SOA flight team brings home ninth consecutive NIFA Region X title
The Liberty University flight team brought home its ninth consecutive National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region X championship after competing Oct. 16-19 at Franklin Municipal Airport in Franklin, Va.
“The NIFA team has once again demonstrated their prowess to compete successfully at the regional level,” David Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics (SOA), said. “They are superb aviators and worked diligently to secure this honor.”
According to Kyle Dillon, the head coach of the team, 18 pilots represented Liberty in individual competitions and accumulated enough points for the team victory.
Zach Floto, a member of the flight team, said the points were the result of many hours of preparation by his teammates.
“There are many long nights and weekends spent at the airport flying and studying for the competition,” Floto said. “Team members are at the airport every evening preparing for tests, as well as all day on Saturday for flight practices. Every time I am at the airport, someone is up in the air practicing.”
In addition to many hours of preparation, Dillon said the SOA’s newly acquired Cessna 150 was influential in the victory. According to Dillon, the aircraft flies a more consistent descent pattern and can maintain a lower speed than the team’s Cessna 172.
“With these events, you’re essentially trying to hit a line with an aircraft so, the slower you go, the more likely you are to be accurate,” Dillon said.
According to Dillon, he appreciated Liberty providing the plane and was proud that his team could represent the university in competition.
“I believe that the success of the NIFA team is a very close reflection of the (SOA), and I believe the reflection of the (SOA) is a very close one of Liberty University itself,” Dillon said. “It all steps back to how God has blessed Liberty University, and that blessing has really come all the way down to the NIFA team.”
According to Dillon, he was excited to see his team win the SOA’s ninth consecutive title, but he was even more grateful for the improvement of the team’s individual pilots.
“I don’t really know if I would feel more proud doing it for the ninth time or doing it for the first time just because, personally, I’m more interested in each competitor’s progress than the school’s progress overall,” Dillon said.
According to Dillon, he enjoyed seeing the improvement of his pilots and representing Liberty, but the highest goal of his team was to exemplify Christ through humility and servanthood.
“Let’s look at this as a mission field and never get so proud of ourselves that we lose focus of what’s number one,” Dillon said he told his team.
He said he believes he has seen his pilots demonstrate their highest priority in several ways. At competitions, pilots move their planes around the tarmac by hand in preparation for competitions, and Dillon said members of Liberty’s flight team helped other teams with the task.
“I never even have to … tell them to do it,” Dillon said. “They actually just do it on their own. Honestly, we have 18 different servants on the team, and they’re all just doing what they can.”
With the regional win, the Liberty flight team qualified for the national NIFA competition, which will be held in Ohio this spring, according to Dillon. He said he believes the team has the potential to do well.
“I think we’ve got the talent, and I think we’ve got the leadership within the students to go out there and to put us in the top 10 in the nation,” Dillon said.
For more information on the SOA, visit liberty.edu/academics/aeronautics.