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University aviation team flies at national competition
A university aviation team recently finished in the top five at a national competition of flying skill and knowledge.
The Western Michigan University Sky Broncos, which won their regional, placed fourth last month against 27 aviation teams in Columbus, Ohio at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference competition.
The national championship consists of four flying events and seven ground events.
Southern Illinois University took first place, while Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott took second and University of North Dakota placed third.
“It is an academic-type competition,” said Ryan Seiler, head coach of the Sky Broncos and a faculty specialist at the WMU College of Aviation. “The events are meant to test pilot skills. It is not really a spectator-type event like an airshow would be.”
The competition awards a first-place finisher in flying events, ground events and an overall champion. The 12-member Sky Broncos team finished second in flight events and seventh in ground events.
Building on a previous season without a lot of experience, Seiler said he was very proud of what the Sky Broncos were able to accomplish this year.
“I was extremely happy,” Seiler said. “I thought they did a fantastic job. We were second place in flight events and only missed first place in flight events by two points, which is very close, and that was a major emphasis for us practicing this year. It is a very competitive competition, and I think we can do even better next year.”
Seiler said the intercollegiate association was established in 1946, and WMU’s aviation team has been competing in the national competition since 1947. The association was founded to provide collegiate aviation competition and foster aviation safety, communication and cooperation among programs.
During the national competition, a varying number of students from each team competed in 11 aviation events.
The contest included several flight events: navigation with pre-flight planning; short-field landing, power-off landing; and a message drop where students had to hit targets as accurately as possible.
The ground events included flight simulations: a ground trainer, where students fly a pre-determined memorized pattern; instrument flight management, where participants fly cross country using only instruments; crew resource management to test interaction with another team member; and an aircraft pre-flight event where students have 15 minutes to find as many discrepancies with an aircraft as possible.
The ground events also included traditional tests: aircraft recognition; manual flight computer; and a simulated aerial navigation.
The Sky Broncos have won more than 18 regional championship trophies and the national event five times, beginning in 1947.
Seiler said the Sky Broncos’ successful history is a good judge and measure of the level of academics at WMU.
“I think it is a perfect representation of the caliber of students we have here and the faculty and staff who are preparing them,” Seiler said. “It speaks directly to what the caliber of our students are and how hard they worked and prepared and the support that we get from the faculty and staff and university overall. We couldn’t do what we do without the help and support of everyone here.”
The 2014 Sky Broncos team is made up of students: Joseph Batchelder, team captain; Alex Bych, event captain; Elizabeth Bates, event captain; Patrick Allen; Kevin Davis; Devvyn Fader; Andrew Koch; Connor Murdock; Luke Ostrom; Chris Reichert; Randall Walliser; and Amanda Marie Zeeb.
Marty Coaker, assistant coach of the Sky Broncos, also accompanied the team to the national compeition and is an alumn of the 2002 WMU national team.