Custom Rockets - Avatar {Kit}

Contributed by AC DeBlanc

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Manufacturer: Custom Rockets
Style: Sport

[Rocket Pic]Brief:  This is a single-stage, single-motor, minimum-diameter, three fin rocket. It uses an ogival nose cone and trapezoidal fins, both made out of balsa.  For folks who think metric, its dimensions are: length - 26.5 cm, OD - 1.87 cm, and mass - 10 g.

Construction:This is one of the simplest kits available.  The only tools required are a ruler, some sandpaper, a couple of cotton swabs, and a motor. The instructions comprise 10 fully-illustrated steps. The kit includes a fin template. The kit includes a fin template. The instructions and template are capable of walking an absolute neophyte through construction.  Even so, one of the great features of this rocket is its tolerance of mistakes.

This rocket is also a good choice for the experienced rocketeer.  Built with precision and attention to detail, it is an exquisitely beautiful machine whose performance is spectacular.

Finishing:This rocket can be finished easily, or it can repay a lot of effort. The nose cone and fins are balsa, so getting an absolutely smooth finish requires repeated filling and sanding.  On the other hand, it looks pretty good with just a coat of paint.

The kit includes a decal sheet which is a weakness.  The color scheme is black and white, and white is the wrong color for a rocket that flies like this one does. Paint it a color that contrasts with the sky or figure on losing it. The streamer is bright green; but, unless you're looking in the right direction when it deploys, even that streamer will be hard to find.

Construction Rating: 5 out of 5

Flight:The list of Estes motors NOT recommended for this rocket is short: B4-2, B6-2, C5-3, and C6-3. B4-2, B6-2, C5-3, and C6-3. The only caution in selecting a motor is to allow enough delay. In practice, use of "upper stage" delays is a good idea, since even long "single stage" delays are going to cause streamer deployment prior to apogee. It is also  predicted to fly nicely on 13 mm motors, using pieces from a spent 18 mm motor as centering rings. If its fins are attached with epoxy, and the flyer is a lunatic, the rocket can be flown on 18 mm "D" motors. (Altitude fanatics should not use the thrust ring included in the kit. After all, the G30 may come back someday.)

Avatar does not use a motor hook, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's bad because the motor has to be friction-fit, which demands more technique than the conventional stuff-and-fire method. The single great weakness in Custom's product is their failure to guide new flyers through proper installation of motors. On the other hand, learning to friction-fit a motor is a skill worth knowing, as anyone for whom the term "G80" has meaning is aware.

Avatar is a good rocket for "educational" flying, teaching things such as altitude tracking or following a rocket's flight with binoculars.  It is also useful for pilot flights ahead of multi-stage or high power flying; it gets enough altitude to give flyers a pretty good idea of what upper-level winds are like. It's a first-rate choice for altitude or duration contests. It's an airframe capable of supporting altitude record efforts. And, of course, it's a top-notch rocket for use by schools, Scout troops, etc. 

Recovery:Avatar is recovered by streamer. Avatar is recovered by streamer. While the use of wadding is recommended, it's been accidentally proven that the streamer provided will function properly without any protection from the ejection charge - at least once.

The recovery system is pretty much standard for a kit of this type.  Still, after around 30 flights, the shock cord will have to be replaced, a task which entails digging the paper mounting pad out of the body tube.  Serious flyers may want to consider attaching a loop of Kevlar® string to the body tube and tying the shock cord to that loop.

Flight Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

Summary:In my opinion, Custom has come close to the perfect model rocket. It's elegant in appearance, dramatic in performance, easy to build, and suitable for a wide range of uses. That flexibility is it's greatest strength. It's good for a kid's first rocket.  It's a workhorse science project or educational vehicle. It's a tool for launch management. It's a good display choice. It's a good display choice. And it is a formidable contender in altitude competition, duration competition, or record attempts.

By comparison, only one significant weakness exists. If Custom would only include instructions for installing motors in this rocket, they'd have a 5/5/5 product.

Overall Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

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