by the threat of bad weather but it was still well attended. We took some good video and pictures that we will share soon. Looking forward to launching our own rockets next time. I plan to be at the club meeting in Huntsville. Will there be pizza? :-)

  3. Biggest rocket I've flown my Ventris on was a G57. But a friend recently talked me into sticking an H238 in my Scion. It did nicely. (Used a Chute Release.) Admittedly I did overbuild it somewhat, epoxied the motor mount and did epoxy + milled fiber fillets.