Estes - Comanche-3 {Kit} (1382) [1982-2012]

Contributed by Greg Dunham

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Diameter: 0.98 inches
Length: 41.00 inches
Manufacturer: Estes
Skill Level: 2
Style: Multi-Stage

Brief:
Three stage kit with streamer recovery.

Construction
Being an altitude junkie this kit caught my eye as soon as I saw it. This kit was typical Estes, that is to say it had all of its parts and well thought out instructions. Quality of the parts was good and they all fit well. I got right to construction and other than wishing I had purchased the fin alignment jig the kit was straight forward to build. No surprises here. I took the time to carefully sand the balsa wood fin edges. The square die cut edge just wouldn't do for a sharp looking kit like this. Be sure to add the epoxy fillets at the fin root!

Finishing
After assembly I painted it and applied the decals to mirror the package. This rocket looks great just sitting on the pad! No real finishing problems to note with this kit. The finished product is a really nice looking rocket.

Construction Rating:   4 out of 5

Flight
First flight was single stage with an A8-3. Arrow straight boost, a beautiful flight. The supplied streamer recovery system deployed fine but allows for a bit too speedy descent. At impact one of the fins popped loose at the epoxy fillet. I repaired that and replaced the streamers with a small 12" parachute.

Next flight was two stages with B6-0 and B6-7. The flight was again arrow straight and a thing of beauty and the small chute worked perfectly. No broken fins.

The first three stage flight was an eye opener. Trying to keep track of all the parts once you hit the go button is a challenge. All I can say is bring spotters with you for this one. All three stages worked great and the altitude performance of this small rocket is a real crowd pleaser. Save this one for big fields and calm days or plan on a long walk. I am working on a high altitude rocket for my level one certification but this little rocket will remain my favorite for a long time to come.

Recovery
Adding the small parachute will greatly reduce the number of broken fins you repair on this one. But be aware that with the altitude performance of this rocket and its light weight be cautious to fly it on low wind days.

Flight Rating:   5 out of 5

Summary
Super kit, beautiful finish, defines the term "Flies like a rocket"

Overall Rating:   4 ½ out of 5

Flights

Comments:

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D.E.P. (February 1, 2000)
A small parachute is highly recommended. This model goes up like a rocket and comes down like a rock. If I ever build another, I'd replace the fins on the main rocket with through-the-wall fins of fiberglass or thin aircraft plywood. If you haven't flown a multi-stage rocket, try it - it's great fun. The review was accurate and my experiences were substantially the same.
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B.M. (May 1, 2000)
Having lost the middle stage many years ago, I recently dusted off my Comanche, stuffed an empty D12 casing in the bottom stage and launched it on a B14-0/C6-7 combo. The B14-0 ripped the rocket off the pad in a blink of an eye for a great flight. Instead of a small parachute, I went with a larger streamer.
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unknown (August 1, 2000)
My recoveries hit both extremes. I had a broken fin on the first single-stage A8-3 flight. My 2 stage D12-0/A8-3 flight went out of sight, and was never recovered. I'd recommend either a large spill hole, or just a larger streamer for multi-stage flights. It's a hard balance to strike.
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R.LN. (April 1, 2001)
I agree that the Comanche is a great rocket. However, on my first three stage flight, something went wrong. On separation, the bottom stage proceeded to shred all of its fins. Needless to say, we had to track SIX individual pieces raining down on us. Fortunately, we found all the pieces. My only tip would be to reinforce the bottom stage with strips of fiberglass along the fin root. Otherwise, this is an awesome rocket that can fly very well on A motors, yet can be launched half a mile up using three stages and C motors in the top two. This review was very accurate. I have had the same experiences as the reviewer with the smaller motors. I liked the idea of placing a Kevlar® loop in the body tube to attach the shock cord to.
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D.B.Jr. (April 1, 2001)
This is a fun rocket, however I think it should of had slotted tubes for the upper stage. I flew mine on a B6-0/A8-3 combo with perfect results with the exception of the usual popped fin on landing. This is a minor problem, but who wants to have to re-glue fins after each flight? Not me.
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C.S. (April 1, 2001)
Wonderfully fun kit, I am glad they are re-issueing it. I have probably had 6 of these since the 80's. They definitely are the best 3 stagers short of the MPC Microseconde 3. I saw a guy who upscaled one for HPR, gorgeous. I have added basswood fins to all of the latter one's I have built and used 5 minute epoxy. Really helps save the fins. Also, you can put a very thin coat of CA on them as well to beef them up. Good review.
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M.B.H. (October 18, 2001)
I made and flew a Commanche at a summer camp when I was 14. It was my third or forth rocket and went together great. Me and about five others all made one each, that launch was quite impressive with six or so Commanche-3s. Two or three were flown multiple times, until they were completely destroyed and one was outright lost. One rocket got kinked twice in the middle of the body tube. The last flight was simply the remains of *two* Commanches, it was just the first stage with a D12-0 (no Ds with delays) and a nosecone taped on. It was a very unstable flight, zipping around in circles until the delay went, then POP. And the fins and pieces of tubing gently floated back down. The Commanche is a very nice rocket, I still have mine, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a good altitude buster.
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P.M. (November 11, 2001)
I think this is the coolest rocket I have ever built. The construction is a snap. The only problem I had was making the decals stay on. The ones on the 3rd stage fin came off, I would like to see water decals instead. If you want a smooth, fast rocket- the Commanche is it.
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M.V.L. (February 20, 2002)
I've built two of these - one recently, the other about 15 years ago in 7th grade. Launched the first one full load: D12-0, C6-0, C6-7. Beautiful flight, but never saw the second stage again. Still have the sustainer! New one has flown once also on a D12-0, C6-0, C6-7. Recovered all pieces. Sustainer landed about 200 feet behind me, and came in flat and somewhat slow on two large streamers. This is my favorite kit of all time. I built it stock, and have never had a fin separation or any other problems.
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W.M. (October 2, 2002)
I've flown mine several times as a 2 stager, and a couple of times as a 3 stager. A 1-3 combo gets a lot of height, not that short of the 1-2-3 combo. (Using a D as the booster really gets this bird going, especially when you don't have the weight of a second stage to lift.) As I understand it, the booster sages are likely to shed fins at separation. Sometimes the section turns sideways while still traveling at a high rate of speed, and a fin or two pops off.
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unknown (June 11, 2003)
Yes, this kit does fall like a rock, especially when the streamer pops out and then melts to the side of the body...
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D.L. (May 16, 2004)
First flight was on ALL stages - figured if it lawn darted or if it was damaged on recovery that I would at least see one great flight. Man did it go! Recovered all boosters and sustainer with help from fellow club members. All fins intact.
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CGN (August 12, 2006)
I keep having problems with recovery. The rocket is _too_ stable on descent. Tips upside down (i.e. fins up) pulling the streamers against the body and rendering them useless. Top of body keeps getting crunched. On the plus side, the fins never impact the ground directly :)

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