Nov 11, 2008

Aviation students capture fourth championship

by Daniel Martinez

Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics, which was officially christened just five months ago, was initiated into the realm of flight competition last week as 15 aviation students took to the skies on Thursday, Oct. 29 and returned from the competition three days later with a regional championship trophy.

As the department of aviation, Liberty won three consecutive titles in the Region X flight competition of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s (NIFA) annual contest. Now serving as an official School of Aeronautics, Liberty’s representatives refused to drop the ball, soaring to victory to the tune of a 142-point margin between the first-place victors and their nearest competitor, Caldwell Community College.

Liberty’s 311 points led the four schools’ teams that competed from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 last week at the Lynchburg Regional Airport, with Caldwell in second place, Hampton University in third, and Averett University in fourth place.

“Winning was a great moment in my life, and for the team,” Coach Jonathan Washburn said. “But I was most excited when I got back to work on Monday and looked at the numbers.”

Those numbers showed that all 15 of Liberty’s pilots achieved at least one top-three score somewhere among the nine ground and aerial events they participated in.

“Each individual member contributed to scoring points for the team,” Co-Captain Josh “Too Tall” Stadtlander.

Stadtlander’s co-captain, Eric “IHOP” Carter, cited Liberty’s training strategy as part of the reason for the uniform victory.

“We limited each team member to about two ground events and two flying events,” Carter said.

This helped people “find their talents and skills and just full throttle ahead with some events,” Beth “Animal” Partie said.

This focus translated into big points for Liberty’s pilots and team, as six of the top-twelve contestants for the Top Pilot Award of the competition were Liberty’s.

Liberty’s 15 pilots were divided up amongst the five ground multiple-choice tests (Computer Accuracy, Aircraft Recognition, Ground Trainer, Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation (SCAN), and Aircraft Preflight Inspection) and the four aerial events (Navigation, Power Off-Landing, Short Field Approach and Landing, and Message Drop).

“Eric (Carter) and I came in first place in navigation,” Stadtlander said, calling it his most exciting aerial experience in the competition.

“The whole time we closely monitored our groundspeed, fuel burn and time over checkpoints so we could be as accurate as possible.”

In the navigation event, as Carter explained it, teams are given five checkpoints in the area to locate on a chart. They then chart a course to each point, estimating how much gas they will burn en route. After the planning stage, they fly the course, and the team with the math that most closely matches its results, wins.


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