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Rocket Battle at Denver
April 1962 American Modeler Article

April 1962 American Modeler

April 1962 American Modeler Cover - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

It's hard to believe 1961 was over half a century ago (62 years to be more precise). That is when this "NARAM," the National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet, took place in Denver, Colorado. As with the U.S. Navy's involvement in the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Nationals (Nats), the U.S. Air Force, in July of 1961, officially encouraged model rocketry as a hobby for USAF personnel, including the Civil Air Patrol (CAP, headquartered at Ellington AFB, Texas, at the time). The USAF had a vested interest in encouraging young men to develop an interest in rocket development, operation, and maintenance in order to ensure an ample supply of enlisted and officer personnel for its missile programs. The contest has held at the Hogback Rocket Range near Denver, which was close to Lowry Air Force Base (now closed) and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Rocket Battle at Denver

USAF Lt. Bryant A. Thompson, Airman Carl Klauck, Del Hitch - Airplanes and Rockets

On rocketman's holiday, Lt. Bryant A. Thompson, USAF Atlas launching officer (right, center) mans miniature range as NARAM-3 firing official. Assisting (right, left) is Del Hitch, safety officer, Airman Carl Klauck (right, right), range recorder.

When the model rocketeers of the National Association of Rocketry get together each year, they call their shindig a "NARAM"...for NAR Annual Meet.

Last August the third NARAM was held on Hogback Rocket Range near Denver, Colorado. NARAM-3 was the biggest and best with more than 60 contestants from ten states, including New York, Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, and Texas. From the crack of dawn on August 17 until nearly sunset on the 20th, there was smoke and miniature rockets in the sky over Hogback. Nearly 1500 models were flown.

Many things had happened in model rocketry since NARAM-2 (see 1960 American Modeler Annual, page 25, for a complete report on that one). In April 1961 NAR became an Associate of the National Aeronautic Association, America's oldest and most prominent aerospace organization. This meant real recognition for the model rocketry hobby. NAR now is a "little brother" organization to AMA, which is also part of NAA. In July 1961 the United States Air Force officially encouraged model rocketry as a hobby for USAF personnel, including the CAP. NAR was designated to regulate USAF model rocketry. As a result of these two advances, NARAM-3 drew national attention from the aero-space industry and the USAF.

During NARAM you see more models than ever before and the best stuff in the country. You note a tremendous amount of individual creativity in the models and fine teamwork in range operation. You also learn that model rocketry isn't just for kids, because nearly a third of the people at the "third" were adults - and they had the most fun, I think.

Jim Rhue checks results, Merlin Schumann - Airplanes and Rockets

At "quickie board" altitude computer Jim Rhue checks results (far left); Merlin Schumann notes readings. With this device it was possible to calculate altitudes within seconds of a flight. 

My primary interests at a NARAM are people whom I haven't seen in a long time and models. There were a lot of both this time.

The scale birds at NARAM-3 were outstanding. They were varied, probably because of the wide choice of plans now available. Workmanship and attention to detail were better. Some fine copies of the German V-2 showed up, most built from the NAR plan authenticated by Dr. Walter R. Dornberger, one-time commandant of Peenemunde rocket research center in Germany. Other scale entries: NASA "Iris," University of Maryland "Terrapin," Aerojet-General "Astrobee 250" and "Astrobee 350," Marquardt-Cooper "Aspan," V-2/Wac Corporal "Bumper," USAF's GAR-8 "Side-winder, Army's "Nike-Zeus" and "Nike-Hercules," USAF's GAR-3 "Falcon," French "Veronique," and Convair MX-775. All of these scale models flew. Imagine watching a scale NASA "Mercury-Redstone" blast off, carrying with it a miniature version of Alan Sheppard's "Freedom 7."

The Martin Company, builders of the "Titan" ICBM, donated the trophy for the best scale model which went to Dan Oberhausen of Denver. Dan's super-detailed miniature Air Force GAR-8 "Sidewinder" was built from measurements he had made of a real "Side-winder." It had everything - pull away plugs, launch lugs, infra-red sensor, fusing antennas, fin tab gyros, all on a bird 15 inches long, 3/4 inch diameter.

NARAM-3 Results (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Duration: Dieter Schneider (MMI Award); Steve Hansen; Lt. Bryant Thompson.

Scale: Dan Oberhausen (Martin Scale Trophy); Joe Wald; Doug Hylton.

Plastic Scale: Was Wada; Paul Hans; Steven Kushnir.

Class A Payload: Doug Hylton; Schumann-Mennemeyer Team; John Roe.

Class 2-B Altitude: Jim Durmeyer; Schumann-Mennemeyer Team; John Essman.

Class 4-BA Altitude: John Bonine; Jim Rhue; Schumann-Mennemeyer Team.

Open Scale Altitude: Joe Wald (MMI Award); Tom Jaworski; Michael Konshak.

Class 2-B Scale Altitude: Paul Hans; Doug Hylton; Joe Wald.

Spot Landing: Randy Weigel; Doug Hylton; Jim Petrenas.

Open Altitude: Ward Conrad (Estes Industries Award); Carol Wilcox; Jim Petrenas.

Class B Payload: Lt. Bryant Thompson; tie - Jim Petrenas and Doug Hylton; John Bonine.

Research & Development: Schumann-Mennemeyer Team (Huyck Trophy); Wes Wada; tie - John Schultz and Horst Schneider.

Open Payload: Steve Kushnir; Lt. Bryant Thompson; Jim Durmeyer.

Pee Wee Altitude: Tom Rhue (Estes Trophy); tie - Doug Hylton and Dieter Schneider; Stephen Blakely.

Class 1-B Altitude: Wes Wada; Tom Rhue; Doug Hylton.

Class 1-A Scale Altitude: tie - Doug Hylton and Paul Hans; Tom Rhue; Jim Petrenas.

Drag Race: John Essman; Lt. Bryant Thompson; Greg McBride.

National Champion: Doug Hylton, 16, Colorado Springs, Col., H.S., 85 contest points.

Reserve Champion: Tom Rhue & John Bonine, 82 points.

Championship Section: Peak City, Colorado Springs, 767 points.

Championship Team: Hodgin-Bochman, 23 points.

Scale Altitude Trophy, donated by Broadmoor Hotel: Paul Hans.

Payload Trophy, donated by United Airlines: Doug Hylton.

The Top Ten Model Rocketeers

1961 Contest Year

1. Doug Hylton, 85 points

2. Tom Rhue, 82.

3. John Bonine, 82.

4. Steve Kushnir, 53.

5. Dieter Schneider, 53.

6. Jim Rhue, 52.

7. Bill Roe, 45.

8. John Roe, 41.

9. Mike Konshak, 41.

10. Wes Wada, 41.

The plastic scale event was considerably better, too. Object here is to modify a plastic shelf model for flight while retaining its scale characteristics. All the requirements for the scale event must be met, as well. This is a tough event because some kits don't convert easily to flying, others that do may not be exact scale. So a modeler must do a lot of searching to choose the right kit, dig up data to prove that it is truly scale, then modify it so it will fly. A lot of Revell V-2 rockets showed up, along with Revell X-17's, Hawk Corporals, and various Thor IRBM kits. A lot of plastics got low scale points because the entrants did not provide authenticating data, but merely assumed that a plastic kit manufacturer had done a good job of following scale. The blue ribbon in this event was taken by Wes Wada of Denver with a Revell X-17 and substantiating info from Lockheed.

It was anybody's contest in Scale Altitude. These entries are first judged for scale, then they must fly as high as possible with a known amount of rocket power. Altitude achieved is added to the scale points. Thanks to Thayer Tutt of the Broadmoor Hotel, an NAA Director and NAR Trustee, there was a trophy for the high-point man in three scale altitude events. The award was taken by Paul Hans of Manhasset, NY.

In addition to four straight altitude events, this "annual" saw the first Pee Wee Altitude event for mini-models powered by NAR type half-A engines. With an average thrust of 10 ounces and a total impulse of 0.35 pound-seconds, these are a real challenge to build. They must be very light and highly streamlined because their very high drag-to-weight ratio makes them fly almost like a feather. They also travel very fast and are tough to track. If the trackers don't follow your bird in flight, it isn't their fault-according to the rules. It's your fault because your bird performed beyond the capabilities of the tracking instruments. The Pee Wee Altitude event turned out to be a gasser...Tom Rhue of Colorado Springs inched his tiny model to nearly 500 feet to take the trophy donated by Estes Industries, Inc.

Generally, there seemed to be less emphasis on the pure altitude events. New-comers always get excited about maximum altitude, but once you become a member of the NAR 1500-Foot Club, you begin to get interested in other things. Nevertheless, the NAR Open Altitude record was driven up to the 1800-foot region.

There was spirited competition in the Payload; United Airlines donated the Trophy for the second year. It's not easy to get high performance when your model must lug along a one-ounce load. You've got to fly with the same size, shape, and weight of payload as everyone else...and you've got to be able to remove it easily and quickly if directed. But if the payload comes out during flight you are disqualified.

Doug Hylton's scale V-2/WAC "Bumper" rumbles aloft - Airplanes and Rockets

"Blast off!" Doug Hylton's scale V−2/WAC "Bumper" rumbles aloft.

Joe Wald loads scale 2-stage miniature Cooper-Marquardt ASPAN sounding rocket at NARAM-3 - Airplanes and Rockets

Joe Wald loads scale 2-stage miniature Cooper-Marquardt ASPAN sounding rocket at NARAM-3.

Best gee-whiz performance during NARAM-3 was turned in by Steve Kushnir's staged payload model. It peaked out at above 2,300 feet, more than 500 feet higher than the best Open Altitude shot - and it was carrying that one ounce load! (At NARAM-2, Steve also aced the Open Altitude boys by flying a two-staged Class 4-BB model some 300 feet higher than the best Open Altitude shot that year.) I don't know how this guy does it, but somebody should hire him at Cape Canaveral for their lunar shots!

Another almost unbelievable NARAM-3 performance was turned in by Lt. Bryant Thompson of the USAF model rocket team. Red showed up the night before the meet started with nary a model to his name. I loaned him a couple of body tubes and some sheet balsa. He then proceeded to design and build his contest models right in the "prep area" on the range, often whipping up a new entry in a matter of hours after losing one he had intended to fly in later events. Carrying the ball for the Air Force, Red placed in four events, winning the Class B Payload event and exceeding the NAR record. He got a special award - "Worlds Finest Instant Rocketeer; Just Add Glue and Dope!" The reason for the Lieutenant's ability to do this sort of thing? Thompson has been building model airplanes for years, has been a consistent contest flyer and member of the USAF model airplane team, is a launch officer for the Atlas ICBM at Wichita Falls, Texas.

Yes, the Air Force was very much in evidence. Lt. John Barnes and Airman Carl Klauck from the Air Force Academy pitched in with enthusiasm as officials. Every day saw new Air Force officers on the range to take part in the contest or to be briefed on what was going on. Colonel Russell G. Panky and Major George P. Upright arrived from the Pentagon's USAF Headquarters. Others flew in from Civil Air Patrol headquarters at Ellington AFB, Texas. A large delegation showed up from the Air Defense Command. A USAF newsreel and photo team was everywhere getting footage for a USAF-NAR film on model rocketry. More evidence that the Air Force is solidly behind model rocketry.

Glad to report the fair sex was well represented. Carol Wilcox proved (again) that a gal can build as good as any male member by taking second place in the Open Altitude event. Sigrid Schneider who flew in several events also assisted her rocketeering father Horst and brother Dieter. NAR Secretary Barbie Stine rustled paperwork and helped process models.

NARAM-3 paperwork was speed-up by a punch-card contest recording system developed by Bill Roe. It is essentially the McBee Key-sort card system using 5x8 cards punch-coded along the edges. Once you know the punch code, which is simple, you can run a needle through a stack of cards and pull cards for each event, each contestant, each of the three winners in each event, all disqualified flights, all scratches, etc. Each judge was issued a railroad conductor's punch which he used for processing, safety checking, disqualification, on the card itself; you could tell which judge did what because each one had an individual punch hole shape...and there was no way to forge or otherwise bugger the contest cards as there could be with scrawled signatures.

This system is essentially a poor-man's computer. It works fast and accurately. If any AMA contest directors are drooling at this point - NAR briefed the AMA on this set-up at Willow Grove so you may see it in AMA contests, too.

High point of NARAM-3 was its Research and Development event. You can enter nearly anything since it's designed to stimulate model rocketry. Your entry must be original, the result of research on your part, and you must explain why if it doesn't work. You get judged, too, on your ability to write up the results of your work and to stand on your feet and explain or defend it in true scientific tradition. R&D stole the show all the way around.

Horst Schneider entered a camera rocket that was about the simplest thing I have ever seen. He designed the camera right into the model itself with the idea that it should be within the capabilities of a young rocketeer and a limited workshop. It employed a simple surplus-store lens and off-the-shelf wooden parts. He took a photo in flight with this bird and developed the film on the range. But it was a cloud photo instead of a shot of the ground!

The Hodgin-Bochman team launched a model rocket under water. They took a 5-gallon ice-cream drum and placed a launching tube inside it. The model went inside the launching tube. Over the top of the launching tube, they placed a thin plastic diaphragm. Then they filled the drum until the launching tube was about six inches under water. When their bird fired, a toothpick on its nose cone broke the diaphragm. The bird emerged with spray going in all directions.

Top Performances at NARAM-3

Class 2-B Altitude: Jim Durmeyer, 1130 feet.

Class 2-B Scale Altitude: Paul Hans, 1430 points.

Open Altitude: Ward Conrad, 1800 feet.

Class B Payload: Lt. Bryant Thompson, 670 feet.

Open Payload: Steve Kushnir, 2310 feet.

Pee Wee Altitude: Tom Rhue, 580 feet.

Class l-B Altitude: Wes Wada, 1420 feet.

Jim Bonine's "Quickie Board" analog computer used throughout the meet for quick-look altitude data, was entered in R&D also. Simple to make, under development for over a year, it can give an altitude reading within a minute after the tracking results come in. Another in use at Hogback was Vern Estes' "3-D" computer. Model rocketeers basically are a lazy bunch...they are always coming up with clever little gadgets to make things easier on the range. The Mile-High Section built a hand-cranked wind tunnel to check flight stability of a model before it is placed on the launcher. This little blow-box was used extensively at NARAM-3; if a bird didn't check out stable in the tunnel, there was nothing to argue about.

Numerous recovery system gimmicks in R&D. Wes Wada's model converted its fins into helicopter blades for an auto-rotation return. One model inflated a balloon in flight to get it back to the ground gently.

The Huyck R&D Trophy was won by Merlin Schumann and Paul Mennemeyer of Manhattan, Kansas, for a tremendous amount of work in model rocket fin design and stability. Star of the event and the contest was a rocket-powered VTO glider built by Vern Estes and John Schultz. These two solved a problem that rocketeers have worked on for years. It's very difficult to design a model that will VTO as a rocket, then glide land like an airplane. CP-CG relationship for a model rocket is quite different from that of a glider. You must have enough wing area to give the beast a decent glide...and you must figure out a way to keep these big wings on the bird while it's being kicked aloft at about 10 gees. Vern and John had licked the problems and repeatedly flew their little "Dyna-Soar" gliders. Air Force personnel concerned with the real Dyna-Soar space project yelled and applauded every time it flew. Count-down and...swish! It was in the air, climbing straight up. At about 300 feet, she would kick over into a Bat glide circling back around the launching area. I consider it to be one of the big breakthroughs in model rocketry. Big question is: Is it a model airplane or a model rocket?

When we weren't getting sunburned under the Colorado sun - or cowering in a car during the fury of "gully-washer" thundershowers - there were bull sessions, picnics, meetings, and tours. Contest Director Del Hitch arranged for contestants to tour the Martin missile plant south of Denver where the USAF "Titan" ICBM is made. After flying little ones all day, it was quite a change to stand next to a mighty Titan, ten feet in diameter, nearly a hundred feet long. We even toured static test stands perched on the nearby mountainsides. I noticed that even the youngest could understand what was going on and knew the language of rocketry.

Dan Oberhausen's miniaturized copy of USAF GAR-8 Sidewinder - Airplanes and Rockets

Dan Oberhausen's miniaturized copy of USAF GAR-8 Sidewinder won Martin trophy for best scale entry.

As the meet slugged into its final day, competition got closer but never as tense as at most model airplane meets I've seen. NARAM is almost a social event, a friendly get-together.

From the time the last event was completed shortly after lunch on Sunday until the presentation of awards, the judges and officials cloistered themselves to check final point tallies and post results. With a complete model rocket range just sitting there, manned and ready, this is a perfect situation for manufacturers' flight demonstration.

Dick Keller of Model Missiles, Inc. was there with the reliable Arcons and Aerobee-Hi's of the MMI line. Vern Estes of Estes Industries, Inc. put on a lively show that included flights of test models that he may bring out in kit form, a demonstration of his simple Electro-Launch firing system, and firings using the new Estes Series 2 NAR Type B16 engines. These B16 engines put out about 16 pounds of thrust for 70 don't see the model leave the launcher, since it takes off at about 100 gees. Vern flew a grasshopper (one of millions that had bugged us on the range) using a payload nose cone. The grasshopper was recovered alive but somewhat groggy after having been subjected to 100 gees acceleration on takeoff. Gene Dickerson and Menford Sutton of Coaster Corporation were missing because bad weather had forced their company plane to turn back. But an advanced group - Rick Tydings, Don Scott, Paul Hans - had Coaster-powered models for flight demonstrations. Coaster engines, big and powerful, require a large, strong model. They're not for beginners. When approved for contest use they will offer the advanced modeler sufficient power to fly larger payloads and more complex equipment.

Colonel Barnard W. Marschner, head of the Department of Aeronautics of the Air Force Academy, presented the awards. MMI and Estes Industries provided merchandise awards to many winners.

National Champion Model Rocketeer Trophy, donated by Holly Sugar Corp., goes to the rocketeer who has amassed the most contest points during the year. It was a hard-fought battle between three people. Doug Hylton, 17, of Colorado Springs, Colo. took the Championship. Three points behind him in a flat-out tie for Reserve Champion came Tom Rhue and John Bonine, last year's champ.

There is also the annual battle for "Championship Section" ...that NAR chartered club that has the greatest number of meet points among its members. There has been great rivalry between the Mile-High Section in Denver and the Peak City Section in Colorado Springs. In 1959 and 1960, Mile-High took the pennant. For 1961 it went to Peak City.

Both these western groups are going to face some tough competition from other clubs around the country. North Shore Section from Long Island had two members at NARAM-3, Connecticut's Narconn had one. With NARAM-4 tentatively planned for the East Coast, I'll bet some eastern club nails down the pennant!

Most of us felt "-3" was probably the last "small" NARAM that would ever be held. At an East Coast "-4" we can expect several hundred contestants, nearly a week of flying, and the simultaneous operation of several launching areas. Expect more competition teams from the Air Force and from the Civil Air Patrol.

There's a saying among model rocketeers: "Why get excited about anything that doesn't go straight up?" It was evident at NARAM-3 that "straight up" is the direction in which the hobby of model rocketry is moving.



Posted September 9, 2022
(updated from original post on 4/6/2013)

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