|Dairy Aire Delights|
When LUNAR's Livermore waiver was reduced to 1500 feet in December 2001, I went looking for an alternate site to fly big motors in California. I was delighted to find Tripoli Central California's Dairy Aire launch.
The waiver at Tripoli CenTrip exceeds 16,000 feet, making the Dairy Aire launch the premiere rocket shoot on the West Coast. On May 17-19, 2002, on a large field west of Helm, California, the best rocket launch I have attended in a while took place. At least a hundred and twenty-five people attended. There was a initial low wind of about ten miles an hour, which lessened throughout the afternoon and did not hamper the flight of robust high-power rockets. Temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s, and the sun shone constantly (I recommend 15+ sunscreen).
The field is about two-by-one miles of plowed alfalfa. The furrows are hard to walk, being slightly narrower than a human gait. My feet ended up hurting at the end of the day! But rockets that fall on the field are fairly easy to find.
Several local vendors, including Bob Fortuna and Rocket Motion, sold numerous kits and equipment. Bob's drouge chute with stainless steel lines seemed most magnificent but hard to implement: quite a deal at $16 per chute. The food concessionaire was excellent; they brought out a huge barbecue machine and served fish, pork, beef, chicken--both in teriyaki and in barbecue sauce.
People at Dairy Aire are not afraid to fly very big rockets very early in the day: J, I, and H motors were the norm. I had to accelerate my planned schedule and immediately fly a Cesaroni J-350 Pro 38 in my PML Tempest. The flight was nominal, but I lost sight of the rocket near the apex of the sun, regained sight after parachute ejection, and then lost sight again when my eyes teared up because of an allergic reaction to blown dust. While searching for the place the rocket landed, I had a wonderful walk in the Fresno sun, seeing ducklings with their parents, egrets running back and forth in a flooded ditch, a dead rat, and several hawks. I was concerned about rattlesnakes, but didn't encounter any.
After I returned to my base camp, I prepared and flew my Battleship Yamato, a rocket inspired by a Japanese animation TV show famous in the late 1970s. My 24 mm Yamato augered in at Blackrock, and so I built a 29 mm replacement. For a couple of years, I was too chicken to fly the 29 mm, but I decided to finally fly it at Dairy Aire on an Aerotech G-125-5T. The rocket flew very high and exhibited a slight rotation post-launch. Including a weight on the opposite side of the conning tower might improve the flight profile.
Later that day I flew a PML Endeavor on a Cesaroni Pro 38 5G-15, and this proved to be a perfect motor-rocket combination. I think that PML rockets with Quantum Leap tubing have met their perfect match in these Canadian reloadable motors. In my experience, Aerotech motors have proved somewhat wimpy lifting Quantum Leap tube rockets. I may switch totally to Pro 38 motors, especially given their plan to increase the size of their reloadable motors to 54 mm and 98 mm.
At the end of rocketry that day, I went back to Harris Ranch, a large hotel complex located on I5 thirty-five minutes from the launch field. It's a beautiful hotel with an Olympic-size pool and tons of beef to eat, including prairie oysters and sweetbread pie. (Yum!)
The next day, I flew the Endeavor again and my Rocketdyne Star Scooter. When I got thirsty, I left the field and got water at an excellent market/gas station at the corner of Helm and Lassen, about two miles from the launch. The launch ended later that day, at 3:00 in the afternoon.
The availability of cheap hotels within thirty miles of the launch site (some in southern Fresno, some in Selma, and the wonderful Harris Ranch in Coalinga) make this an even better launch site, in my opinion, than Blackrock, Nevada.
Here's a link to the website for Tripoli Central California, the official sponsor of Dairy Aire.