November 07, 2007

Flying Salukis win regional title, head to nationals

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — For the first time in three years, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis won the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region VIII competition this past weekend.

The Flying Salukis finished with 569 points, outdistancing the University of Illinois (439) and Lewis University (405) to win the regional title at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Other teams competing Oct. 31-Nov. 4 were Purdue University, Indiana State University, and host Middle Tennessee State University.

The top three teams receive automatic berths to NIFA's competition, May 4-10, at Smyrna Airport in Smyrna, Tenn. Middle Tennessee State University will host the national competition.

The Flying Salukis' automatic bid marks the 38th national appearance in 39 years — the squad's string of 37 straight appearances was snapped last year. The Flying Salukis have won seven NIFA national titles; the latest in 1985. The Flying Salukis finished fourth in the nation in 2005, and fifth nationally in 2006. The team's last regional title was in 2004.

In this year's regional team competition, the Flying Salukis finished first in ground events and second in flight events. The Flying Salukis also received the Safety Award. In all, 12 of 16 team members scored points in the competition.

Ground events were computer accuracy, aircraft preflight inspection, simulator, aircraft recognition and simulated comprehensive area navigation (SCAN). Flight events were short-field landings, power-off precision landings, navigation and message drop.

"I'm extremely proud of everyone on the team," said coach Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in the Department of Aviation Management and Flight. "They outperformed the other schools we competed against to win by 130 points. It was extremely pleasing to get a regional championship with that kind of domination over the competition."

Advancing to the SAFECON (Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference) national finals was a key motivation for the team after it missed securing an automatic berth last year by one point, and then did not receive an at-large bid, said assistant coach Kim Carter, a senior lecturer and academic adviser.

"I'm very pleased," Carter said. "The returning team members from last year were really driven to improve this year."

Lincoln noted this year's team is more experienced — there were seven first-year team members a year ago. Having most of the team return this fall helped. The squad also stepped up its practices — both as a team and individually, he said.

Andrew A. Ross, a junior in aviation management, finished first in aircraft recognition and second in aircraft preflight inspection. He teamed with Brandon E. Crowd to finish 10th in the navigation event; Ross was the pilot while Crowd was the navigator. Ross is the son of Richard and Christina Ross of Bartlett.

Crowd, a junior in aviation management, also finished second in aircraft recognition. Crowd is the son of Deidra Tig-Crowd and Sylvester Crowd of Long Beach, Calif.

Trenton C. Kessler, a senior in aviation management, finished second in computer accuracy, and seventh in SCAN. He was the navigator and drop master and teamed with Maxwell S. Hougham (pilot) to place ninth in both navigation and message drop events.

Kessler is the son of Marla Alstadt of Somonauk and Chuck Kessler of Sandwich.

Hougham, a senior in aviation management, also finished third in SCAN, eighth in computer accuracy, and 10th in power-off precision landings. He is the son of Randy and Nancy Hougham of Sandwich.

Jennifer L. Byrne, a senior in aviation management, was sixth in computer accuracy and seventh in power-off precision landings. She teamed as drop master with pilot Brian G. Clavenna to finish seventh in message drop. She is the daughter of Scott and Darcy Byrne of Algonquin. Clavenna, a junior in aviation management, also finished second in power-off precision landings. He finished eighth in the top pilot award competition. He is the son of the son of Mark and Kay Clavenna of Spring, Texas.

Skylar J. Venema, a junior in aviation technologies, finished second in SCAN and third in aircraft preflight inspection. Venema is the son of James and Lauri Venema of Westmont.

Michael A. LeFevre, a sophomore in aviation flight, finished third in computer accuracy, and teamed as pilot with drop master Michael D. Pettinger to finish second in message drop. LeFevre is the son of Mark and Stacy LeFevre of Ashton.

Pettinger, a junior in aviation flight, is the son of Dan Pettinger and Judy Stezowski of Naperville.

Samuel H. Robinson, a sophomore in aviation flight, finished fourth in computer accuracy. He is the son of Mark and Cynthia Robinson of Oak Park.

Michael A. Carroll, a freshman in aviation flight, finished sixth in SCAN. He is the son of Matt and Karen Carroll of Normal.

Marc L. Chyba, a junior in aviation flight, finished ninth in aircraft recognition. He is the son of Lawrence and Mary Lynn Chyba of Chicago.

Other Flying Saluki team members are:

Melissa E. Burk, a senior in aviation management, the daughter of Michael and Gloria Burk of Champaign; Dustin D. Dellutri, a junior in aviation flight, the son of Dennis and Jill Dellutri of Bartlett; Jeff A. Mandrell, a senior in aviation management, the son of Steven and Pam Mandrell of Waltonville; Justin P. McCollum, a sophomore in aviation flight, the son of Gary and Kelly McCollum of Morton; Jordan J. Miller, a sophomore in aviation flight, the son of Dennis and Jill Miller of Sandwich; and Erik T. Skjerseth, a senior in aviation management, the son of Nathan and Laurie Skjerseth of Bettendorf, Iowa.

The team expects to lose four members to graduation in December — Byrne, Crowd, Hougham and Kessler. But Lincoln believes other team members will step up to compensate for those losses. Ross and Clavenna are the new team captains.

Other assistant coaches are Bryan T. Harrison and Sabrina J. Weber, assistant instructors, and Matthew J. Gierstorf, a visiting assistant instructor, all in aviation management and flight.