May 17, 2006

Flying Salukis take fifth in national contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Experience and youth were both well served last week as the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis used a strong overall effort to finish fifth in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's annual competition.

Senior William M. Gersch of Algonquin placed in five events and sophomore Jennifer L. Byrne, also of Algonquin, earned the distinction of top female pilot for a second consecutive year to pace the team. She is the first two-time winner of this award for SIUC.

Twenty-eight teams from around the country participated in the Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference May 8-13 at The Ohio State University's OSU Airport in Columbus, Ohio. The University of North Dakota won the event, with defending champion Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Ariz., finishing second. Western Michigan University was third, and the U.S. Air Force Academy was fourth.

The 14-member squad finished second in regional competition in October to advance to the national competition for a 37th consecutive year.

The top 20 scorers in each of the 11 events earned points toward the team score.

Ground events are computer accuracy, aircraft preflight, simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation (SCAN) simulator, aircraft recognition, ground trainer and IFR (instrument flight rules) simulator. Flight events are power-off landing, power-on landing, navigation and message drop.

Coach Nathan J. Lincoln, a visiting assistant instructor in the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, was pleased with the squad, which features few seniors.

"We have a very young team," he said. "To get a fifth-place finish at nationals, I was extremely happy."

The department is in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at SIUC. Assistant coaches for the team are Bryan T. Harrison and Matthew J. Gierstorf, both visiting assistant instructors in aviation management and flight.

Department chair David A. NewMyer said that younger members of the team "stepped up to do well."

"Good kids and good coaching are a good combination and helps make up for experience," he said.

Visiting lecturer and academic advisor Kim Carter said the team did an outstanding job and "really did come a long ways this past year."

All three of SIUC's teams that competed in navigation placed in the top six overall. The event consists of a three- to five-leg cross-country event. Competitors must determine times between each leg, and fuel consumption. The teams consist of a navigator and safety pilot.

Gersch, the son of Bill and Sandra Gersch of Algonquin (410 Greenview Dr.) was selected by his teammates as outstanding team member. He was fifth in IFR simulator, ninth in computer accuracy, 10th in the ground trainer event, and 17th in SCAN. Gersch, serving as navigator with Garrett E. Hackett as pilot, finished fifth in navigation.

The team of Alex J. Kemps (pilot) and Byrne (navigator) was fourth in navigation, and the team of Trenton C. Kessler (pilot) and Maxwell S. Hougham (navigator) was sixth in the event.

Kessler, a junior, is the son of Marla Alstadt of Somonauk (465 E. Market) and Chuck

Kessler of Sandwich (14598 Chicago Road). Hougham, a sophomore, is the son of Randy and Nancy Hougham of Sandwich (2609 N. 46th Road).

Byrne, the daughter of Scott and Darcy Byrne of Algonquin (625 Gaslight Drive) teamed with Kemps to finish sixth in message drop. Byrne, whose father is a pilot for American Airlines, also received the Candi Kubeck Award, which is presented to the top scoring female contestant. The $500 award is presented in memory of Candalyn "Candi" Kubeck, the captain aboard ValuJet Flight 592, which crashed in the Florida Everglades in May 1996.

Hackett, a senior, finished 12th in aircraft preflight and 18th in power-off landings. He is the son of Chris and Pam Hackett of Algonquin (4 Circle Drive).

Kemps, a senior, also finished 11th in power-off landings. He is the son of John and Jenny Kemps of Emmaus, Pa. (3282 Miriam Drive).

Brandon E. Crowd, a junior, finished 14th in aircraft recognition, and William J. Strauthers, a senior, placed 19th Crowd is the son of Deidra Tig-Crowd and Sylvester Crowd of Long Beach, Calif., (6841 East Lees Way). Strauthers, a senior, is the son of Maureen Lilleeng of Fox Lake (42 N. Holly Ave.) and Jack Strauthers of Hamilton, Ohio.

In a non-scoring event, Sabrina J. Weber, a senior, was third in the nation in the "Women's Achievement Award," sponsored by the Ninety-Nines, a women's pilot organization. The award is based on academic accomplishments, community service and aviation involvement. Weber, who received a $150 award, is the daughter of Rick and Debra Stokes of McHenry (106 Glenbrook Trail).

The event featured 413 competing students and more than 100 aircraft.

Other Flying Saluki team members are:

Melissa E. Burk, a sophomore, the daughter of Michael and Gloria Burk of Champaign (1019 W. Hill St.); Casey H. Hoffman, a junior, the son of Judy and James Hoffman of Glen Ellyn (21 W. 752 Clifford Road); Eric T. Miller, a junior, the son of Scott and Elyece Miller of St. Charles (425 S. 6th St.); Andrew A. Ross, a freshman, the son of Christina and Richard Ross of Bartlett (1187 Independence Drive), and Erik T. Skjerseth, a sophomore, the son of Nathan and Laurie Skjerseth of Bettendorf, Iowa (5165 Charter Oaks Drive).

Shaping high-quality undergraduate programs 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.