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Flight team earns ninth straight NIFA Region X title

October 24, 2013 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University's flight team receieved several awards at the regional NIFA competition.

Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics flight team was extremely well equipped for the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region X competition, hosted by Liberty at Franklin Municipal Airport in Franklin, Va., Oct. 16-19.

“We just acquired a new aircraft, a Cessna 150, less than a year ago and this was the first time we competed with it,” said John Marselus, aeronautics professor and faculty advisor to the team, noting the plane can land at a slower speed than other Cessna models. “The teams that do the best in the nation have that aircraft for the landing competition portion. Liberty University supported us and purchased one for us which really paid off.”

The team captured its ninth consecutive regional championship, accumulating 426 points. Daniel Hartman earned the Top Pilot award and Elizabeth Michel was the Top Scoring Female contestant. Liberty featured the top finisher in every category of the competition, beating out second place Averett University and third place Guilford Technical Community College. The victory qualifies the team for a return trip to the NIFA nationals, set for May 12-17 at Ohio State University Airport.

Liberty University's new Cessna 150 aircraft.
Liberty University recently acquired a Cessna 150 aircraft, which was used by its flight team at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region X competition.

Liberty’s team of 16 competitors was accompanied to the regional event by coaches Kyle Dillon and Matt Sylvester and by Marselus, who also served as the NIFA’s regional safety officer for the competition.

Liberty competed with the Cessna 150 and two Cessna 172s that feature Garmin 1000 integrated flight instrument navigation systems.

“We want to thank the leadership at the university for providing the resources for us to be able to compete at NIFA,” Marselus said. “We don’t take that for granted, and we’re very grateful for the support Liberty gives us,” which also covers flight practice time and travel and entry expenses, he added.

Marselus also appreciates the tremendous time and effort invested in training by Liberty’s coaches and team members.

“There’s a lot of preparation, a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into this competition,” he said. “They’re working after school and they’re working into the night. The team did a superb job.”

At the NIFA, Liberty racked up 241 points in Flight Events and 185 points in Ground Events. Team members swept first place in Navigation (Zach Floto and Samuel Schmitz), Power Off Landing (Hartman), Short Field Approach and Landing (Hartman), Message Drop (Forrest Hurley and Jeremy Lee), Computer Accuracy (Jared Yoder), Aircraft Recognition (Lee), Ground Trainer (Sean Cothran), Simulated Comprehensive Aircraft Navigation (Yoder), and Aircraft Preflight Inspection (Lee).

“This year’s team is the hardest-working team we’ve ever had,” Dillon said. “We have a few guys like Jared Yoder, Zach Floto, and Daniel Hartman who have really stepped up in both their own personal performance and in their respective leadership roles.”

Ernie Rogers, associate dean of the School of Aeronautics, served as chief judge for the competition. He said Franklin Municipal Airport did an excellent job of hosting the event for the second time in three years, with the neutral site leveling the playing field.

Liberty finished 18th out of 29 teams at NIFA nationals last year. Ohio State will have the home-airfield advantage, but Dillon doesn’t think that will make a difference.

“Liberty’s team has the talent and drive to place higher than we ever have on the national scale,” he said. “Having the Cessna 150 is a great tool and it gives us the same opportunity to win as the other big schools. Doing well is obviously our goal, but we do so in hopes of bringing glory to Christ.”

  • The Liberty University School of Aeronautics has grown from four students to more than 700 in the last 10 years and is currently the largest faith-based university aviation program in the country. The school offers a variety of online and residential programs, including a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in military aviation, missionary aviation, commercial/corporate aviation, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as well as flight attendant training and aircraft mechanic certifications.