February 24, 2015

Flying Salukis to be honored at State Capitol

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Illinois House of Representatives will honor the nation’s best intercollegiate flight team, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis, later this week in Springfield. 

Members of the 2014 National Intercollegiate Flying Association championship team will receive a resolution honoring their achievement at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in the House chamber. University officials, including SIU President Randy Dunn, will be among those present during the ceremony. The 2014 championship marked the second in four years, and the eighth in the program’s history.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are encouraged to cover the event. After the ceremony, representatives of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, the aviation program, and the Flying Salukis will be available for interviews. For more information in Springfield, contact John Charles, executive director for governmental and public affairs with SIU, at 217/545-8080. For information in Carbondale, contact Pete Rosenbery, University Communications and Marketing, at 618/453-1439.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Raleigh, is the resolution’s chief sponsor, with Reps. John Bradley, D-Marion, Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, and Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, as co-sponsors. Wehrli, elected to the Illinois House in November, attended the university’s aviation management and flight program. 

The team will watch the proceedings from the Speaker’s gallery behind the podium. There will also be a reception in House Room 402A after the resolution is presented. 

Andy Wang, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said the team’s accomplishments in 2014 “again affirm the quality of our aviation programs.” 

“The Flying Salukis represent just what we love best about CASA students -- they are smart, professional, hardworking, passionate in their studies, and continue to excel both in and outside the classroom,” Wang said. “These young men and women are learning fundamental skills that will propel them into successful careers. It is great to see our own students in aviation excel in the region and nationwide. It is exciting to watch them being recognized by the legislature. They have made their community very proud.” 

The 2014 team, coached by Nathan J. Lincoln, earned a title after successive third-place place finishes the prior two years. Dating back to 2005, the Flying Salukis have finished no lower than fifth in the nation in eight appearances.  The team’s 2011 championship was the first since a string of seven titles within a 10-year stretch in the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. 

Lincoln, himself a former Flying Saluki in the late 1990s and a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight, gave way last fall to first-year coach James Libuszowski, an assistant coach the previous two years. The team won its seventh regional title in eight years in the fall, earning a spot in nationals for a 45th time in 46 years.  The team will compete May 11-16 at The Ohio State University. 

José R. Ruiz, professor and chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said the legislative recognition “is a tremendous honor these students and coaches will never forget.” 

The squad competes against the top flying teams in the nation and the dedication of students and coaches is evident, he said. 

“Their national acclaim is not the result of good fortune, but hard work and the constant pursuit of excellence,” Ruiz said. “They routinely practice long hours after attending and teaching classes throughout the week. The Flying Salukis are outstanding ambassadors of Southern Illinois University. I hope all members of the SIU community are as proud of our competition flight team as I am.”