Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships (LDRS 21) launch in Amarillo, TX

In July, 2002 I drove with Casimir "Caz" Sienkiewicz on a seven day road-trip from St. Paul, MN to Amarillo TX to attend the 21st Tripoli national High Power rocket launch, LDRS.  We drove Caz's new Dodge 2500 pickup and brought his new Tower Launcher to demo at the event.

The Trip:
  It was about 17 hours and 1100 miles of driving each way and we did it straight through each way, only stopping on the way down to visit the Tom Stafford astronaut museum near Oklahoma City (they have Saturn V F-1, and J-1 motors on display!), watch aerobatics pilots practice for an upcomming competition, view the future site of the Oklahoma Spaceport and talk with its manager, and tour the control tower of the large airport while C-17, C-5A, and a KC-135 tanker did touch-and-go's.  That tower tour turned very interesting when the KC-135 lost control during a missed-approach when the instructor shut down an engine on the pilot and he didn't react quickly enough.  Seeing a Boeing 707 stall and almost spin at 600' above the ground is not something I hope to ever see again.  The one controller fell over a chair running for the crash phone and controller supervisor said he'd never seen anything like that in 30 years.

The launch:    (The official web site is at LDRS 21)

We arrived Thursday just in time for a deluge of several inches of rain in just 20 minutes and very high winds that destroyed many tents and EZ-Ups.  We found out later that a tornado had passed within 10 miles of the site.  The rain turned the red clay access road into a super slick skating rink that put several cars and trucks into the ditches which quickly became rivers up to the tops of the car doors.

By the next day all was fine and weather was perfect for the rest of the week; temps in the high 80's but with low humidity and sunny or partly cloudy skies and light winds.

I brought my BSD Thor and Bic Arcas rockets just to show but didn't fly anything.  The new president of BSD had liked Caz's photo of my Thor in the Tower Launcher ad from Extreme Rocketry and had asked me to bring it to display at his booth.  That was a nice honor for my first high power rocket.  I'm still not going to fly it again until the 8" booster, "Thor's Hammer", is finished.  Art Applewhite  is marketing a kit that is loosely based on my Bic ARCAS MicroMaxx design, and it was nice to meet him and swap ideas.

There were so many spectacular flights that I can't even name them all.

There were some harrowing moments as large rockets and even bowling ball flights disappeared into the blue skies above the crowd with no evidence of successful deployment.

Monday and Tue. were Experimental days and had quite a few flights.  Some highlights were:

Near the end of the event, the medivac helicopter crew that had spent most of the week on site, departed only to return a half-hour later to drop off a large rocket that they had found in a field and picked up to return to the owner.  This gives a whole new meaning to the techinque of "Helicopter Recovery"!

The People:
Besides all the rockets, it was great to meet all the experienced folks that we normally only read about in the magazines.  We got to talk with and get to know the leaders of almost every major rocketry company and organization.   Caz is well known among the old-timers at LDRS since he launched an aluminum bodied Kosdon K motor to 20,000 back at LDRS 6 when he was just a teenager, but he had been out of rocketry for the last 6 or 7 years so he had many interesting reunions with lots of the big name rocketry folks.  Even after many years, Frank Kosdon recognized Caz right away.

  At the TRA Banquet we sat at the table with Chris Pearson, who created the very first LDRS launch (we later acted as ground crew for his L3 cert flight on a Hypertek M); Curt Hughes, one of the founders of Tripoli; and Mike Dennet, the chief designer at Cesaroni motors.  We spent time with Barry Lynch, the head of LOC, and helped provide manual labor on his hybrid flight.  One evening we went out to dinner with Ken Good, the new TRA VP, and on the last night went out with the whole Animal Motor Works team as well as the founder of Performance Hobbies, Ken Allen.

Out on site I talked with John Bolene, of Mostly Missiles; Jim Amos, of MissileWorks; John Hinkle, owner of Valhalla rocket electronics who also was the designer of the Apollo Lunar lander video telemetry system; Bruce Kelly, former president of Tripoli; Terry McCreary, author of the experimentalist's bible: "Composite Rocket Propellants"; John Lyngdall, IEAS board member and maker of one of the two "O" motors launched at the event; and many more.  We even shared a hotel room one night with former World Rocketry Champion, Ken Mizoi, who is now with Animal Motor Works and is the owner of Precision G-10.

My photos:

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