Crashed the Executioner today!

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Well-Known Member
Jan 17, 2004
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We went out today and tried to light off the 3 x 24mm Executioner. We put 3 D12-5's in it for the first flight to see how it would fly. Only 1 of the motors lit and it went up about 50 feet and came down nose first into the ground under power, when the ejection charge lit it blew the snot out of it and broke the shock cord loose from the nose. It took 2 hands to pull the nose cone out of the was buried about 4" deep.

I ordered a Fat Boy nose cone (the only thing I can find for a BT-80) and can splice a new tube on the top and it will be fixed. I think I'll put a full length tube on it and make it a bit longer and not add as much nose weight this time.

I'm not sure why it didn't light the motors off, I used a 12 volt lawn tractor battery with a 30amp relay and wired it up in parallel. The igniters in the 2 motors that didn't light came out in 2 pieces, so it looks like it lit the igniters but didn't light the motors. Is there a different igniter besides the standard Estes piece I should be using to light these clusters? I can't imagine that I don't have enough battery to light it. I've obviously got a lot to learn here, thanks in advance for any help you guys can provide.


not sure what section of airframe tube you show in that picture but you should know, it can be repaired. just find a BT80 coupler and (yellow or white) glue it inside.

if you don't have a coupler then use a short length of BT80 tubing, cut a sliver down the side of it so it will fit inside the airframe.

you might use some masking tape to hold the airframe tube wound up nicely and steady as the glue dries.

as for the cluster ignition:

you might want to buy a pack of spare ignitors and try some experiments, to be sure your battery/relay system will actually light 3 at a time.

you say the ignitors came out of the motors in 2 pieces, burned. that tells me they weren't touching the propellant inside the motor. next time be absolutely sure the ignitor is right up against the propellant, then put the plug in.

and be sure the launch controller wires don't pull the igniter wires out of the motor while it is sitting on the pad.

that's probably what actually happened.

hope this helps!!
Too Bad Vicious!
If you don't want to use the overly rounded Fat Boy nose cone, you can get a Loc/Precision or Public Missile nose cone (2.56 for the BT-80) from Red Arrow Hobbies.
Aerotech's Initiator nose cone will fit the BT-80 as well. Which can be bought seperate too. And the Estes Phoenix cone will fit too I believe.

I built a scratch Executioner with a 24mm cluster and used the Loc/Precision cone. It's about 9 inches long. The Aerotech nose cone is 11 or 12 inches, and I'm not sure about the Public Missile cone length.

The only issue I had with the Loc/Precision cone is a small overhang over the Bodytube. I'm sure because the bodytube of a mid power Loc rocket is slightly thicker than the BT-80, but this was a pretty easy fix.

I just hate to see that blunt Fat Boy cone on your Executioner (unless you want it)

Good Luck on your next flight!
You got two disadvantages going for you when you cluster black powder motors. The Solar igniter design, and the manufacture process of the BP motor.

Estes Solar igniters do not have much umph in them. They just give off a little bit of smoke (but a lot of arrid smoke), I fired off many igntiers, video taping them, and I seen Estes igniters that gave off on 1 spark! With the motor design, when the motor is being produced, sometimes the clay from the nozzle covers some of the core of the motor.

You should check the nozzles to make sure there is no clay in the core. If there is, carefully scrape it out of the core with a none metallic object. Be careful not to damage the nozzle itself.

I also coat all of my igniters with a thin layer of Magnelite pyrogen. This trick works great. Never had a missfire with those (except when the igniter was broken, but a ohm meter should find that if I bothered using one... which I do when clustering)
Originally posted by Vicious
I ordered a Fat Boy nose cone

First off, sorry you had such luck on your first cluster experiment. Don't give up, it is lots of fun when you get it figured out.

Before you order a FB nose cone, and pay for shipping, why not just go somewhere local and buy a FB kit? That way you will also get enough BT to do some repairs, and some other left-overs you can save for other projects?

n3tjm has some really good tips in his post, especially the one about 'improving' the Estes igniters. Be VERY careful how you do this. If you follow n3tjm's suggestion and use Magnelite, you should be OK. I am not going to name any home receipes on this forum, but there are also other ways to improve the ignition power of those little Estes things.

You are probably correct that your battery is adequate. If you have a good ignition circuit, and had all leads well connected, you probably have that part well taken care of.
while I have never had any trouble lighting clusters using Estes ignitors, the posters here are right, they just don't make a big spark. you might try Quest ignitors instead, although you will have to make a "clip-whip" - you can't just twist them together. it's a fun quick project and can be used for Estes ignitors too.

( nomopbo, thanks for the tip about LOC nose cones. I didn't even think about trying it - duh! I love this place!!!)
You can also call Estes and order the Executioner's original nose cone. The part number is PNC-80K, and they were $4, IIRC. Buy a bunch of them, and be good for quite a while. This NC is also used on the Phoenix, and maybe others.

This is some great info, thanks guys! Where can I get this Magnalite stuff? I've already made some clip whips so I could try the Quest iginters too. As far as the nose cone, I'll keep the Fatboy cone when it gets here...I'll use it on something eventually. I'll try calling Estes for the right cone or use the LOC piece, can't have too many rocket parts laying around huh?

Thanks again guys, Butch
You can buy the Magnelite pyrogen from Rocketflite . While you are there, order some ML-12 igniter wires. These are the best things to use for starting composite motors... E15 and up. 99.9% success rate, I have been using them for years.