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(All photos courtesy Chris Taylor and naramlive.com)

NARAM 53 was held in Lebanon, Ohio, which is outside of Cincinnati.  I decided to drive out.  Google Maps told me it was about 14 hours, which would be OK split over two days.  Besides, it’s a pain having to ship stuff ahead, especially when the contest models aren’t finished yet!

I ended up with a crisis at work, which ate up some time that could have been spent finishing my Scale Altitude model, but it was mostly ready when I packed up and left Friday morning.  I made it as far as Youngstown, Ohio on Friday and drove the last four hours to the launch site on Saturday.  I arrived just about lunch time.  I had enough time to say “Hello” to some folks, grab some lunch and cruise Vendor Row before a nasty thunderstorm hit.  EZ-ups were flying everywhere.  I decided to head for the hotel and unpack.

As you may know from previous NARAM reports, I compete in the Team division as part of the Spanish Inquisition team.  My teammates, Gary and Fran Miller from Green Bay, arrived around dinner time.  After dinner, we set to work putting the finishing touches on the Scale Altitude and Plastic Model Conversion entries.

I had built a Viper sounding rocket for B Scale Altitude.  All the subassemblies were painted before I left, so it was just a matter of putting it all together and adding a few details.  For PMC, Gary had done a Mercury 9, a futuristic launch vehicle put out by Pegasus Hobbies.  His model was closer to being finished than mine.  Both were completed in plenty of time to head out to the launch field Sunday afternoon.  We spent about an hour schmoozing before the thunderstorms hit again and we headed back to the hotel.  Turn-in for the two craftsmanship events was Sunday night.  It was good to not be rushing to finish the models for a change.

Monday’s events were 1/2 A Super Roc Duration and A Helicopter Duration.  I had built the Super Roc and Gary built the Helicopter.  Normally, I consider Super Roc to be a waste of perfectly good body tubes, but the maximum length for 1/2 A is only one meter, so it’s not too bad.  The primary model was maximum length and BT-5 the whole way.  We stuffed a 22” parachute in it and launched it early in the day.  We got a decent time at 84 seconds and the model was returned.  We could try to catch a thermal later in the day.  We also got a qualified, returned Helicopter Duration flight at 59 seconds.  Considering that there was very little lift at the time, it was a pretty good flight.

We prepped the models for their second flights and hoped to catch some good air.  We missed on both tries.  A 73 second flight in Super Roc and 53 seconds in Helicopter was all that we could manage.  We were solidly in the middle of the pack in Helicopter, but were still in the running in Super Roc.  There were some booming thermals popping up and some very long times were coming in, so it didn’t seem likely that the Super Roc score would hold up, but when the flying was done, we were still in fourth place.

Tuesday’s events both belonged to Fran - 1/2 A Altitude and 1/8 A Multi-round Streamer Duration.  Although simulations said that the Altitude model was stable, in the real world it was not.  We flew a larger back-up model for the second flight, just to get a qualified flight.

Multi-round events have a maximum time for each of three flights.  Any time beyond the maximum doesn’t count.  For 1/8 A Streamer Duration, the maximum time is 20 seconds.  Fran’s models had rolled Kapton bodies, pink foam nose cones and styrene fins. A 2” x 20” mylar streamer provided the recovery.  They easily scored maxes on all three flights, including one flight of over a minute that landed on the lid of a dumpster well away from the range head.

Five other teams also scored three maxes.  For multi-round events, ties for first place are broken by a fly-off.  The fly-off was scheduled for a two-hour window on Wednesday afternoon.  The maximum time for the first fly-off round was 80 seconds.  If there was still a tie, the second round would be unlimited.  We were on range duty for the first half of the fly-off, so three of the teams had already flown when we made our flight.  Only one had scored a max.  Our 34 second flight topped the other two, so we were assured of at least a fourth place medal.  Neither of the two remaining teams could beat our time, so we ended up with second place.

Wednesday’s other event was 1/4 A Flex-wing Boost Glider Duration.  On the first flight, the glider had a pronounced stall and only managed 32 seconds.  We used a different glider for the second flight and it did much better, staying up for nearly two minutes.  The combined score put us in fifth place, more than a minute and a half out of fourth.

I was responsible for both of the events on Thursday – C Rocket Glider Duration and C Eggloft Altitude.  In Rocket Glider, the entire model must glide down, so typically some sort of change in geometry is required.  My model employed a sliding wing.  The wing slides back for boost and is held in place by a burn string.  The ejection charge burns the string and rubber bands pull the wing forward into glide position.  The model boosted beautifully, straight up.  The wing slid forward and the model came down just as straight for a disqualified flight.

The second flight went better.  I chose a back-up model that was originally built for B Rocket Glider a couple of years ago, but was capable of flying on a C.  Since it was smaller, it boosted higher than the first one, but just as straight, and settled into a nice glide.  It was circling, but the wind took it over the tree line at the edge of the field.  The timers lost sight of it after 83 seconds.  Fortunately, another modeler had seen it come down and it was quickly located in the tall grass.  It was good enough for sixth place.

In Eggloft, the first flight tipped off out of the tower and had a bit of a coning action.  It managed 176 meters, but the egg was recovered intact.  The second flight with a slightly longer model was only marginally better at 179 meters.  That put us out of the money.

Thursday night was the craftsmanship model viewing and pick-up.  We would find out how the judges scored our entries.  Gary’s impeccable Mercury 9 had scored maximum craftsmanship points, but suffered in the conversion scores since it was symmetrical and didn’t have many surface details.  It was in a tie for fifth place, just one crash away from a medal.

My Viper also scored well.  It was in second place after the static judging.  It‘s a simple model, but it was very accurate, scoring maximum accuracy points, and was reasonably well done.  It would be up to the altitude to determine whether it would place or not.

I flew the Viper first thing Friday morning.  It weathercocked just a bit coming out of the tower and ejected right near apogee.  The trackers locked in on the cloud of orange tracking powder at 222 meters.  The streamer brought it back undamaged.  It was as good a flight as I could hope for.  Now, all I could do was wait.  Would my altitude be good enough or would others overtake me?  When the first place model, a two-staged Aero High, was disqualified for unsafe recovery of the booster, the Viper moved into the lead briefly.  By the end of the day, another model had beaten its altitude by 100 meters and moved past the Viper.  I would gladly settle for second place.

Unfortunately, the Mercury 9 did not fare as well.  Once it left the launch rod, it did a couple of loops.  It managed to get the parachute out before impact, but it still landed hard and damaged one of its outboard pods.  A disqualified flight was a disappointing way to close out NARAM.

Next year, NARAM 54 will be held in Muskegon, Michigan.  Google Maps says that it’s a bit over 14 hours if I cut through Canada.  I wonder if there would be any problems crossing the border with motors.