Last weekend I went to a reunion of sorts and had a blast. It was the annual PHITS reunion BBQ, campout and rocket launch. It’s tough to understand why this annual event is so important to me with out a little history. So Sherman set the way back machine to 1999. Location: a lonely Atlas E-series missile silo site in Northeastern Colorado.
When I joined the local rocketry club upon moving to Colorado, the original intent was to get my boys interested in science. At the time there were about ten adult members of the club and only few who were NAR members. To maintain a sanction club, NAR demands that there be a minimum number of paid adult NAR members. The club was so small and fragile that if I hadn’t joined NAR the club may not have survived the summer. There was a core group of people that ran the club, I was fortunate enough to get in with the cool kids early. As time went by, my kids lost interest in rocketry, however, my interest grew. Soon I was Equipment manager and my wife was treasurer. Eventually we helped merge the club with the local Tripoli club. During the next few years that same core group molded the new club. Without their active participation and leadership NCR not exist. Today NCR has hundreds of members and launches thousands of rockets a year. The same core group of people found that, while it was great to be a part of such a large organization they missed the atmosphere of PHITS. It was much more informal and had an unhurried pace when the club was small. It is the same feeling a person gets when their little town grows in population. Sure it’s nice to have all the cool things that come with a large population, but the noise and traffic sucks. The same thing was happening to NCR and the leadership was getting burned out.
Three years ago one of the ex-presidents of PHITS had the idea to hold a reunion launch once a year in June. The launch would be exclusive to the small group of friends who started the whole thing back in 1999. Once a year we could get away from the mob and just fly rockets, and BBQ, and drink beer. Oh and talk about the good old days of PHITS.
The one event that really cemented the friendship of this core group was a little project we did together to prove that we at PHITS were not a bunch of kids flying toy rockets. Back in 2000 there was a rival club named TRM. (Tripoli Rocky Mountains) This was a club that appealed mostly to people interested in High power and experimental rocketry, while PHITS was a NAR club that appealed to families and mostly scale models and sanctioned contests. Our club president, John, was a member of both clubs and spent a goodly amount of time tweaking the TRM guys on the nose with stories of how PHITS has all the coolest members and has the most fun club in Colorado. The TRM guys would retort with how we are a bunch of Nancy boys with toy rockets and are afraid to hike up our skirts play with the big boys. This didn’t sit well with John. So he came up with the idea to build a group project with the express intent of taking away as many TRM high power altitude records as possible. We named the rocket the PHITS Phlyer and on a hot day in September 2000 we took three of the TRM altitude records. It was quite the big deal at the time, however, it was short lived and the clubs merged together only a few years later.
This year we brought out the Phlyer to launch on Saturday. What a great rocket, spun filament wound fiberglass, 2.5” in diameter and 78” tall, it was built for speed. We flew it on an experimental wimpy red K-650 rocket propellant that I made out of the left over propellant from the Uproar project. Elvis determined the proper nozzle size and donated the motor case. Jon set up the altimeter, packed the chutes, and set the charges. John did the final assembly. I armed the altimeter took a quick photo, and John pushed the button to send the bird into the sky. It was a perfect flight to 9880’. Elvis and I recovered the rocket about a mile away, it was tucked nice and neatly on the ground surrounded by cactus and dry prairie grass.
After a few more rockets took to the sky we had to reluctantly stop our launch activities. The FAA waver was closed at 5pm so we had to think of something else to entertain ourselves, luckily I brought out some entertainment…..
Next: Reunion launch pt 2: The great gnome hunt