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,
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
Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Rocket Battle at Denver
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
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.
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
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;
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
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.
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!
"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.
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
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
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
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.
Class 2-B Altitude: Jim Durmeyer,
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.
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.
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
Dan Oberhausen's miniaturized copy of USAF GAR-8 Sidewinder won
Martin trophy for best scale entry.
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'
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 milliseconds...you 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