Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Showdown at high noon...

This past Saturday was the day chosen for the long awaited Geezer TARC competition launch - a rather auspicious day, being on Labor Day weekend and also the opening Saturday of the college football season. I think we will fix this day for future Geezer TARCs; it's perfect for a rocket showdown.

Duane and I were the first to show at the Harvest Horse Farm, followed in short order by Woody, Art, Nate, Chuck, and Marc. There were only three competitors - myself, Duane, and Marc - but you would have sworn there were more from the volume of the smack talk being exchanged as we set up the range. We also had spectators; Constance and some of the Hope Rising TARC folks were there, along with Marc's family and Duane's daughter and her fiancé. Thankfully some of them brought canopies, as the day was blistering hot, making us quite grateful for the shade of the tents.

Art flew the first rocket of the day, a venerable Estes Sprint that he built way back in 1970 (can you believe a rocket actually survived 46 years?). The Sprint performed well, but Art had replaced the aging shock cord with a new, modern type, thereby requiring the nose cone to separate from the rest of the rocket. Fortunately a bit of searching turned up the prodigal piece, so the vintage rocket can take a bit of rest as an intact whole.

Art Woodling's vintage Estes Sprint takes to the air as Chuck's SR-71 awaits its turn
(Click to enlarge).
Chuck then launched a remote controlled SR-71 on a D12 motor. The boost was good, but he could not pull it out of a shallow dive, which ended in a hard landing and some minor damage. Undaunted, Chuck repaired the model, made some adjustments, and flew it again. However, the SR-71 was quite insistent on heading for the ground, resulting in another crash and even worse damage. Chuck also attempted to get a composite powered Red Max off the pad, but the old motor refused to light, even with an enhanced igniter. Deciding that Fortune was not smiling on his rockets, he pulled a couple of RC planes out of his SUV and delighted those present - especially the kids - with some precision flying.

Marc prepping one of his Geezer TARC birds (Click to enlarge).
Which brings us to Geezer TARC...

Duane launched the first model, which seemed to perform well, at least in duration. The timers measured it to be 39.7 seconds, pretty close to the 41 second time mark. However, the altitude was a disappointing 525 feet, some 250 feet below the goal. Thus it was that Geezer TARC began with a miserable score of 255.

My 2017 Geezer TARC birds - the 24mm powered EggsTerminator (BT-60 to BT-70) and
the 18 mm cluster Omelet Express (BT-60 to ST-18; Click to enlarge).
I would not fare much better; my E12 powered EggsTerminator performed better than simulated, achieving an altitude of 938 feet, 163 feet above the mark. The duration, 49.8 seconds, was also on the long side due to the higher apogee. Staring at the dismal 190 score, I consoled myself with two thoughts - 1) I was ahead of Duane, and 2) the descent rate was about right. I figured the rocket would have stayed aloft for 41 seconds if it had hit 775 feet dead on.

Marc ended the first round with his "conventional" rocket. It reached 731 feet, far closer to the mark than the first two models, and was down in 29.4 seconds - about 12 seconds short on the duration. This was still good enough to put him in the lead, with a 90.5 score.

We began round 2 enlightened with the knowledge that, even with our years of TARC experience, our  scores sucked greatly, being representative of the first flights of a first year team. Very humbling.

Duane's chance for redemption and retaining his title flopped; the duration, measured at 53.5 seconds, was over 10 seconds beyond the mark, and the apogee was still 173 feet low; the rocket struggled up to 602 feet. The 215 score put the two year Geezer TARC champion in last place.

My Omelet Express flew next. Propelled by a cluster of 3 C6-5's, it soared to 763 feet, just 12 feet shy of the magic 775. However, the 12" parachute proved a bit too big for the minimum diameter egg capsule, which descended at a slow 18 feet per second. The flight duration was a long 51.7 seconds, but it was close enough to yield a score of 46.7, the best of the day. Unfortunately, the sustainer parachute was singed by the ejection charges of the the 3 motors (too little wadding) and did not open, resulting in a hard landing. Rules are rules, and so I had to disqualify myself. Nonetheless, I was pleased that my much-ridiculed black powder cluster performed better than any other rocket in the competition. And you can bet that next time I will stuff more wadding into that damn tube.

Marc ended the competition by launching his "complex" rocket, which featured onboard electronic smarts to automatically reef the parachute if the descent rate was too low. This setup was never tested, as the fly-away rail guide attached to the rocket jammed in the rail and broke free, sending the model skidding across the field. No score, a disqualification, and a badly damaged rocket. Surprisingly, the egg (and the electronics) came out of the wreckage unscathed.

The 2017 Geezer TARC champion with his daughter and trophies. Congrats Marc!
(Click to enlarge)
Thus it was, after 2 rounds, Geezer TARC had a new champion - Marc Loertscher. And in an additional bit of irony, he also received the Flying Pig Award for the worst Geezer TARC flight, as well as the winner's trophy. Congrats, Marc! You were the best and the worst! I will say Duane yielded his title very graciously; perhaps it was because he was still scratching his head over why his rockets failed to make altitude.

Duane launches his "altimeter test vehicle" (Click to enlarge).
Ever the engineer, Duane flew his "altimeter test vehicle" on an F motor; designed to check altimeter consistency, it was loaded with 6 altimeters from various manufacturers, which made an awful din with their constant chirping. Next was his upscale Cherokee-D, which was borne aloft on the flames of 3 Estes E9-6 motors. This was Duane's first cluster, and I was pleased to see it perform flawlessly; obviously hanging around me has rubbed off in a positive way.

Duane's clustered upscale Cherokee-D streaks skyward on 3 E9 motors (Click to enlarge).
It was 3 PM, and unbearably hot. We declared the Geezer TARC launch over and headed back to our air conditioned homes and college football on the TV. Hopefully there will be better scores next year!

The embarrassing scores of this year's Geezer TARC (Click to enlarge... On second thought, don't).


  1. Your two TARC birds look great! And I love that shot of the Cherokee D cluster rocket. Very nice.