Rockets explode and share their excitement behind monthly launches
FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WPTA21) – That whistle of ignition, sizzle of burning fuel and smoke rising in the air usually means that the monthly Summit City Aerospace Modelers (SCAM) meeting is underway.
The rockets regularly set up four launch pads in the fields of Concordia Theological Seminary, allowing a safe distance, yet being close enough for spectators and enthusiasts to watch.
Tim Hegemier is the president of the club.
He has been piloting rockets with the group for about 15 years.
âWhen I was a kid, my brother actually threw me into it – he had a 4H project in rockets,â Hegemier explained. “There are a lot of guys who flew rockets when they were younger, and rediscovered it in their twenties and thirties, and have flown bigger rockets ever since.”
Rockets launched by members vary widely.
Besides conventional rocket construction, there are also saucers and gliders.
Hegemier also says there is an even more unique category of novelty shapes, which can include scale items like fire hydrants, traffic cones, Christmas trees, and even outhouses!
âEngines are generally not reusable – the fuel burns and the housing is disposable,â he explained. âThe rocket bodies themselves will fall on parachutes, so they can be used over and over again. “
Launches don’t always go as planned.
On Sunday, one of Hegemier’s rocket parachutes did not deploy and the body struck the ground, distorting its shape.
In most cases, they can be fixed.
âThe rockets here today are very thin cardboard or plywood,â he told us. âSome are fiberglass. Another material that could be used is carbon fiber.
“It’s a very evolving hobby,” continued the club manager. âYou can spend $ 8 on a rocket and fly it here on the small end of things. Probably the biggest rocket here could be a hundred dollar rocket. But then if you go to other parts of the country and have space to fly, you can easily put thousands of dollars in a big rocket.
SCAM members are known to travel to states like Nevada or Kansas, with permits that allow them to shoot anything, of any size and power, with no limitations.
This is not exactly the case with the rockets fired in the middle of Fort Wayne.
âThe limits we have here for this field are 3.3 pounds total weight on the launch pad,â Hegemier said. âEngine size is limited to an H-size engine. We’re not limited in altitude, we can fly as high as we want.
One of the rockets launched by Member Michael Gross was a scale model of a BOMARC missile.
âThe fact that you build something, use science to design it, and fly it the way you want,â he told us. âAnd the feeling you get from building it yourself, piloting it and collecting itâ¦ it’s a joy! “
Gross has been flying rockets for decades.
He says understanding the science behind rockets is crucial for a responsible launch and being in control of its trajectory.
âWe do all the calculations we can, the power-to-weight ratio and the wind. We’re going to tilt the rod a bit, âGross explained.
Dave Porter says he’s about to retire as a rocket pilot, due to his age.
Over the weekend, he launched his own plane which he calls his “generational rocket” – the names of his children and grandchildren are signed on the fins and body.
â2007, 2008, I found myself as BAR,â he smiled, developing the acronym, âborn again rocketeer! Since 2008, I was very involved in it, and until 2019. Now, I’m a littleâ¦ almost too old to fly. I always love to go out and watch all new tech and meet new people.
Porter, along with many who are active as Summit City aerospace modelers, welcome newcomers with open arms.
They will explain tips for the best launch, while keeping an eye out for the inexperienced to maintain a safe environment.
âWe want to keep the hobby alive and involve much younger people, by building and piloting rockets,â Porter said.
âWe have had a lot of people come here in the last few meetings who have never done this before and they got hooked,â he continued. âYou become addicted, no doubt about it! “
âIt’s a sport for everyone,â concludes Hegemier.
âThere is excitement every time,â explained Gross. “If you don’t have butterflies in your stomach every time, you are in the wrong hobby.”
The SCAM meets once a month, from March to October.
A membership costs $ 20 per year, but non-members or spectators can watch or fly their own rockets for free at monthly meetings.
They will launch rockets two more times this year, on September 19 and October 17, between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
For alternative rainy dates, or to get involved with the club, you can visit their website here.