This article is from the Model Rockets FAQ, by Wolfram von Kiparski with numerous contributions by others.
DON'T GET DISCOURAGED. Everyone loses rockets. It's part of the hobby.
There are ways to minimize this when you're forced to fly in smaller
fields, though. The following is a consolidation of tips posted to r.m.r
by numerous individuals:
1. For smaller rockets, use a streamer instead of a parachute. This
can be done with rockets of up to BT-50 body tube size and up to
18" long. Be sure and check rocket weight, though. If the model uses
heavy plastic fins you might still want to use a parachute.
2. Reef the chute lines to reduce the effective surface area. Tie or tape
the shroud lines together 1/3 of the way from their end. This reduces
the shroud lines to 2/3 of their original length and prevents the chute
from fully opening. The rocket will come down faster and drift less.
3. Cut out the Estes or Quest logo from the center of the chute. This lets
more air spill through the chute and reduces its drag. Be careful to cut
out the whole logo. Cutting only a small whole (say, less than 2" in
diameter) can improve the chute's stability and actually make it lift
better and drift further.
4. Use a smaller chute. Try cutting down an 18" chute to a 15" chute, or a
12" chute to a 10" chute.
5. Use longer ejection delays. If a B6-4 ejects the parachute right at
apogee, use a B6-6 to let the rocket come down a little before popping
the chute. Less time chute is open equals less drift. Take care in
making the chutes and recovery attachments extra strong, though, as
the descending model will put more strain on the recovery system than
if it were to deploy at apogee.
1. Find a different field. If you fly alone, try and find a local rocket
club. The odds are the club will have found a better field in which
2. Fly larger rockets. A Big Bertha on a B6-2 will drift a lot less
than a Sky Hook or other small model on a B6-4 or B6-6. Larger models
have more impressive liftoffs, as well. Larger diameter rockets
don't fly as high and come down faster than the really small ones. The
big ones are also easier to spot in high grass, weeds, trees, etc.
3. Use smaller motors. If the recommended motors for a rocket are, for
example, A8-3, B6-4 and C6-5 or C6-7, try it on A8-3's first. If
the model lands well within the recovery area you can then decide if
the larger motors will allow the model to be retrieved.
4. Launch rockets at a slight angle into the wind. The rockets will
weathercock and deploy recovery systems upwind. If all goes well, they
will land closer to the launch site.