Flight Log - Ocotillo

I decided to have my own one-man rocket launch day. I thought perhaps if I went out in the desert, I could fly more flights with less distractions. I stayed up late Friday night rebuilding SPRS, putting the SR-71 together, and generally going over every detail I could think of for the launch. After I was up late rebuilding SPRS and the SR71, I left at about 8:30 in the morning.

Arrived at 10:30 or so. The weather was warm 70-75 degrees and slightly overcast. Light wind from the south. There were 20 or 30 people in 5 or so RV's already launching estes rockets when we arrived. We setup a fair distance away from them and started shooting off our own rockets. At about 11:00 or so, Devin, my buddy from work who had said he might come by, arrived and participated in the launch activities.

I took tons of little movies on the pen-cam, recorded digital audio of many of the flights, and took digital still pictures. Devin even brought his camera and took pictures too! I sorted thru the pictures and have a few to present here. In addition, I merged the sound and videos of a few of the liftoffs to make soundies of a few rockets.

The definite hallmark of the day was the success of the rebuilt SPRS (#1 was blue, this one's black). Three perfect flights that had me spitting fits of happiness as the parachute deployed and was not only controllable, but easy and fun to fly. I'll have to try to get some movies of it under flight, probably on approach to landing.

The bad news is that the Arreaux stripped a fin and zippered a tube (!) and the SR-71 nosed in pretty hard. The Arreaux is fixable should I care to, but the SR-71 is gonna be tough. It was probably doing 45 mph when it crashed straight down. I'll try to fix em up ... I'd like to fly em both for the company launch on March 23rd. But SPRS worked so well, and the day was so nice, that I don't even really mind the crunches. Great Stuff!

Click Here for a 1.1 MByte MPG movie (with sound) of Flight #6 (Arreaux) liftoff.
Click Here for a 1.1 MByte MPG movie (with sound) of Flight #7 (SPRS) liftoff.

Flight #1 - Oh Baby #5 (D12-3)

Unloaded the truck and setup in about 15 minutes. Christened the new launch pad. Oh Baby flew slow and low on the first flight of the day (250-300 ft). Landed about 50 feet uprange.

Flight #2 - Oh Baby #6 (D12-3)

Not much to say. Another perfect flight.

Flight #3 - Oh Baby #7 (E30-7T)

Perfect deployment. Landed uprange and away about 40 feet.

Flight #4 - Arreaux #9 no payload (F25-9W)

Decided to fly the Arreaux without a payload to see if the spiral was due to the camera weight being off center. Apparently not as it still spiralled fairly viciously. The darned fins are crooked! Got whoops and hollers from the campers over the hill. It really shot up there without the camera, I'd say upto 1500' or so. Couldn't see it, but heard it deploy. Came into view on queue and landed 500 feet up range.

Flight #5 - Oh Baby #8 (E30-7T)

Just keeping busy. Flew another Oh Baby for comparison. Now the 500' doesn't look so high!

Flight #6 - Arreaux #10 no payload (F25-9W)

Click Here for a 1.1 MByte MPG movie (with sound) of the liftoff.

Same basic result. Spiralled up to 1500 feet (out of sight), saw the parachute as a tiny dot. Landed a little further down range, about 750 feet (200-300 yeards). Made the MPG by syncing the sound recorded on the MD recorded using ULead Video studio. The MPG's are much more compressed than the AVI's. This one may be worth seeing.

Flight #7 - SPRS #3 - IT WORKS!!! (F20-4T Econojet)

Click Here for a 1.1 MByte MPG movie (with sound) of the liftoff.

I AM VERY PLEASED WITH THIS ROCKET! Devin arrived at about 11:15, just as I was finishing prepping for flight. I was pretty sure that the previous failure of the engine was not because it was old, but because the ignitor wasn't in properly. This was validated as the liftoff was perfect. Devin can be heard voicing his reaction ("Oh .. my .. god!") and I say "Beautiful!" as the SPRS jumps up to 1000' feet or so.

The booster and glider parachute deployed perfectly. The booster landed about 100 feet downrange. There was a moment as I tried the controls to see what would happen. Left, Right, it was definitely reacting. I zeroed in on the fact that it's really quite sensitive. I trimmed it and was able to fly it using the trim tabs if I wanted, small 1/8" to 1/4" movements of the stick causing it to gently turn left and right. I was now heard to give out a shout of glee as I realized it was working perfectly. And the descent was very slow. The booster was on the ground before the nosecone had passed thru 500'.

I glided it back to the launch site, not really trying for accuracy, but merely safety, landed it 50' or so away in the softer sand.

WOW!!! Perfect!

Flight #8 - SPRS #4 (G38-7FJ Econojet)

That was so good that I wanted to fly it immediately before opening it up and disconnecting the batteries (I will put a switch and maybe rechargeable batteries on it in the future). Loaded it up with a G38 this time. He he he. It almost disappeared (1500' or so). I could just make out the chute direction after perfect deployment. Flew it for quite a while, tried a few things like a short spiral (which could get out of control quite easily and should be used with caution), and straight flight. I found I could take my hands off the controls and let it glide for 10-15 seconds before turning it around. I'd say total flight time was well over 2 minutes on this flight. Recovered perfectly. The nosecone never touched the ground!

Flight #9 - Dual
Arreaux #11 (G40-10T)
Oh Baby #7 (E30-7T)

I think Devin was impressed by now. Decided to try a dual launch of the Arreaux Rocket cam in hi-res mode alongside Oh Baby, in spite of the fact that I'm seeing the Arreaux as less than perfect for a camera platform. Both rockets flew nicely as expected. The Arreaux was pretty much out of sight when Oh Baby landed 100 feet away.

Couldn't see Oh Baby at all on the movie. I think it ignited a little later (more resistance in the extra wires and connections), and the Arreaux just zoomed out of sight, well above Oh Baby. The movie wasn't worth putting on the web. Oh well, have to try again!

Flight #10 - Dual
Arreaux #12 - Crashed! (G40-10T)
Oh Baby #7 (E30-7T)

Rigged for lo-res movie, tried the same Dual launch. I had attached a 100 lb fishing swivel to attempt to help the spinning under chute, (which it didn't, getting wrapped up in the shock cord), and something happened ... I think the nylon 90lb test I was using to hook it up actualy came untied sheesh, but the parachute detached from the shock cord at ejection.

Here's a shot from this flight's movie looking down on about 5 good sized RV's. Although the shot includes the launch site, at lo-res our trucks and the tarp are invisible in the photo, but I think you can see the berm that was near the site in the lower left portion of this picture.

A fellow had stopped by on his ATV, and we all waited and waited to see the Arreaux. I think I may have heard the body hit the ground, but after 4 minutes or so, the parachute finally came into sight, by itself at 750' or so. I caught it and we found the rocket about 600 feet down range right in the middle of a dirt road. A fin had come off, the area around the motor tube was beat up, but the nose cone was intact, and in fact, the camera never even lost power, retaining the shots in memory, which I downloaded. I don't think the movie's worth posting, but the above shot gives some idea of it's resolution, without putting you thru the numbing chaos of part of the fall towards the ground!.

Flight #11 - SPRS #5 - Thermalled! (G38-7FJ Econojet)

Decided to fly SPRS again, keeping in line with my flight plans. By now it was 2:00 or so and had warmed up to maybe 77' and the breeze was maybe 5-10 mph at times, probably more at altitude. It zoomed up to 1500' on the G38, and deployed. Can't make out the chute in the lo-res movies from the pencam (maybe I'll get a real camcorder!).

I need to be cognizant about collisions between the nosecone and body. The parachute opened understandably untrimmed, and so spiralled out of the gate. It fell at about the same rate as the body and wanted to get tangled up in it. You could see that they actually collided. So I struggled for trim and got the nosecone out of the way (blue sky rule!). The coolest thing that happened tho, was as I took my time flying it therafter. I didn't even notice as the body landed about 40' uprange (which is also dumb cuz it could have hit me!)

As I was flying it over the road, I noticed a definite bump. It was down to maybe 500' and I circled it back up to about 750'. With Devin as my witness, I caught a Thermal with the SPRS! It seemed to want to fly forever, and I think I may have been boring Devin as I layed down on the ground and flew it. I actually spiralled it a little bit to lose some altitude so that I could end the flight. Devin challenged me to fly it back to myself, so I did. I gingerly caught it cleanly (it's light and slow) as I walked about 15' away from the launch rails. Too friggin cool. Total Flight Time: 5 minutes 29 seconds. I'll have to try for 30 minutes sometime :)

Flight #12 - SR-71 #1 - First Flight!(E15-PW)

I was very nervous as I prepped the SR-71 for it's first flight. After getting it all ready and doing a radio check, the launch rod needed to be cleaned (note: bring a can of wd-40). Then we had an ignitor failure ... maybe a short, cuz it didnt burn. After I replaced it with another ignitor (took a minute to find the *&^*^ hole!), we were ready to go.

The boost was clean and fairly straight, with a little rotation as it reached about 600 feet. I gave it full up trim and just was barely able to make out direction at those altitudes. I'd defintely recommend painting the top and bottom different colors to help with the perspective. Also I could have probably done to just let it fly out of boost for a while instead of yanking on the controls.

I managed to get a handle on it about 250' behind the vehicles moving left to right, and circled a half turn and brought it around the truck. It moves FAST. And there doesn't seem to be much room for error. Could probably use a little more up trim and hands off flying. I made a 90' turn at about 35 feet and stalled it in with the tail dragging. No harm no foul, it was on the ground.

This model is defintely not for beginning pilots!

Flight #13 - SR-71 #1 - Crashed! (E15-PW)

I probably should have called it a day right there, but I didnt. I prepped the SR-71 for another flight, set it up, and launched it. It's so hard to concentrate!

I touched the controls in boost and it spiralled pretty viciously. I have a movie of the liftoff and flight, but you can't make out the rocket after boost. It's just a single fluttery pixel. I had control of it for a little while, but, cuz of the black on black, for a second I forgot which way it was going.

I made the classic error of pulling up in a spiral dive. Partly because of the loss of perspective (trying to guage if the plane was upside down or rightside up), I tried a right turn. As it quickly fell over itself in the turn, it went into the dive. Then, of course, the more I pulled up, the tigher the dive became, and it doesn't take long from 300 feet or so (you need to push out and away to get out of a spiral dive!) ... the plane hit the ground going straight down at approximately 25-30 mph.

Oh well, it couldn't go perfect now, could it? After all of the successes of the day, crashing the SR-71 didn't seem like the end of the world. In somewhat good humor, I set the defunct bird in the back of the truck, and carried on!

There is some debate whether this is fixable. The radio appears to work, but the foam is so delicate and light (and structurally significant), that I wonder if I can repair it and not add so much weight as to make the darn thing unflyable. We'll see!

Flight #14 - Oh Baby #11 (D12-3)

Decided to call it a day, but I wanted to burn off some of my D12's, so we lit Oh Baby up a few more times. Almost comical, now it seems like you could throw Oh Baby up the 250' or so it flies. Went up, came down.

Flight #15 - Oh Baby #12 (D12-3)

One more shot for Devin to take a nice picture, and we're thru for the day.


We packed up at about 3:30 as Devin made his Adieus. Learned a few lessons today, and re-enforced the basic notion that haste makes waste. I definitely enjoyed being able to think things thru and setup the rockets carefully. Towards the afternoon I lost some of my procedural thouroughness and it showed in the results, breaking the Arreaux and SR-71 on hasty flights.

But once again, the SPRS was such a success, and the day was so nice, that as I left I was quite pleased at the results. I am looking forward to flying SPRS again (this week at fiesta), and even looking forward to fixing the broken rockets.

Gotta Love it!