November 01, 2005

Aviation student wins national aerobatic title

by Pete Rosenbery


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jason J. Dusel, a senior in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's renowned aviation technologies program, captured the sportsman category in the International Aerobatic Club's 2005 U.S. National Aerobatic Championships. The competition was at the Grayson County Airport in Denison, Texas, about 60 miles north of Dallas, Sept. 25-30.

Competing for just a second year, Dusel flew against many talented aerobatic pilots, many of whom are professional pilots and include airline captains, former military pilots and corporate pilots. Dusel, the son of Della Dusel-Hetge and Ken Hetge of Tehachapi, Cal., has had his pilot's license for four years. He started competing in aerobatics events in May 2004.

Dusel bested reigning national champion Joe Haycraft to capture the championship, winning two of three programs including freestyle. Competitors in the sportsman division compete from 3,500 feet to 1,500 feet above ground and within a 3,300-foot by 3,300-foot area.

Dusel said his goal was to do his best, but to also beat Haycraft, against whom he consistently finished second.

"To beat him in the nationals for the first time was great," Dusel said. Along with his major in aviation technologies with a specialization in avionics, Dusel is working on an industrial technology degree with a specialization in manufacturing.

Dusel flew a plane owned by contractor Ken Robinson of Carbondale, who helped form the Southern Illinois Wings of Charity Flight Academy. Dusel also received support from the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 277 for funds for lodging and meals.

Dusel captains the SIUC aerobatic flight team. The squad has won the International Aerobatic Club's national collegiate championship three of the past four years, and is on the verge of another title this year. The aerobatic team is comprised of aviation technology majors.

Aerobatic flying is "incredibly demanding in both a mental and physical sense" as pilots seek precision in their routines, said John D. Cotter, interim chair of the aviation technologies department.

There are aviation-related career options that involve more than just piloting planes. There are more than 2.1 million jobs in aviation and 9 percent of the nation's gross domestic product has something to do with aviation.

Cotter considers graduates of the program as "total aviators" – part mechanic, part pilot, closet meteorologist and backroom engineer.

"These guys are not just mechanics, they are not just pilots – they are true aviators," he said. "The department has a long history of producing people who are aviators. This is what Jason really truly represents to me."

Dusel "lives, breathes, sleeps and thinks aviation 24/7," Charles L. Rodriguez, an assistant professor in the aviation technologies program, said. "He has the fire inside of him."

Dusel's stepfather, Ken Hetge, was one of Rodriguez's students years ago, Rodriguez said.

"He lives aviation like many of us who are in this industry," Rodriguez said. "Jason is certainly well above average when it comes to having a love of aviation and doing this to improve his talent and skills."

For more information, contact John D. Cotter at 618/536-3371.

Promoting excellence in undergraduate academics is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

(Caption: Flying high – Jason J. Dusel, a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, captured the sportsman category in the International Aerobatic Club’s 2005 U.S. National Aerobatic Championships in Denison, Texas. Dusel, who is from Tehachapi, Cal., is enrolled in the University’s renowned aviation technologies program.)

Photo by Russell Bailey