Nostalgic About Pterry.

Guffaw posted a nostalgic look at model rockets this morning, that got me to thinking of ze gut old dayz.

Like him, I was into the little black powder-powered cardboard-and-balsa rockets when I was a kid. Much later I discovered that the hobby had grown a bit. High-power rockets use composite fuel of Ammonium Perchlorate and rubber, as I recall, and are powerful enough to have caused convulsions in several federal agencies – I’m tickled to say. I built several scratch-built rockets, but my all-time favorite was a kit from a company called Public Missiles, Ltd. My Pterodactyl was my first Level 2 certification flight from the Tripoli Rocketry Association, and even though the rocket itself wasn’t much more sophisticated than an Estes model rocket it still gave me a proud day.

Alas, Pterry was limited. It was too big and heavy to really perform with its single rocket motor, and had no payload capacity at all which meant no avionics. After a few flights it all became routine, which just wasn’t right. I was thinking of risking wife’s (further) animosity by building yet another expensive rocket to replace Pterry, but then something terrible happened. A recovery system failure left me with a pile of shattered airframe surrounded by a bunch of perfectly good parts, and Pterry was reborn as Stretch Pterry.

SP was bigger and heavier, but also much more powerful. With two outboard motors to help it get off the ground, I expected a great deal better performance. The airframe was stretched to include a proper avionics bay big enough for any expansion my twisted soul and depleted bank account would allow. I even gave it a proper paint job.

Unfortunately, it never survived its maiden flight and it’s all my fault. Running into some stability problems at the actual launch site, I rushed and improvised on the fly and … shouldn’t have done any of those things. What I mostly shouldn’t have done was fail to consult with others who had a lot more experience clustering motors than I did. The outboards fired well before the main motor, pulled the igniter out of the main before ignition, and… Alas. It deserved a better owner.

The main motor never lit, and the rocket didn’t get a whole lot higher than this. Just high enough to wreck it completely.

Shortly thereafter a bunch of moves and personal problems – and the fact that the ATF was making life as hard as possible for rocket hobbyists at the time – caused me to drift away and the rocket was never rebuilt. But sometimes I do think of getting back into it. Trouble is, it requires a very great deal of open space if you’re going to do it right. Also a great deal of money. So I probably never will.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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One Response to Nostalgic About Pterry.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Back in the 70’s when I was a pre-teen, my cousin and his friends were into Estes rockets, the rockets you made your self and lit via a battery powered switch. They used us kids to run them down, the parachuted rockets being wind borne blocks away. It was a lot of fun.

    I imagine homeland security would take a dim view of ANY rockets, especially man sized taking off. I feel safe already.

To the stake with the heretic!