The 2005 edition of the Southeast Electric Flight Festival (known simply as SEFF) was once again a great success. My personal opinion of the event is that it is about as much R/C modeling fun that anyone can handle!
To make an event of this scale successful, there’s a lot of work needed behind the scenes, and it starts months in advance. Careful planning and coordination of virtually all aspects is required. Many monthly meetings were held by the core staff members, hosted graciously by Jeff Meyers, the driving force behind the event. Many of the staff attend other events, and pay careful attention to the details there that make those events successful (or perhaps, where they fall short). As a result of these efforts, SEFF is run far better than its few short years in existence might suggest. Many well-respected pilots, who have attended other electric-flight events around the country, commented that SEFF is the best-run of all! There are three excellent threads in the R.C Groups discussion forums for your reading pleasure and several smaller threads about SEFF 2005. Hobby-Lobby was kind enough to sponsor a forum and provide their photographer who took photos throughout the weekend for site members viewing pleasure.
Following were some of the fantastic thread links:
Once all of the planning and organization has been completed, the workers arrive early in the week to start preparing the field. Mac Hodges has a fantastic facility for R/C flying – acres of manicured lawn adjacent to dozens of RV hookups, ample room for cars and shade canopies, and of course, one of the best-stocked hobby stores in the country. Mac must be thanked for his hospitality. It should be noted that he hosts events of this scale many times a year, and that people drive for many hundreds of miles to attend.
By the time I arrived around lunch time on Wednesday, a lot of the setup work was completed, but there was still plenty to keep the workers busy, such as setting up the PA system, unloading and arranging the tables and chairs for the vendor and sign-in, raffle, and transmitter impound areas. A large crew helped make short work of these tasks, while others continued to put up banners, test the PA system, as well as the new impound pagers graciously sponsored by Charlie Wang at Thunder Power.
After a few hours of work on Wednesday afternoon, we were rewarded with some wonderful flying weather. The field was buzzing with models late into the evening, including some night flyer activity. Ric Vaughn and Ernie Schlumberger had brought along a large night flyer they had built from scratch. Let me qualify this – it has a 114’ wing span and weighs in at 19lbs with 30 sub-c cells!
That evening, they flew it for the first time at night, and found that due to it’s massive scale, it was easy to keep track of. They plan to get in plenty of flying time and prepare a night flying demonstration at NEAT later this year.
Thursday was allocated as an LMR sailplane contest day, although there was plenty of open flying from before sunrise until the competition kicked off at 9am. We were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout – with 29 competitors, we had as more pilots than one might expect for a sailplane class at the NATS! Ric and Ernie ran this contest, and the day started with their pilot briefing. The morning’s flying was termed the “No Excuses” class – fly what you bring, two minute motor window designed to allow ANY model to get to sufficient altitude, but then another 13 minutes required for a target 15 minute flight, followed by a full-score landing bonus for landing anywhere within a generous landing circle. The idea behind this contest was that you have to be able to thermal to win – a high performance model will not be able to run it’s motor for the full two minutes, giving it no advantage over, say, a speed 400-equipped model. We had a large and varied collection of models fly in this event, many competing for the first time. Everyone “buddies-up”, and the more experienced pilots were glad to help out the newcomers. Nathan Bartley won the event, followed by Phil Meyers and Ric Vaughn.
The afternoon class was a modified Class B – Similar to AMA Class B but allowing NiMH cells. You only get a thirty second motor run, so a high performance power system is pretty much mandatory, and target a 12 minute total flight time. Fewer competed in the afternoon’s event, but there were still plenty of competitors. This class was won by Ric Vaughn, followed by Andrew Willetts and Marc Vepraskas.
Following the LMR contest, a short pilot meeting was held, and the field was opened to general flying. Although the open flying portion of SEFF was not scheduled until Friday morning, many people were there early (as evidenced by the turnout for the LMR contest) and the weather was ideal. We also opened up the pilot check-in area, run by Ric, Ernie, Jim Beck and myself; so those in attendance could collect their packets. Thanks to some careful planning, we processed about 100 pilots in well under an hour.
A task that goes mostly un-noticed is that of preparing these pilot packages for the check in process. By the time the first pilot lines up to sign in, every packet has been assembled – which involves labeling each envelope, folding about 220 T-shirts (each inserted into their own envelope), and counting and numbering every one of the 4,000 pre-paid raffle tickets! All the pilots have to do is sign the required AMA paperwork, and pick up his tin of collector’s edition SEFF mints (it pays to have an event organizer in the candy business!) These packets were assembled in the weeks prior to the event by Ric and Becki Vaughn, Ernie Schlumberger, and Mike DeBoer – who deserves special credit for numbering each of the pre-purchased raffle tickets!
We closed check-in after about an hour, which gave us another opportunity to join the other modelers enjoying the wonderful evening flying weather. The field was again buzzing with models of all kinds, and by previous arrangement, some of the high performance modelers gathered for a little F5B style flying at the far end of the field. I think everyone was most impressed by Bob Whitney’s Raketenwurm. Flying continued late into the night again – not only at the field, but back at the hotel, which appears to have become quite the tradition for the 3D pilots, at least!
Friday was an active flying day. By sunrise, pilots were already out on the field, taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and open skies. Many more modelers arrived late on Thursday, and early Friday morning. By lunch time, we had over 200 pilots registered. Open flying started shortly after a 9am pilot meeting, and the official impound operations were in full swing. The transmitter impound was run by David and Howard Keller, Tommy Vinci, and Paul Deward. The task of tracking down frequency pins was made much easier this year with the addition of a paging system – similar to what you might find at a restaurant – sponsored by Charlie Wang at Thunder Power. These allowed the pilots to be notified when a pin they had been waiting for became available, for example, or to indicate that the pin needed to be returned. The system worked well, and will be enhanced for next year’s event.
The first drawings in the raffle were held on Friday, and continued throughout the remainder of the weekend. The prizes amounted to over $16,000, and the generosity of the sponsors contributes a great deal to the success of the event. Prizes are split into several categories by value, with drawings for prizes in each of the categories scattered throughout the day, there was a steady stream of activity in the raffle area. With over 18,000 tickets sold, Mike Deboer, Phil Meyers, Bernie Ortman, Phil Roey and Jason Taylor worked hard to ensure the raffle went off without a hitch!
The vendor mall was packed with products from over 30 vendors. Having all vendors together in one large sheltered space was a big improvement over previous years. There were several new products on display, but a large amount of “traditional” model supplies – everything from servo extensions to ready-to-fly models! This is a great opportunity to stock up on items that you might not normally have access to back home, without incurring shipping fees. There were also plenty of “show specials” to take advantage of!
The lunch-time demonstration schedule was packed with models of all shapes and styles. Well known pilots from around the world filled the skies with their expert flying skills. Pilots included Quique Somenzini, Mark Leesburg, Jason Shulman, Gary Wright and Bob Belluomini. Many of the sponsoring vendors also took this opportunity to demonstrate some of their products to the gathered crowd.
Later on Friday afternoon, the weather started to turn for the worst. The winds picked up at first, but then some severe storms moved through the area. Those who arrived later that evening spoke of driving through some of the worst storms they had ever seen! Although there was rain, strong winds, and even brief hail at the field, and some damage was done to a few of the shade canopies and tents, the worst of the weather seemed to stay away, which was good news for most. As quickly as the weather had moved into the area, excellent flying conditions quickly returned to the field, and those who had braved the storms were soon out flying again!
Back at the hotel, Radical RC sponsored the first annual SEFF Texas Hold’em Poker Championship. About thirty pilots competed for the top prize, won by none other than event organizer Jeff Meyers! Although I did not personally attend, I heard a great time was had by all that participated, and the event is certainly one we can expect again next year!
Saturday morning brought the first significant influx of spectators, and the parking staff were busy all morning – not only admitting the large number of vehicles, but ensuring they were parked in a safe and organized fashion. Although a good number of the spectators were local, some people had started out before dawn and driven many miles to attend.
Some of those who had left before the storms of the previous evening were greeted by buckled and broken shade canopies. The winds were stronger than many pilots were prepared to risk, and there was not quite as much flying as one might have hoped for. The demo flights took place as scheduled, however, and thanks to some brave pilots and excellent flying, everyone enjoyed the show.
That afternoon, the World Championship Soarstar/Wingo Pylon races took place. By this time, the winds had picked up, and were blowing a steady 15-20mph, with much stronger gusts. The “races” turned into a battle to see who could stay aloft and penetrate upwind. At one point, my model was flying backward at full throttle! Although many models were damaged, a couple thanks to a spectacular mid-air, everyone had a good time, and Jason Cole won the event.
Saturday evening is allotted for awards, followed by a BBQ dinner. Ric and Ernie handed out trophies for the first three places in each of the LMR sailplane events. This was followed by the awards for Best New Product, Largest Sport Model, and Best in Show.
The Best New Product category is voted on by the pilots, and was won this year by Mountain Models with their new Etana.
The Largest Sport Model is calculated from a simple formula (advertised on the event web site for those who wish to create a model specifically for this category). The winner was Mark Leseburg with his 40% extra – powered by four Hacker C50 motors.
Best in Show is voted on by the SEFF event staff, and although there were many worthy nominations, the winner was Dave Blum with his beautiful scale Husky.
Fred Franics was thanked for his contribution to the event – every pilot who had purchased BBQ tickets received a bottle of SEFF Ale, brewed by Fast Freddy himself! Fred made over 225 bottles. (10 gallons of American Wheat Ale); Glenn Delconte designed and produced the labels, Ric Vaughn and Mike DeBoer helped out with bottling and labeling. The Grillmasters catered the BBQ – they are an annual competitor at a BBQ cook-off held in Memphis each May.
A large crowd lined up for the BBQ, and then many retired to their setup areas to enjoy good food, friends, and in most cases, a light refreshment or two! Although the winds were still present, many models were once again being flown late into the evening.
Sunday started with strong winds, and many pilots decided to pack up and leave. Those who still had canopies or tents erected struggled to dismantle them in 30 MPH winds, and one even uprooted and flew across the runway – too late to qualify for the Largest Sport Model category, however! There was some flying, but the decision was made to cancel the noon-time flight demos. The event staff and volunteers started the task of cleaning up – tables and chairs to be folded and stacked; banners, the transmitter impound and PA system dismantled. By late morning, with the number of pilots in attendance drastically reduced, the raffle staff resorted to drawing for all of the remaining prizes. A crowd of enthusiastic pilots gathered around the raffle area, and there were many happy winners!
The weather was unusual for this time of year. The SEFF planning team had put a lot of consideration into the choice of date, and had moved the event up to avoid some of the heat (and bugs) we had experienced in 2004. We were most unfortunate to experience those kinds of winds, but the event was still a great success with a great time being had by all. All told, we had 292 pilots attend the event, with more than 30 vendors, and approximately 1,000 spectators. We counted more than 1,200 models, and gave out $16,000 in raffle prizes. The event is planned for May 4th – 7th in 2006.
Abell R/C, Accel Hobby, Air Cad Kits, Aon Electric, Apogee Batteries, Area-5X, Atlanta Hobby, Carolina 3D, Castle Creations, Cermark, Classic Aero, Climax Models, Copperhead Aviation, Dremel, Duralite Batteries, Dynamo Electrics, E Cubed R/C, Eagle Tree Systems, E-Flight Batteries, Esprit Model, Extreme Flight R/C, Fliton, FMA Direct, FoamFly, Foamtastic Models, Gary Wright Model Products, Great Planes, Hitec / Multiplex USA, Hobby Lobby, Mega Motor USA, Model Airplane Engineering, Mountain Models, New Creations R/C, Parkflyer Motors, Performance Model Avaition, Precision Aerobatics, Radical RC, RC Electronics, RC Groups, RC Universe, Shulman Aviation, SKS Video, Starluck R/C, Superfly RC, Tanic Packs
Mike Bartell, Jim Beck, Don Comiski, Mike Deboer, Glenn Delconte, Steve Dukes, Paul Deward, Fred Francis, Randy Hawkins, David Hogue, David Keller, Howard Keller, Matt Klos, Dave Mason, Dave McConnell, Phil Meyers, Bernie Ortman, David Parr, Charles Perkins, Phillip Roey, Ernie Schlumberger, Buddy Shaver, Jason Taylor, Ric Vaughn, Tommy Vinci, Andrew Willetts
Mike Bartell, Dave Mason, Mike Parsons, Jason Taylor and Bob Whitney.
This was mine and my flying buddy's first SEFF...won't be our last!! Despite the, uh, breezy(?) conditions we had a blast!
We'd only been flying for 7-8 months in April and the experience was a *real* eye-opener for us. The exposure to the different flyers, planes, vendors, etc., gave us plenty of ideas to carry home with us (not to mention my buddy bringing home that nice little JR box from the raffle! ). The folks were great, enjoyed meeting all. Tips and info were much more abundant than the hail we watched through the door of our tent.
Being rookies, we were still floundering around a good bit trying to figure out "what" we wanted to fly...getting to see so many different planes flying at a single location helped give us some direction in the hobby. Matter of fact, the sheer number of planes was somewhat staggering. Talking with so many knowledgeable people who really wanted to share their knowledge was a fantastic "kick in the butt" for us! Thanks to all!!!
Maybe next year the Fayetteville Flyers can have a large airplane for night-flying. Seriously, watching that red beauty fly at night was a special treat...we're already rigging lighting on our "hayfield flyers" and have had some great night-flights!!!! Besides the plane being great, those guys are top-notch guys...a little crazy, but top notch!
I want to thank everybody who had a part in making SEFF 2005 a great experience... To name a few and in no specific order... the lady at the convience store just west of Plains, GA that told me the 16oz Coors were the same price as the 12oz , the Fayetteville Flyers (they really are a great/crazy bunch), Jeff Meyers, the Binders, the ground keepers and workers, Kevin (uh, be sure those tent pegs are hammered in good ), all the great flyers we talked to, all the great vendors we talked to, to the guy that did the belly-slide across the airfield being dragged by the kite, Scott and Jetgirl(nextdoor neighbors for a day or two), to the guys running the raffle that kept putting up with the Magic Man coming and picking up prizes (you oughta see a picture I've got of him after "landing" his plane using that JR! ), all the flyers and vendors, and last but not least (would be at the top of the list if I had a list)....Mac Hodge for sharing his facilities with us!!
BTW, that wind and rain had a little good with it...you should've seen the size of those skeeters Thursday evening...I slapped one down and I believe it was big enough to put a 12mm Feigao on. The storm seemed to have moved them out for the rest of the weekend!
If you weren't there you don't know what you missed. Trust me, you missed LOTS !!!!
Even though the weather/wind was tough, it was an experience I'll always remember...and one I'm eagerly looking forward to again in 2006!
(waiting for (the incredible) SEFF 2006!)
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