Some of my favorite memories of childhood revolve around airplanes. Going to air shows and visiting an aircraft carrier fueled my passion which led to building (and flying) paper, wood, and even a 1/48 scale plastic model of an F-15 fighter jet!
Since a real F-15 had two jet engines, we figured that our model required a pair of model rocket engines as well. My brother and I ran a large spool of wire from one end of the yard to the other (roughly 150 feet) attaching it to the fence on either side. We created a cradle for the model so that it would be guided along the wire. We fully expected to see the F-15 “fly” across the yard and coast to a gentle stop by the time it reached the other side.
With great anticipation we inserted the safety key in our model rocket controller, counted down, and pressed the fire button on our rocket launcher.
This was in the days before YouTube videos, and I have always felt a (slight) pang of regret that we didn’t SOMEHOW capture what happened next for future generations to behold.
Only one of the two rocket engines ignited, and yet the F-15 shot forward like a bucking bronco. It rotated on the harness after twenty or so feet down the wire, broke free of it and flung itself skyward about thirty feet where it exploded into roughly a thousand pieces which gently fluttered to the ground.
As an amateur pyromaniac, that was the crowning achievement of my childhood. As an aerospace engineer, NASA is grateful that I never joined its ranks of rocket scientists (my repeated inability to pass calculus in college kept that door of opportunity bolted tightly shut).
August 12, 2016