May 15, 2008

Flying Salukis finish eighth in national contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis relied on strong showings from a young team to finish eighth in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's annual competition last week in Smyrna, Tenn.

Andrew A. Ross and Samuel H. Robinson each placed in four events, and Jeff A. Mandrell and Skylar J. Venema each placed in three events for the Flying Salukis, which finished with 136 points.

Thirty-one teams from around the country participated in the Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference May 4-10, hosted by Middle Tennessee State University.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott won its second straight championship -- marking the Golden Eagles' fourth title in the last six years. The University of North Dakota finished second, followed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona, Western Michigan University, and The Ohio State University.

The Flying Salukis won the regional competition in November to make its 38th national appearance in 39 years. The Flying Salukis finished ahead of the other Region VIII qualifiers, Lewis University and the University of Illinois, which finished 14th and 16th, respectively.

There were seven ground events and four flight events. Ground events were computer accuracy, aircraft preflight inspection, simulator, aircraft recognition, simulated comprehensive area navigation (SCAN), cockpit resource management, and IFR (instrument flight rules) simulator. Flight events are power-off landing, power-on landing, navigation and message drop.

The top 20 scorers in each of the 11 events earned points toward the team score. Nine of 12 Flying Salukis scored points in the competition.

The team's performance pleased Flying Salukis coach Bryan T. Harrison, an assistant instructor in the Department of Aviation Management and Flight. Only one team member, co-captain Andrew Ross, previously competed at nationals, he said. And four team members who comprised the regional title squad last fall were lost due to December graduation.

Three teams placed in message drop.

The team of Justin P. McCollum (pilot) and Michael A. Carroll (drop master) finished fifth; Jordan J. Miller (pilot) and Venema (drop master) were eighth, and Michael A. LeFevre (pilot) and Robinson (drop master) placed 12th.

Mandrell, serving as pilot and Robinson as navigator, finished 11th in the navigation event. Brian G. Clavenna (pilot) and Ross (navigator) finished 18th.

Ross, a junior in aviation management, placed 14th in aircraft preflight and 16th in aircraft recognition. As the pilot, and with Mandrell as pilot not flying, the duo was 14th in cockpit resource management. Ross is the son of Richard and Christina Ross of Bartlett.

Robinson a sophomore in aviation flight, placed 11th in power-off landings and 14th in computer accuracy. He is the son of Mark and Cynthia Robinson of Oak Park.

Mandrell, a senior in aviation management, also finished 14th in IFR simulator. He is the son of Steven and Pam Mandrell of Waltonville.

Venema, a senior in aviation technologies, was 10th in SCAN and 13th in aircraft preflight. He is the son of James and Lauri Venema of Westmont.

Carroll, a sophomore in aviation flight, is the son of Matt and Karen Carroll of Normal. LeFevre, a sophomore in aviation flight, is the son of Mark and Stacy LeFevre of Ashton. McCollum, a sophomore in aviation flight, is the son of Gary and Kelly McCollum of Morton. Miller, a sophomore in aviation flight, is the son of Dennis and Jill Miller of Sandwich.

Clavenna, a senior in aviation management, finished seventh in a non-scoring, certified flight instructor event. He is the son of Mark and Kay Clavenna of Spring, Texas.

Other Flying Saluki team members are:

Melissa E. Burk, a senior in aviation management, the daughter of Michael and Gloria Burk of Champaign; Marc L. Chyba, a junior in aviation flight, the son of Lawrence and Mary Lynn Chyba of Chicago; and Dustin D. Dellutri, a junior in aviation flight, the son of Dennis and Jill Dellutri of Bartlett.

Mandrell and Burke graduated at commencement ceremonies on Saturday.

"Even with the people we are losing we still have a pretty strong team," Harrison said. "The team was spread out; it's not like there were one or two people scoring the points."

Harrison noted that several Flying Salukis finished just outside the top 20 in events.

"Given a couple of months practice in the fall I think we will have a strong team going into the regionals," he said.

Another advantage for the Salukis could be a home-field edge. SIUC hosts the Region VIII regionals this fall at Southern Illinois Airport, between Carbondale and Murphysboro.

The three programs comprising the University's aviation program -- aviation flight, aviation management and aviation technologies -- are in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. Other assistant coaches are Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, assistant instructor Jeffrey D. Jaynes, and Kim Carter, a senior lecturer and academic adviser.