HOB­BY­ISTS LIFT-OFF

The sky’s the limit for hob­by­ists with a propul­sion com­pul­sion at Wha­lan Re­serve

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Elisha Pearce

“TWELVE, 11, 10, nine, ig­ni­tion se­quence start, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. All en­gines run­ning, lift-off, we have lift-off.”

Every­one knows what it sounds like when a fa­mous rocket, such as Apollo 11, launches.

But some peo­ple like to get a step closer to the ac­tion.

Mem­bers of the NSW Rock­etry As­so­ci­a­tion en­joy a ver­sion of their own launch count­down twice a month at Wha­lan Re­serve.

Rocket hob­by­ists across Syd­ney con­verge on the re­serve to launch their model rock­ets up to 500m ev­ery sec­ond Sun­day and fourth Satur­day of the month.

As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tim Ban­ice­vich, 43, from Pana­nia, said peo­ple loved it. “The spec­ta­cle of it is great; when a flight works re­ally well it’s a lot of fun,’’ Mr Ban­ice­vich said.

“And who doesn’t like a bit of noise and smoke and flame as well? Let’s say, con­trolled com­bus­tion.”

It isn’t quite Apollo 11, but rock­etry en­thu­si­asts buy model rock­ets or de­signs and con­struct their own.

They are launched into the air with var­i­ous mo­tors that de­ter­mine the height and speed the model will reach.

“At Wha­lan the big­gest that we’ve seen is 1.8 me­tres tall,” said Mr Ban­ice­vich, who works as a fi­bre­glass and com­pos­ites sci­en­tist.

“The big­gest re­straint is that if we want to use a big­ger mo­tor we have to build a larger rocket be­cause we don’t want it go­ing so high it ends up in some­one’s yard.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion fol­lows strict guide­lines to pre­vent the rocket land­ing some­where un­for­tu­nate, and bring the rock­ets back down safely, as per avi­a­tion rules, so they can be reused.

“With­out get­ting too tech­ni­cal, air traf­fic con­trol lets us go to 4000 feet but be­cause of the drift­ing we can’t go above 1500 feet – which is still half a kilo­me­tre up,” said Mr Ban­ice­vich, who has been with the as­so­ci­a­tion since 2003.

David Cum­ming, 60, from Cas­tle Hill, has been with the as­so­ci­a­tion since 2007.

He said his back­ground was as an in­dus­trial chemist, but peo­ple from many walks of life were rock­etry en­thu­si­asts.

“We want to at­tract kids to it be­cause there’s not many of that sort of ac­tiv­ity you can do with­out sit­ting in front of a com­puter these days,” Mr Cum­ming said.

“Like any hobby, it’s easy to get into and then you can make it as sim­ple or com­pli­cated as you want.”

Mr Cum­ming fo­cuses mostly on small- to medi­um­sized rock­ets, usu­ally

The big­gest re­straint is that if we want to use a big­ger mo­tor we have to build a larger rocket be­cause we don’t want it go­ing so high it ends up in some­one’s yard Tim Ban­ice­vich

weigh­ing be­tween 500g and 1.5kg.

“I re­ally like mak­ing my rock­ets,’’ he said. “But it doesn’t mat­ter what size rocket or size mo­tor. But it’s al­ways great see­ing one launch. It’s just a buzz.”

Both Mr Cum­ming and Mr Ban­ice­vich started out buy­ing cheap model rock­ets to build.

They then started de­sign­ing and con­struct­ing their own mod­els as they grew in ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mr Cum­ming said the group was grate­ful for the sup­port of Black­town Coun­cil. The coun­cil has been proac­tive is as­sist­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion to se­cure a launch site.

More in­for­ma­tion about the as­so­ci­a­tion and launch dates is avail­able at: www.nswrock­etry.org.au/.

Left: Spencer Allen sets up his scale rocket BBX ready to launch; top right: Mem­bers of the NSW Rock­etry As­so­ci­a­tion meet at Wha­lan Re­serve twice a month; mid­dle: the five-year-old Ax­ion 2 rocket be­ing set up ready to launch; bot­tom: Nor­man McGeoch, Tim Ban­ice­vich and David Cum­ming. Pic­tures: Jess Hus­band

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