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TRIPOLI Pittsburgh Launch Report
May 16, 2021
The first launch event of the Tripoli Pittsburgh 2021 calendar was held at the Dragon’s Fire Field, on May 16. We were lucky to have a dry day with only moderate winds, although intermittent cloud cover had to be dealt with for those pursuing more aggressive flights. However, this was well-managed and the flyers generally were able to track and locate their rockets reasonably well….. even if some hiking was involved.
It must be stated that the prefecture members who worked hard in advance, prior to the flying season getting underway, have done an outstanding job in clearing, leveling, and general preparation of the field. For this season, the prefecture has acquired a heavy duty towed DR mower rig that is really up to the task of clearing large areas in a reasonable amount of time. It wasn’t so long ago that the actual range and recovery areas had large swaths of weeds, poison ivy and assorted forms of inhospitable vegetation. The site now has a much more usable flying area, lacking the daunting obstacles of the past. Credit should be given to Prefecture President Joe Pscolka and the field maintenance team, who have achieved such great results with our launch site.
With that said, we are still in Western Pennsylvania, so effective dual recovery is highly recommended for anyone flying in excess of 2,000 ft. We still have our share of trees ringing the site, and some adjacent fields from which we have permission to recover rockets, but not to clear out high weeds/brush. A good aerial view of the site can be seen on this page: http://www.tripolipgh.org/dragonsFireField.html
Also on the topic of recovery, TR Garman and the drone crew were present and were called on several times to do an aerial search for rockets landing in less than ideal locations. This has been notably successful in locating rockets which are not easily found. Having the drone hover right over the spot where the rocket has landed is of tremendous help (I know this from first-hand experience!). This is an example of the prefecture leveraging more modern technology to solve the problems related to rocket recovery in our challenging part of the world. Many flyers like me have used – and still do – sonic alarms to assist recovery, and while this is a reliable traditional method, the flyer has to get within the audible range of the “squealer” after the rocket has landed. This is not always the case when a rocket has gone some distance and the track is uncertain. I noticed some flyers are using Yagi radio tracking devices – an improvement but again (in my experience) not entirely reliable. GPS trackers are becoming increasingly cost effective and available, and we should be moving more decidedly in this direction for our higher apogee flights.
I personally arrived at the event later than many, and I was astounded to see the number of attendees. Rob Camele, Tripoli Pittsburgh’s Secretary/Treasurer confirmed that this was the best attended launch the prefecture has seen in many years. There were so many vehicles arriving that the field maintenance crew had to break out the DR mower again and whiz around to cut the spectator area grass even more than anticipated. Also present to support the launch was Ken Allen and his Performance Hobbies truck. It’s always good to have Ken on hand for all those rocketry items you realize you need, or just want.
With my daughter and her two sons in our party, I spent a great deal of time flexing to the rocket flying needs of two active grandsons. Nonetheless, I was able to witness the dizzying number of flights that were taking place, and the great mentoring support provided by the experienced senior members, including TRA Secretary Dave Rose, Larry Benek, and Ernie Walters. This is a characteristic of the Pittsburgh Prefecture, and those new to rocketry or who are ratcheting up their skills can be assured that friendly, expert help is at hand at our launches.
Among the younger flyers, the West Virginia University student team was present in force, with a number of planned certification flights. This for sure kept Joe Pscolka – the team mentor – very, very busy. And to good effect as well. The team was able to make five successful L-1 flights, and one successful L-3. The latter was accomplished by Joe Shepard with his Fair Warning rocket. Ernie Marsh, Daniel Heinlein and the photo team were able to get some very good shots of this flight (as well as many others), and as editor, I used some of them for the most recent issue of TRA’s High Power Rocketry magazine. Seen here is the cover with Joe Shepard arming his rocket, and a take-off shot of the same.
IThe numerous non-WVU attendees had a busy day as well. Not surprisingly, “frequent flyer” Kevin Wuchevich led the way with six flights on the day. Rob Camele wasn’t far behind with five of his own. Steve Howard flew his oft-flown and always stunning scale Talon rocket, among his flights. Jerry and Casey Andre Casey were busy flyers as well, as they always seem to be. There were of course many other flyers and flights, and overall, it seemed to me that the success rate was high.
Cumulatively, here are the stats for the event:
High power flights:25
High power flight tallies by impulse range:
H – 12
I – 6
K – 2
M – 1
Included in the I-motor flights was the second flight of my grandson Rigel Myers’ Excalibur (granddad was the official flyer), which flew nicely and delighted him by not requiring us to trudge through high weeds to recover the rocket, unlike its maiden flight last Fall. By the time we flew and recovered that rocket, the boys’ attention span reached its limit and we had to depart. Thus I did not witness the conclusion of the day, but the clouds had cleared nicely for the late-flyers by the time we left.
This was a most encouraging event, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Perhaps the strong attendance was in part due to relaxing COVID restrictions and more vaccinated people, all of whom are surely eager to escape a dreary year of lockdown. However, I am also sensing that the Dragon’s Fire events are becoming more well-known to regional flyers, who appreciate the usable site and the highly supportive Tripoli Pittsburgh members. Hopefully, this event will be a sign of things to come, and the 2021 Tripoli Pittsburgh flying season will see continued strong and growing attendance.
Submitted by Ken Good, TRA #00132