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New York Power Trip
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By Scott Turnbull

I recently spent four days enjoying the flying to be had in Geneseo, New York. The incentive for the fourteen-hour roundtrip drive was the opportunity to attend the NYPOWER event from July 1st to July 4th. It was the eleventh such event to be held at the Historic Airport Group property in Geneseo. The LDRS event in 2004 was also held at this site.

It was four days of Oooohs, Aaaaahs, and CatOhhhhs, with much fun had by all.

The HAG airport and its surrounding fields are located about 20 minutes south of Rochester, off Rte. 63, just to the West of the Village of Geneseo. It spreads out from the bottom of the hill covered by the State University of New York campus.

This year’s NYPOWER 11 event was hosted by the Monroe Astronautical Rocket Society, . This was my third visit to the site in as many years.

The flight range is set up directly on the field adjoining the active HAG Airport runway. Vintage warbirds were coming and going throughout the weekend in preparation for an air show scheduled to take place the following weekend. That air traffic made for some launch holds, but the sight of formation flying WWII flight trainers was always a treat.

The field surrounding the airstrip is used for hay, and was recently cut, leaving a large expanse of six-inch high grass. Tall enough to keep small rockets out of the dirt, yet short enough so as not to hide them. Adjoining fields were planted with low crops. Plenty of space was available for setting up the banks of model rocket pads, midpower rods and rails, and high power far rails. There was approximately a mile of field between the pads and a river that runs along the edge of the property.

The range was open from 10AM to 5PM each day. The folks who volunteered for range duty during the day were rewarded with an additional hour at the end of the day. There was a HAG run food hut on site for lunches. Delicious burgers, red hots, and white hots were on the grill for several hours a day. The smell of blackpowder and AP mixed well with that of grilled Angus. The normal bank of portaletts was set up off to the side, and far enough away so as not to add their own unique ambiance to the flight line.

The line at the RSO checkin was never more than a few people long, and then only because the RSO wanted to see a particularly noteworthy flight along with the rest of us. The pad managers were quick to assign pads, and assistance was available if problems cropped up getting a continuity or arm tone at a pad. The wait to get a bird up could be slightly longer, depending on how many other fliers were loading on that side of the range, or how many flight holds there were due to air traffic. As special needs were identified, the LCO would move a rocket up in the queue to conserve onboard batteries or keep an onboard camera from running too long.

Campers and popups were welcome to stay onsite overnight. No tenting was allowed. The rest of the fliers could take evening refuge at a selection of local hotels and camp grounds. Many people would use a tarp and frame for shade during the day, and leave the frame behind at night to reserve their spot on the field for the next day. A lesson learned a few years back was not to leave the tarps on the frames overnight. A late night windstorm that year converted useful shade to impromptu modern art as the tangled frames lay strewn across the field.

The fliers came from as far away as New Mexico, with the majority of them traveling in from within a day’s drive from home. Based on the smiles and handshakes taking place all over the field, there were obviously a large number of old acquaintances meeting up again. Some came in club groups. Others were flying solo. Everywhere you looked there were rockets being unloaded, stacked, propped up, and prepped for flight. My experience was that everybody was friendly and helpful. Epoxy flowed freely. Excess BP engines were offered up by those heading north to avoid carrying them across the Canadian border. Help was easy to find for setting up tarps, cleaning casings, or snapping pictures of group poses.

With regards to the rockets on the field, there was something for everybody. There were minty vintage Estes, recent model rocket releases, piles of midpower rockets, and a generous assortment of high power BFRs. Mixed into the fray were scale models of NASA and military rockets, radio control gliders, and monocopters. Multiple hybrid setups were used at mid-power and high-power pads. Colorful flames from Animal Motor Works, and neck snapping launches from LOKI motors were in among the more standard flights. One thing missing this year was the skidmark motors. Concern for the dry condition of the hay fields forced the prohibition of those spark spewing eye candy.

I managed to fly several of my vintage Estes kits. These were rockets built in the 70s, and lightly overhauled for return to flight over the past few years. The crowd favorite among those kits was my Astron Orbital Transport, with its parasitic glider. It got three flights in, with the highest being on a C6-3. That resulted in a lazy return to Earth as the booster hung from a large chute and the glider circled the mother ship.

Another crowd favorite was a custom X-Wing made from fiberglass coated cardboard. It had a breathtaking flight, as its drogue chute became tangled on a wing tip. It wasn’t until the dual main chutes deployed at a relatively low altitude that the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.

Another flier completed his Level 1 certification by flying an upscaled version of the classic Mars Lander. It executed a text book, four legged landing, complete with spring loaded bounce, just beyond the mid power rails.

There were some educational opportunities, as well. Special howto and cutaway models were on site to explain the mysteries of hybrid rocket flight. An impressive up close demonstration of NOX ignition and oxidation took place out at the primary hybrid pad.

When fliers got tired of flying, or ran short of supplies, there were several vendors onsite to turn to for diversions. Engines, igniters, epoxy, and parachutes made sure that everybody kept the sky laced with smoke. I saw more than a few folks walking away from the booths carrying new kits, too. I personally spent quite a bit of time asking questions and learning about the next step up on the power ladder from Hanger 11.

The weather could not have been more cooperative for a July in the finger lakes region. The breezes were light, the storms absent, and the skies generally clear. Cool mornings were followed up by highs in the 80s. Some of those long walks into the field were a bit taxing unless water was brought along. Once out in the far field, a unique view of the launches from the beyond the away cells could be had. From that perspective the backdrop for the launches was the people and tents making up the flightline. The LCO made good use of the PA system to alert folks in the field of any imminent high power flights or hardware coming in with or without chutes.

The four-day event was not without its moments of excitement. One moment of note was when Pat Patell’s K240 powered hybrid suffered terminal over pressurization at a few hundred feet of altitude. One frame of rapidly shot pictures shows a rocket under seemingly normal boost. The next frame, a fraction of a second later, shows nothing but a ball of smoke surrounded by a halo of confetti and split tanks. The general consensus of the supplying vendor onsite was that the burn inexplicably got up through the injector into the upper tank. Rumor has it Pat was going to get new hardware for his trouble. He took the misfortune in stride as fliers continued to bring back pieces of his rocket found in the field throughout the four-day event.

My primary personal project was the field testing of a newly assembled video receiving ground station. I used garage sale and thrift store electronics to put together a luggable receiving station for 2.4Ghz video broadcasts. I not only lofted my own camera. I was also able to receive and record downlinks from other flights on field. I credit the LCO with providing enough information about imminent flights that I could get the receiver tuned and the recorder running prior to liftoff. More than a few folks stopped by when I played back footage minutes after a launch.

All in all, the trip to NYPOWER was well worth the time spent in the car and the money spent from the wallet. The pace is easy going. The faces are friendly. The field is large by Northeast standards. I’ll be marking the calendar for NYPOWER 12 as soon as the details are available.

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