By Bruce Markielewski

    It wasn’t until after
the Pikes Peak or Blast VII regional that I finally
decided to attend the 38th National Association of
Rocketry’s Annual Meet (NARAM 38), in Evansville,
Indiana. I had more than doubled my contest point total
for the season in Colorado Springs, moving me from 24th
in the country to 9th place, and suddenly I felt I had a
shot at one of the top national places. Still, I had only
a month to prepare, and having something ready for only
three or four of the twelve events. I had a couple of
models that would normally be considered backups, and
would have liked to have had time to build new ones for
all of the events. Time really flies when you have a
deadline, and upon leaving, I still had a couple of
models unfinished, and nearly all without recovery
systems installed. I’d do that the night before the event
was held.

    Todd Schneider, from
Colorado Springs, also planned to attend, although he was
going mainly to sell his Eclipse Components items. We
arranged to meet in Limon on the way to conserve time,
and caravaned east. The trip out was uneventful for the
most part, other than not finding any motel vacancies the
first night, and getting lost for a while in Kansas City.
We arrived earlier than expected on Sunday afternoon,
having to spend the previous night at a rest stop. This
was the day several event entries had to be turned in, so
I spent most of the evening putting finishing touches on
my Sport Scale and Plastic Model Conversion models. Todd
was busy unpacking his inventory, and selling rocket
parts almost immediately.

    We headed out to the
contest site Monday morning. The area was extremely
large, but not particularly flat. A large area had been
mowed, but beyond that were waist high weeds that were
mostly of the thorny variety. A tent was set up for the
range officers , and another for the competitors to
prepare their models. Nearly twenty pads were setup for
competition, and about 300 feet away was the sport flying
range. Monday’s events were “B” Parachute Duration
Multi-round and “C” Boost Glider Duration. My
“Super-Dactyls” performed well, but with a stiff breeze
and a high ridge towards the west, flight times were cut
short. I managed 162 seconds compared to the winning
total of 224, but finished only as high as 7th. I had
problems in parachute duration, with two CATO’s and a DQ,
finishing with only 114 seconds and a disappointing 28th

    Later that evening,
I spent some time checking out the manufacturer’s rooms,
and attended one of the NAR meetings. About 11:00 PM, I
decided to finish the “C” helicopter model that I had
started, and finished the model around 8:00 AM the next
morning. I got about 2 hours of sleep that night, and
managed to get out to the launch site around 11:00 AM. I
turned out that I could have skipped building the model,
as a separation resulted in a DQ on its maiden voyage.
The engine pod was lost for a couple of days, and I ended
up flying my backup model twice, with another separation
on the second flight. Needless to say, I didn’t score
very high in the event. “D” Streamer Duration wasn’t any
more of a success. My first flight was respectable, but
realizing I only brought one D21-7 engine, I decided to
try a D3-7 for the second. I didn’t know that these were
considerably heavier than the D21’s, so my flight was
immediately unstable, doing several loops before bouncing
and lifting off again. This obvious DQ did, however, win
the “Best Midwest Qualified Flight” award, which goes to
the worst flight of the contest. I have no idea where the
name came from. Todd’s day wasn’t any better, as his
payloader separated, and his super-roc’s engine refused
to ignite before the range closed.

    An auction was held
Tuesday evening, and I spent too much for several items,
a stack of old Model Rocketeer magazines, a Centuri
Enerjet E24-4, and an old ESTES catalog, but since all of
the proceeds went to the Bob Canon Scholarship Fund, I
figured this was a worthy investment. Todd was determined
to buy a vintage Centuri Little Joe II kit, still in
sealed in the original plastic, and outspent me on that
item alone. Later Todd attended the Manufacturer’s Forum,
and gave a presentation of his Eclipse Components
inventory. I decided to prepare the next day’s models and
try to get a good night’s sleep.

Todd inspects PMC models NARAM Prep Area

    Wednesday’s events
were Open Spot Landing, “A” Altitude, and “B” Super Roc
Altitude. We were required to fly spot landing first, and
my flight turned in a fine 12 meter score. I was in first
place throughout most of the day, but was later beaten by
two other competitors. Well, at least I finally placed in
an event, taking third. My first “A” altitude flight
seemed to be perfect, and I thought I finally was going
to have a good day. Unfortunately, the model was not
tracked, and I had to re-fly. A CATO on the next flight
also required me to fly again, but my next two flights
finally worked well and were tracked. My best flight of
345 meters was good enough for fourth place, but Todd’
great flight of 422 meters took first in the event. “B”
Super-roc was disappointing also, as I was the current
NAR record holder in the event, and expected it to fall
that day. I wanted to be the one to break the record, but
my best model broke on liftoff. My backup flew well, but
sixth place was the best I would do.

    Todd and I had
volunteered to be judges for the Plastic Model Conversion
event, and spent some of the evening scoring the entries
in the “B” and Team divisions. This was a lot of fun, as
we scrutinized some very good and some very awful
entries. We also attended some of the “A” and “B”
division R&D presentations, and the most interesting
was John Marsh’s electronic dethermalizer

    Thursday was once
again a miserable day, as both of my “C” payload models
disappeared into the sky, never to return. One was
tracked to 500 meters, so at least I know the model flew
well. I thought I would have a qualified flight in “F”
Dual Eggloft Duration, but upon returning from a mile
hike on the first flight, one egg had a hairline crack in
the side. My second flight landed even further, about two
miles away. It took a while to find the red barn in the
distance that the model drifted over, and the nice woman
who owned the property let me look around after I
explained about the contest and my lost model rocket. She
even let me climb up on the barn’s roof to get a better
view, and while I was searching, a couple of other flyers
came along, looking for their models. She asked them if
they were looking for their “spaceship”, too. I didn’t
find mine, so the flight was another DQ, since the
deadline for return was 7:00 PM. I was surprised to learn
that she had found the model and returned it to the
launch site the next day.

    We finished up our
judging duties that evening, and were told that someone
was selling a huge collection of old rocketry items in
one of the motel rooms, with a couple of Mars Landers
sold in the parking lot. We headed there immediately,
expecting to find out that all of the good items were
already gone. I was surprised to see a couple of ESTES
Cinerocs on the desk, and asked if they were still
available. They were, and finding out that the price for
both and an Omega kit was $100, my next question was
“Would you take a check?” I had suddenly acquired some
rocketry history that I hadn’t expected to ever find.
Todd and I each were able to snag another collector’s
item, an ESTES Camroc, for only $25 each. Todd bought a
carload of old kits, and I also picked up a large box of
old magazines. Everything was going for a great price,
and I only regretted not being there when he arrived to
pick up the Mars Landers, too.

Bruce's Scale LEM     My R&D
report didn’t score in the top four, so I wasn’t asked to
do a presentation, but both Tom Beach and Bill Spadafora
expressed interest in my project. Tom is the Sport
Rocketry Editor, and was interested in using it for a
future article. Bill is the NARTS Chairman, and wanted to
include the report in the NAR’s technical reports. They
were both judges in the R&D event, and I asked why I
didn’t score higher in spite of all the interest. The
answer was that my project wasn’t “revolutionary” enough,
that it didn’t contribute enough to the future of the
hobby. R&D was a tough event, and “C” division was
won by Vern Estes, who entered only this

    Friday was the day I
was both dreading and looking forward to, as I once again
had to fly my Lunar Module sport scale entry. Todd and I
were judging the Plastic Model Conversion flights we
judged for static points earlier, and there were
disappointingly few “prangs” in the event. I decided to
get this event out of the way first, however, having
brought a very old F-104 model I built many years ago. I
wasn’t very high in the static points, and was happy to
have finished fifth after a reasonable flight.

Bruce's F-104 PMC
    Everyone was waiting
for my Lunar Module flight, but I waited as long as I
could before flying, hoping the wind would calm down. The
model had problems in the past with its parachute
deployment, but after the fine flight at Pikes Peak or
Blast VII, I was a bit more confident. I was in second
place in the static judging, 5 points behind the leader,
who decided to withdraw and not fly. He felt his
beautifully crafted Mercury-Atlas would not be stable,
and forfeited a shot at first place rather than chance
destroying the model. I was now in position to win the
event with a good flight, but several others were also
close behind. The Lunar Module was finally on the pad,
and ready. Everyone was taking pictures, including
myself, as it wasn’t certain that I would survive. The
liftoff was very straight and stable, with a slight
rotation as it ascended. I felt a huge wave of relief he
parachute deployed perfectly, and the model returned
undamaged. Now, I would have to wait for the final point

    There wasn’t a lot
to do Friday evening, other than pack up the remains of
the rockets I pranged or blew up, until the Awards
Banquet began. We had a fine meal, parting speeches from
the contest organizers, and finally the trophies were
presented. Over two hundred were awarded, for Pre-NARAM
Standings, Meet Standings, Fun Events, Contest Events,
and Contest Year Standings. This took several hours, and
some people actually fell asleep at their table, and not
just the kids! It wasn’t until second place was awarded
in Sport Scale that I was sure I took first. The final
totals were close, as I won the event by only five
points. The banquet finally ended near midnight, and we
headed back to continue packing and preparing for the
long trip back to Colorado. The trip back was long but
uneventful, and this time we planned ahead and reserved
rooms in Topeka for Saturday night.

    This was the largest
and perhaps most competitive NARAM so far. All but one
“C” divisioner ahead of me in the pre-NARAM standings
attended. Overall, I had a great time in spite of a less
than expected performance in most events. I finished
sixth in the contest, and seventh for the year, not too
bad when competing against sixty other “C” Division
competitors. Also, I was able to meet many of the people
that are well known names in the hobby. The best part was
the comments from the many who were impressed by my Sport
Scale entry, including such well known scale experts as
George Gassaway and Peter Alway. I was very proud of this
achievement, and felt this (plus a couple of Cinerocs and
a Camroc) made the trip worthwhile! I’ll definitely be
attending other NARAMs in the future, hopefully a bit
more experienced and a lot more prepared!