The Maxi Alpha 3 is one of Estes year 2000 re-released limited edition rockets. It is rated Skill Level 2 with a 24mm motor mount. I have seen the price on this kit vary from $15 to $35. It is large version of the Estes classic Alpha kit. Like junior, it is a rather simple build. Stock build utilizes, BT-80 tubes, a 24 inch parachute, little paint (nose only), and pressure-sensitive decals. Intended D12-3 motors give a slow lift-off and relatively low flight. Although this is a very solid, stable flyer it does have the typical Estes shortcomings and easily lends itself to bashing for higher power motors.
The kit includes:
All parts were present and supplied in a plastic bag. Overall design is basic. Larger 2.6" diameter body tube with BT-50 stuffer tube. This kit utilizes (3) BT-80 tubes - 9", 9", and 3 3/8" lengths. It uses a plastic assembly of rings and 3 fins around the shorter tube too create a fin unit module. Initially, I built this rocket stock, according to the directions (almost), with the exception of using epoxy for all tube couplers, die cut rings, and all stuffer tube/plastic ring joints.
Overall construction was straight forward and fast, with one exception. Pre-assembly without glue is highly recommended for this kit. If built per instructions the motor hook retainer tube is glued on prior to installing in the already assembled fin unit assembly. The hole in the plastic fin assembly centering ring is exactly BT-50 tube diameter. Thus, it won't fit! Fortunately, I have built many kits and always pre-assemble without glue. What you have to do is insert the assembled stuffer tube into the fin unit assembly PRIOR to gluing on the forward plastic centering ring. If this is overlooked, using sandpaper and a file, the stuffer tube hole in the aft plastic centering ring could be enlarged enough. However, a serious reduction in strength of the overall motor mount construction would result (epoxy city).
There was no mention of fillets for the fin to body joint. Obviously this is a must for any 24mm rocket. Don't forget it! I used epoxy versus the usual plastic cement recommended by Estes for plastic/paper joints. Secondly, I added an additional 50/55 heavy duty ring on the fore end of the stuffer tube where it joins the forward cardboard centering ring at the forward end of the middle BT-80 tube. This gave the stuffer tube a 3 point anchoring. This will serve to greatly increase the strength of the rocket body.
There are a few other upgrades that should be made on this kit. These would make this kit last longer than 5 flights on Estes D motors and others that would make it a staunch, crowd pleasing mid power flyer on other 24mm options like Aerotech E15, E30, F24, F40.
Stock finishing would have been a piece of cake. The intent was to have red plastic fin units (as is), a white (as is) body tube, and a nose cone painted a red to match the fins. There are those of us who can only build stock so far and then they just can't stand it any more. I thought the decals were cheesy and contained way too much advertising. So, I decided to paint it much more like junior.
I painted the whole rocket with Krylon. First white primer all over. I painted the fin unit a blue to match the main body tube decal, the body tube white, and the nose red. Then I only used one decal. I cut the red portion of the body tube decal off, using only the portion with the rocket name. The 3 decals for the interstitial positions on the fin unit are down right garish. They made the rocket look way to busy, so I left them off. Finally, a coat of gloss clear acrylic. The net result was a more professional, "American" paint job that sits side by side with junior looking much more like "Dad".
Construction/Finishing rating is a 3½. This is largely due to the potentially high price of this rocket versus the instruction error and the cheesy stock finish option. Additional mods are also required for a sturdy, versatile rocket.
Construction Rating: 3 out of 5
I am not sure where Estes gets the weights they quote on some of there packages. I am building a Broadsword now that quotes 6 oz and the weight of unassembled parts without glue or paint is 8 oz. Regardless, my finished Maxi Alpha 3 weight was 10 oz versus the 7.5 oz quoted on the package. I find it hard to believe that the epoxy glue, epoxy fillets, and added paint I used, accounts for all that difference. However, this means that D12-3 is the only Estes motor option. A D12-5 and you would have a lawn dart! Motor install with the hook is a breeze. The flight profile on the D12-3 is flat out awesome. It has a slow majestic lift off. The very straight, stable flight deploys a chute at apogee. All this in plain sight.
So far the flight log on this rocket goes like this.
This rocket does use a rather large amount of wadding, but if you push a couple squares into the end of the stuffer tube it's not too bad. I did learn after the second flight (due to broken fins upon landing on a hard surface) that with the additional weight mine carries, a bigger chute is required. So, I now fly in on a nylon 30" chute with a small spill hole. Now comes the bad news. The Estes standard ¼" elastic cord attached to the centering ring lasted the typical quota of 5 flights prior to breaking. This has been replaced with 24" of 150# Kevlar and 36" of 3/8" elastic with snap swivels. The Kevlar is glued to the body tube wall. If you haven't built this kit yet, attach the Kevlar to the upper centering ring for a cleaner body wall.
Flight/Recovery rating is a 4½. The only thing that keeps this from being a 5 is the shock cord problem.
Flight Rating: 4 out of 5
Overall, I am extremely satisfied with this kit. The flight profile is great. I have added ¾ oz clay to the nose and filed down the forward motor retainer tab to fly the rocket on E15 SU and E18 RMS as well. The extra weight also did not effect it's flight on the D12-3. Yes, now the hoss weighs 11 oz! It would be perfect rocket had Estes not made some compromises on the design. The weight could be less if balsa fins were used with a through the wall attachment. A Kevlar and 3/8" elastic shock cord with a combined length of about 5 feet is a must. Also, better decoration/painting is in order for such a fine flyer.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5