March 16, 2005

Aviation team wins national competition

by Katharine Quaranta

(Editors: Note local names.)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A team of five aviation students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale won first place in the International Aerobatic Club Collegiate Competition. This is SIUC's third victory in four years.

In order to win this prestigious honor, the students participated in a series of competitions around the United States throughout last year. The events include professional pilots as well as college students and usually attract some of the best pilots in the country.

A five-judge panel critiques competitors' ability to perform a series of aerobatic maneuvers. Most of the collegiate competitors participate at the primary or sportsman level, but for the more experienced fliers the intermediate, advanced and unlimited levels are also available. The pilot's category level determines the complexity of the maneuvers.

Since professional pilots often dominate these competitions, they give SIUC students the opportunity to compete against and learn from the best. Faculty advisor Charles L. Rodriguez emphasized the importance of this cross-generational interaction.

"When students are interacting with professional pilots it is amazing to see the connection they make with these seasoned veterans," he said. "It is very heartwarming to see such cooperation."

Rodriguez also stressed how proud he is of the students' level of commitment and dedication.

"I think that what these young people do is remarkable. Their level of concentration in performing these physical acts requires a huge amount of concentration and takes commitment like any sport," he enthused. "Most of these guys have jobs and we have a very demanding (aviation) program."

The collegiate winner is determined by adding each school's top three students' scores from three separate competitions. At least one of the competitors must have participated at the sportsman level or above. The University of North Dakota and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University took second and third place team awards, respectively.

Enhancing nationally recognized undergraduate programs is a goal of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Here are the members of the SIUC aerobatics team, listed by hometown:



• Nick Reinhardt, a senior majoring in aviation maintenance technologies, is a two-year member of the team.

• Caleb Robinson was the captain of the team and provided aerobatic training to the other team members. He graduated at he end of summer semester 2004 with a degree in aviation maintenance technologies.


• Joe Schuster, a senior majoring in aviation maintenance technologies, won the Primary Category at the National Aerobatic Contest held in Dennison, Texas.




• Jason Dusel, a senior majoring in aviation maintenance technologies, is a first-year member of the team.



• Tom Rybarczyk, a senior majoring in aviation maintenance technologies, brought home the award as the third best collegiate aerobatic pilot.