October 22, 2008

SIUC to host intercollegiate flying competition

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale's nationally recognized aviation program will be in the spotlight next week when it hosts the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Region VIII competition.

The SIUC Flying Salukis look to defend their regional title as approximately 100 aviation students and coaches, and 15 to 20 planes from six universities in Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee compete in the four-day competition that starts Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Participating schools are SIUC, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lewis University, Purdue University, Indiana State University and Middle Tennessee State University. SIUC is hosting a regional for the first time in six years. SIUC hosted the event in 2002 and 1997.

Mike Robertson, an assistant professor in the Department of Aviation Flight, is coordinating the competition. He started working on the competition's preliminary logistics in June. Even though the Internet has improved some of the workload, such as availability of online registration packets and accompanying information for the respective teams, a lot of work goes into hosting the event, he said.

“It is our honor to host the Region VIII National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) SAFECON,” said David A. NewMyer, chair of SIUC's Department of Aviation Management and Flight. “The fact that about 100 collegiate aviators and approximately 20 aircraft come into Southern Illinois Airport for this event provides the host school with a lot to organize. Mike Robertson, a faculty member in the aviation flight program, is doing an excellent job of organizing this event and making sure that it will run without a hitch. Of course, I am hoping that SIUC will be able to repeat as Region VIII champs this year after an excellent win last year down at Middle Tennessee State University!”

Nine events comprise the competition. Ground events are computer accuracy, aircraft preflight inspection, simulator ground trainer, aircraft recognition and simulated comprehensive area navigation (SCAN). Flight events are short field landings, power-off precision landings, navigation and message drop. Some of the ground events are in classrooms on campus; the flight events originate at Southern Illinois Airport between Murphysboro and Carbondale.

The aviation management, aviation flight, and aviation technologies programs are within SIUC's College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

The top three teams in the region receive automatic berths to NIFA's national competition, May 17-23. St. Louis University's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology will host the national competition at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia. There are 10 regional competitions throughout the country between October and February.

“We're very pleased the Flying Salukis are hosting this event,” said College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean Paul Sarvela, “because the event is focused on safety, which always has been a paramount priority with respect to every aspect of SIUC aviation program activities in general.”

Celebrating its 41st year, the SIUC aviation team is competing for its 39th national appearance in 40 years; a string of 37 straight appearances was snapped in 2007. The Flying Salukis have seven NIFA national titles -- the last in 1985. The team finished eighth in the nation in May, fourth in 2005 and fifth in 2006.

Assistant coach Kim Carter, a senior lecturer and academic adviser, expects teams will begin arriving as early as Sunday and Monday to begin landing practices and conduct scouting runs for the navigation event.

If there is a home field advantage for the Flying Salukis, it's a familiarity “with everything within 50 miles around the airport” and landing on the same runways you practice on, Carter said.

The awards banquet is at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, in the SIUC Student Center Ballroom D. In addition to event awards, special awards presented are top pilot, top female pilot, and top male pilot, coach of the year, safety, sportsmanship and the Scot Perry Memorial Award. The award is in memory of Scot Perry, a member of SIUC's team in the late 1970's who died in an aircraft accident in the fall of 1980 at Lewis Airport in Romeoville. The annual $100 award goes to a student in the regional competition who, through the eyes of their peers, contributes the most in helping their team's performance improve.

Additional information, including event schedules and sponsors is available at http://nifa.aviation.siu.edu/. For more information on the competition, contact Carter at 618/453-9256.