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Bill Eichelberger
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Sam and BillHow long have you been into Sport Rocketry?(12/02)
"I started flying in the summer of 1977 with a group of guys from the neighborhood after watching a successful backyard launch of an Estes Scout. (Thankfully no pictures exist of these early days of my rocketry career. If I remember correctly, all of us had prototypical "That '70's Show" hairstyles.) My first rocket was an Estes Beta, but the Mosquito was a common pick among the others. By the fall of '77 I was the only one whose interest hadn't faded, and I flew on and off for the next few years until I started college (and became "too cool" for something as juvenile as rocketry. Pictures do exist of these years and prove that I was far from cool.) Considering my pack-rat nature, this might not have meant the end of my original fleet, but I made the ultimate mistake of giving most of my rockets to the younger brothers of one of my friends. (Painful as this has been, it was made more so several months ago when Tom informed me that his brothers had no memory of my rockets. Let this be a lesson to you.)

"I became a BAR slowly over the course of almost ten years. There were three stages to my BAR metamorphosis:

"1. In 1992 I bought and began building an Estes Little Joe II that I found while on a toy shopping trip for my then two year old son. I started building it, thinking that it would be neat to have around when Sam was old enough to appreciate it. I abandoned the project when I realized that a two year old wants to be involved in anything that dad is doing at any given time, and that two year old teeth and fingers are murder on balsa fins. The Little Joe was dispatched to the top of the china cabinet, then disappeared, only to reappear in the fall of 2001.

"2. In 1994 I stumbled upon a hobby shop closing while visiting my in-laws in Arlington, Texas. I bought an Estes Ninja and some motors, thinking that they would be a good way to entertain Sam and his cousin Mara later in the week. That night, my brother in law Tony arrived home from work to find me building the Ninja at his kitchen table. Fifteen minutes later we were back at the store cleaning out the remaining rocketry stock. After the family launch, Tony went on to discover the local DARS section of the NAR and got heavily involved in the hobby. My Ninja got crushed by shifting luggage on the trip home, but Sam's appetite had been whetted. For the next few years he and I would fly his Estes Bail Out and my Estes Manta at a local soccer field at least once a year.

"3. This went on until early 2001 when we made another trip to visit Tony and his family, who had recently relocated to Akron, Ohio. Tony had worked it out so that we had been invited up to see their new house on a weekend that a launch was scheduled with his new NAR section, the Tri-City Sky Busters. He had asked me to bring some rockets, but by this time the Bail Out was looking pretty ragged and the Manta was dead, so I figured that I would just watch. On Friday night, Tony and I were checking out rocketry sites on the Internet. On a hunch, I plugged "Estes Condor" into a search engine. This led us to JimZ's site, and just that quickly the scope of the whole weekend changed. The next day we hit a local hobby shop where I found the parts I would need to clone the Condor (which had been my second ever rocket back in 1977.) I also bought an Alpha IV and Rattler 7 to fly at the TCSB launch the next day. Despite the bitter cold day and seemingly endless drive, I was hooked all over again."

What organizations are you a member of?
"I am a member of the NAR and since June of 2001 I have flown as a member of the Cincinnati QUARK section."

What level are you certified to?
"I've recently become active in the NAR's NARTREK program and have successfully completed the bronze level and part of the silver level. At the current time I have no high power aspirations, but it's an option I'll leave open considering that at this time two years ago I was a once a year flier and had only a passing interest in the hobby. (I figure that I'm making up for all of the flying that I missed out on by not discovering rocketry until the ripe old age of 15. Who knows what might happen when I grow up?!)"

What is your all time favorite rocket?
"My favorite rocket is a tough choice, and since there isn't a gun at my head, I won't make it. I've always had a soft spot (until recently covered by hair) for the previously mentioned Estes Condor, but the Satellite Interceptor, Wizard and Andromeda are high on my list also. On the Centuri side, the E.S.S. Raven and Mach 10 top the list, while the Custom Razor has recently flown it's way on also. (In fact, I keep several Razors in my range box for when the odd kid happens upon one of our launches. It's a good, quick build and a great flier, and inexpensive enough that giving one away now and then won't break the bank.)"

Tell me an interesting rocket related experience?
"At an age when I should have known better, I launched a ball bearing from a pinball game in my newly built Estes X-Ray. For some reason, the possibility that the bearing might fall out didn't occur to me, and sure enough, it did. We stood and watched as the three pieces, nose cone, bearing and rocket, took different paths toward the ground. The nose cone fluttered away toward the adjacent construction site. The rocket floated gently into a nearby parking lot on it's parachute, however we weren't there to see it land. We had made ourselves scarce when the ball bearing struck the hood of a new Plymouth Volare station wagon, the only car parked remotely near the site where we launched. Later in the evening we took a walk and made sure that our path home passed the Volare. The bearing was nowhere to be found, but in the middle of the Volare's hood we found what looked to be a fist-sized dent where it hit. We walked past quickly and retrieved the remnants of the X-Ray, then cleared the area before someone noticed our laughter. Surprisingly, we never heard anything about the incident, even though it had happened near my house and my friend and I had previously earned the reputation of being "spirited". (This happened in 1979, so I'm sure the statute of limitations has run out on it by now. Still, if you had a Volare wagon that was damaged in this way near the Cincinnati area around this time, please accept my apologies and know that it came back to me in spades from a Karma standpoint.)"

Anything else you would like people to know?
"Check out the NAR homepage, find your local or nearby section and attend a launch. Flying alone is fun, but doesn't lend itself to sustaining long term interest in the hobby."

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