School of Aeronautics wins prestigious collegiate aviation award

After being in existence for only 16 years, the Liberty University School of Aeronautics has achieved one of the highest honors in collegiate aviation, winning the Loening Trophy in May 2017 after competing at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON competition last spring.

The Virginia General Assembly recognized the School of Aeronautics’s achievement Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Virginia State Capitol.

According to the NIFA website, the Loening Trophy was created in 1929 by Dr. Grover Loening after he saw a need for an award that recognized exceptional collegiate aviation programs.

“We first noticed we had a shot at winning the trophy when we pulled up the criteria and noticed that this is what we do every day,” Russell Page, co-captain of the NIFA Flight Team of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics, said.

The criteria include academic emphasis, community involvement, aviation skills and their advancement, the program having a comprehensive safety plan, and professionalism, according to the NIFA website. In addition, the NIFA website said these are combined with a proactive effort to improve the future of aviation.

According to Page, Liberty aviation’s NIFA flight team, in particular, focuses on being involved in community service as a team, one of the criteria for choosing the winner of the trophy. In addition, Page said, Liberty’s aviation program focuses on research in the aviation community, on top of having a comprehensive safety program.

“Part of the criteria is a comprehensive safety program,” Page said. “We had won the American Airlines Safety Award twice (once before winning the Loening Trophy and then again during the May 2017 Competition), and I think at that point was when we really started noticing our involvement in the community and being noted for our safety program.”

According to the NIFA website, The Loening Trophy — made of pure silver and designed by Tiffany & Co. — has been awarded annually since 1929. Famous pilots including Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, and John Towers helped Dr. Loening judge the first competition. The trophy is awarded based on a presentation given by students during the SAFECON competition to the aviation program that sets the standard to be followed by all other aviation programs across the country.

“Being named the best overall collegiate program really is propelling us to the national stage and is saying this program can compete with some of the most elite programs,” Page said. “It says that we can produce a product that major airlines are looking for, (and) it makes our students more desirable when they go to compete for a job. It gives the Liberty University Aeronautics School more of a name.”

Page said the overall goal of the university and of the aviation program is the spiritual fuel that allows the students within the program to attain accomplishments such as receiving the Loening Trophy.

“It’s because of God that we are able to be where we are,” Page said. “The mission of the university and the School of Aeronautics to train champions for Christ and for aviation is kind of propelling us there in helping us win this trophy.”

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