Due to public demand (well, the demands were in private, but they asked me to make this information public) here's a potted history of my Commanche-5, a mildly altered, mild-mannered Estes kit.

Photographs and video clips have been promised, so watch this space.

In the beginning there was a catalogue, and not much time before the impending excursion to Largs, 1995. Lots of little kits. Some looked quite nice but were rather more expensive than I liked for kits. Some were just simply to average. And there was the Commanche-3. More stages, and more height, than anything else in their catalogue, and a bargain at £12.

One phonecall, 3 days, and a crushed bodytube due to a run in with ParcelFarce, I had a small collection of cardboard tubing and balsawood. I hate balsa. Far too much pfaffing about to get a decent surface, and more brittle and chunky than my material of choice, plasticard. Out with the ruler and CAD software. Out of the printer pops a sheet of new fins, all ready to be cut. Flew it. It got stuck up a tree. Bah. Got some of the stages back, though.

Time passes. August approaches. Very little flyable. Off to hamleys to pick up another commanche. My favourite (only) kit model.

Liberal application of epoxy, paint, and bath sealant ensued. An exceedingly long, pink->purple thing emerged. Waved around at a HART gathering, the glue was almost dry. The original plan was to simply copy the design in plasticard, but I didn't have decent enough body sections. however, the 2nd stage had already been made, not to mention the spare parts from its predecessor. More modifications ensured. Now it hung together (with a little support) horizontally. It almost look safe. Lucky it only had 3 stages on when, shoulder-mounted, I'd paraded it from one end of Peckham to the other, or I might have given someone a shock. Some people say Peckham is a rough area. Funny. I never had any trouble.

August happens. Largs. My penchant for long, thin rockets proves to be a minor weakness, but I only suffered a few minor casualties. More epoxy. More body tube. And out with the previously rejected balsa fins. More stages. More power >:) Launch some of my other stuff, and lots of other peoples cool stuff looks most impressive, but not my prefered weather to launch the Commanche-(feasible+1) Lots of joking, some people telling me I'm stupid to think about lauching it with 5 stages, questioning my seriousness. These were mainly the people whose rockets I thought were a tad risky. Decided not to be too vocal on my previous plan of going for 9 stages. Anyway, would you rely on 3 packs of estes staging and igniting correctly ? Time passes, I figure I'd better try and throw this thing skywards. And add a bit more plasticine for luck. Having tried to swing-test one before, I decided to dispense with this 'formality'.

Oh, for future reference, if you do want to swing-test a high calibre rocket, tape some carbon rod all down the inside edge before you try, or it'll fold in the middle.

Given my engine selection and the stage body sections, I went for D12-0, D12-0, C6-0, C6-0 and a C6-7 (if memory serves) That's about an F, so I'm informed. I disapprove of big rockets that just go whoosh and don't do anything useful. I was planning on doing something useful with this, but time conspired against me. At this point I wonder whose launch box has enough cable on it for me to be at a safe distance (did I mention the launch lug was causing me concern ?) MARS came up with the goods, with their spiffy little bleepery one. If this thing doesn't take off fast enough, it's going to severely weathercock. At ground level. With its mass somewhere around negligable (apart from the motors, obviously) and most of an E still waiting to discharge. I wasn't confident.

Fortunately for the assembled crowd, it took off just fine (whoosh number 1) The risk now was of it failing to stage, and returning at terminal velocity from many hundred feet. The first stage separated just fine (whoosh number 2). No cellotape anywhere near my stages, I don't care what those books say, it just sounds a bit silly to me. The stage was spotted tumbling vaguely in our direction. We also saw the second stage go just fine (whoosh 3) However, by this time, it was hitting the cloudbase. Whoosh 4 was heard, but not seen, meanwhile stage 2 had disappeared and stage 3 landed where it was later to be discovered on the edge of the field.

Being a hopeless optimist, I was still looking at the sky well after whoosh 5 occured, on the wild off-chance that I'd see the top stage coming down. No chance. Experts in the field (no doubting they were in the field, though the former assertion is dubious) placed the altitude somewhere over 5,000ft. Not bad for about a tenners worth of motors.

While being out of touch with the rest of the rocketry community, it appears that quite a few people were mildly impressed. Bigger and better is planned. I do plan on being able to retreive a little more of that one though. The stages I recovered from that flight will be appearing on a Commanche near you, some on their 3rd flight. It might well be their last. other might try to copy my idea. Good luck to them, it's the only way mine ever flew.