the season to be jolly, falalala, tis the season to fly some
rockets, falalala lalala. . . This year Red Glare came late due
to a wet summer that caused a late crop harvest at Higgs Farm.
Toni and I arrived a day early to check into the hotel and
partake in the pre Red Glare rituals that included elegant
dining, fine wine, great beer, and original moonshine trucked
directly from West Virginia.
We grudgingly awoke early Friday morning and donned our layers
of clothing to return to Higgs Farm for Red Glare 15 on Friday
the 13th. The wind was hooping and the temperatures hovered
around freezing all day but the skies were clear and the
sunshine provided the illusion of warmth that kept the brave few
that attended somewhat sane.
As usually I judged the early flights and discovered that a
strong wind shear existed about 1,500 feet that forced most
rockets to descend on a horizontal trajectory rather than a more
vertical trajectory. I prepared Shaken, Not Stirred
a CTI H120 red propellant reload that I knew would keep her
under the 1,500 foot jet stream. I used a new folding technique
for my main parachute that allowed it to be easily installed in
the upper payload section rather than my well proven previous
method of stuffing and hoping for puffing at deployment.
Shaken, Not Stirred
hobbled off the pad when the
button was pushed and arced into the stiff wind. The drogue
chute was successfully deployed on queue at apogee and Shaken,
danced during its descent until 300 feet
where the main parachute was ejected. However, the new folding
technique failed me and the main parachute never inflated
causing Shaken, Not Stirred
to experience a hard
landing in the soft field. Closer inspection upon recovery
revealed no damage, other than my pride. I slinked back to the
flight line to clear the mud from the rocket and blamed Friday
the 13th for my woes. See
Shaken, Not Stirred fly and recover hard here.
This was our only flight for day. Toni and I assisted with
various MDRA activities until the early setting sun signaled the
end of Red Glare 15 day one. We headed to Adams Ribs and met up
with Ben and other rocketeers for a nice dinner before returning
to the hotel for much needed rest.
Day two saw overcast skies, cold temperatures and windy
conditions. The weather forecast for the day looked bleak with
predicted sleet, snow, and rain. We arrived at the field early
to make best of a bad weather day. Toni prepared Sally
with Sparkles the Elf. Sparkles was installed
in the main sustainer with his own chute for apogee deployment.
A J425 Blue propellant was used to get Sally Ride
up to 1,624 feet where the apogee event ejected Sparkles and the
drogue chute. Sally Ride
descended quickly under
her small drogue while Sparkles the Elf quickly drifted away in
the upper winds. Sally Ride
deployed her main at
700 feet and came to a gentle rest in the field. Sparkles
continue to drift under his parachute until he could no longer
be seen. See Sally
Ride and Sparkles the Elf take flight here.
A massive search effort was initiated in attempts to find poor
Sparkles. Sparkles had disappeared before anyone could witness
his landing. Ben and I initiated a grid pattern search and found
many lost rockets but Sparkles was not to be found. After two
hours the search was called off. Toni was disappointed and
continued to plot the expected trajectory and possible landing
areas. Ben and I took to the Highlander and once again searched
along the fields next to the roads but Sparkles was missing in
action. Once again the search was called off and we all came to
accept that Sparkles was in a much better place.
We continued to assist MDRA and other flyers. The skies were
darkening and the expected bad weather could be seen in the
distance. There were rumors along the flight line that someone
had found an elf with a parachute. Toni excitedly walked the
flight line in search of the source of these rumors and finally
discovered that Sparkles the Elf indeed survived his adventure
and was rescued over a mile from the launch point. Soon after
the cold rains came and the launch was closed. We all made our
way back to the hotel to clean up for the Red Glare banquet.
The banquet had delicious crab cakes and chicken as well as
cheap drinks. The rocketeers that attended enjoyed a good time
with good food and good company. Video of MDRA Past was shown
and many old familiar members were recognized. Soon it was time
to stumble across the parking lot and back to the hotel in the
pouring rain thus ending Red Glare 15 day two.
Sunday morning brought a surprise. The skies were blue and the
sun was bright. The forecast called for balmy temperatures that
could reach as high as 37 degrees. Excited by this change of
events, many rocketeers checked out of the hotel and headed to
the field early. Toni, Ben, and I were no exception. The field
was muddy and the breeze was stiff. We assisted other flyers and
filmed some flights.
Ben and I assisted a flyer to recover a rocket that had landed
across the road. The main parachute was tangled on a utility
pole and the rocket presented a hazard to the local traffic. The
flyer recovered the sustainer as I attempted to disconnect the
upper section when all of a sudden the main parachute became
untangled and inflated in the wind with a loud pop. This caught
us off guard and the sustainer was pulled from the flyer’s hand
and caught my foot. It dropped me on the road and dragged me
across the asphalt. It then picked me up into the air before my
boot finally ripped and dropped me into a ditch, that was
naturally full of freezing water from the early morning rains.
When I dropped, the rocket quickly accelerated missing Ben’s
head before continuing across the field at great speed. The
rocket was eventually recovered and we learned a valuable
lesson. Always ensure that the main parachute is fully deflated
before continuing with any recovery efforts.
I ended up borrowing some dry clothes and managed to warm back
up. We packed up the field as the sun set and met everyone for
dinner thus concluding Red Glare 15 day three. It was not the
best attended Red Glare due to being so close to the Christmas
Holidays and the cold weather but it was still enjoyable and now
a fond memory. January 2014 brings the Annual Christmas Tree
launch. Until the next launch . . .