General Interest

766 posts

Design-Build-Fly Heats Up at Mission Bay Park

Jeremy Johnson holds Aztec Aerospace DBF aircraft with the rest of the Team.

By Steve Manganelli

If it’s Spring, it’s time for the annual Design Build Fly (DBF) competition for teams of undergraduate College students and SEFSD is there supporting San Diego State University Aztec Aero Design. Safety Officer Steve Neu piloted the maiden voyage of their prototype airplane on February 18th and additional test flights on March 10th and March 17th in preparation for the Fly-off being held in Wichita KS the weekend of April 13th. The Team, led by Gabriella Gonzalez Ayala and Jeremy Johnson aims to do well with additional mission practice flights at our Mission Bay Park field up through the flyoff date.

There are several other Student Aerospace Engineering competitions, but what makes DBF stand out is that the rules change every year. Highlights of this year’s challenge include the wingspan being 60” or less, but the model has to fit in a 30” wide “parking spot”. This requirement translates into folding wing tips or a center rotating wing a la V-22 Osprey. Key mission requirements include taking off in  20’ under empty and payload conditions, the payload being wooden peg dolls. The scoring formula involves number of peg dolls, number of laps flown around a 1000’ oval course in 5 minutes, speed to fly 3 laps in a different mission and capacity of the batteries used in the mission.  There is a timed ground mission where 1 student gets to swap the “medical supply” and “passenger” payloads. All missions use normalized scoring where the best team earns 100% of the possible score and the others get a proportional fraction of the winning team’s score.  A 60 page paper detailing the design-development of the model becomes a scoring multiplier as well.

Of the 110 schools invited to join the competition, generally less than 30 produce a mission capable aircraft. Once SDSU’s and a few other flight scores are posted to the leaderboard, you start to see what’s possible. It’s a little unnerving when an obviously capable school doesn’t post their last mission until nearly the end of the contest : 7th place can turn into 12th real fast. Gabriella and Jeremy are veterans of several past DBF contests and will lead their team to great success. Steve Neu and I will be there in Wichita with them.  If you fly Sunday afternoons or weekday afternoons you might catch a test flight yourself; feel free to come by and cheer us on. For more details about the DBF Competition, browse around here : AIAA Design/Build/Fly | AIAA 

Team leads Gabriella (5th from left) and Jeremy Johnson (8th from left) all smiles in front of prototype plane and rest of Team after successful test flight on March 17th.


Steve Neu flies SDSU DBF airplane on maiden voyage.


Thank You, SEFSD Pilots

SEFSD Pilots,

     This “Thank You” was long delayed because I became dangerously sick a few days after the SEFSD Banquet (unrelated to the banquet).  Thankfully, I’m doing much better now.  First, Thank You for the Get Well wishes from so many of you, it was very much appreciated!

     Next, THANK YOU very much SEFSD Board of Directors for honoring me with the 2023 SEFSD Founders Award!  I was in complete shock at the banquet when Steve Manganelli called my name as the recipient!  I was overwhelmed at the time and could not express my gratitude as I wanted to do.  I was even in tears for a moment!  I feel extremely honored to be the second Founders Award recipient after 2022’s very worthy first Awardee, Dennis LaBerge (Field Maintenance!), thank you!  I value the 2023 SEFSD Founders Award as much, or perhaps even more, than my highest US Navy awards!
     I believed there were other very deserving SEFSD members that had been a part of the club for many more years than Alex and I and you know what, that is the primary reason Silent Electric Flyers San Diego is without a doubt the best radio control aircraft club in the world!  Sure, the beautiful location is part of it, but the real reason behind SEFSD’s greatness are the many dedicated Pilots that belong to SEFSD!  Without all the hard working volunteers and friendly Pilots willing and able to assist new Pilots, or to help another Pilot repair a damaged plane, SEFSD would not be the R/C Club that it is today!   Alex and I are very fortunate to have discovered SEFSD in 2018; it changed both of our lives for the better!  I don’t know what we would have been doing on so many Saturday mornings without SEFSD!  We certainly wouldn’t have been making so many great friends and having so much fun!
     I’m very proud of the photos Alex shot at the February Electroglide when I was in the hospital, he made my job look easy!  Alex is back at SJSU now and I have returned to SEFSD Field, cameras in hand!  I pledge to each of you, so long as I’m physically able and not away on vacation, I will continue striving to get good photos of the SEFSD Pilots and their planes.  I will also continue to create an occasional video documenting the super fun times we all share together.  After making such good friends over the years and sharing so much fun, this is the least I can do to give back to the club and it is my sincere pleasure to do so too!  Thank goodness for SEFSD Pilots!
     Thank you!
Frank “Hobie” Sutton

Frank “Hobie” Sutton


By Frank Sutton
     Here’s a few photos of some Hobie Cat Memories that were hanging on the wall in our home.  As you can see, I was a natural born Sailor before being a US Navy Sailor!
     You may find the newspaper article interesting!  It was quite an adventure sailing from Morehead City, NC into the Chesapeake Bay via the Atlantic Ocean side of the Outer Banks (both times), especially considering I didn’t carry a cell phone or radio onboard my Hobie 16 (Desperado II).  I was on my own, for good or bad!  Looking back now, I don’t understand how my Dad let me do this but I’m very grateful that he did!
     The original Desperado was a Hobie 14 which I sailed for a few years and sold to help pay for the Desperado II in 1979.  I had a trailer and used to travel with my Hobie Cat friends as far south as Daytona Beach, FL and north to Virginia Beach, VA and all beaches in between whenever and wherever a sanctioned Hobie Cat Regatta was scheduled during the summer!  We had so much fun, I really miss those days!  I’m sure without a doubt, and very far in the future, Alex will think extremely fondly of his days flying at Mission Bay with SEFSD Pilots in the same way I think about my old sailing days!  That is the original reason I began taking photos for the SEFSD Pilots, to preserve the great memories not just for Alex, but for all the SEFSD Pilots!
     All the other (paper) photos (and film negatives) from those old sailing days are stored somewhere in our garage, buried in photo albums and boxes along with some of the old regatta trophies that weren’t lost or destroyed when moving from home to home or in storage over the many years.  I’m not in shape enough just yet to go out to the garage and find those photos, but these few photos are enough to share with the SEFSD Pilots!

     Now you may understand why Aviator Alex is so adventurous and loves to fly, it’s something in our family genes I believe!  He loves aviation as much as I love sailing!


Basics of Modern Radio Control

I can tell that some of you have less than full knowledge of how modern radio control systems work.  This is unfortunate since at some point you may need to do routine maintenance on your radio system such as: replace a worn out vacuum tube, replace a broken rubber band on your escapement, etc.  If you are one of these folks you can get yourself back up to speed by reading on.  I am sure most of you still have your recent 1953 issue of Air Trails Model Annual on hand.  If you have temporarily misplaced it or, for some other reason, it is not immediately available, I have scanned in the important pages for you.  Read and understand the simple basics below and you won’t look silly next time you talk about RC with your modeling friends.  -Ed.


Arizona Electric Festival 2024

By Mark Davis

I went to the Arizona Electric Festival this year, so here is a brief report and some pictures.   The event is held at the beginning of February every year, at Superstition Airpark on the east side of Phoenix.

This year was the 20th occurrence.  This scenic airstrip one of the fields most often featured in flight simulators, and has a large 800ft x 85ft runway with plenty of overrun area on all sides.  The event is generally well-attended and well-organized.  As the name implies, the event is all electric, of every type.  They have food trucks, dinner on Saturday, night flying, awards, and great raffle prizes.

This year there were major storms just before and after the event.  Saturday turned out perfect, but Friday and Sunday were more challenging in terms of wind.

Horizon’s Tony Quist and Ali Machinchy were there, mostly flying the Horizon OV-10 Bronco and a huge glider.   The glider is 9 meters in span (almost 30 feet), but weighs under 50lbs.  It has a folding prop (detachable, so isn’t shown in every photo).   Ali made turns at frighteningly slow speeds and low altitude, under perfect control.

At noon they put on a show featuring pro pilots, the Blackstar FPV team, miscellaneous “gaggles” of various types, and also this helicopter, which can hit 200mph.   I didn’t know that was even possible for a  helicopter (see link to short video)

Continue reading

SEFSD Supports New UCSD Team

By Steve Manganelli

Sharp eyed readers will recall my articles about Design-Build-Fly (DBF), an undergraduate Aerospace Engineering student competition where myself and Steve Neu have supported the efforts of both University of California (UCSD) and San Diego State University (SDSU) over the last 25 years. All test flights are performed at our Mission Bay Park Field. More recently, a new UCSD group approached SEFSD, at first just to use the field which morphed into airframe structural analysis and test flying by Steve Neu as well!

The new (to us) UCSD group led by students Ben Garofalo and Brandon Vinh are preparing for an International competition called Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS)  to be held in June at a small airport in Maryland. The competition is hosted by Robonation and has 71 entrants from around the world from both Universities and High Schools! Unlike DBF where the focus is on payload carrying and has constraints about wing size and takeoff performance, the AUVSI competition rules though rather exhaustive do not place any restrictions on the air vehicle : it can be a quad copter, helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. The basic objective is to fly 5 circuits of a 3 mile GPS defined course and deploy an 8 oz water bottle payload on a target on each circuit. Not so hard you say, fly the plane with FPV goggles and a spotter to guide the plane near the waypoints until the target comes into view and then drop : uhh…no. Did I forgot to mention “autonomously” ? After pilot guided takeoff, the plane has to execute the entire mission autonomously and the precise location of both the drop targets and the flight waypoints are not provided until just before the competition. The drop has to initiated from at least 75 feet above the ground/target and the water bottles have to survive the landing, no splats! This is so “easy” we should do this as one of our monthly fun-flys…NOT! In fact Mr. Garofalo, a veteran of the 2023 Competition told me that out of 72 schools competing, only one school put one water bottle on target during the entire competition : that’s one difficult contest.

The UCSD team got an early start, bringing a prototype of the 2024 airplane to SEFSD field for it’s first flight on January 28th. An attempt previous to that was returned to the drawing board for wing structural modifications. The unnamed plane seemed quite large for a 2.5 lb payload but not when you consider it big enough to carry batteries for the entire 15 mile mission! The plane flew well making one maiden flight and one autopilot calibration flight.  The electronics involved are probably more complex than the airframe. The main purpose of the new model was to teach fabrication techniques and serve as a recruiting tool. As can be seen by the group photo, recruiting was successful! Pictured are UCSD Students Briana Jauregui, Lania Hassan, Christopher Lee, Brandon Vinh, Kazuya Miyata, Kathleen Le, Aurora Dair, Jack Swantko, Ben Garofalo, Elissa Zhang, Advaith Vinoth, Sean Zhao, Tyler Lentz, Anthony Tarbinian, Zach Mirman, Eduardo Perez, David Nielson and Alex Avalos.  The step for SEFSD participation is when the contest model is ready for flight tests. In the mean time to get a detailed understanding of the challenge awaiting the students, go here :  Competitions — SUAS ( .

New Pics & a Letter from Frank

Pics taken by Frank and Alex Sutton

MLK Day General Flying by Frank


Electroglide by Alex


Hello SEFSD Pilots,
     Hope this finds all of you and your families doing well.  I’m doing much better but still have a way to go before I’ll be walking without the assistance of a walker, but at least I’m now out of the “Danger Zone”!
      For those that knew what was going on, thank you for your support and kind words while I was in either Navy Medical Center San Diego or Sharp Grossmont Hospital.  I asked Steven to allow me to put this letter in the Peak Charge to explain why I have been missing in action lately if you didn’t know already. 
     The good news is that I am very happy to be home again and getting stronger every day!  I was in hospitals most of the time mid-JAN through mid-FEB and had a very rough time.  First, I could have died from a kidney and bloodstream bacterial infection. NMCSD took care of this through three procedures and with lots and lots of I.V. bags of antibiotics.  Then after I went home from that, I almost died from uncontrolled internal bleeding in my stomach! 
     Believe it or not, I entirely lost my appetite in the NMCSD hospital and still wasn’t eating or drinking much at all when I returned home.  I took Motrin for pain and on an empty stomach, the doctor later told me that was suicidal.  The Motrin caused bleeding in my stomach!  I was getting so dizzy I had tunnel vision, the room was spinning and changing colors, and I couldn’t get even sit up in my recliner without nearly passing out!  Joan called 911 and saved my life!  The paramedics picked me up in our home and I passed out as they put me on the gurney and rolled me out of our home to the waiting ambulance. I eventually got 3 bags of A+ blood to help bring me back to life!  The doctor did an Endoscopy to locate and stop the bleeding.  I’ve been on stomach medication ever since and will be for another two months!  The doctor also told me that had Joan not called 911 when she did, I likely would not have survived the huge internal blood loss.  That was too close for comfort!  No matter how much pain I’m in, I’ll never take Motrin on an empty stomach again!
     A Physical Therapy Team will soon be visiting me here at home to help me get stronger, faster.  Despite doing some exercises in the hospital bed when I was alert and able to do so, I’m still unable to walk safely without the use of a walker for now.
     I’m really proud of Alex and the photos he shot with my Canon camera and new zoom lens at the JAN Electroglide.  I know Alex really wanted to fly in the Electroglide and I asked him to get a few photos when he was not flying if he could.  He chose not to fly entirely and instead he shot, in my opinion, many outstanding photos of everyone and their planes!  He shot some photos with his iPhone too, but they’re not nearly the quality of photos from the Canon camera so I did not include those photos for Steven to add to the SEFSD Gallery.  Alex did exceptionally well too because he had never before used my Canon with the new zoom lens!  WOW!  He’s making it look too easy to shoot these types of photos!  Ha!  I did crop and edit his photos on my computer but wasn’t able to do so until very recently.
     I’m hoping and expecting to be able to return to SEFSD Field and resume my duties taking photos again on 09MAR for the T-28 and Popwing Racing!  Breaking news too, Alex is flying down on Southwest Airlines and will be home that same weekend, so it should be a whole lot of fun!  I’m looking forward to seeing all of you again and can hardly wait!
     Fly Smart, Fly Safe!  NO MORE MAYDAYS!
Frank “Hobie Cat” Sutton
      I also have lost just over 20 pounds and am going to continue losing weight!  I am now a Vegetarian like Joan and Codey; only Alex is the meat eater in our family now!  I’m no longer drinking diet Cokes/Pepsi’s either.  Definitely don’t want to go through this ordeal ever again!

2023 Founders Award

Click above for banquet pics

By Steve Manganelli

Introducing SEFSD’s 2023 Founders Award recipient, Mr. Frank Sutton! Selection of this year’s award winner given to a club member providing great service to the Club, but not on the Board of Directors, was made by unanimous vote back in November of 2023 and presented at the January 12th banquet. Generally, secrets such as these are not well kept and the recipient knows about the award. However, Frank was completely surprised and the only non-BOD member let in on the secret was his son Alex Sutton whom was quickly drafted as substitute photographer.  Frank of course is the photographer of all Club events  and the creator of the SEFSD Memories slide show premiered at the 2024 Banquet and can be seen below:

Frank as most of us know, is a club member but does not fly himself, deferring the family flights to his son Alex whom is a great R/C pilot, glider pilot and aspiring Airline Pilot.  Frank has proven his dedication to SEFSD by continuing to attend and photograph all club events even after Alex went away to College in August of 2023. I am personally grateful to Frank for attending an F-5B Practice and making a documentary video of the class competition; this had never been done prior to Frank’s effort.  Our “SmugMug” page and the photographs therein are glue that keeps us together.  One of the photos by the way, became the medal artwork for the 2024 T-28 medals.  Frank and I ply the archives of T-28 race photos to come up with a suitable picture that can be cropped into a 2” circle. The winner from his last (3) submittals was presented to him at the banquet as well. As the first T-28 race of the year was held the day after the banquet, Frank is the first 2024 T-28 medal recipient: thanks for all you do, Frank!

The Founders Perpetual Award was created by the BOD in 2022 to recognize a non-BOD member providing the greatest service to the Club in the preceding year. It’s hard to believe that our little organization is now 30 years old and we are old enough to have a history and that some of our original founding members are still active members (and Officers) of the Club, but it is so. The intent is as long as one of our original founding members is still active, the perpetual trophy would be surrendered and re-awarded to the new recipient at the Winter banquet each year. The picture is L-R, Frank, myself (Founder), Steve Neu (Founder), Dennis LaBerge (2022 Recipient) and Steve Belknap (Founder).


Frank’s Friendly SEFSD Photo Tips
























And now you know!  Of course, many Pilots already knew and

occasionally practice these Friendly SEFSD Photo Tips!

See you at the Field!


Fly Smart, and Fly Safe!


Frank Sutton

Hobie Sutton Studios


SEFSD Blanket Donation

by Quan Nguyen
Each year, SEFSD donates 40 blankets to St. Paul’s PACE, a Medicaid program serving lower-income seniors. Many of these seniors live alone, have no family nearby, and these blankets are sometimes the ONLY gift they get the entire holiday season. On December 5th, Quan delivered two bundles of blankets to the non-profit for distribution to the seniors.

Treasurers Report for December 2023

By Steve Manganelli

Greetings and Happy Holidays from the SEFSD Treasurer’s desk. Our planned expenditures and income for our Fiscal Year (FY), completed 30 November, was perfectly in-line with expectations and plans to execute 100% of FY revenue without dipping into reserves. A new budget based on FY2023 actuals with appropriate adjustments for inflation was approved by the BOD in November, resulting in no increase in dues necessary for 2024. The BOD felt that not increasing the 2nd household member dues last year was simply an oversight corrected this year. We have President Brad Bender and Chairman of the Board Jovi Murek respectively, to thank for 50/50 raffle revenue and 4th of July transmitter raffle revenue. This allowed both largesse in Banquet raffle prizes and a significant reduction in Banquet Ticket prices in spite of higher food costs and more high-end food selections.

Each month, the BOD sees a Cash Flow ledger showing actual income and itemized expenditures for the past month plus our net worth. As our Website is fully public, specifying actual dollar amounts historically invited fraud/phishing and other scam attempts, so we avowed to no longer do that. However, if any member wants to know specifics of our financial situation they make arrangements to meet me on the field and I’ll be happy to show them details of our financial plans.

Editor’s Note:

Happy Hollidays to everyone.  I apologize for the lateness of the newsletter this month.  My computer went belly up a week before Christmas.  I got a new one and I now have it just enough housebroken for it to be useful.  See you all soon.  – Ed.