Sport Rocketry

In early 2012 I re-entered a hobby that I enjoyed when I was in Grade School and Jr. High; Sport Rocketry. Initially I intended to try to rebuild some of the small model rockets I had totally screwed up when I was a child. It didn't take long before I was addicted and became what is known as a BAR.

Initially I promised myself I would never get into Mid and High Power rocketry, those were just to expensive for me! All I wanted was a little nostalgia from my younger years. Then I noticed the new Estes PRO series. I saw them on the racks at Hobby Lobby and with their 40% off coupon I just couldn't resist. I purchased the Leviathan and found it even easier to build than the smaller rockets.

My first several tries at launching the Leviathan were met with failure. I now call it my FITS curse. First attempt, the igniter burned, but no ignition of the motor. Second attempt, same thing! After consulting with a local vendor we decided to try another brand of igniter's other than the ones sold by Estes. Unfortunately on my third attempt to place the rocket on the pad I broke off a launch lug and had to abort the launch. I gave up and flew several of my low power rockets instead including my Estes Hornet, Der-Red-Max, and a Semroc Retro-Repro of the Estes Mark-II.

NAR Level 1 Certification

Pasture Blaster

In August of 2012 I attended the OPROC Pasture Blaster event near Discovery Bay Washington.


After launching a number of low power models including my Semroc Omega, QCC Explorer, Estes Patriot, Lil Ivan, and several others the wind finally died down to almost nothing. I decided to give the now repaired Leviathan another try. It flew straight and high on the Estes F50-6T Motor, and I was able to recover it only a few feet from the launch pad.

After consulting with the Launch Director I determined it was indeed possible to do a Level 1 Certification attempt on a FAR-101 field as long as conditions were met. I had built another rocket for my L1 attempt, but the rocket I had built was to heavy for the field we were flying on, so I decided to use the Leviathan. I purchased a 3 grain, 29mm CTI 164H90 Classic from the on-site vendor (Don's Hobbies), and borrowed a motor casing as Don did not have any onhand for me to purchase at the launch.

The Leviathan was designed as a mid-power (F and G motors) rocket, it is also quite adequate for a small H motor and allowed me to certify on a FAR 101 field with no FAA waiver necessary. I did make a couple modifications on the Estes Design. I replaced the Glued Paper shock cord attachment with an Eye Bolt attached to the upper engine centering ring, and I added the Nomex Chute Protector.

Date : 25 Aug 2012
Location : Discovery Bay, WA
Rocket : Estes Leviathan
Propulsion : 29mm CTI H90 Classic
CTI Pro29 3 Grain Motor Casing, & Standard Rear Closure
Recovery : Stock Estes 24" Nylon Chute
12"x12" Chute Blast Protector
Result : Level 1 Certification

NAR Level 2 Certification

Written Exam

I took my NAR L2 written exam in March of 2013 at the WAC meeting held at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. Something just seemed right about taking the test at this location, surrounded by so much aviation history. I received a score of 100%.

Flight Attempt #1 - Failure [1]



I made my first attempts at my L2 flight at FITS in Mansfield over the Memorial Day Weekend. I had spent six months getting the 4inch Mad Cow Patriot ready, including modifications for dual deployment with redundant electroncs. Unfortunately the first launch attempt resulted in deployment of the Drogue on the pad - No Launch, so no actual failure - YET! My root cause investigation told me I had a faulty switch that was intermittent confusing the altimeter.

I made another attempt later in the day after removing the electronics and using Motor Deployment of main only, however the parachute tangled. The rocket was recovered with no damage, but one of my witnesses decided it was not a safe recovery.

On my third try, the 38mm CTI J400 CATO'ed on the pad. Either I did not assemble it correctly or the o-ring gave, there was not really enough left of it to tell. The rocket was a total loss.

So continues my FITS curse!

  1. Yes, I will even share my failures. I believe we learn even more from our failures than we do from our successes.

Flight Attempt #2 - Success

The following month I flew a successfull NAR Level 2 certification flight at the Washington Aerospace Club (WAC) Roll-Your-Own event held at the Sportsmans Club in Mansfield WA. This time instead of six months of prep time, I had six days! In fact, the epoxy was still wet when I put the rocket in the car for the trip to the launch site. I did do some sanding of the rocket on-site before sending it up but it went up naked!

Lesson Learned - Keep it simple, especially for certification flights. The more extras there are above what is required, the more things there are to fail.

Date : 29 June 2013
Location : Sportsmans Club - Mansfield, WA
Rocket : Madcow Sensor
Propulsion : 54mm CTI J280 Smokey Sam
CTI Pro54 3 Grain Motor Casing, Spacer, & Standard Rear Closure
Aero Pack Quick-Change Motor Retainer
Recovery : 44" SkyAngle Classic II Parachute
10' of 1/2" Tubular Kevlar
20' of 9/16" Tubular Nylon
12"x12" Chute Blast Protector
Swivels, and Quicklinks
Result : Level 2 Certification

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Photos courtesy of William Carpenter
29 June 2013 - Mansfield, WA

Current Projects

Up-scale Estes QCC Explorer

Build and fly an up-scale Estes QCC Explorer. I am in the design and parts acquisition phase of this project so details are subject to change. The rocket will be based on a 3" G12 fiberglass body tube.

Rocket : Scratch Built Up-Scale QCC Explorer
Propulsion : Giant Leap - Bell-Shaped Nozzle Retainer (54mm)
Electronics : PerfectFlite - StratoLogger Altimeter
Tragic Little Aerospace - Micro GPS Telemetry Unit
Magnetic Switch with LED Indicator
Recovery :

Rocketry Organizations

NAR logo Tripoli Logo

Internet Forums

The Rocketry Forum The Rocketry Forum Archive Ye Olde Rocketry Forum

Rocketry Vendors

Here are some of the companies I have done business with with regard to rocketry. There are many more out there, these are just the ones I have successfully done business with.

Hobby / Rocketry Shops

Manufacturers (Kits + Parts)



Paul West
NAR 94383 / TRA 15009
HPR Level 2