Flying Salukis

National champion – Robert Kay, a senior from Plainfield, won a national title in simulated comprehensive area navigation at the 2018 National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships last weekend at Indiana State University. The Flying Salukis finished third as a team, marking the eighth-consecutive year that the nine-time national champions have finished third or higher. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

May 10, 2018

Flying Salukis’ strong national tradition continues

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Being part of a legacy also brings a commitment to see the tradition continue. 

Led by an individual title from senior co-captain Robert A. Kay in simulated comprehensive area navigation (SCAN), the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis finished third at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships. Twenty-eight teams competed April 30-May 5 at Indiana State University and Terre Haute Regional Airport-Hulman Field. 

The finish marks the eighth straight year that the Flying Salukis finished in the top three in the nation, including three titles. The Flying Salukis have nine national titles dating back to 1977. 

Continued success a “testament” to students and aviation program 

“The team’s performance was an awesome accomplishment,” said Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight, who returned to coaching last fall after a three-year absence. A Flying Saluki in the late 1990s, Lincoln coached the team to national titles in 2011 and 2014. 

“To be able to place in the top 3 at a national competition is an extremely difficult task,” he said. “Our continued success is a testament to our amazing students and wonderful aviation program.” 

Lincoln emphasizes the work of assistant coaches Skyler Droll, Teddy Keenan, Mike LeFevre and Connor Schlottman as a “huge reason for our success.” All are assistant instructors in the program and former Flying Salukis. 

Results are available at the NIFA website. 

Kay wins national individual title in SCAN 

Kay, an aviation management major from Plainfield, Illinois, won an event that featured 138 other competitors. Students plan a cross-country flight and answer multiple questions that include regulations, performance calculations, weather, weight and balance and aeronautical decision-making. 

“To be able to win an event that has 139 of some of the best in collegiate aviation is no easy task,” Lincoln said. “His dedication to the team has been evident with his preparation for this year’s competition.” 

This is Kay’s third year on the Flying Salukis. A co-captain, Kay was fifth in overall scoring and he credits his teammates for his success. 

“It’s wonderful to see your hard work pay off,” he said. “It has a lot to do with my teammates who have driven me to do as well as I have been able to do.” 

Two other Flying Salukis also finish in top 12 

Co-captain Jonathan Ezell was 10th overall and Trent Medernach was 12th. 

Ezell, a junior in aviation technologies from LaGrange Park, Illinois, said the finish was a “group effort.” He mentioned freshman Andrew Finer’s third-place finish in computer accuracy as an important future step for a young team. Finer is an aviation technology major from Des Peres, Missouri. 

“It was impressive to see a couple of our first-year members,” Ezell said. “I was most excited to see the entire team contribute to this year’s team performance.” 

Medernach, a senior in aviation technologies from Batavia, Illinois, agreed. 

“We had a lot of younger members who really pulled through and scored us some points and we are looking forward to the future,” he said. 

Flying Salukis legacy is there for present team 

Several judges in the competition are Flying Saluki alumni, which made the current team members want to perform well for them. The team has qualified for national competition in 48 of the last 49 years. 

“You are trying to keep a legacy that has been set forth by preceding Flying Salukis,” Ezell said. “It’s definitely in the back of your mind throughout practices and the competition. You are thinking not only do I want to have a good showing for myself, but I also don’t want to let former Flying Salukis down.” 

Other Flying Salukis, with hometowns, year in school, and majors are: 


  • Altamont: Kindra Wendling, senior, aviation management.
  • Bloomington: Angel R. Cochran, senior, aviation management.
  • Burlington: Alex Evans, freshman, aviation flight.
  • Champaign: Andrew Roadcap, senior, aviation flight.
  • Columbia; Zachary Rawlings, senior, aviation management.
  • Elmhurst: Brody Wilson, senior, aviation management and flight.
  • Mount Prospect: Colin Heisler, sophomore, aviation flight.
  • Palos Park: Warren Wudtke, senior, aviation management and flight. 


  • Fayette: Matthew Browning, junior, aviation management.


  • Fredericksburg: Nicholas Weber, senior, aviation management.